|  December 1, 2013

Interview Questions: Time when you changed someone’s mind

This week in our Common Interview Question series we’re going to cover how to answer questions about persuasion or convincing others. This type of interview question can be asked in a few different ways.

Tell me about a time…

  • You had to convince someone to do something your way
  • You had to persuade someone to do something a certain way
  • When you changed someone’s mind about something

Why would your interviewer ask this question?

Well, when it comes to working as a team or collaborating with others, people disagree on plenty of different things

  • what the right thing to do is
  • what the right approach to get there is
  • who should be doing what
  • what the right things to prioritize are

…the list goes on and on.

Given that indisputable fact, an important skill in almost any workplace is the ability to convince people to do something your way versus their way.

Your interviewers will also want to make sure you go about doing this in a respectful and collaborative way. The “my way or the highway” approach is usually not people are looking for.

Tips to give a great answer:

time when you changed someone's mind

  1. Your answer should be based on an example from your past experience (this goes for answers to all “behavioral interview questions”). Think of a time when you actually did convince someone to see something from your perspective and be ready to talk about it.
  2. Ensure you come across as respectful and collaborative. Your interviewer probably isn’t looking for you to share the last time you bulldozed over someone to get something done. They will be more impressed if you share an example where you first heard others perspectives, considered them, and then explained why your way/idea/thought was best.
  3. Make it about what’s best for the company. No one wants to hear that you pushed an idea through just for the sake of being right. It’s much better to give an example where your way was also the best thing for the company. Showing that the success of the company was a priority in your decision making will go a long way.
  4. Give an example where you had facts and research to back you up.¬†Convincing people of something is always easier if you have facts to back it up. I once convinced an entire department to take a manual paper process and make it totally digital. My motivation was partially to save me the time of personally hand packing 200 envelopes (if I’m being honest), but saying that wouldn’t have helped. Instead I came to the table with data on the dollars and hours that would be saved if we changed our approach… and we did.

Here’s an example of how to answer the question:

Using my previous example, I may answer this type of question like this…

In my job at [place], we followed a process each year where we had to manually pack and send about 2000 envelopes as a team. I realized that many of the items we were mailing could actually be found online and no longer needed to be sent in hard copy.

I did some research and realized that if we emailed each of our 2000 recipients instead, we could achieve the same outcome but in much less time. I also calculated it would save the team approximately $x each year.

Since we had been following the same process for years, I knew it would be tough to convince people to change things up. I first vetted the idea with my peers to get their feedback. After speaking with them, I took my research and recommended approach to the leaders of our team and walked them through the changes, and then the benefits.

After that meeting, everyone was on board and we started to train people on the new process.

In closing…

Use a past example, show your collaborative nature, ensure you come across as respectful of others opinions, and share ideas you’ve had that are grounded in research and is also what’s best for the company. You’ll be well on your way to acing this common interview question!

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