How to Interview Your Way through the Unknown

Walking into an interview confident that you know everything there is to know about the company, the position, and how you'll fit in is an amazing feeling. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

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There are almost always blind spots you need to navigate your way around. You do not want to sound uninformed, but you also do not want to ramble too far in the wrong direction trying to disguise your lack of knowledge. Here are some tips for navigating your way through the unknown during a job interview.

Ask for clarification

If you are not sure what the interviewer is talking about, there is nothing wrong with asking them to explain. For example, let us say you respond to an enigmatic job posting that says almost nothing about what the job requirements are. Maybe you have heard good things about the company, or you liked the salary range, but you really do not know exactly what you are applying for. When the interviewer asks you what you bring to the table, you might understandably be a bit stumped as to how to reply.

Before you start rattling off a list of your qualifications that may or may not be pertinent to the position, take a moment and find out what you need to know. You could say something like, “I would love to answer that question, but first, can you tell me a little more about the position?” Once you have a better understanding of what the job entails, you can tailor your response to ensure that you are highlighting your most relevant assets.

Remain composed by adapting quickly

Most likely, you’ve rehearsed the standard Q & As at length, prior to the interview. But what if the interviewer throws you a curve ball you do not know how to respond to? Your first instinct might be to panic. But you can remain composed if you take a deep breath and think about how something you previously prepared can be altered to fit the unexpected inquiry.

For example, the interviewer might ask, “how do you feel about the fact that you’ll be working directly for my daughter?” Do not let the specificity of the question throw you off your game. Do a quick scan of your brain files and respond with how you planned to answer the question, “are you a team player?” There is almost always a way to apply a general to a specific in this type of situation. You just have to think on your feet.

Be honest

Sometimes a hiring manager might try to quiz you with industry lingo or even an impromptu math problem. If you do not know the answer, again, do not panic. And most of all, do not try to lie your way through it. More than likely, the hiring manager knows the answer cold. If you try to guess, and you are wrong—awkward.

You are more likely to impress your potential employer if you admit you do not know the answer, but you are a fast and eager learner. You can even add something like, “I look forward to learning from seasoned experts who, like me, probably didn’t have all the answers at one time either.”

Of course, it never hurts to study up on industry terms prior to the interview, so you can help avert this type of situation. But the reality is, there is no way you could possibly predict every conceivable “pop quiz” question the interviewer could toss your way. Just be honest and try to throw in a few buzz words that you do know throughout the rest of the interview, so at least they understand you are informed as a whole.

“The unknown,” combined with the anxiety of a job interview, can be a little frightening. But it does not have to be that way. Follow the advice given here, and you can navigate through unfamiliar territory with confidence.

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