Man is a creature of habits, and we do not change our opinions easily. The older we get, the more stubborn we are–let’s face the reality. When you work as a manager, however, or have any position in sales, the skill to use persuasion to convince other people becomes critical for your professional success.

If for no other reason, for this one at least the question about your ability to convince the others makes sense in most managerial and sales job interviews. Hiring managers may also use alternative wording of the question, most typically either “Tell me about a time you tried to sell a customer, teammate, or someone else on an idea, product, or service. Describe the situation, your actions, and the outcome.“, or “Tell me about a time when you had to convince your manager or team member to use an alternative approach to solve a problem.” Regardless of the way they put it though, they are always looking for the same attitude. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question, in order to understand what they want to hear from you. Do not forget to read also my notes and clarifications below the sample answers. They will help you to decide about your perfect answer to this tricky interview question.

* Once you are done with this one, do not forget to check also other tricky behavioral interview questions.


7 sample answers to “Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone” interview question

  1. In my last job of a warehouse supervisor I tried to convince the logistics manager to change the organization of the entire warehouse. I proposed a concept to them, but they were stubborn, and considered the existing system effective enough. I did not give up though. Preparing a visualization on my laptop, and doing some calculations and forecasts, I showed them exactly, in numbers, how much we can shorten the expedition time with the new model. Finally they were convinced and we got a green light. The logistics manager was a rational man, and when they saw the numbers they changed their mind.
  2. I was leading a group of manual workers in a small production plant, and we had an unexpected audit announced for the next day. It was something unprecedented in the company. We needed basically everyone to stay overtime, to work until 10pm, or even longer. But workers did not want to stay. They were tired, had other plans, the weren’t superbly loyal to the employer. I couldn’t convince them with words or promises of extra bonus, so I opted for emotions. It was the only time that I cried in work. But when they saw it–a seemingly untouchable manager falling in tears right in front of them, something within them changed. Maybe they saw something human in my behavior, or maybe it helped them to understand the seriousness of the situation. I cannot really say. But they agreed to stay overtime, and we prepared the place for the audit.
  3. This is my first job application, and I don’t have similar experience from work. However, I can refer to my personal life. My younger sister didn’t want to attend college. She had her crisis of adolescence, and wanted to pursue some higher ideals as an activist. Mother or father could not convince her with their arguments. Then I intervened, because I believed I was able to sell her the idea of going to college. What I actually did was that I tried to explain her how the college can help her in her career of an activist. I explained the powerful connections she would make while studying at college, people she would meet and make interested in her projects, and also how general public would perceive her with different eyes once she has a degree. Instead of trying to convince her to follow a path of an employee, and earn good money–which was the strategy of my parents, I showed her how college studies will help her achieve the goals she really wanted to achieve. It worked, and she enrolled in the college.
  4. In my last job in sales I tried to acquire a big customer. They didn’t respond positively to my emails or calls. But I continued to send them more offers, relevant for their business. I even sent the manager a greeting card when they had birthday, together with a small present. I was persistent in my efforts, trying to build a relationship with them. When they finally needed a big upgrade to their ERP system, guess who they contacted first–they contacted me, and we eventually closed the deal.
  5. In my last teaching job I struggled with a student. They came from a difficult background. Broken family, bad role models, criminal friends–you name it. They suffered because of their past, and they made problems in each of my lessons. But I did not give up on them. Oppositely, I gave them a lot of attention–that’s what they were seeking after all, attention and understanding. I had several one on one meetings with them. Instead of trying to convince them with disciplinary measures, I used empathy and positive encouragement. Eventually they improved their behavior, at least somehow. I persuaded them to act better in my classes, though other teachers still struggled with their behavior.
  6. Well, to be honest, my biggest battle was to persuade myself, to have confidence in my abilities. I’ve had my share of problems in the past, and most people around me told me I was no good for anything. My confidence suffered, and I was very shy in relationships. But I decided I had to change things. I took the initiative, started reading motivation books, visited psychologist, and joined a sports club–to learn to have interactions with people again. All of this happened three years ago, and now, looking back, I can hardly recognize my old self… I definitely succeeded in persuading myself of my own worth. If I didn’t succeed, I would not sit here today with you, interviewing for a great job.
  7. My last job was all about persuasion. We were selling a promise, a dream, rather than a product. That’s how it works with risky investment opportunities, and as an account executive in a brokerage firm my job was to sell such opportunities. I always tried to explain the prospect the vision of their future, how something they do today can change the life they will live in ten years time. It was a lot about visualization, and also about deducing what they may dream about, whether they were a family person, or had some other dreams. I did not fare badly as an account executive, and managed to convince many clients. But now I am looking for a different job…


We try to persuade someone all our lives

Persuasion does not happen only in the workplace. You want to go see movies and dance, but your boyfriend is tired and wants to spend the Friday evening on the couch. Can you persuade them to agree with your plan? And what techniques will you use?

Or your kids want to take this or that direction in life, inspired by their role models from TV or friends from school. But you hope for a better future for them, perhaps a Degree, great employment, etc. Can you sell them your ideas?

Interviewers are interest mostly in your attitude, and your skills. It doesn’t matter what situation you narrate in the interview. The key is to demonstrate your ability to use persuasion to convince the others. Be it in work, school, family. Just describe the situation, your actions, and the outcome.

May also interest you: How to dress for an interview – 5 things to consider when deciding about your interview attire.

Use numbers and dates to give your story more credibility

Let’s be honest. If you are reading this article, you are probably considering to make something up, to come up with an answer that isn’t based on reality (or at least not entirely). Nothing wrong with that in my book…

If you make something up, however, try to give it a date, some time frame, and use some numbers and facts while narrating your story. This way it will sound much more credible to the interviewers. It will also be easier for them to envision what exactly you did, and how your subordinate, (or your partner, child, superior, etc) reacted to your arguments, and how you both eventually benefited from it.


Other tough questions await you in your job interview

Interviewing for a managerial job is always tough. Recruiters and interviewers will typically use various behavioral (and situational) questions, to assess your skills and also a way in which you’d act in various situation that may happen in the workplace.

Do not forget to check our Interview Success Package 2.0 for multiple great answers to all behavioral interview questions, including answers for people with no previous working experience. Because the question about persuasion certainly won’t be the only tough question you will face…

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Matthew Chulaw
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