One of the most common interview questions asked is to sell the interviewer a pen. Sometimes the interviewer will ask you to sell them a pencil or an apple or a stapler instead. But the interviewer isn’t looking for you to sell them the object, rather they want to see how you communicate and what method you take to get the sale.
You’re interviewing for a position, it’s going well and you’re answering the questions correctly, showing your grasp of the knowledge. The interviewer is nodding along in agreement and you’re both conversing about the role and the responsibilities it entails. When, out of the corner of your eye, you see the interviewer pull out a pen and say, “sell me this pen.”
Whether it’s a pen, a pencil, a stapler, an apple, or another inanimate object, the interviewer has just put you on the spot and asked to see how good your sales skills are. They want to see how you respond under pressure and what techniques you are going to use to sell them on the object.
What The Interviewer Really Wants
Now, before we delve into how to sell the pen, we’re going to discuss why the interviewer is asking you to sell the pen. You need to step-back and understand it’s not about the pen or the pencil or the apple. It’s about your preparedness and readiness to jump at an opportunity and your ability to clearly and effectively communicate the why.
The interviewer doesn’t want to buy the pen. They want to see how you sell it. They want to see your communication skills, your ability to think quickly, and your ability to communicate and convince them.
The pen is simply a tool the interviewer is using for this practice. That is why the first thing you need to do is forget about the pen. Focus on the why behind the question and tackle that. And the why in this situation is why should the interviewer choose you over the other candidates. Do you have better communication skills? Are you a better negotiator? Are you a more skilled salesperson?
What to Avoid?
Avoid discussing the pen or the pencil or the apple or whatever the object may be. You’re not selling the pen, you’re selling yourself. You’re selling your ability to sell the pen.
Most people, when asked this question, will talk about the pen, its shape, the color of the ink, its ability to write seamlessly on a sheet of paper.
What they don’t realize is that the interviewer doesn’t care about the pen. Moreover, the interviewer may try to make you stumble in your sales process.
Where you may say, “this pen writes in a beautiful, black ink”, the interviewer may respond that they hate the color black.
Where you may say, “this pen has a sophisticated stainless-steel finish”, the interviewer may respond that they’re allergic to stainless steel.
You get the point; it’s not about nor should it be about the pen. It’s about your ability to articulate your thoughts and communicate effectively. So don’t focus on the pen, its features, and its writing ability.
How to Answer
Sell yourself by being engaging. From the onset, show enthusiasm and a level of excitement. You want to show the interviewer that you’re all-in and ready for any challenges. So be animated and charismatic.
Immediately, pick-up the pen and show your enthusiasm and willingness to go-along with the interview. Smile, lean forward, and be engaged. Be engaged and don’t slump in your chair, asking for clarification and a roadmap.
Rather, begin asking leading and open-ended questions. Inquire what the interviewer’s preferences are and what they like. Continue to be engaging and animated, taking notes as the interviewer answers your questions.
You see, you don’t want to sell the pen, you want the pen to sell itself. So, ask the interviewer about how often they use pens, what their preference of pens are, what color ink they prefer writing with, where they keep their pens during the day. Continue asking pens about the interviewer until you have a swath of information.
And then, repeat it back to them. Not word-for-word, but in a summarized fashion. Ensure that the answers they provided to you were accurate, which you will be able to tell as they nod along in agreement.
Now that you know and have confirmed what the interviewer wants out of a pen, sell them on the pen. If the interviewer said they prefer blue ink, tell them how this pen writes in the sharpest blues. If they say they prefer rubber pens, tell them how this pen is made of organic, non-GMO rubber. Sell them on what they want and what their preferences are.
Once you’re done with your sales pitch don’t stop inquiring and getting feedback from the interviewer. While remaining in character, ask if they have any reservations to purchasing the pen now. Tell them that if they buy one right now, you can throw in a box of pencils. Show the interviewer that you are willing to go the extra mile to close the deal and confirm the sale.
The sell me this pen questions is one of the most used questions in the interview process. In order to answer effectively you should take the question seriously and jump right in. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to stay 100% factual concerning the pen (it’s ok to say it’s a black pen when it’s a blue ink). Keep up your confidence and charisma throughout the process and don’t be dissuaded if the interviewer pushes back in the beginning, they are only looking to see how you handle a challenging situation.
You should never not take the question seriously. Though this question may not determine an eventual offer, the interviewer wants to see how you communicate and respond to a question that puts you on the spot. In addition, don’t just concentrate on the pen and its features, always try to build a level of rapport and understand what the consumer needs in order to better sell them.
If you would like to watch the video embedded above, you can find it on YouTube here.