Interview FAQ: What if I cannot answer a particular question during the interview?

One of the most frequent interview experiences consists of candidates not being able to answer a question. Ask a candidate who was unable to clear that important interview and the usual reply is "Well, I could not answer the initial questions asked, and became very tense and nervous". Not being able to answer the questions could affect your performance in the whole interview.
Quoting Dale Carnegie, "Interviews are only 20% based on facts, and 80% based on perception and communication skills". You need to make sure you are prepared for such scenario and you are able to deal with such a situation with ease. Let’s look at some of the do’s and don’ts that you can keep in mind to deal with such a situation. 
Do's:
  • Make sure you are sincere with your effort and the same should reflect in your body language.
  • Request the interviewer to rephrase the question in case it is complex or break in parts in case it is lengthy. This will give you additional time to rethink the answer. Example: "Sir, can you rephrase the question so that I can understand it completely and accurately" or "I could not completely understand the question".
  • If you are sure that you cannot answer the question, admit it humbly.
  • Ask the interviewer if you can give it a try later
Don'ts:
  • Try to fool the interviewer by giving vague answers. This may increase your opportunity cost- you may have answered certain other questions in this time.
  • Try to confuse the interviewer.
  • Ask the interviewer to repeat a question more than once.
  • Get nervous or agitated, in case of a difficult question.
Recommended routes:
At all times, do not lose your calm and be nervous. This may block your thought process even further. A question or two answered wrongly does not spoil your chances. You can take the following routes:
  • Tell "I don't know sir": Never be afraid to admit the fact that you do not know. You are not expected to have knowledge of everything. Very often, in stress interviews, the interviewer will give you a series of questions he is confident you would not know the answers of. In this case, think about it, take your time and frankly state that you are not aware of the topic/answer. Be prepared for the easy question he throws at you at the end. He is testing your confidence and your ability to maintain a cool head in face of a lot of difficult questions. However, admitting ignorance to every other question sends a wrong message. This may be even worse if the question tests you on the core/basic concepts of your specialization.
  • Tell "I am not sure, but I would like to take a logical guess": Stating it clearly in the beginning will lower the expectations the interviewer has from your answer. In this case,even getting close to the answer can be looked upon positively. Your ability to arrive at the answer logically shows that you can think on your feet. However, preceding every question with the tagline "I am not sure", is not recommended as it discounts your self-esteem every now and then.
This complete this essential interview tip and you need to make sure you keep the above in mind when it comes to your interview preparation. Remember, the above approach is the honest and direct one you can adopt in this case.
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