don't understand the question during an interview

What to say if you don’t understand the interviewer’s question

You’re in an interview and everything is going well. You are having a good conversation with the interviewer. You are maintaining keep eye contact and speaking english with confidence. Then the interviewer asks you something…and you don’t understand the question! You feel lost and you don’t know how to ask the interviewer to repeat the question, politely.

It’s likely this has happened to you already, or it will happen if you are preparing for interviews in your non-native language. It might happen when you talk to your boss or co-workers. It might happen several times every day.

And what do you do when this happens during a job interview in english?

Your reaction when you don’t understand a question is important. It can be the difference between getting the job or not. It can be the difference between passing a test or failing. So, it’s vital to make sure you are ready.

The most important thing: Don’t Panic

Not understanding what someone says happens to everyone. It happens between native speakers and non-native speakers alike. Remember, there is no reason to be embarrassed.

Next, ask the interviewer to repeat the question, politely.

Don’t pretend you understood and try to get away with dismissing the question. This will only make you look bad. There is no problem with asking the interviewer to repeat their question, and you will benefit in the end. However, don’t forget to be polite and ask in a formal way. This is not the classroom from your high school. Don’t say “repeat, please” or “wait, what?” and expect a kind response.

Here are some polite ways to say that you did not understand, and asking your interviewer to repeat a question.

“I’m sorry could you please repeat that?”
“I didn’t quite catch that, can you ask again, please?”
“Excuse me, I’m not sure I understood entirely.”
“Forgive me, I didn’t quite understand the last question.”
“So sorry, would you mind repeating that last question please?”

After the question is repeated, say “thank you” and answer normally. Do not apologize more than once, do not feel bad for not understanding.

“But what do I do if I still don’t understand?”

If you don’t understand a second time, you must still remain calm. There is no reason to feel shame or disappointment. Communication is a two-way street. There will always be responsibility on both sides.

To understand the question the second time, repeat the parts you understood when you ask the speaker to repeat.

For example, if the question was, “Tell me about a time when you had an issue at work and how you solved that issue?” But you didn’t understand the final part you can say:

“I’m sorry, you want to know about an issue I had at work and…what was the last part?”

This will prompt the interviewer to isolate the difficult words and allow you to understand more clearly.

Above all, continue to be polite and continue as normal after you understand the question. Do not let one question affect your confidence and poise.

What are your strategies when you don’t understand a question during an interview? Comment with your favorite phrase of response. Join our community and share your ideas with us.