How to Answer a Question You Can’t Answer

There will always be a question that will stump you, no matter how much you prepare. Hiring managers do this on purpose because they want to stump you and see how you handle the situation. Not every day on the job will be an easy one, so they want to make sure you are prepared to handle every difficult situation with class and ease.

Don’t Panic

The number one and most crucial tip is to remain calm when you receive a question that stumps you. Most people think that you need to have a perfect interview to be noticed and move forward in the process. However, perfection is impossible to attain since you don’t really know what the hiring manager is looking for besides what is listed in the job posting. Just know that doing your best in the moment could land you the position.

Stay calm and confident, even if you’re thinking through the question. If you fall apart, the interviewer is likely to lose confidence in you. 5 Tips to Remain Calm During an Interview

Take a Second

Don’t fear silence in an interview. Just a moment to collect your thoughts and compose yourself before speaking can benefit you. Simply say “Great question! Let me think about that one.” Then you can work through the question or think about how you’ll proceed with the following tips.

Think Out Loud

Sometimes you have an answer to the question, but it’s not exactly formulated into a proper answer because you’ve never answered the question before. For instance, if the hiring manager is asking about your process when dealing with a specific situation and you’ve never really thought about the process before, then thinking out loud will help. Go through the answer in parts and add simple transitions such as “First, Next, and Lastly” to give your answer a structure.


The hiring manager might ask you about something you’re not familiar with or about a skill that you haven’t obtained yet. This is where you can pivot the conversation to something you can talk about or a skill you do have. There’s no rule that says you can’t do this. Just keep in mind that you must keep the conversation within the same realm as the question. For instance, if they ask about a specific computer skill, don’t redirect it to being a “people person.” This will annoy the hiring manager and they might redirect back to the original question.

Emphasize Your Learning Curve

As we’ve expressed in previous blog posts, having a mindset of continuous learning is crucial in any career. You never stop learning new skills or concepts. Emphasize eagerness to learn everything you need to know about the company or position to improve yourself as an employee of their company.

Answer in Your Follow-Up

If you’re truly stumped on a question, then politely tell the hiring manager that you don’t have a concrete answer at the moment and that you will follow up with them after the interview. This allows for you to go back home and develop a proper answer. You should always send them a thank you email and in this follow-up, you can include “I just wanted to follow up with a response to your question from our interview” and include your answer. Tips for Writing a Thank You Note after the Interview. Please note that this will only work for one question, so save this tip for that really difficult question.

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