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How to Solve the Trickiest Interview Question of All Time

What’s the best way to sell the interviewer a pen?

Should you:

A. Describe the pen’s features

B. Discuss the pen’s benefits

C. Converse with the customer, or

D. None of the above

While A. and B. may get woven in, the best way to sell a pen is to get to know your customer, what your customer is looking for, and what they’re looking for then to suggest an appropriate product (ie what the customer wants in a price range they can consider).  Learning your customers’ desires requires openness, listening, and trust building.  “Appropriate” means responding with what the customer is asking for in a price range they can consider.

You probably won’t close a sale through cleverness alone.  But once you have authentically listened to and responded to your customer, you might throw in something fun like writing your interviewer a check and telling her that she has to endorse it, followed by: “Don’t you wish you had a pen right now? I can go ahead and sell you this one if you’d like….”

If, however, this doesn’t feel natural to you, don’t worry about saying something slick.  Unless you’re interviewing for a sales job, the employer ultimately wants to assess how you respond under pressure.  You don’t want to say something like “what kind of question is that!?”.  You do want to radiate confidence and maintain good eye contact as you say whatever comes naturally to you about the pen.  To kick your answer up a notch, think about what your employer most needs and deliver that.  This is a good rule of thumb for answering interview questions in general.  Is it creativity?  Humor?  Pleasantness?  Doing your research on the company or industry and connecting with someone on the inside–if at all possible–will help you to identify what qualities the employer needs from its employees.