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Practical advice for when you suffer brain-freeze in an interview

Posted over 9 years ago by Rebecca Thomas
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You’ve made enough of an impact on paper – having slaved over your CV for hours on end – you’re confident this could be the perfect role for you, and you’re armed with ample experience to prove it. Having done all of your background research and interview preparation the interview is off to a flying start, confidently talking through your experience, offering seamless links from one example of work to another...

And then all of sudden you are caught off guard by the question you have just been asked and they are already gazing at you imploringly. 

Your mind is a total blank.

A vacuum resides where your brain used to be. Not a solitary word comes to mind to help to break the silence.

We’ve all been there, but the good news is that you have options; you can either panic (understandable, but not the best course of action) or you can follow our advice and rescue the situation:

  • take a deep breath and calm yourself – a little oxygen may ignite your memory recall
  • buy yourself some time by calmly asking the interviewer to repeat the question – there’s absolutely no harm in this, the interviewer would much rather you ask them to repeat themselves than sit through a gabbled nonsensical response
  • if you are still struggling to understand what they’re asking – or form a suitable response, ask them to rephrase the question; this  is a classic stall for time, allowing you to construct the answer in your head in the meantime
  • ask if you can take a moment to think – it’s always better to ask for some time to compose your answer than blurt out the first thing that pops in to your head when you’re in already in a state of panic

Try to remember that an interview is a two-way conversation, not an interrogation. It's completely normal for your mind to go blank when under duress. Focus on recovering your thoughts and avoid stressing about the situation. Stay calm, have these techniques stored in mind and you'll stay composed for the duration.

Good luck!