Being Asked a Tricky Interview Question? Give These Skillful Responses to Earn Extra Time

Being Asked a Tricky Interview Question? Give These Skillful Responses to Earn Extra Time

You know that moment – your heart stops, you stop breathing, and your whole body freezes for a second. It feels like a whole millennium is passing by before your eyes. We are talking about the moment when an interviewer takes their seat right in front of you and you are expecting to hear an answer which you don’t have.

It seems unfair, doesn’t it? No matter how much time you spend preparing yourself [1] and going through various questions while having multiple answers in your mind just before you enter those scary office doors, all thoughts can just vanish out of your mind when you hear a question you’re unfamiliar with.

Well – all useful ones at least, because that is the moment when you’ll probably remember something that you didn’t know existed in your brain, or something extremely inappropriate to say out loud in front of a person who’s a potential employer. Well, don’t panic, there are ways to buy precious seconds and give yourself some time to come up with a quality answer.

The “Irresistible Compliment” Trick

No one is immune to compliments – they can either hide it well or not. Therefore, when you hear a question that makes your confidence go down the drain, you should perhaps try and influence your interviewer’s ego just a bit.

So, my suggestion is to go with something like “Well that’s certainly one clever question I have never heard before, so I better try and come up with an equally smart response,” and I’m sure your interviewer will at least give you a sign of a smile. Other than buying some time, you’ll also manage to brighten up the whole atmosphere.

The Art of Paraphrasing

This is the oldest trick in the book, but it can be quite efficient if you know how to pull it off. Now, repeating the whole question word after word will make the thing you’re trying to do very obvious, so you should breathe in and mix up some words.

A question like “How would your presence contribute to our business?” can be turned into “Ah, so you’d like to know how me being an employee in your company would be beneficial for the future development of your business.” It takes some time to master word play and it can be a bit challenging if you’re not naturally good at it, but investing time into it will definitely pay off.

Question Can Be An Answer

Take that same question for example – explaining in which way you can contribute to a business.[2] I keep fixating on that one because it’s usually the most difficult one to answer with a creative question that will make you stand out from the crowd.

If you want to get a couple of seconds more so that you can estimate what would be the right answer, you should hit your interviewer with a question and present them with something like “I am familiar with the job description I’m applying for, but can you tell me about some unusual challenges I’ll be faced with? That way, I can tell you whether my skills can make your business prosper.”

Asking for Clarification Helps (A Lot)

If a question sounds illogical to you, perhaps it really is. The whole process of being at an interview puts an interviewee in a subordinated position and, although this probably won’t be true because it’s highly professionally immoral, some interviewers can misuse their position.

Therefore, if you don’t understand the purpose of answering a particular question, you should simply ask what’s its point, but do so politely – “Help me out a bit here. In order to answer your question properly, can you please tell me what is the purpose of your question, so that I can provide you with a satisfying answer?” Some questions, like the one regarding which type of fruit you’d like to be, can be a thinker.

Return on It Later

You’re only human and so is your interviewer. It’s nothing unusual for you to require some time in order to come to an answer in your mind, which is why it won’t be at all inappropriate to politely ask your interviewer if it would be fine with them to get back to that particular question later on.

Being on an interview is very similar to doing a test, and I’m absolutely sure that you leave the questions you find confusing or difficult to answer for when you’re done with those you’re absolutely sure of.

Return to the Previous

Have you ever went on a rollercoaster ride? Well, if you did, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a lot like an interview – some parts of the ride can give you an ecstatic boost, while others can frighten you and shake up your very core.

Well why not try to go back to the fun parts? If you managed to complete your previous answer with flying colors, you should make a digression after you hear a question you don’t really know how to answer and add another segment to your previous answer while you’re thinking about the one you find confusing.

Honesty Is Highly Appreciated

Considering the fact that respect towards professional ethics[3] will be desirable in every office and without regard for which job position you’re applying for, you can simply be straightforward and tell your interviewer that you’re caught off guard and that you need some time to come up with an answer.

It’s true that resourcefulness is a highly appreciated skill, but the truth is that not everyone responds to working under pressure properly, which is something that the person sitting in front of you is very well aware of. Therefore, if you’re not a word play master, or you can’t think clearly when you’re under pressure, my final suggestion is to be honest.

Nevertheless, you should prepare yourself for every interview properly. Make sure to get enough rest the night before and do your best to put stress and panic aside so that you can actually be satisfied with your performance. There are many ways to calm your mind before a meeting – things like breathing exercises and nutritious foods will most definitely be helpful. Good luck!


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