I’ve had my fair share of interviews for teaching positions and other jobs over the years and there has always been a question I just didn’t know the answer to.
In my early and awkward interviews I used to waffle. I could feel myself digging a hole and the interviewers were quite happy for me to shovel spades and spades of crap out of it. I seldom got those jobs.
Waffling doesn’t work but rather than sit there like a prize turnip, what else can you do?
Some old teaching wag of mine used to advise pausing to allow myself “thinking time”.
This of course sounds like a good idea but this magical place you are supposed to retreat to where the answer might be doesn’t exist.
Pausing is uncomfortable for everyone in the room and everyone knows you are stalling and playing for time.
Then I’ve been advised to say, “Sorry, I don’t know.”
That’s like showing yourself the exit.
One: don’t apologise for not knowing something.
Two: it makes you look like a prize turnip again.
But it’s close.
Instead of saying “Sorry, I don’t know,” there is another reply that is far more professional and it is:
“I don’t know. That’s beyond my knowledge. But this is what I would hazard a guess at.”
Now that’s a better way of getting yourself out of the hole with some degree of respect.
This gem of advice comes from Tim Peake in his autobiography ‘Limitless’.
He goes on to say that being honest and upfront means “you haven’t opted to bullshit, which is never a great idea, and you’ve also shown yourself happy to try and think outside your constraints a little. It would be a good tip for any kind of interview really.”
So the next time you have an interview and you have prepared for every eventuality, accept that you can’t possibly pre-empt everything and you will get a question or two or three that will flummox you.
The trick is not to sit there looking like a rabbit in the headlights and please don’t apologise for not knowing.
Oh, and good luck with the interview, you know more than you think.