When You Don’t Know the Answer

Career Blog Jill-Klees

Q: How do I answer an interview question when I can’t think of an answer or I have never had the experience the interviewer is asking about?

A: You really have 3 options:

Option 1. You can say you don’t know the answer and leave it at that. (I don’t recommend this option. Always come up with something to say.)

Option 2. You can say, “That is a tough question, can we come back to that?” This is a strategic way to gain more time to come up with a desirable answer. Be sure you do come up with an answer because the interviewer will come back to the question.

Option 3. If you absolutely have not had to deal with the situation the interviewer is asking about, you can say, “I have never had that experience, but if I did, here is how I would handle it…” or “I have not had that experience but I did deal with something similar and here is what I did…”

The interviewer really just wants to see how you problem solve, how you can think on your feet, and how you handle yourself in stressful situations. It is O.K. to say you don’t know an answer but always follow-up with demonstrating how you would handle the problem or how you would break it down to demonstrate your thought process.