Even during an interview you are well-prepared for, it’s normal to feel a little nervous. Despite practice, you never know when or if you’re going to get an unexpected question.
Before you answer with the first words that come into your head, consider these three tips:
Jumping in to a response just to say something could harm the quality of your answer. Take a few breaths, and use what Forbes calls “positive self-talk” to boost internal morale. Remember that you are qualified for the job, and think about how that question could potentially be related to the position.
If you are having trouble understanding the question, repeat it. If the wording was confusing the interviewer may notice when hearing it again and rephrase. This is also an opportunity to ask for clarification or to ensure that you fully understand the question. As a bonus, repeating the question will let the hiring manager know that you are working to give the best answer — not just any answer.
You’ve bought yourself time, made sure you fully understand what the question means to the interviewer and now it’s time to give your thorough answer. Be honest; if it’s a situational question you’ve never been asked before describe the thought process that helped you think of your example, what lead you to the situation and your recollection of the moment. If the question feels wacky, give a short specific answer to the immediate question and then describe how the skills you possess in relation to your answer show your qualifications for the job.
In the interview it can be challenging to always be ready for those curveball questions. Try to stay confident, do your research for the more common questions, and follow our three tips to excel at the unexpected.