Answering Substantive Questions

ANSWERING SUBSTANTIVE QUESTIONS: Some prospective employers might ask you substantive or technical questions about your position. While JobNow cannot provide specific advice for such questions, keep these general principles in mind:

  •  Prepare for substantive questions: This is an obvious piece of advice but many people come to interviews unprepared.
  • Be realistic:  Think twice about applying for a job that (as a prerequisite for applying) requires a certain set of skills or knowledge that you don’t possess. By the same token, if the job allows you to acquire skills once you’re hired, let your employer know you are up to the challenge.
  • Don’t fake your knowledge. If you are asked a question that you can’t answer, don’t be afraid to say it (besides, your interviewer will usually know if you are faking it). You may even want to use this as an occasion to show your interviewer that you are a good learner by admitting you don’t know the answer and asking the interviewer to explain the answer to you: “I have to admit, I don’t know the answer to that question. But I’m curious to know what the answer is. Would you mind explaining the concept?” Whether or not you know anything about the question, try to summarize the interviewer’s explanation so that you can demonstrate your listening and learning abilities. Sometimes, during the course of the interviewer’s explanation, you might also discover that you knew more about the question than you realized. This provides you with an opportunity to tell your interviewer “Oh, now I know what you were asking. Let me tell you what I know about this concept.”
  • Show you are not afraid to learn.  If you are unable to answer a substantive question, make it a point to show that you are not intimidated by the prospect of acquiring new knowledge or skills. Showing that you are an eager learner may not land you the job, but it might give you a fighting chance to make up for knowledge gaps that revealed themselves during the interview.