It happens to the best of us. That awful moment during an interview, when your eyes glaze-over, your mouth goes dry and your brain seems to have suddenly stopped functioning.
You’ve gone blank.
Even the most seasoned interviewees have these moments of dread – being asked a question in an important job interview and losing the ability to process it and give any sort of sensible answer. Staring blankly at your interviewer is never ideal but clamming-up doesn’t have to mean it’s game over.
Here are a few tips for if you find yourself lost for words…
First and Foremost… Breathe
Your mind going blank in an interview is a classic side-effect of nerves. It’s natural to be nervous during an interview and your interviewer will be fully aware of that. If you become tongue-tied, take a deep breath and a moment to regain your thoughts. It’s always best to pause and take a little longer to respond than to rush and give a muddled answer, full of ‘ers’ and ‘ums’!
Still Nothing? Ask Them to Repeat the Question
If you find that you didn’t hear or understand the question fully, ask them to repeat the question or to explain a little more what exactly they are asking. If nothing else, this will give you a little more time to compose yourself, jog your memory and give your answer. It may seem counter-intuitive to turn the questioning back to them, but they will admire the fact that you want to clarify and give the best answer possible.
Lighten the Mood
Depending on the tone of the interview, you may find that making a joke at your own expense is a good idea. Laughing-off the situation can be a great way to break the tension after a question is met with silence and also helps to calm your own nerves. Apologise in a light-hearted way and then move on – most interviewers will appreciate seeing this very human side of you, after all, it’s quite common for your mind to go blank in an interview, it’s probably even happened to your interviewer at least once.
Ask For More Time
If you are really struggling for something to say, don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to compose your thoughts. Politely say something like “That’s a good question; I’ll just take a moment to think about that”. This assertive and professional approach will earn the respect of potential employers and is so much better than giving a poor, rushed answer.
In a worst-case scenario, a difficult question might just get the better of you and none of the above tactics help out. In this situation, it might be best to apologise and explain that while you know the answer, you’d like a little more time to think about your answer. This might be at the end of the interview or in a follow-up call or email. While never ideal, this option is far preferable to a long and awkward silence.
If an interview doesn’t go your way, try not to beat yourself up. Take time to relax and debrief afterwards and if appropriate, follow up with the employer afterwards to thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the role.