Job Interview Tips: What to Do When You Don’t Know How To Answer a Question

Everyone is nervous in a job interview. Everyone is afraid to hear a question to which they would have no answer. To some of us, the fear of embarrassment can be so bad that we prefer not to go to an interview at all. This little post is for those who are trying to train themselves against having moments of uncomfortable silence in communication.

First of all, it is good to avoid awkward silence in every piece of communication, not only in a job interview. The same can be said about speeding up and starting your answer before your partner could finish asking the question. As a teenager, I struggled quite hard with shyness, and I remember reading somewhere that, during a one-on-one conversation, the most “comfortable” time of silence between two people’s words is the time which you would need to pronounce the phrase twenty two. Since then, I often say twenty two in my mind whenever I am about to answer a question. It also helps, by the way, to overcome nervousness when I have important conversations.

So, the rule number one in an important situation like a job interview is not to panic and take your time. No matter how tricky, unusual or complex question you just heard, take a one second long pause to fill your lungs with air and say some words of general meaning — just to fill the air and to gain another few seconds to think over your answer.

This is a simple technique, but it should be trained. Try it a number of times in less important conversations before you bring it to a job interview. Do it like this

Question___(‘twenty two’)___Your answer

Having a few phrases of general meaning at hand at all times is also a good thing: just saying something like “Oh, this is an interesting question. In fact, I never looked at the problem from this standpoint…”

Then, quite logically, you might want to start thinking aloud. Imagine that you are doing exactly the thing that the interviewer asked you about and try to describe how you would do it. This will gain you a couple more seconds, and this will be some kind of an answer — not just silence on our part.

The next great conversation technique is to redirect the topic to an area in which you are more professional. If you manage to overcome nervousness, you will be able to do it, no doubt. Even if your answer will be a little not to the point, it is still better than sitting in complete silence. In an interview, you might want to say something about being very excited about the position you are interviewing for and explain how your previous experiences could help you do this new job really well.

Having a so-called fail-safe answer at hand in an interview is also a good technique: the interviewer will certainly notice your trick, but they will see that you are capable of dealing with various situations, and it will certainly work in your favor. Say something like: “I’m not familiar with this concept yet, but I’m really excited about learning and growing more professional in (your topic), so I’ve been actively trying to learn more. When I become a part of a working team, I will certainly learn a lot faster, because I’ll be learning on particular examples in a particular professional environment.”


Above all, it is good to learn from every interview experience you have. Regardless of what question you hear, never forget to consider what the hiring manager is really expecting to learn from the question. You may not be able to answer the actual question, but if you’re able to show yourself as an experienced communicator and if you give the hiring managers the information they are trying to learn with their questions, you will certainly produce a good impression and your chances for success will become higher.

Writing a Book Can Change Your Life

In my case, this statement is true. English for Your Job Interview is changing my life. When I started writing this book, my only idea was to assist young people in preparing to speak in their English job interviews, but as soon as the book saw the world, it started attracting new people into my life. Before I could realize it, I acquired a new status of a career coach — I had been one for a long time, but after I publishes the book, it somehow became ‘official’!

Today, I’ve been actively working as a career and effective communication coach; companies keep requesting my workshops and masterclasses, and all this due to the book, which, in fact, is not even about career coaching!

These days, I am working on the program of a new training, I am calling it C.C.C.: Customer Communication and Correspondence. I must make it a success, so I’ve been working really hard, thinking over every minute of my future presentation. I’ll share the description and the presentation here in my blog, as soon as the program is ready.

Engaging Your Audience

I found Anna in an empty connecting corridor between the two administrative buildings of the university. When she saw me, she threw herself on my shoulder and burst into tears.

“I swear I did my best to prepare,” she sobbed. “I worked on that presentation all week after the previous time, when they looked quite satisfied, and… this time the room is empty! Can you believe this? No one’s come to the training! No single person! They were all there a week ago, and today… oh, what did I do wrong?” Through sobbing, she nodded to thank me for a tissue and mumbled into it, “I’m not good at it, I’ll never do trainings again.”

That afternoon, for the first time in her life, Anna faced the fact that knowing a topic in and out does not guarantee success to a speaker. She also learned that, when you work with audiences of mature, ambitious, self-confident professionals, you’ve got to be just like them, plus you’ve got to produce a great first impression.

Just like a first date aftertaste can influence the whole relationship, the success of your coaching (training, lecturing, or any other kind of teaching) largely depends on how well you manage to impress your in the very first minutes of your presentation.

Here is an interesting thing: when you work with an audience of highly skilled professionals, they don’t expect to learn a lot from your training. They aren’t looking to dive into the depths of smart thinking; they are rather willing to watch your performance (your speaking manner, style, appearance, etc.) and to have the fun of enjoying (or criticizing) your occasional ingenious remarks. In other words, they come looking for entertainment. They want eccentricity. They are hoping to fall in love with your presentation, no matter what you are going to say there, and if you manage to meet their expectations, you are going to face success. Guaranteed.

The smart, highly skilled professionals can learn something new from books, but if they want to transfer their knowledge to others, they need to watch your performance and learn from a real life performance example.

Therefore, the number one task of your presentation is not to deliver information (the participants can find a lot of valuable information on the Internet and in books), but to create a certain emotional environment, and this environment is the reason why they have come to listen to you.

Please them. Please your listeners in the very first minutes of the meeting. Tell them an interesting fact, a joke, an anecdote, a quote, or a story. It should be related to your presentation, of course, but do not reveal that connection right away; the smartest thing would be to mention that joke (quote/statement/etc.) in the end of your presentation again and explain its connection with the topic of the meeting.

As an option, you can find some impressive statistics; compare some numbers, talk about facts, provide a couple of real life examples. And again, mention it in the end when you are summing up your presentation.

Another great way to begin your presentation would be to tell a story that starts with the words: “On my way here this morning, I…”

As an option, you could demonstrate them a practical skill (how to tie shoe laces with one hand or how to make a boiled egg slip into a bottle without touching it — anything that could impress your listeners)

As you speak, it makes sense to repeat your key message a few times during the training. Not to mention the fact that there must be a key message in every public performance.

Sharing a personal experience is a good method to attract attention of the audience. A first-hand story always sounds more attractive than any piece of information which has absolutely no relation to your life. A few other techniques that might help are —

  • to point our something about the audience or the current setting;
  • to show a compelling visual image and ask them to discuss it;
  • to ask a provocative question; or simply
  • to state an amusing, or remarkable fact.

If you want your audience to participate in what you are sharing, do not expect them to do this from the very fist minute. Warm them up by asking a few questions which do not have to be answered by the audience. Little by little, they will become more active and responsive.

Job Interview Was Too Short? That’s Probably a Bad News for You.

Oleksandr Shelegéda, currently a controlling specialist in financial services, is our interviewee at One on One column today. Oleksandr has 7+ years of experience in finance and change management. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and interpreting in Kharkiv Technical University, Oleksandr continued his education and obtained a Master’s degree in Project Management. One of his most memorable experiences is working for OSCE observing missions. To learn more about him, visit Oleksandr’s LinkedIn page.

Rina: How long have you been studying English? When did you first realize that you can communicate in it fluently and well enough to be able to live and work in the English language environment?

Oleksandr: I set off on my way of learning English when I was 6 y.o. It was in a small town in the Western part of Ukraine, in a small school, and with a new teacher every couple of years. There was more fun than learning in it to me. Probably, the first time I started to believe that I could speak and understand English was on the day of 9.11.2001. On that day, one of the TV channels was going live without translation and I was interpreting all that to my family.

Rina: Can you recall your first job interview?

Oleksandr: I’ve been on interviews since my University times so I can’t remember the very one. My personal attitude towards interviews in general is that you should go there quite often, just in case. Even if your job is good and you don’t want to change it in the next year. Just try to analyze the information you get there. This skill will only come if you practice a lot.

Rina: Of all the interviews you have been through, what question do you always find the trickiest and the most difficult to answer?

Oleksandr: Once you’ve had enough experience, everything becomes normal for you. You should never be afraid of saying no or I don’t know during interviews. The hardest thing for me now is to keep myself from laughing when I hear some old fashioned questions, like Where do you see yourself in 5 years? or What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Rina: Have you ever had to answer absolutely unexpected questions that took you by surprise? How did you answer them?

Oleksandr: Sometimes recruiters would like to find a person with excellent knowledge of specific areas and they ask you questions out of your working field, like, What kinds of books for kids do you prefer? when you are applying to be an accountant.

Rina: Are you always nervous during the interviews? Does your emotional state during the interview affect your presentation in English? If yes, in what way? How do you prepare for your interviews every time when you get an appointment?

Oleksandr: I would say that it is normal to be a bit nervous before or even during interviews. To me, it really helps when I realize that I am also here to check how good is the company for me, and is it not only them who are in charge of the interview. Also, it always helps to think about possible ways of communication with interviewers beforehand. In this case, you will always have something to say and you won’t be scared.

Rina: How long do your interviews normally last? Do you feel more confident in the beginning or in the end of an interview?

Oleksandr: I would say that usually it takes from 30 to 60 min for a good interview. If it is too short, that’s probably a bad news for you. If it is too long, it may mean that the interviewers are nervous themselves or are unprepared, and then you can’t understand what are they looking for. You should probably forget about them and switch to other opportunities.

Rina: Can you remember any situations of using (not using) particular English words/phrases that influenced your communication with the interviewer? Were there any situations of misunderstanding because of misused words or mistakes made by you or by interviewers? Share any stories you can remember.

Oleksandr: It is always great when you know the necessary terminology in English. Sometimes it can also help when you give an explanation to the interviewers about a specific topic in order to sync with them. That helps in both ways – they can see that you know the topic, and you are not afraid that you are being wrong with your answers.

Rina: What is the best way to refresh your English communication skills before a job interview? How do you usually prepare for coming interviews? How much time does it usually take you?

Oleksandr: It is really hard to prepare yourself for this before the interview, especially when you have another job and the only time you have is a time for commuting between 2 locations. SO the only piece of advice here is to have a good rest on the night before the interview, and then to stay positive and fresh – that helps a lot.

Rina: Have you ever failed a job interview? If yes, what lesson(s) did you learn after it?

Oleksandr: It is not hard to receive a ‘no’ from recruiters. It is hard when they just ignore you and do not write back to you after the interview, not even a short message. Unfortunately, this may happen, so be prepared to send a note to them after some time if they don’t write back – and then, put them on your black list and try to forget about that interview, ASAP!

Sometimes, the recruiters provide you a feedback along with the rejection; it will help you to understand your weak points and to see what you need to learn for the future.

Rina: What kind of advice would you like to give to the young people who are about to have the first interviews of their lives?

Oleksandr: Lots of advice you can see above, so just to summarize a bit –

  • Don’t be too afraid;
  • Remember that you are going to that interview to take a look at the company and your potential manager;
  • Try to take some notes during interview, especially the names, and maybe some key questions;
  • Don’t be afraid to write back to them after a while if they never contacted you; and
  • Ask some questions, especially about general topics like their working atmosphere, their attitude towards working hours, and about payment, and about your possible colleagues and managers. This will help you make up your own opinion regarding the company.

Another Book Has Been Born

English for Your Job Interview

English for Your Job Interview is a preparation guide for a job interview in English. Its 51 units cover the most frequently asked interview questions and offer multiple training exercises and useful tips to help the job candidates communicate effectively with hiring managers during the interview.

The book is perfect for everyone whose English level is Intermediate or higher. It is indispensable for non-native speakers of English, who are seeking employment in international companies at the start of their careers.

Most importantly, English for Your Job Interview offers a way how to develop the skill of acting and communicating confidently during the interview. This book has already helped dozens of young professionals find their dream jobs.

That Smile That Can Win a Job Interview …

The video chat was not long: I needed an interpreter urgently, because the client was already waiting for my email proposal with a whole package of services. A good client, by the way, it would’ve been stupid to loose him. So, I didn’t have much time and I had to choose an interpreter to work with.

The girl seemed smart, reliable, serious and motivated, which was good. But she was so young! Her voice was child-like and she looked like a high school student. We were still talking, but I kind of knew that I was not going to hire her.

I was wrapping up the interview and saying something conventional like “It was a pleasure meeting you”, when all of a sudden she moved a bit forward toward her screen so I could see her face in close-up. She raised her hand in greeting and answered something like “I am sorry I cannot shake your hand”. Her eyes were looking directly into mine and she was smiling genuinely, showing me rows of beautiful white teeth, and I suddenly realized: that was the smile of success!

She had it in her nature, without training or spending years in international work. She was a diplomat by personality type, and so every experience was going to only develop what she’d already had from birth. That was exactly the smile I always expect to see on faces of experts in international business.

I hired her and gave her the job. In the following years, she became a wonderful assistant, and a friend, a good friend. I never regretted that I’d hired her.

So, how does it work? What kind of smile can win a job interview? During years of my career, I learned a few ‘smile-building rules’ that cannot be just  imitated: they become the background for forming the facial expression of success. Here they are:

  1. A good smile is the one that is
    relaxed. A tensed smile only shows your nervousness, but a natural
    one displays your strong ability to control yourself even in
    situations of nervousness.

  2. A smile of success shows
    confidence and independence of a person’s mind: it is not blunt or
    arrogant; it is simply a smile of a person who is completely
    self-sufficient and knows what he/she is doing.

  3. A smile of success is not about
    making jokes or showing your humorous nature; no, it is different.
    It tells everyone without words that you are intelligent and smart.
    This is a smile of politeness and respect for those who you are
    talking to.

  4. A good smile should come on a
    good moment. You should not smile all the time — just keep it like
    a trump card and pull it out when the moment is right.

  5. A good smile reflects your positive nature: it tells to
    others that you aren’t bringing problems, but quite on the opposite:
    you may become their mascot, if you know how to use it.

Well, now, try to imagine that you possess all of the qualities I listed above. Think of a skill that you are really proud of (it may be anything, from cooking delicious foods to making great tea or dancing polka, or  programming). Think about your best skill and tell about it to a looking glass. At some moment you’ll see yourself smiling. This will be the smile. Remember it.

Train it and keep it with you when you come to a meeting that’s very important to you. If this is a job interview, that smile can well get you hired.

How To Read Faces in a Job Interview

The boy was wearing a snow-while shirt and an elegant grey suit, definitely from a very expensive store or fashion atelier. When he entered the classroom, I noticed that his shining black shoes were a bit too narrow to be comfortable (right in agreement with the latest fashion), so I could not help thinking that he possibly did what we — women — use to do: brought the shoes in a plastic bag and put them on right before the exam. No, those shoes weren’t made for walking, they were designed to impress, and a guy wearing such shoes should not be sitting in front of an examination commission: he would look more in the right place half lying behind a huge oak desk, with his legs on the table, showing the soles of those shoes to his visitors.

I think I grinned to the thought, because the boy glanced at me with blatant complacency, frowned, and immediately looked away. At that very moment an urgent phone call made me excuse myself and leave the room for a couple of minutes.

When I returned, the boy was still sitting across the table from my colleagues, but my first thought was that it was possibly a different student. The snow-white shirt, heavy of sweat, got stuck to his chest in a few places; the nifty grey jacket slid to the side: my foppish boy was desperately looking for words trying to say something in English. His eyes were traveling about the opposite wall, while his arms , strong and fleshy, were hanging on the sides as if they were made of rope; He made a grammar mistake, then another, and one more, and finally, having noticed that teachers began to exchange glances, he fell silent a all.

Read more about it here

As a university teacher with decades of experience behind my shoulders, I have seen similar scenes many times. They are, by the way, very close to what hiring managers see during job interviews. The one being tested can either earn himself a good grade by displaying the right behavior or plunge into the abyss of self-deprecation and spoil the impression about himself once and for all. Below in this article, I have listed a few notes about the right behavior in responsible moments of life: during tests, exams or job interviews. Try to remember them when you face an important moment in life.

YOUR HEAD

If you are sitting in front of an interviewer (and in majority of situations you are), the most prominent part of your body that is openly displayed to the interviewer is your head. Try using it in your favor, not against yourself.

  • When your head is slightly tilted, this displays your interest and empathy;
  • Direct eye contact shows confidence, trust and interest; do not forget to look right into the eyes of your interviewer and do your best to do this without tension;
  • Smile. Put yourself in a positive frame of mind before the interview and try to keep this mood till the very end of the event;
  • Try to control the movements of your eyebrows. Too many changes on your face may cause unnecessary thoughts in the interviewer’s mind.

YOUR ARMS AND HANDS

First of all, control their movements all the time. Too much of gesticulation will tire your interviewer. Just move as much as you need to look natural. Your shoulders and arms should be wide open; this usually means that the person is relaxed and open to discussing ideas. Crossed arms are usually an obvious indication of being unengaged and uncomfortable.

YOUR POSTURE

Posture is one of the most reliable indicators of how someone feels. Always pay special attention to the way you sit, stand or walk, because your posture is a piece of your body language puzzle. For example,

  • a straight and open torso indicates that you are at ease and confident;
  • conversely, hunched shoulders and back can indicate a defensive, or weary state of mind;
  • leaning towards the interviewer will make you appear interested in the content of the interview;
  • at the same time, mirroring the interviewer’s body posture indicates an alignment of views, as well as comfort and connection. Do not forget to do this, if you feel it might work in your favor.

YOUR LEGS AND FEET

Quite often, they are difficult to see, but, surprisingly, they are a good indicator of how someone is feeling towards you. So keep yours under control and if possible, throw a glance at the inreviewer’s.

  • when both of their feet are pointing towards you, this indicates interest and an openness to connection;
  • a foot pointed out or away means a desire to wrap up the talk and leave;
  • crossed legs usually give out a defensive or closed off person;
  • shifting weight from side to side or a leg twitching shows that the person is anxious or stressed;
  • sitting comfortably, with a straight back and both feet pointed towards the interviewer would be the best solution for you. Even in a phone/ video interview when your lower half can’t be seen, if you act as you would in an in-person interview, you will come across as enthusiastic.

Finally, it is good to remember that we are all people. We have our lives and quite often, the most important career-breaking day for you is just another boring day of work for your interviewer. Do not try to guess what they are thinking during the interview (it may be something not related to the interview at all); just try to look confident and friendly and learn to control all parts of your body to make them work in your favor.

Good luck!

The Romantic English Phrase Book has been published!

Finally! The Romantic English Phrase Book is live and available for purchase on Amazon at-https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545494223 The Romantic English Phrase Book is a collection of English conversational phrases to help Russian women in communication with their English- speaking friends. Consider sending the book as a little gift to your romantic Russian friend.If you have any questions about the book, please contact me, the author Iryna Tymchenko, via my social networks pages or via this website. Please find my contacts here.

The Romantic English Phrase Book

Job Interview Tips: “Explain Why You Are Looking For a New Job”

Every time you face a hiring manager in a job interview, you should be prepared to answer questions about why you’re leaving your current job. The ‘trick’ of the question lies behind the hiring managers’ expectations: as often, they do not want to hear about your personal reasons for leaving your team or your lack of agreement with your direct boss. Rather than sharing about your problems and any negative experiences, you should build your answer around discussing the opportunities which this new position is going to open for you.

While the specifics of your answer will depend on whether you are leaving your current company voluntarily or were asked to leave, it’s very important to answer in a way that will work in your favor.

For example, you should never say that your boss is a tyrant or that your colleagues are not nice people. Even if all this is somewhat true, there is no sense or use in pointing this out in a job interview.

Instead of crafting a negative answer, simply highlight the reasons why you’re seeking the new position. For example, “I’m really looking forward to working in a collaborative environment. I do my best work as a team player.” That’s a much better and more positive response.

Your interviewers are not only interested to know about the reasons why you are looking for a new job; they also want to know why you are applying for this particular position in their company. They will also make mental notes when they hear how you speak of your current employer as a gauge to how you would speak to another employer about them. These are very important factors in the hiring decision, so it is critical that you answer this question appropriately.

There are a few mistakes that you should avoid during your interview.

1) Do not try to skip past this question with a vague answer.

2) Try not to show disdain for your duties or your current company.

3) Even if you have personal reasons closely tied to why you are leaving, do not lead with them.

4) Do not try to appear overly saddened to be planning to leave your current position; this can be a bit confusing and come off as deceitful.

The last thing you want to do is leave any doubt in the interviewer’s mind that you have fully thought through your decision to leave your current position.

How to Answer the Job Interview Question: “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

The dreadful “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” question has spoiled many careers and is continuing to do so. Quite often, candidates do not even realize that this particular question became one of the reasons why they were rejected. They answered it honestly and they never said anything negative — just the truth, like: “I know I can make a good contribution to this company”, or “This company’s products are awesome”, or “my relative, who works here, has told me many positive things about your company”.

In fact, these seemingly harmless answers do not add any scores to the candidate. Even more: they may create some air of disappointment in the hiring manager’s mind, because they let the hiring manager see that the candidate did not understand the basic approach which he/she should follow in a job interview.

By asking every particular question, a hiring manager expects to hear a certain kind of answer. The “secret” is simple: he/she is not interested to hear about the benefits that this job is going to bring you as a candidate; instead, he/she expects that your answer will focus on the benefits of using your professional potential and talent for the benefit of the employer.

Therefore, your answer should not be focusing on your personal interests, but rather it should demonstrate understanding of the employer’s needs. Do you feel the difference? Yeah, this is the sad truth. Well, if so, how should you approach to answering this question then?

The method is quite simple. You need to follow a few steps:

First, and this will be necessary for answering all questions in the interview — learn as much as you can about the employer company, the position, and if possible – about your interviewers. This may help you a lot when you compose your answer with the focus on the company, not yourself.

As the next step, do not forget to keep focusing on the employer company’s needs in your answer: on the quality of their products, or on their reputation, or on some statistics about the company that you managed to find while researching the information about the employer.

Here are a couple of sample answers which are worth looking at. In both examples I underlined the phrases which you may want to use when putting together your own sample answer to this interview question:

Example 1:

I have always been very impressed with the quality of your products (or: with your innovative approaches to… / the company’s attention to customers needs, etc.). With the high quality of your products, marketing them almost feels like a public service. I would greatly enjoy helping you to continue to innovate and to increase your market share.

Example 2:

This company has the reputation of being one of the leading …-producers in the country, with a list of impressive customers such as … . The company is a frequent participant of trade fairs, exhibitions, biennale and various international events. These are signs that this firm is a leader, not a follower. With my background in …, I’m very interested in applying the newest technology (methodology, etc.) plus common sense practices to keep this sensitive information as safe as possible.

Finally, it is always good to remain calm and confident during the job interview. Even if you are not a perfect match for this particular job, they may like you and want to hire you. They may find the right place for you in the long run. So keep trying to show them your best sides and do your best to win that interview. 

Visit Facebook page for English for Your Job Interview
Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

May The Best Book Win!

librocubicularist | nonfiction | moonlights as the host of Silent Book Club Kota Kinabalu | writes on Scrivener