Question forms part of:
Other interview questions that are similar:
- Tell me about a time when you have had to persuade someone to take a course of action
- Have you ever needed to convince a stakeholder on the benefits of the project?
- How do you get others to do what you want?
- When have you needed to influence a decision maker to supporting your idea?
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question:
In business not everyone is going to be on the same page all the time. Often times competing objectives will come into play, be it office politics or because different areas have different targets.
The interviewer in this question is looking to see how you handle a situation whereby a stakeholder (colleague, supplier, manager etc.) is looking to do one course of action but you want to do another. The interviewer wants to know how you will handle these situations and if you have been in similar experiences before.
The best approach to answering this question:
Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask for a specific example make sure you include one. Talking about actual experiences is always better than talking about what you would do theoretically.
Choose an example where you were unequivocally in the right unless you are prepared for a barrage of follow-up questions about ‘what if you were wrong?’. If you had data to back up your call mention it.
Show that you were empathetic to the other person’s position, mention how you took steps to understand where it was they were coming from – how else would you know your way was best if you didn’t look at theirs!?
Talk about how you presented your idea: it is best to come at these things in a non-combative way. You don’t want to mention how you blindsided someone on a call with senior leadership forcing them to either agree or get into a debate. No, the best way of talking people round is one-on-one. Talk about how you approached the person at a time that was best for them, maybe over coffee, and you showed them your idea and answered any concerns they had.
Finally you want to end with a positive result. ‘We landed the big client, the CEO bought all us a Porsche each to celebrate and I was hailed as a hero from then on’. So maybe not that far but explain to the interviewer how your idea and your successful persuasion of others to get on board resulted in a benefit to your organisation.
How NOT to answer this question:
“I was at a job interview once and this guy was asking me stupid questions. I had to convince him to give me a job”
Yeah obviously don’t say this! But seriously here is a real example of what seems like a good answer but is in fact not.
“We had two options for a supplier; supplier A who we had used before and supplier B who we had not used but who were cheaper. As my target was to reduce costs for our department I said we should go with supplier B. Other people wanted to stick with supplier A as we knew what quality we would receive from them. I knew this was not the correct approach and I knew that other people in my department would argue and make us stick with supplier A. So I approached the director by myself ahead of the meeting where we would decide and showed them the cost-savings we would get from supplier B and how we could use those savings in other areas of the department.
In the end the director went with supplier B at my suggestion and the delivery went off without a hitch and the company saved money”
On first glance this looks like a decent answer. The director was persuaded to the cause and the outcome was that there were decent cost-savings for the business.
So why am I saying not to answer the question like this:
1 – ‘I knew this was the correct approach’. The answer does not state how they knew this was the correct approach.
2 – The other colleagues in the department appear to have a valid concern that the new supplier’s quality is untested. What if they are correct and supplier B is not up to scratch? The answer does nothing to show that the interviewee examined any other viewpoint
3 – The interviewee went behind the rest of the department and straight to the director. This shows that the interviewee is a poor team player.
‘Have You Ever Needed To Change Someone’s Mind?’ – Example Answer:
“We had two options for a supplier; supplier A who we had used before and supplier B who we had not used but who were cheaper. As my target was to reduce costs for our department I thought that we should go with supplier B.
I approached my other colleagues, informally over coffee, to understand more about their concerns with supplier B. Learning that the principal worry was that supplier B was an unknown quantity whereas with supplier A we knew the quality to expect. It was then that I came up with a solution to quell any worries.
I approached supplier B and negotiated for them to provide sample products and also to agree to a trial/probationary contract that could be ended fairly easily should the quality not be up to scratch. Once I had this proposal in hand I went back to my colleagues who were now in agreement that supplier B was the correct option for the company.
With all colleagues in agreement we pitched the idea to the director together, ultimately we went with supplier B and enjoyed a high quality product for a lower price”
Can you see the improvement between this answer and the previous one:
1 – The interviewee doesn’t immediately assume they are correct and that their idea is the right one. The time is taken to understand other colleague’s concerns.
2 – Once the colleagues concerns are understood the interviewee takes steps to mitigate these concerns, this shows initiative on their part.
3 – Once all colleagues are in agreement the interviewee has them pitch the idea together to the director, this shows humility and that they will make a great team player.
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