Job interviews are nerve-wracking, because you don’t know what to expect. No matter how much you prepare, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked at least one question that throws you for a loop. Here’s how to craft a winning response sure to impress the hiring manager.

Take a Pause

When you don’t know how to answer an interview question, it’s only natural to panic and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind — but don’t do that. Instead, buy some time by repeating the question back to the interviewer and telling them you’d like to think about it for a second. This will give you a moment to pull a solid response together.

Verbalize Your Thoughts

After you’ve taken a second to organize your thoughts, craft your response out loud. This will help avoid a long, awkward silence that can make you even more nervous. For example, if you’re asked to explain your process for completing a certain task, but you haven’t formalized it, think back to the last time you did it. Walk them through the steps you took to create a detailed answer on the spot.

Shift the Conversation

If you’re asked about a skill you don’t have, briefly admit you don’t have a ton of experience with it, then artfully transition to a similar skill you do possess. This is a great way to answer the question honestly while playing down an area where you might be lacking. Hiring managers don’t expect you to be perfect, so focusing on related skills shows it won’t take too long to get you up to speed.

Have a Standard Response Prepared

It’s possible you’ll be asked a question that comes completely out of left field. If there’s no way to redirect it, having a standard response ready is your best bet. For example, you might say “That’s not an area I’m too familiar with just yet, but I’m excited to learn more about it.” This is a much better idea than trying to blindly talk your way through a topic you know nothing about.

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