answering questions

How to answer interview questions like Steve Jobs

I came across this the other day and I thought it was interesting.  It talks about how Steve Jobs (founder of Apple), handled an insult wrapped around a question during one of his famous keynotes.

You can see the video here: Steve Jobs Response

Aside from masterfully handling the question, the key to his answer was that he took time to think about his answer.  Many times when we’re in an interview or other high stress setting, we feel like we have to say something, anything, otherwise we might look like we don’t know what we’re talking about.  

Part of having a successful interview is being able to manage it.  A good way to manage an interview is to make sure you control the speed.  If you ever feel like you don’t know an answer or don’t know how to articulate something, don’t be afraid to say so.  

Just like Steve Jobs, don’t be afraid to slow it down and pause in order to gather your thoughts during the interview.  Not only does it show that you are human, but also that you are thoughtful about how you come across and what you say.

Below are two ways to handle this:

Situation 1: They asked you something you haven’t considered before and just need a little more time to think about it.

How to handle it: “I’ve never considered that before.  Can you give me a minute to think about it?”  

Use this time to figure out the answer to the question.  I’ve even gone as far as writing on my note pad some points I want to make sure I cover.  You would usually use this when you know an answer but you want to make sure you are concise and not ramble.

Situation 2: They asked you something you have no idea about.  It can be something technical or maybe a weird interview question.  You’re pretty sure you don’t know how to answer this one.

How to handle it: “Can we skip this one for now?  I’m not really sure how to answer this”  You can also say “I’m not sure about this.  How would you solve/answer it?” If you aren’t able to answer the question later on in the interview when they ask you again you can always tell them that you’ll think about it some more.  Once you get home, send them what you think your answer should be in the Thank You email.

I’ve used all of these during interviews that lead to job offers.  Interviewers know that sometimes you may get caught off guard by some question.  They realize that you’re human so they’ll cut you some slack. Now if they ask you something  that will be expected like “What’s your biggest weakness?” and you don’t know your answer, then maybe you won’t make the great impression you’re looking for.  

Have you had an interview question you weren’t able to answer?  What was the question and how did you handle it? What was the result?

You can read a detailed run-down of the video here: Steve Jobs answers questions with grace