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If you're asked during an interview about something you do not have experience with, how do you respond? For example, what if you have no experience in Agile Development and are asked, "Have you used Agile Development?"

Personally, answering with a direct "no" seems bad, but I'm not sure how I should respond.

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  • "I never had the chance to work with this, but please, can you give me some idea what it is about?", and when the interviewer has given some explanation, you react something like "This look great! I'd love learning about this!" :-)
    – Dominique
    Jun 17 at 6:37
  • ... and also, don't be afraid to use criticism, like for agile development "Are you saying that you are delivering results to your customer even before they are completed? Doesn't that irritate the customer?", to which the recruiter can respond "The customer knows that the results he will get might be incomplete, but he prefers having the opportunity to change direction soon enough in the production process.". Criticism is a way to show that you're interest, and also a way to show that you are capable to understand things quickly. (Never forget: in a job interview, everything is a test :-) )
    – Dominique
    Jun 17 at 6:44

6 Answers 6

29

The best thing to do is to be honest. If you don't know about something, say it, because it's likely it will pop up during your job there and it might cause problems to someone.

Of course, saying an outright "no" is not the best way to go about it (unless it's really something you have no clue about). Like, for agile development a good answer (if truthful) would be "I've never used it but I've read/studied something about it in my free time/during college". It shows that you are honest about your limits, but it also shows that you have some knowledge about the topic.

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    That's exactly what I do. I tell them I have no (professional) experience with it, but then continue to explain to what extend I'm familiar with it (if it's something I don't know anything about, I just straight up say that as well. There's no benefit in hiding that).
    – Dnomyar96
    Jun 14 at 8:51
  • 1
    This is one of the rare cases where a "no, but" can be good. "I haven't had a chance to use it in a project, but I have read about it and want to learn it" is better than "no". Jun 16 at 17:58
9

Say no.

Then if you have used something similar, mention that.

Interviewer: we use numbers on our site, have you used it?

Interviewee: No, I have not used Numbers, but I have used Excel so I have an idea of functions etc.

Just don't lie.

I had an interview where they asked can you use Excel. Said yes as I could.

They then sat me down at a computer and gave me some data and a task. My solution actually impressed the interviewer, such that he asked for more detail because it solved a work problem he had.

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I agree that being honest to the interviewers is the best strategy.

If you absolutely have no clue about the topic/technology that the interviewers ask you, you should be honest and probably say "Sorry I have never worked with that technology before, but I am a quick learner. I can get up to the speed very quickly if given a chance to learn on the job."

However, if you have some basic knowledge, or understand some theoretical concepts behind what the interviewers ask you, then you can probably say "Although I have not worked with this technology before, from what I know, this technology is about..., and its advantages are... And, I really want to learn more about that technology if I have a chance to work for your company."

More often than not, the interviewers look for the candidates' willingness to learn new technologies. Many companies are willing to hire and train new employees if they see the candidates' positive attitudes during the interviews.

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    Another strategy in the 'I have no clue what you're talking about' situation is to express curiousity. Sometimes a little context can prompt a better discussion. Expressing an immediate desire to research further will make you sound like a quick learner and leave a positive impression.
    – LeLetter
    Jun 15 at 14:59
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    Be aware that a lot of applicants will represent themselves as fast learners who have a burning passion to work with [employer name]. A candidate who can back this up with examples, e.g. a previous job where they learned a new skill quickly, will stand out from the ones who just assert "I'm a fast learner". Jun 17 at 0:29
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Never misrepresent your skills in a job interview. If you are asked about your skill level with something, it is highly likely that you will be expected to demonstrate that skill on the job. If you misrepresent your ability, you will be found out and it will go badly for you.

Saying that you don't have a skill they ask about is not always fatal to your application. Sometimes the skill is not required but is a plus. Even if the job listing says it's required, you might still end up being the best applicant, and they may decide they're willing to give you time to learn that skill.

You could ask, "Is this skill required in order to be accepted for this position, or is it something that I could learn after I'm hired?" If they say that you could still be hired, make sure to point out instances from your work history where you learned new skills for the job. Also mention any related experience and skills you do have.

If the employer will not train you in the skill and is unwilling to give you time to learn it, or if you are not able or willing to learn that skill, it is in everyone's best interest to politely terminate the interview process, at least for that position. You could say something like, "It seems this position isn't a good match for my skill set. Is there a different position that would be a better fit?"

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Honestly, all questions in an interview should be done HONESTLY!, say it with me... HONESTLY. Let the interview be a fair representation of who you are and what you can do. Leave the rest up to chance.

They don't want to ask you any trick questions. They have a desire to place the job listing, you have a desire to get gainful employment. If they gave you an interview there is already something about you they like. You are basically halfway there already.

Don't mess it up by serving any baloney sandwiches. Just be yourself and tell the truth! Agile methodology is one niche among several methodology niches and then even if by some chance they get a candidate familiar with Agile, what type of Agile? Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming?

Should not be anything that keeps anyone from being employed. Every business will have its own flavor of whatever methodology it uses. You will learn it and the business-specific quirks of whatever flavor they use as you work there. You may find that no two software businesses go about the job of programming in exactly the same manner.

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Simply tell them the extent of your experience with (blah), eve if that is "Pardon? I've never heard of that…"

If experience with (blah) was a requirement for the job, it so obviously should have been stated in the recruitment advertisement, you should be asking yourself whether you'd want to work for an employer with such a slack attitude.

In any event, you're entitled to respond with something like "No, but how important is (blah)?"

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