Losing your train of thought can be stressful. Battling with brain freeze in a job interview can be even worse.

At some point we’ve all experienced brain freeze. It can happen during an exam, presentation or an important interview. This scenario can often make a stressful situation even more nerve wracking. What counts is how we deal with brain freeze, and move on.

Even if you’ve prepared extensively for your job interview, your mind might still go blank. Take time to collect your thoughts and reset. Brain freeze in interviews can happen to anyone. That’s why we’ve compiled some simple tips to help you deal with your mind going blank in a job interview. We’ll also look at how you can avoid a mental block happening again in the future.


Let’s understand a little more about why these situations happen in the first place. What’s going on in your brain when your mind appears to go completely blank at crucial moments?

Instead of concentrating on the task at hand, the brain enters ‘fight or flight mode’. This is a physiological reaction to a situation that the brain perceives as terrifying, either physically or mentally.

The definition of ‘mind-blanking’ is a lack of conscious awareness. Your mind can suddenly go ‘blank’, even when you know the answer to a question. You know you can fully articulate the right response – just not at the moment you need.

During more stressful situations, such as exams, presentations and job interviews, the brain begins to release more stress hormones. These hormones make it harder for regions of the brain to communicate – and, suddenly, your mind can go completely blank.

Is it OK to admit you’re nervous at an interview?

Being nervous in a job interview isn’t a big deal. Expressing excitement for the interview while acknowledging nerves can show honesty and self-awareness. Most interviewers have probably been in your shoes at some point, so they should be understanding.


1. Stay calm and don’t panic

To kick start your thought process, it’s crucial to remain calm. It’s important to know that the sense of dread and impending disaster washing over you isn’t everything you fear it is. Staying calm will allow your mind to enter back into a state of cold cognition, enabling you to regain your train of thought.

2. Take a deep breath

Taking a deep breath will give you a moment to collect yourself. A deep breath also sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. In a job interview setting, your brain has reacted to a situation it perceives as threatening. A deep breath calmly sends your brain a polite message, indicating that this time its perception is mistaken.

3. Admit to your interviewer that your mind has gone blank

Admitting that you’ve gone blank shows honesty and humility, whilst giving you the opportunity to move on. Being honest can also help you to relax and allow you to ask the interviewer to repeat the question.

4. Repeat the question back to the interviewer

An alternative response is to repeat the question back to the interviewer. Asking for clarification gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and listen to the question again in your own voice. Repeating the question aloud also allows the interviewer to confirm that you have heard the question correctly.

Each of these steps will give you plenty of time to gather your thoughts and relax. By following these steps, you’ll find that your mind becomes clear again very soon. You’ll be able to answer the interviewer’s questions eloquently and without hesitation.


So, we’ve covered what to do if your mind suddenly goes blank in the middle of a job interview. But is there anything you can do to ensure this mental block doesn’t happen in the first place?

  • Relax as much as you can during the job interview. When you’re relaxed, you think logically and rationally. Therefore, you’ll be in the best position possible to perform well during the interview.
  • Don’t over-prepare  if you memorise the answers to common interview questions, you’ll sound scripted. By taking this approach it’s also more likely that you’ll forget important details. Over-preparing for a job interview can also make you believe that there’s only one way to give an answer. This too can trip you up during moments of stress.
  • Get out of your head and listen to the question. Stop worrying about every minor detail, and, instead, actively listen.
  • Take notes whilst the interviewer is asking the question. Taking notes will help you to recall key points of the question and therefore help you give the best possible answer. It’s also fine to refer to any notes you’ve brought with you.
  • Don’t worry about bouts of silence  silence is normal in any conversation, regardless of the situation. Don’t dread quiet moments if they arrive. Instead, take the time to contemplate your answer.
  • Use gestures to help you in the retrieval of key information. A study from the University of Illinois found that participants using hand gestures while recalling information had better interview performance.

Having our minds going completely blank is a common experience, and at the most inopportune moments too. When it does happen, it’s important to realise that this isn’t as catastrophic as it feels in your head. Any temporary mind blanks shouldn’t derail your entire interview, as long as you deal with them properly. What’s more, you can even reduce the chances of mind blanks happening in the first place by following the tips in this blog.

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