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You’ve read over the job description, researched the heck out of the company, and immersed yourself in industry news. Your clothes are nice and ironed, and you’ve got crisp copies of your resume. Going into that job interview, you should be all set, right? Wrong. No matter how much time you spend preparing, there’s always a chance the hiring manager will throw you a question you’re not ready for. Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid looking completely stumped, and in a piece for the Daily Muse, Lily Zhang offers four tips for saving face. Scroll down to read her expert advice.

1. Gather Your Thoughts — Job interviews aren’t game shows, and there’s no time limit for answering questions. If you get hit with something that leaves you baffled, Zhang writes, start by saying something like, “That’s a great question. Let me think about that.” If you panic and blurt out the first thing that pop into your head, you’re only going to make things worse.

2. Talk Your Way Through It — Know how math teachers give points for showing your work? Job interviewers do the same thing. As you do your best to answer their tough question, think aloud and share your thought process. “Add transitional adverbs like ‘first,’ ‘then,’ and ‘lastly’ to give your answer some structure,” Zhang writes. “You can also finish off with a qualifying statement that “the process varies depending on the situation,” which shows that you’re flexible even if your answer isn’t what the hiring manager would do.”

3. Steer It Back to Something You Know — The interviewer might ask about a skill you don’t have, but chances are, you have experience doing something comparable. For instance, if you’ve done marketing and social media but not social-media marketing, Zhang writes, explain your proficiency in both fields and emphasize how excited you are for the opportunity to combine them.

4. Rehearse a “Failsafe” Answer — The preceding three tips are great, but sometimes, you’ll be asked to answer something you simply cannot. Maybe it involves a bit of terminology you’re not familiar with or an aspect of the job you’ve never dabbled in. In these situations, Zhang advises, you should respond with a “failsafe” answer. Zhang even gives an example: “That’s not a concept I’m really familiar with yet, but finance is something I’m really excited about, and I’ve been actively trying to learn more. I’ve been keeping up with deals and have read about a few that your company has been involved in.” At least the interviewer will know you’ve done your homework.


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