8

More specifically, I want to know whether I should ask for answers to 2 types of questions:

  1. Questions that the interviewer likely has answers (e.g. how do you explain concept X to a non-technical person?).

  2. Questions that the interviewer likely doesn't have answers (e.g. do you know how this new technology X will benefit us?).

Can I say something like "I don't really know the answer. Can you share with me how you would approach this"?

--

I'm aware of this question:

How should I respond to interview questions when I don't know the answer?

But the answers there just suggest the candidate to admit their limitations and try to answer if possible. I want to know whether I should ask the interviewer the answer before moving on to the next question (and if yes, how often can I do it during the interview).

Thanks.

  • I know I've been on an interview where the senior member asked some really ambiguous questions in an effort to further elevate themselves. In cases like these I found out two things: the answer isn't useful (unless you see the question from their 99% percentile POV), and I don't want to work for/below anyone with this alpha personality. I go ahead and ask just for grins. – Brad Christie Mar 12 '15 at 18:27
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Can I say something like "I don't really know the answer. Can you share with me how you would approach this"?

You could, but remember that the purpose of interviews isn't to further your personal knowledge base. It's to see if you are a good fit for the position or not. Anything else might be a waste of the interviewer's time.

If I were interviewing you, and you didn't know the answer to a question, I'd want to hear that you don't know, and I'd also like to hear how you would approach figuring out the answer.

Responding the way you have suggested hints to me that when you don't know something, you will simply expect someone else to tell you. For anything other that purely entry-level positions, that isn't what I would want to hear during an interview.

  • I disagree. Perhaps they intend to ask a question that is intentionally meant to trip up the candidate just to see how they handle pressure. Perhaps they would like to instruct the candidate to see how they handle instruction, if only a little. Very often they want to give hints to the candidate and see how much they can figure out on their own. In my experience, this is very common. There is usually a lot of back and forth. Showing your receptive to to instruction/eager to learn could be a could sign. I would say it depends on the interview. – Ronnie W Mar 11 '15 at 13:53
  • 1
    I'm not sure I'd be annoyed purely being asked to educate an applicant... but I know I'd be annoyed regularly being asked to educate a colleague. An applicant asking me to educate them? Perhaps I'd educate them, but I couldn't recommend hiring them. – nhgrif Mar 12 '15 at 2:00
  • I don't think the OP say he wanted to be "educated". Asking for a hint is very different the a whole lesson on certain software principles. – Ronnie W Mar 12 '15 at 18:57
  • 1
    Asking for a Hint usually means suggesting something and ask for feedback, or ask a more specific/narrower counter-question, which shows the candidate is at least making an attempt. Asking "can you tell me how would you solve this" is basically saying "I give up." This is the end of the interview if someone do this in mine. – Desmond Zhou Mar 12 '15 at 19:13
4

I wouldn't ask this of the interviewer until I've given at least some form of answer myself. In a job interview, being able to answer is important, but how you arrive at the answer is just as important if not more. The interviewer will expect you to share your thoughts on a matter even if you have to say "I'm no expert on the subject matter, but based on my experience and opinions I would say..." or "I don't know enough about X to give you a well-founded answer, I would have to look into it, but in similar case Y I did Z" If you're able to give your thoughts and opinions, it can be a good idea to ask the interviewer's opinion but this is very dependant on the interviewer, some will take this as a cop-out while others will appreciate that you're trying to enter a dialog with them and work together to find the optimal answer. If you want to play it safe, don't ask them for their answer right away, but write it down and wait until the end of the interview when they ask 'do you have any questions for me/us?' to ask it. An example of such a case would be "Earlier you asked me about X, how would this normally be handled in the company?"

In short, I would say no, you should not ask the answer from the interviewer, unless the flow of the interview makes it clear that this is a good idea.

-2

Part of the interview is "Knowledge Sharing". So, if the interviewer is expert enough, he shouldn't have any problem in answering the question if you ask for this.
but sometimes, if the interviewer has a limited knowledge and he has a prepared list of questions, he wouldn't like to answer you (because he will be afraid of turning into harder question).
some measurements that can help you to know if the interviewer has a limited knowledge (and thus avoid asking him/her)

  • if he has a list of questions written on a paper (he is abidden by them)
  • if he is looking for keyword in your answer
  • if he pays extreme attention to the question you don't know (trying to show up that he is an expert)

At the end, nobody knows everything, and practically it would be fine to ask for knowledge even in the interview

  • He shouldn't have any problems in answering but that doesn't mean that it is in his line of duties. – Jonast92 Mar 10 '15 at 14:34
  • Furthering your education is not the purpose of a job interview. As a candidate you should certainly be able to ask questions, but the questions that are appropriate are those that relate to your potential future role at the company. If you'd like the answer to an interviewer's question about some technology or concept, go home and Google it. – Caleb Mar 12 '15 at 5:44
  • At the end, nobody knows everything, and practically it would be fine to ask for knowledge even in the interview... If they don't mind being rejected for the job. – Desmond Zhou Mar 12 '15 at 19:15
  • @Jonast92 , I didn't say that he has to answer, I said, it is fine to ask!! there is a big difference. – WEB Mar 17 '15 at 12:17

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