What to do when you just don’t know

Your CV stood out, you nailed the telephone interview and you are dressed to impress.

It’s the final interview and everything is going well, you have built rapport with the interviewers and given some background on the company and then……blank.

You have been asked a question and you don’t know what to say. Don’t worry we have 7 top tips on what to do when you are suddenly struggling to answer those all-important interview questions.


1. Calm down.

This is the key to it, don’t let them see you are stressed. Don’t freak out or your body will start reacting. Your bloody pressure will rise, you will go red and the game is over. You won’t be thinking clearly, and you may throw out answers without thinking. Take deep breaths, and tell yourself that it’s OK not know the answer to the question.

2. Don’t say, “I don’t know,” And don’t make stuff up.

You should not tell the interviewer you don’t know the answer without mulling it over. Then again, be careful not to make stuff up, because your interviewer can see right through that.

3. Ask questions.

Ask them to repeat he question or say you’re not sure what they mean. Gives you time to think. Don’t make it up as it stands out a mile.


4. Tell your interviewer what you do know.

If you do have some understanding of the question, then say what you do know. Saying everything out loud can start you on the process of figuring out the problem.

5. Tell them how you would find the answer.

Even if you don’t know what the answer is, you can explain how you would find it out. Sometimes understanding the process is enough and showing a little honesty demonstrates vulnerability and transparency. It also makes you more likable.

6. Know the right time to come clean.

Here’s what you can say: “It’s a good question, but I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer off the top of my head. I will be sure to follow up with the answer after the interview.”

7. Send a follow-up email.

The follow-up email for an interview could become your second chance. Try to talk about the answer you were stumped on, but be smooth when you’re talking about it. Make sure you’re only naming the mistakes your interviewer caught and not drawing attention to the ones she did not catch. Don’t say something like “I’m sorry I did not know the answer to that question.” Instead, tell her that after more time and thought, you managed to come up with a couple of solutions that could work for the problem.