What to Do When You Don’t Know the Answer

Written By Stephen Cornwell

At least one point in your career an interviewer will ask you a question you do not have an answer for.  The first step is to relax and think.  Interviews can be stressful and often you may be able to think of an answer with some thought.  When doing this it is essential to not sit in silence. Especially during phone interview silence comes across as very unnatural. Instead, use filler expressions such as “let me think about that for a moment.”  If it is a technical question talk through your thought process.  Even if you are unable to find an, you will demonstrate that you have knowledge of the field.  

If you truly do not have an answer, DO NOT FAKE IT. If it is a technical question the interviewer knows the correct answer, and if it is a question about experience they will see through a fake answer.  Companies do not want to hire someone who is not willing to admit when they are inexperienced at something.  Some companies will ask questions that they do not expect candidates to be able to answer solely to test if they can admit when they do not have the answer.

Although admitting you do not know the answer or have experience in an area is certainly not ideal, it is also not a deal breaker most of the time. However, it is essential to also express an interest and willingness to learn about the topic in question.  Companies understand that no one is experienced in every area, and they are interested in candidates who are motivated to learn and grow when presented with a novel problem.