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.

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.

The Romantic English Phrase Book has been published!

Finally! The Romantic English Phrase Book is live and available for purchase on Amazon at- 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

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

From Learning to Coaching

It was a square, well lit room suited to comfortably sit about thirty people, with four rows of chairs in front of a large while screen and an advertisement board in a corner with large white letters ITEA on scarlet background.

The room was full and, having looked around, I noted with surprise that there were at least two other people in the room who more or less belonged to my age category. The audience was mainly silent — just sitting and waiting for the training to begin; only a few of them communicated in short, quiet phrases. I couldn’t help thinking that majority of them were young — a lot younger than me, not kids anymore, but– well, a lot younger than me, damn it!

The meeting started right on time. The organizers — there were three of them fussing around here and there — had done their best to arrange everything at the upper level of their ability. As I sat watching how a young, beautiful office manager, wearing golden four-inch pin-heeled summer shoes tortured herself by running around the room with advertisement leaflets in her hands, I remembered myself a few years before, as I’d done the same job when I set up an occupational school for hospitality and tourism industry for my city. Yeah, the same stuff, only almost a dozen of years ago.

Then I thought that, in fact, this was the first time in decades that I was sitting in the classroom audience… I mean, not teaching, but listening and watching. For sure, I thought, I’d feel more comfortable on that side of the classroom, against that wall with the screen, as a teacher or a coach, with a pointer in my hand.

Then, the meeting started, and from the very first minute of it to the end, I could not help thinking that I have no right to be sitting in the classroom when I have to be there, on that end of the room — as a coach, or a tutor, or a manager to these wonderful, smart, talented people, who still have so much life ahead of them, and who still have a lot to learn.

I really liked the fact that these modern schools of professional education are run by very young people. I could sense their energy in the room. Even when their speech was a bit undeveloped or funny; or when they couldn’t overcome nervousness, or when they did not know what to do with their body while speaking in front of the audience… Yes, this was the most precious thing: at all times I could sense their energy in the room. Inspiration: this is the word. Yes, inspiration: it is the answer to doing successful trainings and presentations for young IT professionals. I found it in ITEA, and I am thankful to them for this. I am going to display more of it in my own coaching work now.

Effective Communication and Us

This post opens a series of articles on effective communication, which I am going to publish in this blog in 2019. I’d like to survey the reasons why so many people lack skills of effective communication. Then, I am going to discuss some techniques of effective communication and methods of developing this skill.


This article is an introduction into the topic, so here we will only touch a few fundamental “rules” of behavior during conversation, which everyone should use to communicate effectively at all times.

It is a well-known fact that your success in a job interview, as well as your general success in life, largely depends on your ability to communicate effectively in all possible situations. Communication is a skill that develops through years of living in human society, and as so, the skill can be learned, improved, or upgraded, or… well, whatever you call it, the skill can be used in your favor!

Knowing how to communicate effectively is the key to any relationship, be it business, or family life, or friendship, or just a casual meeting with someone you have never met before. Whether you’re giving a masterclass at work, working out a difficult situation with your group mates, trying to resolve a misunderstanding with your spouse, or just chatting with a friend, you should know how to express your thoughts, feelings and opinions in order to achieve the desired result. Each of us, modern people, spends hours each day talking to other people, and still, only few can confidently call themselves effective communicators. At times, reaching our communication goals is a surprisingly challenging task. This time, we will take a look at a few basic tips that reflect a good communicator’s strategy in convertsaion.

1. Have a goal. Knowing your subject matter always puts you into a strong position in every conversation. But even more important it is to have a goal and lead the talk to a certain solution, then the whole process of communication becomes meaningful and beneficial to all participants of the conversation. When you know what kind of agreement (or decision) you would like to reach, you inevitably tend to lead the whole conversation to the anticipated result.

2. Learn to lead conversations. Changing the subject in a conversation and directing it to the topic we like is a kind of art that only few people have mastered. Sometimes, it requires finding a topic somewhere in between the one you are discussing and the one you would like to have, so the verbal bridge you build can move you smoothly to the desired destination.

3. Find certain conversational tactics in every particular situation. Effective communication is about setting a goal and pursuing it during the process of communication. Whether you’re giving a lecture or telling your friend a funny story, it’s important to figure out how to frame it to make it interesting and engaging.

4. Never forget to listen. This sounds almost ridiculous, but very few of us, people, are good at listening to others. Most of us are capable of hearing, but the ability to hear does not guarantee the ability to listen. At the same time, effective listening is the basis of good communication. Whenever you become a party of a dialogue, you should focus on your partner’s words, understand them and ‘process’ them in your mind in order to come up with a timely, relevant and meaningful answer.

5. Do not underestimate body language. Besides the actual speech, your conversation partners use another powerful tool of communication: body language. Every change on their faces, their body movements, as well as physiological reactions like yawning, laughing or frowning, have meanings. The one who knows the ‘morphology and syntax’ of body language, can communicate a lot more effectively than others.

6. Use context to uncover real meanings of words. Quite often, what we say in a conversation is not equivalent to what we really mean or think. It is very important to understand your communication partner very well. Te context – verbal and non-verbal – can help you understand the real meaning of your communication partner’s speech.

7. Not saying anything is a way of communication, too. In some situations, silence is more meaningful than words. The one who knows when the moment is right to make a pause in conversation, is usually a very effective communicator.

8. Learn to look and sound confident, no matter what. If you have done this once, you will want to do this again and again. Try to avoid hemming and hawing and do not slow down your speech even is you aren’t sure about what to say. No matter where the conversation goes, try to look calm and confident.

9. Get familiar wit the art of asking questions. Asking clarifying questions, for example, is a well-known tool of confident communicators: it is not only a method of showing your partner that you are paying attention. A well-worded, timely question helps you take leadership in dialogue; it also helps you understand what your conversation partner is saying, and gives you a few extra seconds of time to think over your response.

10. Find common interest(s) or opinion(s) with your conversation partner. This is a good little ‘rule’ to follow at all times. Every conversation partner wants to be well understood. So, as soon as you find common grounds, the whole process of communication will become a lot more enjoyable for both of you, even if a minute ago you were facing misunderstanding.


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