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Anfisa Domashova
Anfisa Domashova

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Do you admit when you don't know something in a job interview? Why does it matter.

Making job interview less horrible

Have you ever been in an interview where you were asked a question that you had no idea how to answer? How did you handle it? Did you admit that you didn't know, or did you try to bluff your way through it?

According to an article I read, one of the best ways to impress an interviewer is to be honest and say that you don't know something, rather than fake it and force-feed an answer. The article claims that this shows intelligence, humility, and curiosity, and that it opens up an opportunity for learning and dialogue. The article also says that some managers use this trick to test the candidates' reactions and see how they cope with uncertainty and pressure.

I find this topic very fascinating and relevant for many professionals, especially in the fast-changing and competitive world we live in. That's why I would like to create the poll to see how you react when you face such a situation in an interview.

Concerning the 🚨 Polls are not a functional feature on DEV/Forem, I've included 4 options for you to choose from below, if you prefer not to provide a unique comment on this topic.

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How do you react when you are asked a question then you don't know the answer to in an interview?

A) I admit that I don't know and ask for more information or clarification.

B) I try to guess or make up an answer that sounds plausible or smart.

C) I change the subject or divert the attention to something else that I know.

D) I say that I will research the answer and get back to them later.

Please vote manually and/or share your thoughts in the comments. Looking forward to hearing from you ☺️

Top comments (13)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I'd say some variation of A is best, and what I would puruse.

I admit that I don't know and ask for more information or clarification.

I think you can have a game plan heading in on how you might say no in a way that comes off well.

If you recognize the importance of the subject, say no, but demonstrate an understanding of the point behind knowing, and speak to how you typically go about solving for the underlying problem because you know where to look.

If you really don't know anything, I'd try and demonstrate a curiosity around subjects you're encountering for the first time, and I'd ask for more information and try to create a bit of a dialog. There's a chance that the interviewer will be excited to expand and people love when others ask them to show off their knowledge.

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot ⭐

I'd guess A or D depending on the interviewer. I also made a little polling widget that anyone can use for comments or articles (it does quizzes too). More info by clicking the diamond in the embed below (it just links to a dev article).

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anthitariel profile image
Anfisa Domashova

Thanks, I will check it out πŸ”₯🧸
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ivanzanev profile image
Ivan Zanev

I would say I don't know A), but I would attempt to guess/estimate B) sometimes and optionally research D) (the last one works for freelance jobs when you have a direct client counting on you; doesn't quite work for employment roles). Never C)

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anthitariel profile image
Anfisa Domashova

Why not C then? πŸ€”
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ivanzanev profile image
Ivan Zanev

C) might work when you know the client is wrong or there are alternatives. But in interviews usually the questions are clear and there aren't alternatives on scale.

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pixelrella profile image
Pixelrella

Thanks for bringing this up, it's comforting to lay out strategies like these instead of just focusing on the fear of now knowing an answer immediately.

A is certainly what I go for when I feel accepted. When the interview feels off, I most definitely fall into doing B or C.

Offering another strategy: To give me some time to think about the question, I mirror it back in my own words. This way, I get to rubberduck the topic and maybe the answer comes on it's own. So, I guess that would be a combo of A and B?

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rraymond profile image
Reese Raymond

I do A and/or D. I just ran interview a candidate for a developer position at our company and he tried to do option B and it didn't come across very well at all when we discussed the interview internally. I don't want to work with someone who makes up answers instead of admitting they don't know or that they need to learn something.

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anthitariel profile image
Anfisa Domashova

Thank you for sharing your insight and experience. It was interesting to read your comment. πŸ™

I agree with you that option A and/or D are the best ways to react when you don't know the answer to a question in an interview. They show honesty, humility, and curiosity, which are important qualities for any professional. Option B, on the other hand, can backfire and damage your credibility and reputation, especially if the interviewer knows the correct answer or can easily verify it. Option C can also be risky and disrespectful, as it may imply that you are not interested in the question or the topic, or that you are trying to avoid or manipulate the conversation.

I think it's better to admit your ignorance and ask for more information or clarification, or to say that you will research the answer and get back to them later, than to guess or make up an answer that sounds plausible or smart. This way, you can learn something new, show your willingness to improve, and demonstrate your integrity and professionalism.

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pixelrella profile image
Pixelrella • Edited

Like most of the other commentators, I also tend to go for A: Admitting when I don't know the answer or asking for more info.
Another tool I use is to mirror back how I understood the question. This gives time and mental space to think about the question a bit more and maybe the answer comes to me.

I must admit that I sometimes do B and C, depending on the interview and how much trust I have in the interviewees interest in my honesty.

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anthitariel profile image
Anfisa Domashova

My choice is #1. I believe admitting when you don't know something shows honesty and a willingness to learn.
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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy πŸŽ–οΈ

Always A. My strategy in interviews is brutal honesty

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anthitariel profile image
Anfisa Domashova

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