How to Respond to Interview Questions You Don’t Know

How to Respond to Interview Questions You Don’t Know

Preparing for an interview is very necessary. As a job applicant, you may take your time to practice for an interview but no matter how you prepare there is always a question that will shake you up a bit. An interview question may spring up in which you have no idea about and telling the job recruiter you don’t know the answer may ruin your chances of getting the job. So how can you respond to interview questions you don’t know? Follow the tips below:

  1. Pause and Harmonize Your Thoughts

The first thing to do is to take time to gather your thoughts collectively. Inform the interviewer that you need some time to think about the question by saying “let me think about the question”. Take out time to reflect on your job history, voluntary work, professional associations, and extracurricular activities to see if an idea may spring up in your mind. If eventually something springs in your mind; do not quickly voice it out but take out some time and evaluate if the idea that springs up correlates with the question asked.

  1. Voice Out Your Thoughts

Once you have gotten an idea that relates a  bit with the question asked; think it out loud. Explain vividly where your thoughts went when asked the question. Do not be silent for long but voice out your thought so that the interviewer will not know that you don’t have the answer. For instance, if you were asked about how you handled an incompetent boss and you don’t have any experience in the past. You can analyze the consequences of having an incompetent boss and how to handle it. You can also conclude the answer to the question by saying “handling an incompetent boss depends on the situation”.

  1. Redirect

As a job applicant, you can also redirect a question you don’t to a familiar one by asking questions during an interview. As a job applicant asking follow-up questions will help you answer questions you don’t know in an interview. Redirect the question to a similar professional experience you have handled, and give an impressive response. For instance, if you were asked an interview question like: “tell me about a time you were delegated leadership”. If you have never been delegated leadership before, you can ask the job recruiter if he is interested to know how you accidentally led a team or how you have filled in for your boss in his absence.

In addition, some questions may be about your skills or expertise. Redirect the question to a skill that is similar to the one the job recruiter is asking about. For instance, if you are asked about your online marketing skills and you have don’t have such skills, but you have been a bank marketer. You can answer the question as thus “I am very excited about this job vacancy because of my experience as a bank manager. I use social media like Facebook, Twitter to promote my previous position. This has generated a lot of customers in my previous working placement. I believe I can engage my banking marketing skills to be an exceptional online marketer.

  1. Have a Safe-Route

A question may suffice in which you have no idea completely about. Such questions are questions that have to do with the definition of concepts in which you have no idea. No amount of thinking or redirecting can help you; you need to take another alternative.

The best alternative to such a question is to focus on the research you have done about the company, industry, and also the job position you are applying for.

For instance, you are applying for the role of a Financial Manager, and you are asked, “Can you define hedging and preference capital?” You can answer like this “I am not yet familiar with that concept, but finance is what I am so excited about. The financial sector is a sector that has continued to grow rapidly and I keep learning from this industry daily. I have also learned about how your company has diversified the financial sector and how you have helped infant companies. I strongly feel that your company should go digital in the services it offers, and this will be a great opportunity for me to learn from 5Credit Direct Limited”.


Mistakes to Avoid in Responding to the Question

  • Do not Fabricate Your Response

Do not lie if you don’t have an answer to an interview. Most hiring managers can tell you are lying by your eye contact and body. Some hiring managers will authenticate your interview by contacting your previous place of work. so try and be as transparent as possible with your response. If you get caught lying in an interview; the consequences may be grievous than you expect.

  • Do not say “ I don’t know”

It is very good to be sincere in an interview but do not admit that you don’t know the answer to the interview question. By saying you don’t know, it implies that your past work experience is narrow with nothing to show. Try as much as possible to rack your brain and answer the interview question that was asked. In addition, no job recruiter will hire a job candidate that admits that he/she does not have an answer to an interview question set before him/her.

  • Avoid Long Silence

Do not be silent for too long thinking of an answer to the question; this will bore the job recruiter. Make sure you think fast and give a befitting response. Being silent for too long when asked a question may give the impression that your nice quotient is too low and this may ruin your chances of getting the job.

  • Do not Be Unprofessional

Adding interjections like “oops” or “um” can make you look unprofessional. Do not give the impression that the question asked is too difficult but gather your thoughts and come up with an appropriate response.


To crown it all, technical and complicated questions are being asked in an interview, and it may be very difficult for even intelligent candidates to answer. You may not be able to answer the question asked as expected but try and figure out why the hiring manager is asking such a question. Try as much as possible to answer the question by thinking creatively. Follow the tips highlighted above to answer interview questions you don’t know.

Interview Tips

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