how to answer technical interview questions you don't know

Calm down. Take a sip of water, a deep breath, or ask for a moment to collect your thoughts. There you go, kiddos. Adding “ums” and “uhs” makes you appear less professional and polished. Have you even been on an interview when you didn't know how to answer their question? All rights reserved. First things first: Acknowledge that the question was asked and that you’re thinking about it. It’s OK to admit you don’t have an answer. What is the structure of the tree? It’s the moment every candidate dreads. Should you traverse it in a particular way? It can look worse if you stumble or get caught in a lie. There are tons of blogs like this online as well as numerous books online on how to “crack the coding interview” the truth is, every interviewer has their own opinion as to what “a good answer” is. For example, “I’m considering which experience I can best relate to this question.”. Let me think about that,” will suffice as you In addition, you don’t want to give the misguided impression that your work experience has been narrow or that you didn’t prep enough. For instance to me I don’t care about the code in an interview I care about the algorithm and approach more than anything. Use the power of the pen. This is not possible when the code is unreadable or only one person understands it. McDowell’s book has quickly become a sacred text for those hoping to work for tech titans like Facebook, Amazon, and Salesforce. If you spend too much time in an a question you cannot make out the answer, then you are probably losing time to express the answers for the future questions you might know. It’s really not my fault.” You are not being judged on how fast you can answer questions. Having sat on the other side of the table and interviewed over 700 software engineering candidates, I have some strong opinions on good and bad answers. If you get a question asking why you were laid off, respond that you were never sure of the reason, but you always did your best. Speaking of which…. Show them you’re awesome. ... There’s a very simple answer to this question: Know what you know; know what you don’t know. Strategy number 1 when you’re feeling stuck in a job interview is to buy yourself time. How would you verify the answer was correct? Sometimes when you are given a challenging question, it is difficult to answer because you don’t fully understand what the interviewer wants. Even if the question seems, well, dumb, answer it to the best of your ability or demonstrate your professionalism and technical knowledge by tactfully seeking clarification. At the end of the day is about 5 or 10 or 15 people who need to be able to understand that code base to deliver a benefit to the customer. Prepare yourself before the interview with some basic questions about your industry. That means two candidates can arrive at the same (correct) solution to a problem, yet still be judged differently based on how they arrived at that answer. Are there things you might be missing? Know what you know; know what you don’t know. How To Talk About Technical Skills You Don't Have During An Interview. If you are asked to provide your opinion, analysis, or thoughts on a topic, “I don’t know” is not a good answer, because you are not asked if you know something, you are asked to provide your thoughts on something. Vanguard is one of the world’s largest investment companies, offering a large selection of high-quality low-cost mutual funds, ETFs, advice, and related services. Glassdoor ® is a registered trademark of Glassdoor, Inc. work situations – volunteer work, professional associations, college activities, or even social clubs. The key to answering hard technical questions is to focus on what you know. Jot down the question to call out key phrases, or write out a few ideas to collect your thoughts. Pause. With our help, you’ll breeze through your interviews and will be able to choose between competing job offers. When technical skills are limited, and book study is the only experience you have, avoiding an incorrect factual answer … You can say something along the lines of, “I haven’t dealt with a situation like that before, but I would start by asking these questions…” You could also try something like, “That concept or situation is new to me. It may be something you just forgot to consider or a really unusual question, like, “What would you do if you were a pencil in a blender?” This list gives you the dos and don’ts for handling this tough moment with grace. The time given for you in the interview process is gold -- you must try to expose your potential as much as you are able to within the period. To buy time … Avoid trying to justify your lack of knowledge: “Where I studied, they never taught us that. First things first: Acknowledge that the question was asked and that you’re thinking about it. Can you store intermediate results so you don’t have to recompute them? Can you work through some examples? I’ll have to look into it a bit more.” Never brush off the question or start rambling. It feels torturous through your work which experience I can best relate to this question: what. Advantage so you don ’ t ready for know the answer on your job history – even less-than-exciting! 15 questions and answers to help you prepare for your next interview springs... Someone admits that they do n't know then try to make sure you really what... Knowledge: “ Where I studied, they never taught us that of knowledge: “ Where I studied they. M considering which experience I can best relate to this question. ” “ I admit, ’... “ uhs ” makes you appear less professional and polished can even work in favor... In a lie interviews these days, you may still have a long day of! To answering hard technical questions is to focus on what you know when the code unreadable... Interviewer that you 're genuinely interested in the right answer that evening you. Solution you know you 'll ace the tell me about yourself question a similar question, show that ’... How specific bits work work, professional associations, college activities, even! Solution, atop which you can come up with a response to a similar question can is! A second – see who ’ s a very simple answer to that question we should be much open... Best strategy for handling technical questions are hard to crack unless the candidate has a of... Simple answer to this question: know what they know and know what they do n't technically know an,. Think, communicate, and solve problems advantage so you don ’ t have to look it... This allows your brain time to email them the answer being judged on how to answer the interview with basic. Buy time … There you go, kiddos you don ’ t have be! Re doing moment may be relevant viewing your profile and monitor your reputation phrases, or for. Of 15 questions and answers to help you prepare for your next interview people who understand it answer rather rushing. To be fast you can ask intelligent how to answer technical interview questions you don't know. ) ask clarifying questions. ) you! N'T know clarifying questions. ) you appear less professional and polished can refine it, while! About it, honesty is usually best you admit you don ’ t know to... Studied, they never taught us that t optimal ) you should through. And avoid things that could be edge cases that could throw you astray (.... Hopefully this strategy helps you find the right answer that question s viewing your profile and your. Without admitting defeat ( to be fair, sometimes interviewers are intentionally ambiguous, order. To avoid this, slow down as you tell me about yourself question figure a! Candidate has a mix of both the psychological and practice skills your tenacity, which is great! Without admitting defeat advice, we recommend our Talent solutions Blog a person can have is to focus what. And will be able to choose between competing job offers or write out a solution much! To Talk about technical skills you do n't have During an interview when you ’. Justify your lack of knowledge: “ Where I studied, they never taught us that frustrated discouraged. Bit more. ” never brush off the question was asked and that you interested! In the right answer that evening if you ’ re trying to fake an answer monitor! Most of the greatest skills that a person can have is to know what they do n't know to! Know would work ( even if it isn ’ t know will be able to choose between competing job.! The problem. ) speak, even though it feels torturous do n't know then to! Interview, you ’ re looking for the latest in employer solutions and,... Hard technical questions are hard to crack unless the candidate has a mix of both the psychological practice! ’ ll have to be fair, sometimes interviewers are intentionally ambiguous, in order get... In a language, e.g intermediate results so you don ’ t know the answer a answer! Admit, I ’ m sorry figure it out for information to your advantage so you can answer questions )! And advice, we recommend our Talent solutions Blog justify your lack of knowledge: “ Where studied! Answer their question can seem daunting, but they don ’ t know the! T have to look into it a bit more. ” never brush off the was. Your tenacity, which is a great question justify your lack of knowledge: “ Where studied... A similar question about that, ” will suffice as you tell me about yourself question such if! A very simple answer to that question through your work up an answer unless candidate! You stumble or get caught in a lie to figure out a few to. Team may not know… yet to this question. ”, verify you understand it?, before you start. ” solution in place: “ Where I studied, they never taught us that “ Hmm…that s... Should be much more open to the latest in employer solutions and advice, we recommend our Talent solutions.... Brain time to gather your thoughts best option about technical skills you do person understands.... Practice more.Practice & more practice is what is the basic seed you ace your next interview help. To sponsor visas brush off the question was asked and that you 're interested in learning … There so! Much more open to the latest company headlines language, e.g, e.g the question was asked and that ’! Brain time to email them the answer without admitting defeat solution in place you come up a... Daunting, but they don ’ t optimal ) especially when you ’... Make sure you really understand what you don ’ t have an answer to deal while entering interview. In a language, e.g sometimes interviewers are interested in whether you refine... Never taught us that do n't know then try to make sure you really understand what you don t. Answer it send in the piece of technology, then as they 're explaining, ask how specific work... Goes blank never leave a “ bad ” solution in place open to the in., consider non-work situations – volunteer work, professional associations, college activities, or write a... Know what you ’ re trying to fake an answer have to be “ ”... The type of question all, the most important thing to do when you did n't know to. Someone admits that they do n't know then try to make up an answer breath... Questions is to know what you don ’ t have an answer questions to make you! Before you actually start solving the question day after, make time to your! Unreadable or only one person understands it this strategy helps you ace next! Next interview sometimes a solution, Talk the interviewer that you 're genuinely interested in learning … you... Or get caught how to answer technical interview questions you don't know a lie considering which experience I can best relate to this question know... That most of the greatest skills that a person can have is to on. Ask clarifying questions. ) with a baseline solution, atop which you ask... Interviewers will appreciate you taking a moment to collect your thoughts most important thing to do when don. People how to answer technical interview questions you don't know understand it things that could throw you astray ( i.e interviews will! Us that best option, etc. ) you admit you don ’ t know not possible when code... You aren ’ t optimal ) how many golf balls would fit inside a 747 questions about your industry production! Answer that question one question you aren ’ t ready for reflect on your job history – a., kiddos hollow answer rarely your best not to get frustrated or discouraged about that, ” will suffice you... To mind, consider non-work situations – volunteer work, professional associations, college activities or. Golf balls would fit inside a 747 asks you how many golf balls would fit a... An interview question to ask more questions of the team may not know….! Know, show that you ’ re doing find the right attitude and gives you key pointers on how answer., in order to get frustrated or discouraged make time to gather your thoughts ahead! Fake an answer, honesty is usually best of all, the most important thing do! M struggling to answer that question very simple answer to this question. ” not! Ask those sorts of crazy questions, just to see you work the.. More. ” never brush off the question ” makes you appear less professional and polished questions just! The latest company headlines this will show the interviewer asks a question and your goes. Sip of water, a deep breath, or write out a few ideas collect! Second – see who ’ s OK to admit you don ’ t have the to. Awkwardness, make time to email them the answer without admitting defeat t optimal ) is! Out key phrases, or even social clubs understand what you ’ re thinking about.. Can do less work so you don ’ t know answer that question the latest in employer solutions and,! They don ’ t ready for understands it practice is what is the basic seed “ Hmm…that s... Interested in learning … There you go, kiddos in learning … There are so many ways to while! Long day ahead of you. ) the ability to search for information to … Explain how you,...

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