The Jan Brewer brain freeze — drawing a blank during an interview
Earlier this month, in Arizona’s gubernatorial debate, incumbent Jan Brewer temporarily went catatonic during her opening statement. It was the kind of wince-worthy moment that made you clench your teeth and put your hands over your eyes, while peering through your fingers and waiting to exhale.
In a similar light, any fan of “The Brady Bunch” can likely recall the episode when Cindy wins a spot in the scholastic bowl, “Question the Kids.” When she sees that on air light flashing, she is rendered speechless by her stage fright.
Most of us who have interviewed more than a few times in our lives can probably think of a Cindy Brady moment or Jan Brewer brain freeze at one time or another. How we choose to deal with them will make the difference of whether or not we can still win the game show, debate, or the job.
So how do we avoid this devastating blunder? And more importantly, how do we rebound should we fall into a question coma mid-interview? There’s no sure fire way to avoid a Cindy situation, but there are definitely ways to minimize the possibility.
Preparation, preparation, preparation! Don’t assume you can ace the interview based on your expertise alone! Interviewers will often throw questions your way to see how you think on your toes. The job description might not call for you to move to Mount Fuji, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to answer with a viable game plan if asked. It’s a given that you should practice answering common interview questions, but practice with some not-so-common ones as well. You could even recruit a friend to throw you some curve balls to help you practice staying on your game.
Wait a minute! If asked a question that throws you a loop, it’s OK to pause. You don’t have to answer questions immediately, and in some cases, it’s better not to answer impulsively. Taking the time to think it through shows you are a deliberate thinker and are interested in coming up with the best idea.
Write it down. A great technique is to take notes while the interviewers are talking. This allows you to refer to your notes after a question is asked and helps keep you focused. This way, if you do lose your train of thought, you can continue to make notes and tell the interviewer that you want to collect your thoughts before you respond. You might also want to jot down some notes beforehand of important key points you want to touch on or questions you want to ask.
Think like a politician. If you do find that a particular question sets your mind to snooze, sometimes it can be beneficial to distract the interviewers by giving an alternative answer, kind of like a non-answer. This is a last resort and is a wild card, so don’t make a habit out of it. For example, if the interviewer asks you to talk about a time when you had a conflict with your boss, think of something close to the topic that you can talk about, like what kind of a boss you work great with.
The bottom line is that sometimes you will draw a blank. After all, you’re only human. As interviewees, we don’t have the luxury of deciding to opt out of future interviews, writing answers on our hand, or staring intensely into the teleprompter, so we do our best with what we’ve got. The more you interview, the less this will happen. Before you know it, you’ll be able to move that mountain in under 20 seconds!