Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What do you do if you do not know the answer to a question in interview?

This is a very difficult piece of advice to give. Firstly there is no real correct answer, because if you do not know the answer to a question, either because you lack the requisite knowledge, the interviewer has asked the most ridiculous question or you are so nervous about the interview your brain has fried and are panicking.

The first instance, if you do not the answer because you do not have the knowledge to answer the question, it is often best to take a little bit of time to think about whether you can come up with an answer that perhaps is somewhat vague or bluffed, and a good way of doing this is to ask for a glass of water. Have a sip of the water whilst you think about it. If nothing is forthcoming afterwards, you then have to move on to plan B.

You can also consider simply saying, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, and if it is a question that would require knowledge of some sort, you could perhaps say, if I was in practice or if I was in a work environment, I would tell the client I was unable to give them the advice and go and research it before getting back to them with the answer.

This is what you would do in reality, and it may be something that you could get away with. That could indicate that you lack the knowledge to do the job and there is no real way round this.

If the question is so ridiculous, it does not really have an answer, and these can occur and perhaps where the interviewer has asked a really clever question, but is so clever it does not actually have an answer and he cannot remember himself what his question was. If this happens, it is very hard to know what to say really, except, could you repeat the question, please, and perhaps get them to elaborate on the second part or perhaps to say, I’m sorry, I did not quite catch the second part of that question, could you repeat it? You may pick up some clues from this and this may assist you with your answer. You have to be careful interview about asking for the repeat of the question because it almost comes across that you are trying to bide time and it can infuriate the interviewer who then has to go back and think of the question again and may in fact struggle to do so.

If you are panicking about a question and therefore cannot answer because you are so nervous, the glass of water is perhaps your saviour. Even this will only give you a little bit of time to buy thinking space. As I said at the start of this article, there is no right or wrong solution to this. If you do not know the answer to a question and are unable to bluff your way through, there is very little that you can in fact do to avoid the negative aspect of your response.

In summary, you need to make sure that you have a glass of water to provide you with thinking space, be prepared to say that you do not know the answer but you would go and research your response if you were in practice and being consulted by a client and controlling your nerves so that you do not panic in an interview environment. Do not be put off by the response of the interviewer who may roll their eyes or mark their paper with a cross. You can always redeem the interview by providing other good answers that make the interviewer forget the response that you have given.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk .

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