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The Most Difficult Interview Question

The most difficult interview question is… the one that is never asked… or answered.

Have you ever responded to an interview question and thought you could read on the interviewer’s face that the answer wasn’t received as you had hoped it would be? Maybe it wasn’t until the interview was over that you thought, “I don’t think they bought the answer I gave about…” or “I wish I would have answered that question differently”?

Or, maybe you went into the interview ready to answer a specific question regarding your experience or qualifications, but the question was never asked. You left the meeting wishing you had the chance to deliver that message about yourself.

If so, and many of us have experienced that, it doesn’t feel very good. It leaves you with a pit in your stomach and the feeling that you missed an opportunity. There is still some hope that you’re misreading the situation and they were okay with your answer. And even if it wasn’t a great answer, maybe they’ll fill in the blanks and understand what you really meant to say.

Why Leave it to Chance

When I was a manager at Johnson & Johnson, I went to a developmental meeting where an Executive Board member, Ron Gelbman, addressed the group. He gave a good talk and answered questions from the audience. When he was done, he did something I had never seen before. He publicly self-critiqued his Q & A session. Essentially, he said, “I think I did a pretty good job answering this question and that question, but I don’t think I did so well with your question. I don’t feel great about it. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to get back to it now. But I will send out a better response to all of you shortly.” And with that he was gone and, true to his word, we received an email from him the next day.

A Great Lesson for Interviewees

Consider that, regardless of whether you think the interviewer has concerns with one of your answers or they never asked the question you think might be a concern for them, they are going to fill in the blanks one way or the other. They’re going to decide, with or without your input, what it is they thought you were conveying to them. You do NOT want to let that happen.

Take the example of Mr. Gelbman and address your “shortcoming” head on. Demonstrate the strength and confidence of a leader by going back to or bringing up something that you think may be unclear to the interviewer. For example, you might say at the conclusion of the interview, “If you don’t mind my saying, I feel pretty good about most of the conversation we had today. But I get the sense you’re still unclear about…” or “I don’t feel great about my answer to your question about… do you mind if I give it another shot?”

You may be thinking this is a risky move and, to an extent, it can be so make sure you use it appropriately. But, if you don’t do this and you feel like you didn’t answer a concern well, then you missed the opportunity to shape the interviewer’s opinion and consider your input as they decide whether you’re the right candidate for the role.

If you want help identifying the steps of the process to help you plan for winning your next job opportunity, click here to receive a short guide entitled “The Sher Process to Your Next Job”.

Ken Sher

Ken Sher is an Career Coach and Executive Coach who focuses on the whole person when helping them with professional or personal issues they are trying to manage. Ken's areas of expertise include job search, career management and leadership development. If you would like to reach out to Ken, please call him at (215) 262-0528 or visit his web site at