Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Should You Do if You Get Stumped in an Interview?

In my last blog post last week, I shared with you that I had an upcoming interview. That interview went well and I was scheduled for a second phone interview on Monday. Knowing she was interviewing me - a career services professional who teaches interviewing techniques - the interviewer must have prepared some extra-tough questions, because she stumped me once!

The interviewer asked me the top three qualities that I thought were necessary to succeed in the position for which I was interviewing. No problem, I easily answered the question. However, she then proceeded to ask which one I thought I had that was MOST important. I could honestly make a case for any one of these three skills that I knew I could bring to the table and I could not decide how to answer. I was stumped!

If you ever run into a situation where you don't know the best answer to a question, I want you to be prepared to handle the situation. We are often so concerned with how we are perceived in an interview that we are unwilling to admit to any kind of weakness. Faced with the situation of not knowing how to answer, I went with what I considered to be the best option. Here is how I answered:

"I can honestly say I bring all three qualities to the position. I also can make a case for any one of the three qualities being most important. You have stumped me, so give me a second to think about it." I then went on to say that I thought two of the three qualities could be taught in training, but the third quality was the most important and I offered my reasoning.

In an interview, don't be afraid to ask for more time. Don't be afraid to say that you are torn between several answers. Don't be afraid to admit when you get stumped. Any of these situations show you are taking the interview seriously, you are considering each answer carefully, and you have extensive knowledge of the subject matter.  Don't take yourself too seriously and show poise and confidence in the interview - no matter what comes your way.

The interviewer admitted to me at the end of the interview that she was quite proud that she was able to stump me, a professional, and that she put a lot of thought into the question. Quite honestly, it allowed us to build rapport and my being stumped was not perceived negatively.

** Update: as I wrote this blog post, I received an email requesting a final interview, so it must not have been too bad!

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