I think we’ve all experienced that terrible sinking feeling when your boss asks you a question and you have no idea what the answer is. It’s even worse if this happens in a meeting, and everyone is looking at you, waiting for a response.

So what should you do in this type of situation? Author Jodi Glickman suggests that you take a three-step approach:

  1. Talk about what you know. You might not know the answer to the question, but you probably know something about the situation or project. So share whatever relevant information that you have. (For instance, let’s say that your boss asks you how many people are visiting the company website each day. You don’t have these numbers, but you do know that the website has been getting a lot of traffic. So you could start by saying, “We know that the website is popular, and it’s been attracting a lot of visitors.”)
  2. Admit what you don’t know. Be honest about the fact that you don’t have the answer to the specific question that your boss is asking. (For instance, you might say, “Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact number of visitors per day.”)
  3. Explain how you will get the answer. Tell your boss what you will do to get the answer, when you should have it, and how you’ll deliver the information. (For instance, you could say, “I’ll talk to Bob about it today and send you an email with that information this afternoon.”)

But what if you can’t do step #1? What if you REALLY know nothing about a topic that you’re supposed to know something about?

If you experience this type of situation, don’t try to come up with an answer off the top of your head. It’s much better to say something like, “That’s a great question. I’ll look into it and get you an answer by tomorrow.” And don’t panic! We’ve all been there at one time or another!


Glickman, J. (2011, June 21). Stumped? How to answer a question you don’t know the answer to. AOL Finance. Retrieved from: http://www.aol.com/article/2011/06/21/stumped-how-to-answer-a-question-you-dont-know-the-answer-to/19956539/?jwp=1