You've prepared for the interview, you've rehearsed several common questions, and you have some clear examples in mind to share with the interviewer. However, most of us don't prepare for what to do if we can't think of an answer at the moment. It's not that uncommon for our minds to go completely blank; it can be caused by stress at that moment. The best thing to do is not to panic!
If you can't answer a specific question, things can quickly spiral out of control. You are likely to focus on the negatives instead of figuring out how to overcome the situation. It's important to recognise that this is just one question and having a blank moment does not mean that you have blown the interview. Throughout this blog, you will learn some strategies that can assist you with effectively managing this situation.
We have put together five steps to provide you with help if you have a blank moment during an interview. If you follow these steps, you will also find that your mind will become clearer, and you will be able to respond to the interviewer's questions without hesitation.
1. Repetition of a question
Ask the recruiter to repeat the question. The recruiter or hiring manager typically adds more detail to the original question when repeating it, allowing you to understand it more clearly. You are unlikely to encounter a recruiter who repeats the exact question twice. They may even give you an example of what they mean which will help you draw on your own experience.
You don't want to do this after each question, but it's perfectly acceptable if you're unsure about one or two of them. A potential employer would rather you do this than sit in confusion and panic.
Alternatively, you can clarify with them what you have understood. You are repeating back your understanding of the question will often prompt the interviewer to add some more detail.
Using either of these methods will allow you to make sure you understand the question and give you some extra time to think of an answer.
2. Be honest with your interviewer and tell him or her that your mind has gone blank
Interviewers know that a job interview can be a stressful experience and understand that candidates might feel under pressure to answer each question well. Therefore, you are perfectly justified in admitting that your mind has gone blank for a minute. By acknowledging this, you show honesty and allow yourself to move forward in the interview.
If you are honest about not having an answer to a question, ask the recruiter if they can return to this subject later when you can think of an answer. Please put that question aside, and don't let it affect your performance throughout the rest of the interview. Maintaining a positive attitude will demonstrate your character as you face this minor setback.
Hopefully, by the time the interviewer returns to the question, you will have had an opportunity to think of an answer.
3. Clear your mind
Take a deep breath to signal your brain to relax and calm down. Tell yourself you're okay! It is important to remember that you are not a computer – everyone experiences these blank moments. Although it may be stressful, you may find that the answer comes to you by itself once you give your mind a second to relax. Keeping calm will also allow your mind to enter a state of cold cognition, allowing you to think more rationally.
Extended periods of silence can be uncomfortable in an interview! If you are unsure about the question and have already taken the previously mentioned steps, then answer the question by focusing on the parts you understand. You will often find that the right answer to the question comes from talking about it.
5. Refer to your notes
During an interview, you may refer to your pre-prepared notes at any time. You may want to take advantage of this opportunity to review your notes if your mind goes blank. In addition to showing that you are prepared, this will also allow you to take a few seconds to gather your thoughts or look at any pre-prepared answers that you may have forgotten.
Having our minds go completely blank has happened to all of us at one point or another, including in inopportune moments such as job interviews. If that occurs, it's essential to realise that although it feels catastrophic in your head, it's not quite as bad as it seems. In the long run, temporary blanks shouldn't ruin your interview, so long as you handle them properly. Additionally, by following the tips in this blog, you can even reduce the probability of them reoccurring in the future.