Feeling blindsided or unprepared for an interview sounds like a recipe for disaster. To avoid this dilemma,¬†research the company you’re interviewing for and practice answering potential interview questions. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to be completely prepared for every question. Being asked something you weren’t expecting or don’t immediately have the answer to is a reasonable possibility no matter how much you prepare.

What are some ways to approach these moments?

If you get hit with an unexpected question, remember to take a deep breath and relax. Although this sounds easier said than done, many are blindsided by the mere idea that they don’t have an answer. The more you stress about not knowing the answer, the more time you take away from properly handling the situation.

Next, take your time responding. You won’t be punished for showing thoughtfulness in your response. It may seem like an immediate answer is preferred, but not necessarily. Responding immediately after every question may be interpreted as answering arrogantly or haphazardly.

Sometimes admitting that you don’t know the answer is better than giving a blatantly incorrect answer or the uncomfortable silent treatment. If you find yourself admitting you’re unsure, try explaining why you don’t know to convey your thought process.

An uncomfortable moment may offer you the opportunity to show a witty sense of humor. Employers may ask you questions that reach beyond the duties of the job. They want to see your compatibility within their work environment, and a good sense of humor can make a good, lasting impression. However, we recommend you use discretion. This tactic could easily backfire if your interviewer does not have a sense of humor or your humor is inappropriate for the environment.

Finally, remember that sometimes what you say is not as important as how you say it. The delivery of your answer can make a lasting impact. Less and less people enjoy public forms of speaking. Take advantage of this fact to stand apart from the crowd by following the tips below:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Slow down your speech
  • Avoid redundancies or filler words such as, “like, you know, stuff like that,”etc.

If all else fails, you can always salvage your response by apologizing and starting over. It shows good character when you admit you misspoke and you can ultimately turn it into another lasting impression.