Blanking out for an interview question is natural, but a quick and witty recovery can still save the day, and be crucial in defining the rest of the interview experience.
As a candidate, you spend hours, if not days, preparing your resume. You attend the company presentations hosted in the fancy halls in your college. You fill pages and pages about what you heard, you even go meet and greet with the potential interviewers. It’s fair to say you invest a considerable amount of time weighing your campus placement options and you spend a grueling hour proving your aptitude in a test for the company, and FINALLY you get the coveted interview call. You breeze past the initial HR rounds, and now are in the interview room facing a panel for your final round. You are smart, humorous and witty, cruising through the first few questions. The panel is impressed but just to test you further, they throw a curve ball at you, or even a simple leading question. But instead of the anticipated response, you blank out. Nothing. No words, sentences or thoughts being generated. Why? You were brilliant all along, how could this happen to you, especially at such a critical stage?
You’ll be glad to know, this is natural. It happens to the best of the best from stage artists up to presidential candidates. It does not, in any way mean your career is over, let alone your interview. And is also does not mean you give up, get nervous or start dithering through the rest of your interview! Following some simple strategies can help you overcome any interview brain freeze quickly and effectively, and even turn your interview around!
The quote "Take a step back to move two steps forward" applies aptly here. One of the first things you should do is pause (yes pause). It takes courage and confidence to do so, but pausing will allow you take a deep breath and attempt to relax. Now, if you are thinking: Manish, I need a strategy, not a yoga instruction! Think again. Take a breath, though with a slightly uncomfortable silence; gives you an opportunity to regain composure, collect your thoughts and think through the question. In fact, it reflects you in a positive light as you would come across as a thoughtful, calm person who can step back and analyze.
If you are not a fan of complete silence, that is okay too. All you have to do is, calm down and buy yourself some time to think and take charge of the situation. Politely respond with phrases like "That is a great question, could I please have a moment to collect my thoughts?". This will give you enough space and control, but it can also help you rid your nervousness. Most interviewers not only understand and respect this request, but suggest that candidates make this request when in need, to be able to have a more productive interview.
One of the other strategies you can use is re-iteration. Rather than make the interviewer repeat the question to you (unless of course you missed the question or parts of it); you can repeat that question to him or her instead. Verbalizing the question would help you process the query faster and better. It would also reassure the interviewer that you are attentive and listening.
Okay Manish, I did what you said - Bought time, collected my thoughts and took control of the situation, but now what? What do I do if I still cannot answer that question? Sometimes the reason you did not know the answer to a question can be because it was too subjective, or you didn’t know the answer as it was indeed a really hard question. No need to fret. Now in our next two blogs, we will cover both these scenarios. We will discuss ways to tackle subjective questions and learn what to do when you genuinely do not know an answer to a question.
In the meanwhile, do follow our blog and let us know what you did when you too have blanked out in your interviews, in comments below!
Editor - Vaishnavi Ravi
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