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Eight Simple Rules for Testifying as a Witness

At one point or another in their career, every human resources manager will be required to testify as a witness, whether it be in a deposition, arbitration, unemployment or worker’s compensation hearing, or trial. These situations are stressful and unpleasant. To calm your nerves and present yourself as an effective witness, apply the following rules:

1. Before testifying, review all of the facts/details so that you know them “cold.” The devil is in the details.

2. Listen to the question asked. Really listen.

3. Answer only the question asked. Do not ramble on or go beyond the scope of the question. For example, if the question is “Do you know John Smith?”, the answer is “Yes.” It is not “Yes, he is a co-worker of mine.” Although that may be true, you were not asked that question. Get into the mindset of only answering the question presented.

4. Tell the truth. You likely have been sworn in under oath. Lying will destroy your case, and you could face a perjury charge.

5. Do not guess, assume or speculate regarding anything. Don’t say things like “I probably said…”

6. If you truly don’t know or can’t recall the answer, say you “don’t know” or “can’t recall.”

7. If your attorney objects to the question, immediately stop talking. Do not answer unless further instructed to do so.

8. Do not argue with the questioner, or answer the question with a question. Keep calm.

There are many other tips and strategies an individual can employ to be an effective witness. Simply following these 8 rules will make you a stronger, more credible witness than most, and get you off the hot seat quicker.



About this Author

Mitchell Quick, Michael Best Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney

Mitch serves as a trusted advisor to businesses on all aspects of management labor and employment law. Clients value his deep knowledge of employment and labor laws, with an emphasis on wage and hour law. Clients regularly seek his counsel regarding compliance with the many and continually changing labor and employment laws, as well as to address challenging or risky personnel situations.

Mitch has represented businesses across a range of industries, including: 

  • Large and small manufacturers

  • ...