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How To Respond To Interview Questions You Don’t Know The Answer To

I’m sure we have all experienced an interview we prepared so hard for, only to be hit with that one question we don’t know the answer to. It can throw us off quite a bit which is why we will be going through exactly how to respond to interview questions you don’t know the answer to.

Although a simple “I don’t know” is a straightforward and honest answer, it’s not the most professional response and will likely disappoint the interviewer. It is important to note that interviewers often lookout for how well you respond to unexpected questions. They want to see how you behave under pressure and how you approach a question you may not have prepared for. In other words, It is a way of putting you on the spot to see how you work through problems. 

So how exactly do we approach a situation like this? 

Well before you begin to provide an answer, take a moment to acknowledge the question that was asked and let the interviewer know that you need a minute to think about it. This will allow you to take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and come up with a response. 

From here, there are two ways to respond. 

Approach #1: 

You communicate that you do not know the direct answer to their question but tell the interviewer what you do know in relation to it using the following examples below.

“Great question, I’m actually not familiar with ______ but I have had experience with ______” 

Approach #2: 

You communicate that you do not know the direct answer to their question but tell the interviewer you will get back to them regarding the question. 

“Great question, I’m not too sure about ______ but I can definitely look into that and get back to you once I have more information.” 

Approach #3:

You communicate to the interviewer that you do not know the answer to their question but showcase enthusiasm. 

“Great question, I have not had experience with ______ but I’m eager to learn in order to excel in this role” 

These are simple tweaks in your response that can dramatically change the way the interviewer evaluates you as a qualified candidate. Not knowing the answer to a specific question is common and often not harmful to the outcome of your interview so long as you take an appropriate approach to answer it. 


Author: Bryan Payne is the Chief Talent Scout and Founding Partner at Just Sales Jobs with over 25-years of experience in sales and leading high-performance sales teams. Bryan and his team specialize in recruiting top talent within the Greater Toronto Area to Kitchener Waterloo. You can reach him at bp@justsalesjobs.com 

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