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Answering Interview Questions You May Not Know

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Preparing for interviews is serious business. You can no longer walk into an interview expecting to explain your job responsibilities and hoping to get selected because of the work you do. Even though you prepare hard through research and practice, you could still get a question that stumps you and leave you a bit confused as to how to answer it.

Try one of these approaches.

1. Take Your Time

Your must first acknowledge that the question was asked and that you are thinking about it. Something as simple as, “that’s a great question. Let me think about how I would handle the situation or what I would do,” will suffice as you take some time to work through your first thoughts on how to approach the question.

It is important to inform the interviewer of your strategy rather than not speak and leave an awkward silence. Be calm, gather your thoughts, prepare your answer and then reply. This shows your ability to remain composed, think of a solution and share a decisive answer.

2. Think Aloud

Hiring managers ask out of the box questions. They want to ascertain how tactfully you answer. They are not interested in how quickly you answer. You can share the options that you could do, the possible outcomes with each options, your final decision and your reason behind the final answer. The interviewer has understood how you think and your reasoning behind the the answer. This reasoning is very important.

For example, if you get asked something like, “Tell me about your SEO strategy? A good approach would be to imagine that you’re starting off as a SEO Specialist. Add transitional adverbs like “first,” “then,” and “lastly” to give your answer some structure. You can also finish off with a qualifying statement that “the process varies depending on the situation,” which shows that you’re flexible even if your answer isn’t what the hiring manager would do.

3. Redirect to The Nearest

If you are asked a question that you may not have direct experience with, try redirecting to an area you are familiar with.

For example, you applied for a position that requires social media marketing (SMM) experience and you are asked about your experience in SMM. If you do not have the required experience, try redirecting the answer to your experience in SEO and link building and how you worked closely with social media marketing team to develop a strategy to generate big leads and better results. You can also share your knowledge in social media marketing since you would have already researched the requirements prior to your interview. You can reiterate "That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about this position, I would get to be hands on in SMM since I am already good with SEO and this combination can be a huge advantage, if I am selected."

Do not share a plain and simple answer like "I do not have experience in Social Media Marketing. It shows poor approach and attitude.

4. Have a Fail-Safe

You might get a question that no amount of stalling, thinking aloud, or redirecting can help with. Questions that call for definitions or understanding of concepts that you do not know cannot just be worked through on the spot. For these questions, lean on the research you have done about the company and industry, the position is in.

Say you are applying for a mergers and acquisitions position in finance and are asked, “What is working capital?”—and you really just have no idea. Be prepared with a fail-safe answer that focuses on your enthusiasm for the position and knowledge of the industry. Something like, “That is not a concept I am really familiar with yet, but finance is something I am really excited about, and I have been actively trying to learn more. I have been keeping up with deals and have read about a few that your company has been involved in. I have also learned a lot about the industries that you advise. I think the consolidation that is going on in the auto industry is going to create a lot of interesting opportunities going forward, and it will be an opportunity to learn a great deal about the M&A business.”

Interviewers and hiring managers are not always interested in someone who have the experience and qualifications. They also look at practical people / having the right right attitude / honest candidates who are not a "yes, I can do" to every interview questions and in every situation.

Consider facing hiring managers as "building your own experience in attending interviews". You may not be able to answer the actual question asked, but if you are able to figure out what the hiring manager is really trying to learn with the question, you have already done well.

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