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Interview Prep: What to Do When You Can’t Come Up with Answers or Questions

Interview Prep: What to Do When You Can't Come Up with Answers or Questions

Key Takeaways

  • Mastering the Art of Interview Responses: In this comprehensive guide, we delve into strategies to help job seekers overcome the daunting scenario of drawing blanks during interviews. Discover techniques to craft compelling responses that showcase your skills and experience effectively.
  • Unlocking Your Questioning Potential: Interviews are a two-way street. Learn how to ask insightful questions that not only impress interviewers but also help you evaluate if the company is the right fit for you. We provide actionable tips to spark meaningful conversations.
  • Confidence-Building Tips for Interview Success: Confidence is key in interviews. Find out how to boost your self-assurance and stay composed when faced with challenging questions. Our blog equips you with the confidence-building tools you need to ace your next interview.

In today’s fiercely competitive job market, the art of interview preparation is an absolute necessity for anyone seeking career advancement.

Interviews serve as the gateway to your dream job, the moment when you have the chance to showcase your skills, experiences, and personality to potential employers.

Yet, the path to interview success is fraught with hurdles, and one of the most common and anxiety-inducing challenges many face is the dreaded interview question that leaves you drawing blanks.

Picture this: You’re in the hot seat, the interviewer’s gaze fixed on you, and then it happens – a question that seems to have been plucked from the depths of the unknown.

Your heart races, your palms get clammy, and you struggle to come up with coherent answers.

Or perhaps you find yourself on the opposite side of the table, having just navigated the maze of questions about your qualifications and experiences, and you’re met with the opportunity to ask questions, but your mind goes blank.

If you’ve ever experienced these interview-related dilemmas, you’re not alone.

The overwhelming pressure and anxiety that accompany interviews can often lead even the most prepared candidates to falter at these crucial moments.

But fear not!

In this comprehensive guide, we’re here to equip you with the knowledge and strategies you need to conquer these interview woes.

We’ll delve deep into the world of interview preparation, helping you understand the intricacies of interviews, the types of questions you might encounter, and the psychological factors that contribute to the anxiety-inducing moments when you can’t seem to formulate answers or questions.

As we journey together through this exploration of interview prep, you’ll discover a treasure trove of valuable insights, practical tips, and expert strategies to ensure you not only survive but thrive in interviews.

Whether you’re a recent graduate just stepping into the world of job hunting, a seasoned professional looking to make a career shift, or anyone in between, the knowledge you gain here will be your compass to navigate the challenging waters of interviews successfully.

So, fasten your seatbelt, sharpen your mental acuity, and let’s embark on this journey to transform you into a confident, composed, and capable interviewee.

By the time we’re through, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle those intimidating questions head-on and leave a lasting impression on your potential employers.

Your dream job is within reach, and we’re here to help you seize it with both hands.

Welcome to the world of interview preparation – where answers and questions become your allies on the path to career success.

Before we venture further into this article, we like to share who we are and what we do.

About 9cv9

9cv9 is a business tech startup based in Singapore and Asia, with a strong presence all over the world.

With over six years of startup and business experience, and being highly involved in connecting with thousands of companies and startups, the 9cv9 team has listed some important learning points in this overview of the guide on What to Do When You Can’t Come Up with Answers or Questions during an Interview.

If you are looking for a job or an internship, click over to use the 9cv9 Job Portal to find your next top job and internship now.

Interview Prep: What to Do When You Can’t Come Up with Answers or Questions

  1. Understanding the Problem: Navigating the Complexity of Interview Questions
  2. Pre-Interview Preparation: The Foundation for Success
  3. Strategies for Answering Questions: Mastering the Art of Responding Effectively
  4. Handling Unfamiliar or Tough Questions: Navigating the Interview Minefield with Confidence
  5. Asking Questions as an Interviewee: The Art of Leaving a Lasting Impression
  6. Post-Interview Reflection: Fine-Tuning Your Interview Skills for Success

1. Understanding the Problem: Navigating the Complexity of Interview Questions

In our quest to unravel the mysteries of interview preparation, it’s essential to begin by comprehending the multifaceted nature of interview questions.

Interview Questions
Interview Questions

These questions can be grouped into various categories, each designed to extract specific information and insights from candidates.

Moreover, psychological factors often come into play, heightening the challenge. Let’s dissect this issue piece by piece.

Types of Interview Questions

Behavioral Questions

  • Behavioral questions are a common interview staple, designed to assess your past actions and behavior as indicators of future performance. They often start with phrases like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”
  • Example: “Can you share an instance when you had to resolve a conflict within your team, and how did you handle it?”

Also, read our top guide on How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview.

Technical Questions

  • Technical questions are job-specific queries that evaluate your knowledge, skills, and expertise in a particular field. They are prevalent in technical roles such as programming, engineering, and healthcare.
  • Example: “Can you explain the difference between object-oriented programming and functional programming?”

Problem-Solving Questions

  • Problem-solving questions gauge your ability to think critically, adapt to unforeseen challenges, and find creative solutions. These questions often have no ‘right’ answer, but your approach matters.
  • Example: “How would you deal with a sudden drop in website traffic for an e-commerce site you manage?”

Psychological Factors Contributing to Interview Anxiety

Fear of Failure

  • The fear of failing to meet expectations, especially when you’ve invested time and energy into the application process, can be paralyzing. This fear can manifest as anxiety during interviews, making it difficult to think clearly.
Fear of Failure

Lack of Confidence

  • A lack of self-confidence can be a significant hindrance during interviews. When you doubt your abilities or qualifications, it becomes challenging to present yourself as a capable candidate.


  • Nervousness is a natural response to high-stakes situations. However, excessive nervousness can negatively impact your interview performance. It can lead to memory lapses, stumbling over words, and difficulty formulating responses.

Understanding the interplay between the types of questions and these psychological factors is crucial.

It sheds light on why interviewees often find themselves struggling to respond effectively, and it paves the way for targeted strategies to overcome these challenges.

But fear not, as we move forward in this guide, we’ll equip you with the tools and techniques to tackle each of these interview-related hurdles head-on.

Whether you’re facing a technical interview or a behavioral assessment, or grappling with nerves and self-doubt, we have you covered.

Let’s dive deeper into the strategies that will help you ace interviews with confidence and poise.

2. Pre-Interview Preparation: The Foundation for Success

Before you step into the interview room, a critical phase awaits you: pre-interview preparation.

This phase can make or break your performance during the actual interview.

Here, we’ll explore how meticulous preparation can set you on the path to success.

Research the Company and Role

Company Culture and Values

Job Description and Requirements

  • Why it matters: Carefully reviewing the job description and requirements enables you to tailor your responses to the specific needs of the role. It also helps you anticipate the questions you might be asked.
  • Example: If the job description emphasizes teamwork and collaboration, be prepared to discuss your experiences in cross-functional teams.


Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Why it matters: Self-awareness is key to crafting compelling responses. Knowing your strengths allows you to highlight them, while acknowledging your weaknesses demonstrates honesty and a willingness to improve.
  • Example: If you’re interviewing for a leadership role, emphasizing your strong communication and decision-making skills can be advantageous.
  • Data: In a survey, employees who use their strengths daily are six times more likely to be engaged at work.

Relevance of Past Experiences

  • Why it matters: Linking your past experiences to the job you’re interviewing for can make your qualifications more evident to the interviewer.
  • Example: If you’re transitioning from a marketing role to a project management role, highlight how your marketing experience developed skills like time management and stakeholder communication.

Taking the time for pre-interview preparation is not only a best practice but a necessity.

According to a survey, 49% of employers know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for the position.

This underscores the importance of making a strong first impression, which can only be achieved through thorough pre-interview groundwork.

As you embark on your journey of pre-interview preparation, remember that knowledge is your greatest asset.

The insights you gain through research and self-assessment will empower you to confidently tackle even the most challenging interview questions.

In the subsequent sections of this guide, we’ll build on this foundation, providing you with the strategies and techniques to respond effectively to various types of interview questions and to handle unexpected curveballs with ease.

3. Strategies for Answering Questions: Mastering the Art of Responding Effectively

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork through pre-interview preparation, it’s time to delve into the heart of the matter: how to respond to interview questions with poise and precision.

This section will equip you with a repertoire of strategies and techniques to help you shine during interviews.

The STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

How to Structure Responses Using STAR

  • Why it’s effective: The STAR method is a structured approach that helps you provide complete and compelling answers. It allows you to showcase your problem-solving skills and highlight your achievements.
  • Example: Imagine you’re asked, “Tell me about a time when you had to handle a difficult client.” You can use STAR to structure your response:
    • S (Situation): “In my previous role as a customer service representative…”
    • T (Task): “My task was to resolve the client’s issue and ensure their satisfaction…”
    • A (Action): “I initiated a one-on-one meeting with the client to understand their concerns…”
    • R (Result): “As a result, we were able to retain the client, and they later provided positive feedback about our service.”

The CAR Method (Challenge, Action, Result)

When to Use CAR in Your Answers

  • Why it’s effective: The CAR method is particularly useful for highlighting challenges and demonstrating how you took action to overcome them. It emphasizes your problem-solving abilities.
  • Example: If you’re asked, “Give an example of a project where you faced unexpected obstacles,” you can use CAR:
    • C (Challenge): “The challenge was a sudden budget cut halfway through the project…”
    • A (Action): “In response, I convened a team meeting to brainstorm cost-saving measures and reallocate resources…”
    • R (Result): “As a result, we completed the project within the revised budget and even exceeded the client’s expectations.”

Practice with Mock Interviews

Role-Playing with a Friend or Mentor

  • Why it’s beneficial: Mock interviews simulate the interview experience and allow you to practice responses in a low-pressure environment. Feedback from a friend or mentor can be invaluable.

Recording and Self-Assessment

  • Why it matters: Recording mock interviews enables you to review your performance objectively. You can identify areas for improvement, such as body language, tone, or excessive filler words.

These methods and techniques serve as your arsenal for responding to interview questions with confidence and clarity.

By applying structured approaches like STAR and CAR and honing your skills through mock interviews, you’ll not only showcase your qualifications but also leave a lasting impression on interviewers.

As you continue to refine your interview responses using these strategies, you’ll find that answering even the most challenging questions becomes second nature.

In the upcoming sections, we’ll explore specific tactics for handling unfamiliar or tough questions and turning them into opportunities to shine.

4. Handling Unfamiliar or Tough Questions: Navigating the Interview Minefield with Confidence

Interviews often take unexpected turns, leading you to questions that seem unfamiliar or downright challenging.

In this section, we’ll equip you with strategies to handle such situations with grace and professionalism.

Staying Calm and Composed

Deep Breathing Techniques

Pausing to Collect Your Thoughts

  • Why it’s important: Rushed responses can lead to mistakes or incomplete answers. It’s perfectly acceptable to pause briefly to gather your thoughts.
  • Example: If you’re asked a question you didn’t anticipate, say, “That’s an interesting question. Let me think for a moment.”

Asking for Clarification

Seeking Clarification When a Question Is Unclear

  • Why it’s crucial: Misunderstanding a question can lead to irrelevant answers. Politely request clarification if a question seems vague or ambiguous.

Relating Questions to Your Strengths

Bridging to Relevant Experiences

  • Why it’s effective: Even if a question seems unrelated to your qualifications, you can bridge it to your strengths and experiences.
  • Example: If asked, “What’s your favorite book?” and you’re interviewing for a marketing role, you could say, “While it might not be directly related to marketing, I recently read a book on innovative marketing strategies that inspired me to think creatively in my work.”

Admitting When You Don’t Know

Honesty as a Virtue in Interviews

  • Why it’s valued: Interviewers appreciate honesty. If you don’t know the answer, it’s better to admit it than to provide inaccurate information.

Turning Questions into Opportunities

Shifting the Focus to Your Strengths and Qualifications

  • Why it’s advantageous: Even when faced with a tough or unexpected question, you can redirect the conversation to highlight your qualifications.
  • Example: If asked, “What’s your biggest weakness?” you could respond by acknowledging a minor weakness but emphasizing how you’ve actively worked to improve it.

Handling unfamiliar or challenging questions is an art that can be mastered with practice and a calm demeanor.

Remember, interviews are not just about the answers you provide but also about how you handle the unexpected. Interviewers often assess your ability to think on your feet and adapt to unforeseen situations.

So, embrace the unpredictability of interviews, and use it as an opportunity to showcase your ability to navigate the unknown.

As we move forward in this guide, we’ll explore the importance of asking questions as an interviewee and provide guidance on how to craft thoughtful and engaging inquiries that leave a positive impression on interviewers.

5. Asking Questions as an Interviewee: The Art of Leaving a Lasting Impression

While interviews often revolve around the questions posed to candidates, it’s equally important to remember that interviews are a two-way street.

Asking thoughtful and insightful questions as an interviewee not only demonstrates your genuine interest in the role and company but also provides you with crucial information to make an informed decision about your potential employer.

In this section, we’ll delve into the strategies and significance of asking questions during interviews.

The Importance of Asking Questions

Demonstrating Interest

  • Why it matters: Asking questions conveys your genuine interest in the company and role. It shows that you’ve done your homework and are eager to learn more.

Gaining Clarity

  • Why it’s crucial: Interviews are an opportunity for you to gather information about the company culture, expectations, and team dynamics. Asking questions helps you make an informed decision if the job is the right fit for you.
  • Example: You might ask, “Can you describe the team dynamics within the marketing department?”

Preparing a List of Thoughtful Questions

Tailoring Questions to the Interviewer and Company

  • Why it’s effective: Tailoring your questions shows that you’ve done your research and have a genuine interest in the specific aspects of the company and role.
  • Example: If you’re interviewing at a tech startup known for its innovation, you could ask, “How does the company foster a culture of innovation in its day-to-day operations?”

Avoiding Generic Questions

  • Why it’s advised: Asking generic questions that could apply to any company may convey a lack of genuine interest. Aim for questions that are specific to the role and company.

The Art of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Why Open-Ended Questions Are Effective

  • Why they work: Open-ended questions encourage in-depth responses and can provide valuable insights into the company and role.
  • Example: Instead of asking, “Is there a lot of collaboration within the team?” you could ask, “Can you share some examples of successful team collaborations within the company?”

Discovering Company Values and Culture

  • Why it’s valuable: Open-ended questions about company values and culture can reveal whether the organization aligns with your personal values and work style.
  • Example: You might inquire, “How do employees embody the company’s core values in their daily work?”

Asking Questions at the Right Time

Timing Matters

  • Why it’s important: Timing your questions appropriately ensures a smooth flow during the interview. Typically, it’s best to ask questions toward the end when the interviewer invites you to do so.

Building on Previous Discussions

  • Why it’s effective: Referencing earlier discussions in your questions shows that you’ve been actively engaged in the conversation and have been listening attentively.
  • Example: If the interviewer mentioned a recent product launch, you could ask, “Can you provide more details about the recent product launch you mentioned earlier?”

Asking thoughtful and tailored questions during interviews not only allows you to assess if the role and company are the right fit for you but also leaves a lasting impression on interviewers.

It demonstrates your curiosity, enthusiasm, and preparedness, all of which are qualities that employers value in candidates.

In the final stages of this guide, we’ll explore the importance of post-interview reflection and feedback, allowing you to continuously refine your interview skills and enhance your chances of landing that dream job.

6. Post-Interview Reflection: Fine-Tuning Your Interview Skills for Success

Congratulations on successfully navigating the interview process thus far.

But before you start preparing for the next opportunity, it’s essential to engage in a crucial step that many candidates often overlook – post-interview reflection.

This phase allows you to gain valuable insights into your performance, identify areas for improvement, and refine your interview skills for future success.

Self-Assessment of Performance

Reflecting on Your Responses

  • Why it’s important: Take a moment to recall your responses during the interview. Analyze how effectively you communicated your qualifications, experiences, and enthusiasm for the role.
  • Example: Ask yourself, “Did I provide clear and concise answers to the questions, or were there instances where I could have been more specific?”

Evaluating Body Language

  • Why it matters: Your body language speaks volumes during interviews. Consider how you maintained eye contact, your posture, and gestures. These non-verbal cues can impact interviewers’ perceptions.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

Analyzing Weaknesses

  • Why it’s beneficial: Recognizing your weaknesses or areas where you struggled during the interview is the first step toward improvement. Did you find certain types of questions challenging? Were there moments of nervousness or hesitation?
  • Example: If you stumbled over your words when answering behavioral questions, this might indicate a need to practice your responses using the STAR or CAR method.

Reviewing Interview Feedback

  • Why it’s valuable: If you received feedback from the interviewer, whether directly or through a rejection email, consider it constructively. Feedback can provide specific areas for improvement.

Preparing for Future Interviews

Applying Lessons Learned

  • Why it’s crucial: Post-interview reflection should lead to actionable steps for improvement. For instance, if you identified a tendency to provide lengthy responses, practice delivering concise and relevant answers.
  • Example: If you realize you could have asked more engaging questions at the end of the interview, prepare a list of thoughtful questions for your next interview.

Building Confidence

  • Why it’s beneficial: Confidence is a key component of interview success. Use the insights gained from self-assessment and feedback to boost your confidence for future interviews.

Continuously Refining Your Interview Skills

Regular Practice

  • Why it matters: Interviewing is a skill that can be honed over time. Make it a habit to practice mock interviews, especially focusing on areas where you’ve identified weaknesses.

Seeking Professional Help

  • Why it’s an option: If you consistently struggle with interviews, consider seeking assistance from a career coach or interview coach. They can provide personalized guidance and strategies.

Post-interview reflection is the bridge between your current interview experiences and your future successes. It empowers you to grow and adapt, ensuring that each interview brings you closer to landing your dream job.

As you continue to fine-tune your interview skills, you’ll find that the interview process becomes less daunting and more of an opportunity to showcase your qualifications and personality.

In conclusion, remember that interview preparation is an ongoing journey, and each interview is a stepping stone to your career aspirations.

Embrace the feedback and insights gained from post-interview reflection, and watch as you become a more confident and successful interviewee.


You’ve now embarked on a journey that will not only transform the way you approach interviews but also open doors to exciting career opportunities.

In this comprehensive guide on interview preparation, we’ve explored every facet of the interview process, providing you with invaluable insights, strategies, and data-driven advice to tackle even the most challenging interviews with confidence and grace.

Let’s recap the key takeaways from this extensive guide:

Pre-Interview Preparation: Building the Foundation for Success

  • Understanding the company culture, values, and job requirements is crucial to tailor your responses effectively.
  • Self-assessment helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and relevant experiences.
  • Preparation is key, and your knowledge about the company and role will be evident during the interview.

Strategies for Answering Questions: Crafting Compelling Responses

  • The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) methods provide structured approaches for answering various types of questions.
  • Practice with mock interviews and recording your responses helps you refine your interview skills.
  • Well-structured answers not only showcase your qualifications but also leave a positive impression on interviewers.

Handling Unfamiliar or Tough Questions: Navigating the Interview Minefield with Confidence

  • Staying calm and composed through deep breathing and thoughtful pauses helps you maintain composure when faced with challenging questions.
  • Seeking clarification when questions are unclear demonstrates your proactive communication skills.
  • Bridging questions to your strengths and experiences enables you to turn challenging questions into opportunities.

Asking Questions as an Interviewee: The Art of Leaving a Lasting Impression

  • Asking thoughtful and tailored questions demonstrates your genuine interest in the role and company.
  • Open-ended questions invite in-depth responses and help you gain insights into company values and culture.
  • Timing your questions appropriately and referencing previous discussions enhances your effectiveness as an interviewer.

Post-Interview Reflection: Fine-Tuning Your Interview Skills for Success

  • Self-assessment and feedback provide valuable insights into your performance, helping you identify areas for improvement.
  • Applying lessons learned from reflection and feedback is crucial for continuous growth and confidence building.
  • Regular practice, seeking professional help if necessary, and boosting your confidence contribute to interview success.

Remember that interview preparation is not a one-time task but an ongoing journey. Each interview is a unique opportunity to learn, adapt, and showcase your skills and personality.

As you continue to refine your interview skills and implement the strategies discussed in this guide, you’ll find yourself growing as a candidate, becoming more confident, and ultimately, achieving the career success you aspire to.

Now, armed with knowledge and preparation, you are ready to face interviews with poise and confidence. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or someone in between, the insights you’ve gained here will serve as your compass on your path to career success.

So, go forth, conquer those interviews, and embark on the journey toward your dream job with the assurance that you are well-prepared to excel in every interview scenario that comes your way.

Best of luck, and may your future interviews be stepping stones to a bright and fulfilling career!

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People Also Ask

What to do if you can’t answer a question in an interview?

If you can’t answer an interview question, stay calm, acknowledge your uncertainty, ask for clarification if needed, and redirect to related strengths or experiences. Confidence and composure matter.

What to answer if you don t know the answer?

When you don’t know the answer in an interview, stay calm, admit you don’t know, and express a willingness to learn. Offer relevant experience or mention how you’d find the solution, showcasing adaptability and honesty.

How do you say no to an interview if you don’t know the answer?

When faced with an interview question you don’t know the answer to, it’s best to be honest. Say, “I don’t have that information at the moment, but I’m willing to learn and find a solution.” This demonstrates your willingness to adapt and grow.


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