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How Would You Persuade Someone?

Convincing someone to see things from your point of view is a key job skill, especially in fields like sales and legal. The interview question, “How would you persuade someone?” can help a hiring manager discern whether you have the necessary capabilities in this area. 

Variations of this interview question

  • How would you persuade someone to see your point of view?
  • Tell me about a time when you influenced someone.
  • Have you ever had to convince someone to do things your way?

We’ll get to the bottom of what interviewers are looking for when they ask about persuasion skills and help you craft the perfect answer to be seen as a strong candidate. 

Why do interviewers ask about how you persuade someone?

Being a strong influencer starts with being a strong communicator. An interviewer asks about persuasion to see whether you can get your ideas across effectively. This will give them a sense of how well you communicate. 

Persuading people also takes a certain je ne sais quoi–an elusive quality that’s tricky to put into words. It’s a mix of personality, charisma, and the ability to build rapport with people, even if they’re complete strangers. Persuasive individuals are usually personable and have a way of making the other person think they concluded on their own. Interviewers want to pin down whether you have these qualities in asking about persuasion. 

What hiring managers look for in an answer about persuading someone

When asking about your persuasion abilities, an interviewer wants to understand how you communicate ideas and whether you have the tools to make a strong argument. Do you use logic? Support your case with data? Look for common ground? Negotiate? There’s more than one way to persuade someone, and hearing you talk about how you approach it will give the hiring manager a better idea of whether you’ll be able to do the job effectively. 

They also want to get a sense of your judgment. Persuasion requires showing discretion about which communication style to use with different people and how strongly to push your argument. Your answer will show the interviewer whether you’re able to choose the right persuasion tactic to fit the situation. 

How to answer the interview question “How would you persuade someone?”

Understand what they’re looking for

To craft the best response to an interview question about persuasion, it helps if you understand how this skill will be used in the job. This way, you can speak specifically to the type of scenario you’d be working in. Convincing a customer to buy a product, for instance, is different from persuading a company’s board to approve a budget. 

Research ahead of time to learn how persuasion plays into the job. You can find helpful information in the job description, on the company’s website, and by searching LinkedIn for the person who currently holds the role or who has held it in the past (look at the types of things they list as accomplishments in their profile). 

Give an example

The best way to show a hiring manager that you can influence others is to give an example of a time when you’ve done it successfully. 

Here are some examples you might use:

  • Making a sale
  • Giving a presentation
  • Getting approval for an idea
  • Asking for a favor
  • Resolving a conflict
  • Campaigning for change
  • Altering a team’s habits

Explain how you used your words or other tactics to bring someone from being skeptical or opposed to your idea to accepting and supporting it. 

How not to answer

Using a negative experience

In describing an example of your persuasive skills, you want to choose a scenario where the outcome was a positive one, like winning a big account or achieving a common goal. Don’t pick something that could come across as you strong-arming someone, like convincing a coworker to pick up your shift on a holiday by guilt-tripping them.

Not having an example ready

This is a particularly bad interview question to get caught off guard by. If you can’t persuade the interviewer that you’re a strong candidate, how are they supposed to feel confident you’ll be able to persuade anyone else? Be sure to come prepared with one to three examples and choose the one that seems to best fit the question during your interview. 

Sample answers to “How would you persuade someone?”

Example #1

“Just yesterday, I took a call from a customer who was upset about frequent service interruptions. When customers are angry, I know they usually want to feel heard, so I gave them a few minutes to express their frustrations while simply listening. 

Once they’d had a chance to vent, I began asking questions to learn more about their problem. I suspected the issue wasn’t with our service, but I wanted them to arrive at that conclusion independently. My questions revealed that the customer was trying to use the service from their basement when the router was located in an office on the top floor. I explained the benefits of our range extender and how it would help them receive strong service in the basement, in the backyard, and anywhere else on their property. The customer ended up purchasing the extender. The problem was solved, and we made a sale in the process.”

Example #2

“When I have to get my team on board with an idea, I’ve found the best way to do it is to get excited about it myself. I explain it with enthusiasm and heavily emphasize the ‘why.’ People are likelier to follow an idea if they understand its reasoning.”

By preparing a strategic answer ahead of time, you’ll be well-equipped to field an interview question about persuasion and ultimately succeed at the most important argument–convincing them to hire you.