What to Do When You are Stumped by a Question – an important interview technique

You’ve done all of your homework: you’ve studied the company’s website and thoroughly researched their industry. You’ve polished your interview techniques and practiced talking about your experience from every possible angle until you can do it in your sleep. You’ve rested up, had a good breakfast, and arrived to the interview on time. Now you’re sitting tall and alert, and you seem to be making a great connection with your interviewer. All is going so well . . . and then it happens. The dreaded “stumper” suddenly creeps across your path and completely trips you up! 

The “stumper” is any question that stops you in your tracks, and can threaten to derail your interview. Even though you can’t prepare for the content of the stumper, with the proper interview techniques you can prepare for encountering a stumper in the first place.

Here are some tips to help you do that. 



Interview Techniques for when you don’t understand the question

 Ask the interviewer to elaborate on the question, or give an example of what he or she means. More information may help you understand what end result the interviewer is looking for, and is much better than plunging ahead with an answer that doesn’t truly fit. Your interviewer will appreciate you taking the question seriously enough to give an answer that helps them. 

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Interview Techniques for when your mind simply goes blank

This is normal – it happens. Silence during an interview is not only ok, it’s also one of the most effective interview techniques. (Refer to the article:"Awkward Pauses": Good or Bad during an Interview?  ) It’s acceptable to ask for a moment to think. It’s also alright to ask to come back to that question at the end of the interview to give yourself a chance to think about it in the back of your mind. Make a note, and be sure to address the question later. 

Interview Techniques for questions from left field

 Sometimes an interviewer will ask you a question that seems to have nothing to do with the job at hand. Just because may you don’t see how the question relates, don’t skim over it lightly. He or she may be curious about the breadth of your knowledge outside of their industry, or may simply want to see how your mind works. Answer the question as thoroughly as possible.


Interview Techniques for inappropriate questions

Interview techniques work both ways, and interviewers are not always up to par with theirs. If your potential employer asks you a question about your age or family situation, try to give an answer that creatively promotes your skills without directly answering the question. For instance, you can play down questions about age by saying something like:  “Even though I’m fairly young, the experience I gained at xxx would be beneficial…” or “I’ve lived enough years to gain valuable experience in xxx…”  Most interviewers will pick up your queue and back down. If the question is even more sensitive (such as regarding your sexual preferences or religion), it’s acceptable to politely say that you’d rather not share that private information, and gently guide the interview back to the skills you can bring to the job.

 Encountering the dreaded stumper is not the end of your chances to win the job. Use these interview techniques to climb gracefully over this obstacle and continue with your interview on its original path. Visit this link to understand more about this tactic: How to Answer Difficult Questions in Job Interview 

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From the Desk of Damen Choy.
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