Should I Answer the Question?

More trouble is caused in the world by indiscreet answers than by indiscreet questions”  – Sydney Harris.


Listening to politicians, sports people and executives being interviewed on the radio this morning, it seems that no-one wants to answer a question.  In the everyday business world life isn’t always so easy.  If you’re giving a presentation and you allow time for questions and answers, it’s always good to have thought through some approaches.

Here’s some presentation question tips from the archive …

Prepare for questions:

  •  Anticipate the most likely questions.
  • Prepare suitable answers – including visual aids or specific examples specially for answering questions.

 Repeat the question back

  • Ensures everyone has heard it.
  • Confirm wording of question – especially if it is complex or multiple.
  • Provides thinking time to formulate answer.

 Maintain your style

  •  A change in your demeanour indicates that you are ‘off balance’ and may encourage a negative response.


 Questions you don’t know the answer to…

  • Don’t bluff – admit you don’t.
  • Promise to find out the answer.
  • Keep your promise.
  1. Involve the whole audience in your answers, involve them in the problem.
  2. If your mind goes blank – open question to the rest of the audience giving you thinking time and involving group.
  3. Don’t get bogged down answering irrelevant questions – offer to discuss it with the individual afterwards.  Stay on course, and don’t be led astray.
  4. Maintain a confident approach to keep control of the session – you can answer the question with another question.
  5. Break the question down into one you can anser, “did you mean x or y?”
  6. Make it bigger “actually this affects the whole industry, not just this aspect .
  7. Focus much tighter “I can’t speak for this entire aspect – let me comment on how it affects our situation …”
  8. You may need to cut people off if they ramble, be kind but direct, “Forgive me for interrupting …
  9. Ask for their help “I know this is an emotional subject, but I can help more effectively if your questions are kept on topic” – addressed to all.
  10. Always acknowledge the question.

MINTs, BRICs, PIGS and HIDeCs – Who Are They?


If you invested your money in the BRICs early, took your profits and got out of the PIGS in time you may now be wondering whether to put your money into MINTs or keep it in the HIDeCs.  We’re not about to offer you investment advice, but we do get asked what all of these mean so here goes …


BRIC(S): Brazil, Russia, India and China (South Africa).  Countries which were tipped for high growth 10 years ago.

PIGS (or PIIGS): Portugal, Italy (Ireland), Greece and Spain.  A group of countries at the edges of  the Euro zone.

MINTs: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.  The economies tipped to provide great growth over the next 10 years.  “MINTs are fresh, unlike BRICs”.

HIDeCs: Highly Indebted Developed Countries.  Odds are you live in one of these.  Not to be confused with …

HIPCs: Highly Indebted Poor Countries.  A group of countries eligible for special assistance.


What will the next acronym be and what does this mean for businesses in the UK?  As the UK can be known by any of the three initials BUG (Britain, United Kingdom, Great Britain), we’re more likely to appear in the next acronym than a country less useful for spelling.


Virtual Big Block Of Cheese Day


Leo McGarry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fans of The West Wing will have fond memories of “Big Block Of Cheese Day” where the fictional Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, ordered senior White House staffers to spend time with people who had suggestions and questions for the President, people who would not normally have such close access to power.


The tradition was traced back to President Andrew Jackson, who put a 1,400lb block of cheese in the White House, there for anyone who was hungry, to encourage the populace to engage with government.

President Barack Obama is set to continue the “tradition” with a virtual big block of cheese day this Wednesday.  Here’s how you can get your questions and suggestions into the mix without taking a flight … #AsktheWH

Creating A Person Specification Before Hiring Someone New

A really useful document to create when you’re thinking of hiring someone new is the person specification.  It specifies the kind of person best suited to fill the job.  The real value is in the conversations you have whilst creating the specification.  That allows you to really think through what you need for the role.


Here’s some help from our archives …

In completing the person specification two disciplines must be observed, both of which are essential to the recruitment and selection process.  First, one must ask oneself again and again “What attributes would one like to see in the job-holder?”  and “What attributes are essential?”  Secondly, one must keep constantly in mind that the attributes needed to do a particular job are only part of a whole person’s make-up and that this person will probably work in a social setting where relationships with others may influence effectiveness.

Classifying The Information

A number of methods have been produced to classify the information; two of the most widely used methods are the Seven Point Plan and Munro Fraser’s Five-Fold Grading.

Seven Point Plan

Developed by Professor A Rodger, the plan ensures that no aspect of the person is neglected and prevents irrelevancies from being introduced.  The Seven Points are themselves divided into a number of sub-sections, not all of which will be relevant to every job, i.e.

1.    Physical

What are the occupational requirements in terms of physique and health?  You’ll have different ideas for an air traffic controller than for a systems analyst, but both will have specific requirements.  Be clear about what’s really necessary and what isn’t.  You can easily widen the pool of available talent.

2.    Attainments

These relate to the knowledge and the skills required to do the job, i.e.

  • What level of general education is required?  (Wherever possible, and if appropriate, define in terms of specific qualifications)
  • What professional qualifications are required?
  • What specific job training is required?
  • How much experience in a similar job or in other kinds of jobs is required?

3.    General Intelligence

If expert help is available, specify a minimum level.  You may be able to get someone with a masters degree to help out picking stock from a warehouse, there’s plenty of intelligent people available, but are they really who you want to do a good job month in, month out.


4.    Special Aptitudes

What special aptitudes does the job demand and to what extent?  Consider here mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, facility in the use of words and figures, artistic or musical ability.  If one or more of these aptitudes are required, remember that candidates can only be properly assessed by the use of selection tests.

5.    Interests

How far are any leisure interests really relevant to the demands of the job?  Consider here intellectual interests (crosswords, chess) practical constructional interests, physically active pursuits, social interests (e.g. involving influencing or persuading others) and aesthetic interests (e.g. music, drama, painting).  It may be nice to have someone who shares your interests, but check they’re relevant.  An encyclopaedic knowledge of Cthulhu Mythos is perfect for someone who works in a game or comic store.  Such an interest may not help a dentist much, but it wouldn’t be a detriment either.  Watch out for bias here.

6.    Disposition

How important is it that the job holder should be good at working with others and at what levels?  What capacity is required for leadership?  What importance is attached to stability and to self-reliance?  Don’t rule someone out of a job where they’ll mostly be working alone because they are not outgoing and gregarious.

7.    Circumstances

What requirements does the job demand in terms of personal circumstances?  You may need to think about whether the person will need to be willing to work away from the job location, ready to work irregular hours, or happy to relocate.  What personal circumstances could prevent someone from taking the job?

To boost your organisation’s ability to recruit more effectively, take a look at our Effective Recruitment and Selection course, and our Speed To Competency programme for getting new hires to full effectiveness quickly.