How To Answer An Interview Question You Don’t Know

Posted by | August 2, 2016 | careers

How to answer a question you don’t know is usually a great challenge even for those with tons of experience. Have you been to a job interview and the interviewer asks you a question you clearly don’t have an answer to? Or maybe the interview question is too direct and the only answer you have to the question is No or mere silence?

This happens to most of us, especially when we think we did our best during our interview preparation. And because you do not want to appear ignorant or not qualified for the position, some choose to tell a simple lie while others keep silent. Either of these two options is a very wrong answer. How to answer a question you don’t know will need you to have a back-up response, portraying you to the employer as still qualified, even when you are totally clueless. What does this mean?

If an interviewer for example asks you if you have worked with a particular software or program before, and you either don’t know about the program or have never used it, there is only one way to answer this question. Your answer should show your interest to learn more about the program and this post continues to explain more.
How to answer a question you don’t know in an interview

When tasked with an interview question like the one above or one you clearly have no clue about, the number one thing to remember is not to lie. Why? You could say, “Yes I am familiar with the program” only for the interviewer to follow up with a step by step question on using the program. At this point you will probably be sweating too much that the only answer you can come up with is silence or mumbling words. To avoid all this, always be truthful with your responses.

But even as you are being truthful, avoid answering the question with a plain “No, I am not familiar with that term or program” and keeping quiet. This will disqualify you before you can even ask the great questions for the interviewer.
Your answer to a question you don’t know

When the interviewer asks you about a program or particular experience you clearly don’t have, take time and think about what you do know that relates to what they are asking. For example, when asked if you are familiar with program Z, think about the program. Have you heard of it before? Are you a fast learner that could adopt the basics with ease?

Once you have taken a few seconds to think that through, you could say; “No, I am not familiar with program Z, but in my recent position my department switched to a new program that I had not used before and I was able to interact with it in no time. I am always looking to grow and learn new things and interacting with a new program would be a fascinating experience for me.”

Not only does this type of answer portray that you are honest and willing to learn, it also shows the interviewer that you are excited to take up the new role. So even when you clearly do not know the answer, the interviewer is still convinced that you are suitable for the role. How to answer a question you don’t know will depend on the extent to which you prepared for the position in question. And good interview preparation means that you also prepare for questions you might not know the answer to.


An interview question you don’t have an answer to could be about anything. It could be a definition to a term you have not heard before or about current affairs in your industry. Instead of going into panic and giving a response of silence or plain no, let your answer have depth by focusing on what you do know.

When you don’t have an answer to a current affairs interview question for example, you could say; “I am not familiar with that yet, but I have been learning more about x, y and z.” You cannot keep up with every little thing in your industry and the interviewer will understand that. But also, you cannot be totally clueless, so refocus your answer to something you’ve been following up on that relates to your industry.

The writer is a Communications Officer at Corporate Staffing Services. Visit Website: