According to an informal poll recently conducted by The Muse website, the biggest fear people have in an interview is coming up blank when trying to respond to an interview question.

With standard interview prep calling for candidates to come up with answers to many questions, it’s understandable and likely that you are going to draw a blank from time to time.

If this is your biggest interview fear, relax! Most hiring managers aren’t going to eliminate well-qualified candidates for a stumble or two in the interview. What is more likely to get you disqualified is losing your composure or getting caught in a lie. If your mind does ever go blank on an interview question, just try to remember these tips.

Keep It Together

Part of the reason hiring managers ask difficult questions is to see how candidates react under pressure. If you are ready for the pressure of a mental slip-up, then handling it will be much easier.

In this situation, a little self-deprecating humor goes a long way to lightening the mood and easing your anxiety. Try to think up a stock remark like, “I probably should have had a bigger cup of coffee this morning,” that you can have in your back pocket in case you need it.

Ask for Clarification

Asking your interviewer to explain or clarify the question can both jog your memory and allow you valuable additional seconds to come up with a good response. You could say, “Can you elaborate on that?” or “How would you describe (a personal weakness/ successful teamwork/ etc.)?”

Usually, the interviewer will rephrase the question or add a bit of detail, hopefully giving you the time you need.

Ask for More Time

If you are otherwise feeling pretty confident about your chances, you could make the bold move of asking your interviewer if you can come back to that question. A sympathetic interviewer who wants you to do well should give you some time to think of a good answer to their question. If they demand that you answer right away, it might be a sign that they aren’t going to fully support you if you got the job, a major red flag as far as you are concerned.

If you are given more time, you absolutely must come up with a good answer the second time around.

Think It Through Out Loud

A good interviewer isn’t just interested in hearing responses that you’ve carefully prepared. They will also be interested in how you think and problem solve.

That being said, it is perfectly ok to try and talk your way through to an answer. Simply start by saying, “Off the top of my head…” and engage in a little back and forth with your interviewer to develop a response you can live with.

While talking it through isn’t ideal, it is better than drawing a blank and moving on or making something up that later turns out to be false.

At Cornerstone, we help our candidates with any questions they might have about an upcoming interview. If you are looking to partner with a staffing firm that provides strong interview support to job seekers, please contact us today.




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