Hi friends - I recently interviewed 15 candidates for an opening on my team and something really interesting happened:
In fairness, a fair number of candidates said the words “I don’t know” at some point during their interviews, so what made this one special?
She had said: “I don’t know, but…”
First off, for readers who haven’t gone through many interviews, I need you to know it’s totally fine, sometimes even preferable, for you to say “I don’t know” during interviews. It’s usually much worse if you try to bluff or bs your way out of a question (trust me, I’ve been there. It was not a pleasant experience being laughed out of an investment banking interview)
Back to this candidate, she said “I don’t know with the information provided right now, but if I had historical data to compare to, I might draw conclusion X. Also, I would look at what competitors are doing in this field. Finally, based on my understanding of the advertising market, I would say Y would be a safe bet because of 1, 2, 3.”
The reason she got away with saying “I don’t know” is because she had followed up with her thought process, and shared a framework for approaching a question she didn’t know how to answer
No matter how experienced we are, we will always face problems we’ve never encountered, so it is crucial to have a problem-solving framework you can rely on when faced with an uncertain situation
Luckily for me, I learned this lesson relatively early on by going through mock case interviews when I was interviewing for my first management consulting job (you can check out Victor Cheng’s Case Interview Secrets or Marc Consentino's Case in Point)
You won’t be penalized during an interview if you don’t know the answer, as long as you walk through how you would solve it given enough time and additional information
Create (or steal) a problem-solving framework that can be applied over and over again
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