As recruiters, a question we get asked a lot is, “What if I don’t know the answer to an interview question?”

Get your interviewers on your side with these techniques to nailing tough interview questions.

This article is part of our series for young professionals, “Get Started in Finance”. Read other articles in the series: 

·      How to network for your career

·      How to put soft skills on your CV

·      What can I do to avoid pigeonholing myself for the rest of my career?


1. Be clear about what they’re asking

It’s so important that, with difficult questions, you know what you are being asked. Otherwise, you may end up answering the wrong question! Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity about a question, or rephrase the question and ask them if that is what they’re looking for. You might find clues in their response. 

2. Leverage your knowledge…

For experience-based questions, you might not have been in the exact situation that they’re asking of you. If this is the case, don’t exaggerate what you’ve done. Instead, explain to them that you haven’t had this experience so far, and then take an example of a similar situation that you have been in to explain what you would do.

Interviewers love people who can think critically. 

…but be succinct

When faced with a difficult question, some interviewees tend to waffle. Avoid doing this by breaking down your answer into these components:  

•              Rephrase the question 

•              Introduce your previous experience 

•              Briefly explain how you think your prior experience relates to the question

•              State what you would do

•              Show openness to exploring different solutions

3. Follow up

If you are really stuck, we advise that you tell them you’re not sure but that you’d like to think about it some more and come back to them at a later point.

We feel that if you find the answer to a question after an interview, you can always include your response in your follow-up email. It will show that you have thought about their question and carefully considered it well after the interview, which will position you as a serious candidate.

It’s also an opportunity to prove your attention to detail.

4. Don’t let the difficult question disrupt the rest of your interview

So, maybe you didn’t perform in the way you would have liked to. Try to set it aside mentally and move on!

Remember that interviewers aren’t actually looking for people who have all the right answers all the time. Interviews are there to get a feel for who a person is, from your tone, approach and thought processes, to your ability to communicate clearly and confidently. Facts are only a part of that.

If they like you and see that you’re a critical thinker who is open to feedback and good at listening, they’ll know that they can train your weak spots. 


If you can’t shake the nerves, think about why you are having these feelings. Is it fear of failure? Lack of skills? The inability to think quickly under the spotlight? Discuss these with your recruiter or friends to work out how to banish anxiety and shine. Looking for a role? Contact us today, and we’ll connect you with one of our recruitment consultants, who will help you find your next role in the City of London.