Gent Hints – The Professional – Just Answer the Damn Question


Without question, interviewing for a new position can be a source of tremendous stress and anxiety. And it is this stress and anxiety that can cloud one’s thoughts, disrupt critical thinking, and impair the ability to communicate coherently. I have conducted or participated in a ridiculous amount of interviews during the past 5 years, and without question, not answering an interview question ranks very high amongst possible interview missteps. For clarification, I am not referring to a candidate simply refusing to answer an interviewer’s query. I am referring to a candidate missing the mark and not understanding what is being asked so a proper response can be formulated. It occurs all the time – trust me. If I am really trying to obtain information required to make a fair assessment, I will ask follow-up questions to unearth some nugget of valuable content. And again, sometimes, the candidate swings and misses for a second time. If you are reading this, and nerves get the better of you in interviews, or you simply need a little more polish – keep reading below for some helpful guidance.

  • Relax. Really – relax. Easier said than executed right? I would advise performing a calming exercise an hour or so before you actually sit down for the interview. When I am nervous, I tend to breathe faster and my heart rate quickens. Sometimes my stomach feels queasy. Most people don’t know this, but I am self-conscious regarding how I sound when I speak. Yet I’ve been in situations that required me to talk. And if I talked how I felt, my words would stumble and trip over each other. So, I intentionally have to slow my thoughts and rate in which I speak down. Pace your thinking. Pace your response. It is hard work. In a weird way, you have to unconsciously separate yourself from other individuals in the room and proceed as if you are having a relaxed, comfortable conversation with someone you feel the most ease with – yourself.
  • Now, for the first point to be performed flawlessly, one must be prepared. I suggest practicing with someone that you find comfort and will be able to offer constructive feedback. It would also help to educate yourself about the company and position that you are seeking employment. Misstep #1: Blindly applying for a position because you are desperately trying to escape a current work predicament. Never walk into an interview clueless. It can be viewed as insulting, as you are wasting valuable time that could have been afforded someone else.
  • A gentleman should never be afraid to bring a writing utensil and paper to an interview. You should ensure that you note key points of important questions for thoughtful analysis and response. Your interview should have enough allotted time for the interview itself and questions you may have for the interviewer. So don’t feel pressured to rush. Generally, interviews that I have participated in have been at least an hour, but candidates fly through and are done at the 25 minute mark. Misstep #2: Don’t leave that much time on the table! Use that time to think about what is being asked so you can give the best answer possible.
  • You should definitely engage in active listening to comprehend what is being asked of you. Misstep #3: Answering a question before the interviewer has even completed the sentence. Misstep #4: Talking over the interviewer while he or she is talking.
  • If the question is not clear, ask that the question be repeated or rephrased. Ask for clarity. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a better understanding of what is being asked.
  • If a gentleman struggles with a particular question(s), it would be wise to request a temporary postponement of a response and then circle back to the inquiry after you have (hopefully) collected your thoughts.
  • If you honestly cannot answer a question, well, respond honestly. You should never mislead your potential employee by dancing around the question with superfluous chatter laden with fancy words. A good interviewer will be able to see through your nonsense. And if you happen upon a really good interviewer, expect follow-up questions that will flummox and rattle you. And if you draw a really, really good interviewer; expect follow-up questions to an answer you provided 5 questions ago. We want to see if your story demonstrates consistency. Therefore, don’t feed BS to the interviewer – we’ll know.

Have you ever interviewed or hired someone? Chime in. We want to hear from you.

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