Stumped by a Job Interview Question? Here’s What to Do.

April 22nd, 2016

You’re in the market for a new job – and you’ve landed a coveted interview. You’ve researched the company and the position. You’re ready with concrete examples of your relevant skills in action. You feel confident you can ace all the most commonly asked questions.

But, what if your interviewer throws you a curve ball in the form of an unexpected query that comes out of nowhere?

Interviews are designed to challenge you. Your actual responses are important, of course, but hiring managers are testing your ability to think on your feet and act with grace under pressure. After all, these are key professional traits that will benefit you on the job. So if you demonstrate them during your interview, you’re much more likely to make the short list toward a final hiring selection.

Handle Tough Questions on the Spot

When you’re hit with an interview question that you’re not prepared for, the best strategy is to answer honestly, intelligently and enthusiastically. You can buy a little time if you need to, but no matter how stumped you feel, you can emerge without any lasting scars.

  • Be truthful. For instance, if you are asked, “What other firms are you talking to?” respond honestly but generally. Avoid a long, detailed description. Make it clear that the position you are interviewing for is the one you want. Back that claim up with evidence.
  • Be smart. To determine whether you are a good match for their company culture, interviewers make ask seemingly innocuous questions that actually have hidden agendas. For example, one way to tell whether you eat, drink and sleep finance is to ask, “What’s the best story you read this week in the Wall Street Journal?” Choose an answer related specifically to your industry and profession. This will leave a more lasting impression than if you simply refer to the latest front-page story.
  • Use the STAR process. STAR is a solid strategy for handling behavior-based questions – unexpected or not. It is an acronym for the four elements of your answer: situation, task, actions and response.
  • Ask a follow-up question. If you really don’t understand a question or simply don’t know the answer, do not hesitate to ask a follow-up question of your own. This may help clarify things. If you are still stumped, it’s best to admit that you don’t know the answer, rather than stumble and ramble aimlessly.
  • Learn from the experience. If you fail in your response to a tough interview question, ask your interviewer “How have other candidates answered that?” or “What were the best responses you’ve had to that question?” Hiring managers will appreciate your honestly, candor and desire to create a learning experience.

As you prepare to interview for your next job, consider partnering with a professional career expert from the team at Select Group, Inc. We’ll take the time to get to know your unique skill set and understand exactly where you want to go as a professional. We’ll provide the contacts, resources and guidance you need to make your career aspirations a reality. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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