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You are confronted with a great many questions at work; from critical clients and colleagues, in presentations, appraisals, meetings or selection rounds. Some questions are hard to anticipate and catch you off-guard; you briefly feel loss of control. Of course, you cannot prepare for every question in every context, but you can learn how to always make a professional impression and give a ‘smooth’ answer, regardless of what the question is. The key is improvisation; being able to think and shift quickly in the moment, in order to prevent a blackout. 

These techniques will support you in this: 

Always give yourself enough time. We have the tendency to answer a question immediately, for instance, because we fear that silence may be perceived as doubt or bluff. This results in getting stuck and ending up with the proverbial ‘uhm-s’. The impulsive answer oftentimes is not the best answer. So, give yourself a small break; a few seconds for your brain to process information and to find the right words. The silence that happens will usually be interpreted as a thoughtful moment. Do you, however, not want to allow any silence? Then repeat the question carefully, in order to give yourself more time to reflect. 

2 Getting better questions.  

Questions come in a number of forms. You will not always be given the short, specific and clear variety. Sometimes, a question is long and vague and you don’t know what the answer is that the interviewer is looking for, precisely. In this case, do not make the mistake to guess what the questioner wants. Instead, make sure you get more clarity about the question; getting a better question that is easier to answer. Let them repeat the question, ask for clarification or first give your own interpretation of the question in a manner that is in line with the answer that you want to give. Often, questioners like reformulating their question, because, sometimes, they need more time to formulate their sentences. 

3 Redirecting the focusSometimes, you are asked a question that you cannot, or would rather not, answer. An off-topic question, for example, an inappropriate question, or simply one you don’t know the answer to. In this case, you will do better by being honest, rather than making something up. However, that does not mean that you always have to answer with ‘I don’t know’. You can still come across as professional, by redirecting the focus of any given question. 

  • In the case of a stacked question, consisting of multiple questions; focus on the particular part of a question, that you can and want to answer. When your answer is powerful and complete, a questioner will seldomly return to the other aspects of her/his question. 
  • In case of a question that is not a question, in actuality. In this case, a questioner does not expect a direct answer to her/his question, but she/he wants to discuss the topic, hear another side of the story or wants to check whether you have ever reflected on her/his question. At moments like these, acknowledge the questioner, or ask the questioner or the other participants an exploratory question.  

By practicing these techniques, you will increase your ability to improvise in the present moment, and you maintain control of yourself in any situation. Also, know that the questioner is never out to let you fail; critical questions mainly arise from true interest. A soothing thought, that can relax you during those exciting moments. 

Good luck! 

Do you have any questions? Call Jobtraining on 0204230603 or send us an email.