Best way to answer the ‘Sell Me That Pen’ Interview Question

A girl was being grilled by four interviewers when one asked “What is your biggest weakness?”

“I’m far too honest”, she replied.

“Honesty is not a weakness”, a different interviewer interjected.

“I wasn’t speaking to you, was I?” she replied.  (Honestly!)

In terms of old hat interview questions, “What is your biggest weakness?” can only be matched with “Sell me that pen.”

The sensible thing to do if you’re asked that question is just to get up and walk out (after stabbing the interviewer in the eye with the pen), but if you really want that job, the way to answer that question is by not answering it.

Or, to be more accurate, by answering it with a question or series of questions.

Because what an interviewer is really trying to find out, or at least should be trying to find out, is …… if you ‘do discovery’.  Do you try to find out the customer’s needs before you try to sell them something?

So, instead of fumbling with the pen and mumbling a few inanities about the pen, throw it back on the Interviewer – “OK, so what do you need the pen for?  Every day use or to create an impression at meetings?  What sort of a budget do you have to spend on a pen?” etc.

In a worst case scenario if the interviewer says “I’m not answering any questions about it” you have bought yourself a few precious seconds to think of some sales lines and you can always say “I would always try to qualify someone before selling them anything.”  You may not get a compliment for it but your approach will impress.

I did hear of one guy who when handed a Mont Blanc pen at an interview and was asked to sell it to the interviewer, broke it in half and said “You need a new Mont Blanc pen.”  I’d have believed that story more if he had stabbed the interviewer in the eye with it.

Conor Foley

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