What Do I Do or Say If I Don’t Know the Answer to a Question? | JobSearchTV.com
I don’t care if you are a junior person or senior, one day it will happen. Here’s how to respond gracefully.
What do I do? If I don’t know the answer to a question? This is a common scenario that people run into. And I’ll start off by saying, it’s this is not for a question like, “Why do you want to work for us?” That one you have to have come up. . . You haven’t done your homework prior to the interview for a question like that. And I have answers to that in other videos and podcasts to cover it.
But let’s say if you were asked a question like, “What would you do if such and such happened?” And you can’t think of the answer. There are two ways that people tend to approach it . . . or the primary way that people approach it, I should say, is they pause for a second and go, “Great question! Let me just think about that for a moment.” And the silence starts to weigh heavy, and what’s only a few seconds feels like hours. And it’s torture. So it tends not to work because you blurt things out that even to you seem dumb.
But you might try something along the lines of “Ah! Interesting question. And that’s not a scenario I’ve had to deal with before. But I dealt with something pretty similar.” And then you tell them a story–situation, obstacle, action, result, or situation or task, action, result, depending upon your seniority. The second one is if you’re at a staff level; the first one (situation, obstacle, action, result) is geared more toward people at a manager level and above. And you keep your answer to about a minute to a minute 15.
Now, in the case, in this case, what you’re doing is acknowledging you don’t know the answer, and trying to give them a sense of how you handled something similar in the past. Now, they may turn around and say, “Let’s try and figure that out together,” or something along those lines. Unless you have to start thinking out loud, knowing that they’re going to try and see your thought process. That’s okay.
Now, just go through how you’re thinking through this situation. Say it out loud. That doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter if you’re a staff level, manager level, director or what have you. Think it through out loud.
Next scenario is let’s say they ask you a specific technical question or engineering or accounting question, and you don’t know the answer. There you can go, “You know, I’m not absolutely sure. Let me just think it through out loud. And if you can steer me at particular points where I’m stuck, that would be helpful to me. Don’t give me the answer, okay?”
And thus, what you’re able to do is sort it out out loud, you’re acknowledging, again, you’re not absolutely sure, asking for input, which is what you’re doing in your job anyway, and working from there.
So I’m Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, a career and leadership coach. I hope you found this helpful. I’m also going to tell you I’ve got a lot in the blog at TheBigGameHunter.us. Go there. Go in the blog. Go exploring. There’s 1000s of posts that you can watch, listen to, or read that will help you.
While you’re there, you can schedule time for free discovery call, schedule a time for coaching, find out about my books and guides and courses about job search and hiring. I’d love to help you. Also, if this isn’t the right time for you to do t,hat. Just put the address in your phone. Again, TheBigGameHunter.us, my name Jeff Altman, and in the notes field in your phone, put job search blog. This way you can find it in the future.
Lastly, connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/TheBigGameHunter. Have a terrific day. Be great!
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2300 episodes.
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