Answering Interview Questions Which You Don't Know the Answer

22 Dec 2020 | 5 min read

Hopefully, nobody will ask you tricky questions on your next job interview. However, you can still run into questions that will demand a specific answer. If you don't know the answer, you may feel stuck so it’s important to develop a technique to effectively answer interview questions in such situations.

What is a Close-Ended Question?

A close-ended question narrows the range of possible answers. Interviewers ask candidates close-ended questions to test for specific knowledge. The following techniques are designed to help you answer close-ended questions when you don't know the answer.

Admit That You Don't Know

By admitting that you don't know an answer, you set expectations. This usually causes the interviewer to pursuit a new line of questioning – hopefully to an area in which you're more knowledgeable. Most interviewers find this approach refreshing as it makes you the likable, honest candidate.

Explain How You'd Learn It

After you admit that you don't know, show that you're interested in learning about the topic. Explain how you've learned similar things recently and how you've applied what you've learned to achieve measurable results.

Explain What You Do Know

Now, that you've set expectations that you don't know the answer you can tell the interviewer what you do know so they can shift their questions into those topics more.

Don't BS Them

It's a common myth that you can answer any question by being vague. This technique is only likely to fail. BS answers encourage the interviewer to nail down if you really know a fact or not, causing them to focus on an area that you know nothing about.

Point the Interview in the Right Direction

Occasionally interviewers will ask irrelevant questions. It's okay to let one or two irrelevant questions slide. However, if the interviewer is asking a long line of irrelevant questions, it's a good idea point it out. Interviewers often ask what they know, not what's important to the role. For instance, let’s say you’re a commercial aircraft salesperson applying for a sales job at a large aircraft manufacturing company. As a salesperson, you're expected to understand the product. However, you're not an Engineer. The Engineer is an expert and asks you 5 highly technical questions in a row. In this situation, it can damage your chances for the job so it's important to push the line of questioning in the right direction.

Answering Interview Questions Which You Don't Know the Answer