With the placement season on in full swing, students are busy perfecting their resume, ironing their shirts and polishing their shoes for the next MBA placement interview they have to sit for. Amidst this rush hour, you find yourself sitting in a corner, looking out through the window, wondering: “What would I say if I do not know the answer to a particular question?” And while you were busy contemplating the ways to say ‘I don’t know’, we heard you!
Here we are, with a list of possible replies. These will help you escape the question that can land you in a fix. But before we answer that, there is something else you should be clear about.
How okay is it to say ‘I don’t know’?
You’ll be surprised to know that it really is okay to say ‘I don’t know’ in an MBA placement interview. You might come across instances where you would be required to know a few basic details about the subject you’ve mastered in or your core specialization. In an attempt to answer the question at hand, you might rush into saying things that are outrageously wrong. This would, in turn, leave a negative impression on the employer, who then would wonder if you really are fit for the coveted role.
But instead of answering something that can turn out to be utterly absurd, it is better to stay quiet, analyse the question first and be honest to the interviewer about not knowing the answer to the question. In fact, this can actually brighten your chances of bagging the interview!
Let us now head on to the actual crux of this article: How to say ‘I don’t know’ in an MBA interview.
1. Do not give up too soon
An in-built trait in most of us, we often rush to answer the question at hand. Even before the interviewer has finished asking the question, we look for probable answers and start framing them point-wise. While you might think that this would help you frame better answers, it really doesn’t work that way. In cases like these, when you aren’t aware of the answer, you often start mumbling, which might come out as gibberish for the interviewers. This will turn the tables around, making your candidature tumble. So, what should you do?
The best way to take control of things in such situations is to stay quiet. MBA interview sessions are bound to build pressure which restricts your thought process. So, even if you’ve heard of the term in the question before, you might not be able to recall it immediately. Take your time to think things through. Only when you’re entirely convinced that you will not be able to answer the question at hand, should you say “I don’t know”.
2. Clarify with Follow-Up Questions
If you’ve thought for a while and still haven’t been able to come up with a suitable reply, there is another trick which might serve the purpose. Ask follow-up questions. This will help you narrow down the scope of the question. In addition to taking you closer to the answer, it will give you a better picture of what the interviewer is looking for.
But here’s the catch! You need to be smart to know where this trick can be applied. For instance, if the question asked to you is based on grounds of your CV, you cannot ask follow-up questions. But if the question asked is based on your subject, you can ask related questions that will reduce the scope of the question at hand and thus, assist you in answering the same.
Also, there is always a chance that the recruiter denies follow-up questions from your end. Be prepared for that.
3. Specify reasons for not knowing the answer
Once you’ve realised that it is time to lay your sword down and give up, the only way out is to mention a reason why you aren’t aware of the answer. The reasons you specify do not have to be elaborate. They can be simple. For instance, you can say, “I’m sorry. I’m not well-versed with the subject”. You can also admit and seek pardon for being ignorant about the topic.
Another reason can be that you’re still learning the mentioned skill and are not in a good position to answer the question asked. Be smart in your replies.
4. Share your perspective
The last trick is almost a contradiction of the third point. So, just in case you do have a brief idea of the topic but do not exactly know what the interviewer is asking, you can share your opinion about what you already know. This will give the recruiter an idea about the fact that you do have some clue about the question at hand.
Offering a general view of the question being asked might not give you brownie points but it won’t deduct any either. It would rather act as a dead ball and if luck is on your side, you might get extra points too.
Even though it is deemed good if you’re able to answer all the questions of the interviewer, there will be questions you will have to dodge. And if you do know 90% of the answers but aren’t able to answer the remaining 10%, it still is good enough. Being honest about your shortcomings will do no harm. It instead gives the interviewer an impression that you do know a lot of things except a few, which you can learn over time.
In many cases, saying ‘I don’t know’ in an MBA placement interview will make you look trustworthy and believable. So, sit back, relax, look out for opportunities that you can make the most of and dodge the others where you find yourself in a fix. Most importantly, stay confident and let things work out the way they are meant to be. Good luck!