How to Answer Questions That Stump You

06.09.2018 |

Episode #9 of the course How to ace any professional job interview by Ken Liu


Welcome to Lesson #9!

You walked into the interview and started to have a very pleasant conversation with your interviewer.

You breeze through the questions that get thrown your way. You talk about yourself, why you are a good fit for the company, why you want to work here, and everything else that you’ve spent so much time to prepare for.

You feel good!

Then, all of a sudden, the interviewer asks you a question out of left field, and you are stumped. You didn’t prepare for this question, and you start to feel anxious.

Now what?


Stay Calm and Don’t Panic

The first thing you need to do is stay calm. Take a few seconds to gather your thoughts. Although a few seconds of silence may feel uncomfortably long, they are precious seconds for you to think of an answer that might be lurking in the back of your mind.

If you panic or say you don’t know right away, you are telling your interviewer that you don’t know how to handle stress. Your interviewer will perceive it as a weakness and ding you purely based on this poor reaction.


Know Why

Think about it from the interviewer’s perspective. Why do you think they asked this question?

I can guarantee that your interviewer is not here to make you look bad or foolish. They’re not looking to say, “Gotcha!” if you don’t know how to answer a question.

More likely, they knew this question would stump you, and they’re looking to evaluate you on how you go about navigating through it.


Ask Clarifying Questions

Try asking a couple of clarifying questions to make sure you understand what is being asked of you. See if you can get additional information out of the interviewer that could help you craft an answer.


Don’t Lie

Whatever you do, don’t lie. If you don’t know something, it is much better to say you don’t know than to wing an answer that isn’t accurate.

As the old saying goes, “The cover-up is worse than the crime.” Trying to cover up the fact that you don’t know the answer by lying will get you nowhere.

Your interviewer will see right through your lie, and any chances you had of landing the job just disappeared, even if the rest of the interview went perfectly.


Final Thoughts

If you do get stumped on an interview question, it’s not the end of the world. Your interviewer is evaluating how you handled the entire interview. Getting stumped on one question won’t automatically kill your chances.

What’s more important is how you handle the situation. You don’t want to give the impression that you are a stress case who starts to panic as soon as you run into an unknown problem.

In the end, know that you can never prepare for 100% of the interview questions that come your way. As long as you did the best that you could, you shouldn’t hang your head just because you didn’t answer one question perfectly.

That’s all for today. We wrap up the course tomorrow by talking about the best way to follow up your interview.


Recommended book

101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions by Ron Fry


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