How to Handle Interview Questions You Don’t Know: Five Essential Tips

                         Facing an interview question you don’t know the answer to can be daunting. It’s a situation many of us have encountered, and handling it gracefully can significantly impact the outcome of your interview. In this blog, I will share five essential tips on how to tackle these scenarios effectively. These strategies have helped me and many others successfully navigate tricky interview moments.

1. Be Honest

The first and most crucial tip is honesty. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Trying to fabricate an answer can backfire, as experienced interviewers can easily tell when someone is not being truthful. Instead, you can say, “I’m not certain about the answer to this question right now, but I will be happy to research it further and get back to you.” This shows integrity and a willingness to learn.

Example: During an interview at Wingify, I didn’t know the answer to a specific Selenium question. I told the interviewer that I didn’t know the answer but would research and follow up. I later emailed the correct answer, and the interviewer appreciated my honesty and effort.

2. Show Willingness to Learn 

Express your eagerness to learn and grow. When you admit that you don’t know something, follow up by demonstrating your enthusiasm for learning. You could say, “Right now, I’m not familiar with this concept, but I am very interested in learning more about it and will study it further after our discussion.”

Example:
In another interview, when asked about a concept I wasn’t familiar with, I expressed my willingness to learn and mentioned my plan to study the topic. The interviewer valued my proactive approach and eagerness to improve.

3. Provide Relatable Examples

Sometimes, even if you don’t know the exact answer, you can provide a related example from your past experience. This demonstrates your problem-solving skills and your ability to apply knowledge to new situations.

Example:
If asked about handling a specific project requirement, you could say, “I haven’t encountered that exact scenario, but in a similar situation at a previous job, I handled it by doing XYZ.” This shows that you have relevant experience and can adapt to new challenges.

4. Offer an Alternate Approach

When you don’t know the exact answer, suggest an alternate approach based on your knowledge and experience. This shows that you can think on your feet and apply what you know to new problems.

Example:
If asked how to traverse a doubly linked list and you’re unsure, you could respond, “I’m not familiar with the exact traversal method, but I understand the concept of linked lists. Typically, you would start from a node and use pointers to navigate through the list. I would apply this understanding to figure out the traversal.”

5. Mold the Interview to Your Strengths

If you find yourself repeatedly stumped by questions, steer the conversation toward topics you are comfortable with. Highlight your strengths and expertise in other areas to regain control of the interview.

Example:
In an interview with Wingify, I initially struggled with Selenium questions. I redirected the conversation to API testing, where I had more expertise. I excelled in that part of the interview, and the interviewers recognized my strengths, which helped me secure the position.

Conclusion

Handling unknown interview questions gracefully can make a significant difference in your interview performance. Remember to be honest, show willingness to learn, provide relatable examples, offer alternate approaches, and steer the conversation toward your strengths. These strategies have worked for me and many others, and they can work for you too.

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If you found these tips helpful, please let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in more content on software testing, test automation, and productivity, consider subscribing to my channel. And don’t forget to check out the Job Ready Automation Tester program – enrollment is open now!

Thank you for reading, and good luck with your interviews!

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