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4 Tips for Responding to "Sell Me This Pen" in an Interview

Updated: May 9, 2021

You’re in a job interview for a sales position, and things are going well.


Then the interviewer presents the challenge that you knew to expect (yet were still dreading): “Sell me this pen.”


This type of prompt is enough to send your stomach plummeting to your shoes. It’s challenging to think on the fly to begin with, and when that’s combined with the fact that your nerves are running high, it’s common to draw a blank and stare at that pen completely slack-jawed.


Fortunately, like any other type of job interview question, a little preparation and practice can help you knock your response out of the park.


So what do you need to know to effectively answer a “sell me something” interview question? We’re covering all of the details right here.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

As you might guess, this type of question is frequently asked in interviews for sales positions.

While a pen is a common default object, that’s not the only scenario for this type of sales prompt.


Your interviewer might say, “Sell me this bottle of water” or even simply, “Sell me something” and then have you choose an item in the room and state your pitch.

It’s tempting to think that they’re only asking this to stump you or put you in a tough spot—and honestly, that’s partially true.


“Sales can be a very high-pressure job. Interviewers want to see how you answer the question, not necessarily what you say,” says Neely Raffellini, Muse Career Coach and founder of the 9 to 5 Project.


“Do you respond with confidence? Do you seem genuine?”

In any sort of sales role, you’ll occasionally find yourself in sticky situations. So interviewers don’t ask this question with the expectation that you’ll have a flawless response (although that certainly doesn’t hurt!). Instead, they simply want to observe how you react under pressure.


4 Tips for a Solid “Sell Me This Pen” Answer

It’s comforting to know that employers are more interested in your overall demeanor—as opposed to only the content of your response.


However, you still need something to say (and ideally, it’ll be effective and impressive). Here are four tips to help you craft an impactful answer to this common question.