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I had over the last years a few times an interview and I was thinking everything went perfect. I was able to answer the questions, I was able to hook in to chit chat about some technics they use and for some reasons every question I wouldn't have been able to answer appeared along diferent questions of other interviewers or even from the same, so I could just avoid the question without being suspicious, since I cant answer 2 diferent questions at a time. To my suprise, they never came up a second time.

And I never got the job.

Now I had an interview which I left with the same feeling. And in my desperation I compared this one to the others and tried to figure out what are the common things and the diferent things that appeared.

And I realized its allways that questions I feel not able to answer just get skipped without me having the impression that I revealed not being able to answer it. I figured out that topics mostly get skipped when I might appear somewhat... strugling. Most of the time thats due to my Aspergers, which results in having sometimes trouble in understanding what way a question was meant, but it might be that I have the same appearance of struggling1 when not being able to answer a question. So is it likely that apearing thoughtful could let interviewers assume I'm not able to answer the question? If so, am I supposed to come up with that question again myself? how is it with multiple questions I'm able to answer, should I do with them, too, meaning any question I forget to come up with again might mean they think I wouldn't have been able to answer it?

note for clarification:

I'm asking if this is some well known kind of interviewing technique, as I experienced this in almost all of my interviews I had a good feeling with. If it isn't I can also accept the answer, that my observations might just have been coincidently, as there is no such thing.


1By struggling I mean, appearing somewhat thoughtful

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  • Could you clarify this part: "for some reasons every question I wouldn't have been able to answer appeared along diferent questions of other interviewers or even from the same" -- When you say that a question (that you can't answer) was "skipped" do you mean that it simply wasn't asked, or do you mean that the interviewer asked it, and then skipped it when you couldn't answer?
    – Brandin
    Jan 8, 2018 at 8:30
  • I'd suggest focusing your question how / whether to come back to a question that was skipped, since interview questions are asked for a reason, so them deciding to move on before you answer is obviously a bad sign (whether or not they believe you might've been able to answer the question given enough time seems irrelevant, the bottom line is that you didn't answer it). Jan 8, 2018 at 9:44
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  • I am afraid that this question doesn't have enough information to tell us why the interviewers rejected you. You are mentioning one observation, but there is about a million more things you could do wrong without realizing it's an issue.
    – Philipp
    Jan 8, 2018 at 10:34
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    @Zaibis If the question is a knowledge question but you need a moment to recall, give feedback like 'I know this. Give me a moment...'. If it is a question that requires some creativity and you need time, say so, with an estimate 'I need about 5 minutes to solve this.'
    – Brandin
    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:54

3 Answers 3

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First of all, keep in mind that there are no absolute rules for job interviews (except those which apply in any social situation, of course). Every interviewer has their unique style of conducting interviews and their unique system of judging people. When you fail or succeed in a job interview it is often not because of some universal interviewing rule you broke or followed correctly. It is usually because you failed or succeeded in following the personal rules of the interviewers. You can not know their rules, because often they don't know them themselves.

(Yes, I am aware that many people with Asperger syndrome have difficulties with challenges like this.)

That being said, a common methodology many interviewers follow is that they come to the interview with a list of questions they want to ask. After the interview they go through their questions and rate how much they liked the answers (consciously or unconsciously).

every question I wouldn't have been able to answer appeared along different questions of other interviewers or even from the same, so I could just avoid the question without being suspicious, since I cant answer 2 different questions at a time. To my surprise, they never came up a second time.

Asking two questions at once is actually something a skilled and experienced job interviewer wouldn't do. It leads to the situation you described: One question is left unanswered and the interviewers don't know if it was because the applicant couldn't answer or if the flow of the conversation simply prevented them from answering. Anyway, they now have no way to rate your answer to the question, which is usually not in your favor.

If you notice that they asked two questions, it is usually good to make sure that both questions are addressed. When you can not answer a question in a job interview, then "I don't know, but I would do [x] to find out" is almost always better than dodging the question or awkward guessing.

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  • "When you can not answer a question in a job interview, then "I don't know, but I would do [x] to find out" is almost always better than dodging the question or awkward guessing". This. When someone starts uhm-ing and ah-ing, then comes up with a wrong answer, that's a red flag. Someone who says "Not a clue but I can find out"? That's far more valuable to us.
    – Basic
    Jan 8, 2018 at 17:42
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If I understand correctly, the situation is that you have noticed that when you get an interview question where you struggle to find an answer (one which requires some thought), the interviewer just moves on before you can finish answering and doesn't return to the question, and you are attributing this to the failure to get hired ?

Keep in mind that most interviewers are not adversarial. They don't want to put you on the spot (embarrass you) if you are struggling, so of course they're going to move on.

There are some techniques you can try to address this problem. If an answer just needs some thought, you can usually get started by pointing out a few interesting things about the problem itself and the properties of a solution, describe pre-suppositions, make analogies to other related or familiar problems. That will give your mind some time to converge to an answer. Of course this only works if you are fairly confident you can answer. If you know you can't answer at all, it is better to request to skip the question rather than go silent or give other signals/body-language of distress (which no one wants to see).

Finally, it is never the case that success or failure depends strictly on how many answers you get right-- your "score". There are many different factors to making a hiring decision. The best thing you can do is to practice interviewing and perhaps get some advice from a mentor with whom you can do a mock interview.

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If an interviewer has e.g. 10 questions (s)he asks and at the end he is left with the impression he did not get satisfactory answers to 4 of those, the reason is irrelevant. He did not get answers.
(He may not even be present to the exact reason he did not get the answers).

It is up to you to make sure the interviewer is left with the impression that you handled the questions to his satisfaction.
Even if the conversation drifts off from the main topic you should come back to the question (Oh, and about that question you just asked: xxx yyy) - that shows you have focus, reliability, or whatever traits the interviewer associates with someone answering questions.

If you feel you have no straight answer you should still reply, usually along the lines of: I don't know that, but I would do X and Y to get the answer to that.

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