What do you do when you don't have the answer for an interview question?
Adding to Karyn's excellent answer. . .
Sometimes you can show that not only do you want to learn, but that you have the aptitude (ability) to learn. For example, let's say the job requires doing an end-of-shift cash balancing report, and you have never done that. But, you have taken and excelled at math classes or accounting classes. Then you would give that as a reason why you know that you would be able to quickly pick it up. So you want to combine both the desire to learn and the aptitude to learn. You never want to leave a cold, hard "no" just floating around in their minds. Always find a way to soften it!
If the question is "have you any experience using Microsoft Word?" and you do not, the answer is simply "no". If the question is more general and pertaining to the job you are applying for than the answer will never be just "no". Why are you applying for that job? At that company? Your reply will be something like "no, I've never done <that> but I've always wanted to ..... " and this is where you get creative, sell yourself, and show you've done your homework. "No, I've never used a cash register before but I want to become a manager and maybe own my own Subway one day and to do so I will need to learn how to do all jobs .... " Basically you need to communicate that even if you are lacking some skills you want this job with this company and are willing to learn. I hope this helps.
1.) DON’T PANIC – Many interviewers ask though questions not to see if you know the answer, but to see how you react under pressure. How you respond to an interview question that completely stumps you is much more important than being able to give an answer, so you’re going to want to avoid freaking out at all costs. When you’re faced with a question that you just don’t know how to answer, try to maintain a calm, confident posture and take a deep breath. Staying confident will show interviewers that you can compose yourself, while completely falling apart and getting worked up will make them lose faith in you. Try saying something along the lines: “That’s a great question, but I would like to consider it further and get back to you with a full answer.” (Robin see #4 Below)
2.) TAKE YOUR TIME – When you’re asked a tough interview question that you can’t answer right away, don’t just try to come up with an answer all willy nilly. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, acknowledge the question and that you’re thinking about it. You can also give yourself some more time to answer by rephrasing the question or asking for some clarification. Plus, by the time the interviewer responds to you, you have already come up with an answer!
3.) THINK OUT LOUD – Sometimes interviewers ask tough questions to get an idea of how you work through problems. After you’ve taken some time to think through the question, explain your thought process to the interviewer and go from there. Thinking out loud about a tough interview question is a great way to keep the conversation going and to avoid any awkward silences, plus it serves as a means to show interviewers how you think and work through unexpected obstacles without losing your cool.
4.) FOLLOW UP WITH THE INTERVIEWER – When you’re faced with a question that you just can’t seem to come up with an answer for, there’s no harm in answering that question later on when you reach out to the interviewer with your follow up email.v Interviewers don’t expect you to have all of the answers to every single tough question, but showing them that you’re persistent and resourceful will stand out and impress them more than your being able to answer a difficult interview question on the spot.
Robin, even though it may seem like a total nightmare, not being able to come up with an answer on the spot for a tough interview question isn’t a death sentence for your job prospects. Interviewers are more interested to see how you handle challenges and work through tough problems than knowing that you have all of the right answers. So just stay confident, don’t panic, and all the right answers will come!
Good Luck Robin
John recommends the following next steps:
Always be prepared for questions like this. It is all about how you frame your answer. If you dont have any direct experience you could use life experience or a related field that you may have had exposure to as a talking point. For example, you are interviewing for a front desk position bit only have retail experience. When asked you can say " As for reception I dont have any direct experience, but its my undersranding that a large part of being a receptionist is customer service. In retail roles in the past I have gained extensive experience in working with customers, handling calls, and dealing with irrate customers." Always study the application you filled out online. The responsibilities and candidate qualifications tell you their expectations. You want to have creative ways to speak to those things. Lastly, remember they would not have pulled your resume from the thousands that they recieve if you weren't somehow a match. Just do your homework, answer the question directly, but follow up with relatable information that speaks to your qualifications.
The best way to express is by telling,
"So far I never had an opportunity to have an exposure in that area, but would be really excited to have one".
Confidence is everything, it even shows you know what you saying even if you have the foggiest of ideas.
Do not run blank. Relate that to something you have done in life that is close to that. How you nailed it. Let them know you are ready to learn more!