Preventing Blanking Out in a Job Interview

Maureen writes:
In the past on an interview my mind has gone blank and I was silent for about a minute. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this situation?

The Career Doctor responds:
Oh Maureen I feel for you. Those silences in job interviews seem like they last for hours when your mind is racing for an answer but all you draw is a blank. Not only is it embarrassing it usually kills the interview.

The easy answer is that you need more experience interviewing — and more practice and rehearsals before big interviews. The more you rehearse the less likely you will draw a blank … and even in those cases you should have some system down to give your mind more time to think such as asking the interviewer to rephrase the question
or rephrasing the question yourself and asking the interviewer if that was what he/she had in mind…

Many employers I’ve talked to about this issue are split on my next piece of advice so take it with a grain of salt: If you carry a portfolio with you to your interviews keep a sheet of paper in there with a few memory aids that you can glance at to jog your memory.

Keep in mind that some interviewers might find this practice as odd.

Back to the practice. The best way is to ask a friend to serve as the interviewer and fire questions at you. There are also Web sites that list practice interview questions and even some software that offers mock interviews. You can find links to these kind of resources in this section of Quintessential Careers: Interviewing Resources.

As a last resort you could ask “Could we come back to that question later in the interview?” You will probably lose a few points but no more than if you were never able to respond to the question.
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