Top Answers to Tough Interview Questions
Getting a tough question that you may not know the answer to can throw you off your game in the job interview. It’s hard not to feel flustered when you realize you haven’t prepared for a particular question and you don’t know what to say. Fortunately, it’s possible to recover from this situation if you respond with a calm demeanor and a thoughtful answer. Although the interviewer will realize that you don’t know the answer, he or she will also notice that you can handle a tough situation with poise and confidence.
1. Say, “That’s a good question.”
This shows that you acknowledge the challenging question and that you’re approaching it with an upbeat attitude. It’s important not to get defensive or try to argue with the interviewer. You don’t want to give excuses as to why you shouldn’t have to know the answer. After all, your positivity and interpersonal skills are often just as crucial to interview success as technical knowledge. If you can’t impress the interviewer with the right answer, you can at least let your soft skills shine through.
2. Clarify what they’re asking
If you think you don’t know the answer to a question, it could be that you actually didn’t understand what the interviewer was asking. Maybe they phrased a familiar concept in a way that’s new to you. Or, you might have interpreted the question in a broad, general way when they really meant something more limited and easier to grasp. Ask a follow-up question to make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page. For example, you might say, “I’d like to clarify: Are you asking about the travel industry as a whole, or about the hotel market in our city?”
3. Explain your thought process
Sometimes, the interviewer doesn’t expect you to have an answer ready to go because the point of the question is to reveal how you approach new problems. Questions about hypothetical situations often fall into this category. For these questions, you want to show how you think about a dilemma you haven’t encountered before. Talk about the steps you would take to arrive at a solution, or try to draw parallels to things you have experienced. For example, you might say, “I’ve never received that particular complaint, but when I encounter other guest complaints I apologize to the guest for the inconvenience and offer a comp. I think I would probably handle this case similarly.”
4. Say how you would find the answer
If you don’t have an answer, often the next best thing is to know where to find it. Explain where you would look up the information or who you would need to talk to. If you could figure out the answer based on other facts or statistics, explain what the components of the answer would be and how you would combine pieces of information to reach the solution. As an example, you might say, “To calculate RevPAR, I would multiply the average daily room rate and the occupancy rate.”
5. If the answer should be clear-cut, admit you don’t know it
When the question is asking for something very specific like a definition or name, admit that you don’t have the answer. Don’t try to make something up or talk your way out of it; that would be very easy for the interviewer to spot. Admitting ignorance demonstrates that you’re aware of what you don’t know and that you aren’t trying to fool the interviewer. It also allows the interview to move on to other topics that you know more about.
6. Express a desire to learn more
Talking about your desire to learn more allows the interviewer to see you as someone with curiosity and openness to growth. It also cements the fact that there are no hard feelings about the tricky question. With a smile, state that you want to read up on the specific subject of the question. Or, say something along the lines of, “Now I’m wondering how other digital marketers handle that! I’ll be sure to ask some experts at the marketing conference next week.”