It’s probably the experience interviewees fear most. The recruiter or manager asks a question, you open your mouth and take a breath to answer, and suddenly your brain has nothing but white noise.
You wonder if that rushing noise in your ears is the sound of all your positive expectations going down the drain. For many, the degree of their feelings of panic seems directly proportionate to how badly they hoped things would go well.
The Best Prevention
The best way to keep it from happening is to prepare ahead of time. Research the company interviewing you so you have a good idea not just of their products or services, but also their values and culture. Read common interview questions for positions like what you’re applying for and practice your responses.
However, the brain is unpredictable. Let’s talk about what you can do if you walk in prepared and still find yourself fumbling for words.
Take a Deep Breath
A brief silence isn’t going to ruin your chances of getting the job. Take a deep breath and focus just a second on releasing the tension you’re holding.
If it makes you more comfortable, say something to the interviewer like, “Oh, that’s a great question. Let me think about it for just a minute.” Often releasing some of the pressure and providing a response will help you relax enough you can think clearly again.
Ask the interviewer to repeat the question. Sometimes he or she will phrase things differently so you better understand what they’re asking. Another option is to repeat back what they said and ask if you’re following their train of thought. Both choices give you precious seconds to think and possibly additional clues.
Check Your Notes
The information might be right in front of you on your resume or notes, so don’t be afraid to use it. Be honest and show you can keep a positive attitude. Say something like, “My mind just went blank, let me have a second to double check.”
Use What You Know
If you give yourself a break to relax, you’re sure you understand the question and you still don’t know the answer, draw from what you know about the job description, the company and your skills. Give the best response you can. If you can relate your answer to your key skills and how they transfer to the job you’re applying for, that’s better than panicked silence. If you still aren’t sure, ask to come back to the question later.