John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
You’ve built a great resume, you’ve won an interview against stiff competition, and you’ve sailed through the first few questions. Everything is going well and then along comes an awkward question; you hesitate and then your mind goes blank. It can feel like the world is closing in, but it shouldn’t really.
Why? Because it happens to the best of us from business valuation professionals right up to presidential candidates. It really is not the end of the world as there are simple strategies that any business valuation professional can deploy to overcome a brain freeze during interview.
One of the first things to do is to have the confidence to pause and take a breath and try and relax. The silence may be a little uncomfortable but it won’t harm your chances. If you don’t like silence, take control and politely respond to the interviewer, saying something like, “that is a good question, may I have a moment to collect my thoughts?” This can give you some space and control which can help to reduce nerves and get your thoughts flowing again, so you can more easily answer. As well, as this, most interviewers will respect the assertive response you have made at a difficult moment.
If this doesn’t work, try repeating the question back to the interviewer and as you process the question again, you may find it more comprehensible and easier to answer.
Alternately, you could ask the interviewer if they, “wouldn’t mind repeating or rephrasing the question as you didn’t follow it”. Hearing the question again or just hearing it phrased differently can jog memories and make it more comprehensible and therefore answerable.
If this doesn’t work, request clarification and you can do this directly by asking them for clarification. Or you could try something like, “So, to put it another way, what you are asking is…?”
Even at this latter stage you still have options, and if you still can’t put together a suitable response, then simply ask if you can come back to the question later. Most interviewers will oblige and will be impressed that you have a strategy for managing difficult questions.
If you find that you simply can’t answer, then explain that you know the answer, but are just having difficulty recalling it, and would like to be able to follow up with a response after wards if this is permissible. Most interviewers will let you do this; it won’t be as good as answering in the interview, but is much better than no answer at all.