Interview Question: Experience Pitching an Idea to a Boss or Superior

Nilda Melissa Diaz
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: December 08, 2022
Give A Time Where You Sold Your Supervisor On An Idea Or Concept

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When preparing for a job interview, it is important to understand the full range of possible questions that an interviewer might use. These include traditional interview questions that are both generic and specific to the field, but they also include another class of questions that many job hunters are less familiar with. These are behavioral interview questions, and their goals are less straightforward than the traditional interview questions that most people have had practice with in the past.

The goal for most behavioral questions is to gain insight into your processes so that prospective employers can gain an understanding of your priorities during decision-making and also your style. For the specific question about an example of a time when you sold your supervisor or professor on an idea, the goal is to get you showing how you identify which information will effectively persuade an audience, as well as how to use that information to get what you need. As you structure your answer, keeping that in mind will help to make sure you deliver the right information. Using the STAR method to organize your answer will also help by ensuring that the information is delivered in a clear, concise and memorable format.

How to Answer the ‘Give Me a Specific Example of a Time When You Sold Your Supervisor or Professor on an Idea or Concept’ Behavioral Interview Question

1. Identify an Effective Example

There are probably a few times that you performed the action in question, and it can be tempting to either relate the most recent example or the one that you view as most successful. Both of those are compelling choices, and most of the time they work. Spending some time ensuring that you don’t have an example that is more directly relevant to the current interviewer’s goals and your prospective employer’s needs will ensure that you made the right choice, though, and in some cases it can lead to important revisions. An easy-to-remember example may seem like the best option, but make sure to choose one that will be of a benefit to the job for which you are applying.

2. Structure Around the STAR Method

As you begin to craft your response, use the STAR acronym to guide yourself towards a better answer. That way, you make sure to deliver clear information for each individual aspect of the question. Here’s how that works:

  • ST: Situation or Task. This is the step where you outline the specifics of your example. That means details that allow the listener to clearly conceptualize the context of your choices.
  • A: Action. What did you do? How were your choices motivated? What did you weigh as you evaluated the different options before you?
  • R: Results. What became of your attempt at persuading the supervisor or professor in question? Did you get them to go with your idea?

Behavioral interview questions are complex because they are meant to be multi-stage. Planning a multi-stage answer is the only way to cover them completely without leaving out any important part that the interviewer may specifically be listening for.

3. Use Positive to Neutral Language

Remember that the goal with this question is to show how you went about selling the person in question on your idea, not on evaluating your performance. That means you want to use positive language when describing the situation generally, but you also want to be more neutral about your own accomplishments. Show, don’t tell, and that way your most persuasive gestures will be apparent in the answer, so you won’t need to spend as much time explaining what you were getting at and adding excess language to the answer. While you want to sell yourself to the interviewer, you don’t want to come off as too self-aggrandizing or full of yourself.

Sample ‘Give Me a Specific Example of a Time When You Sold Your Supervisor or Professor on an Idea or Concept’ STAR Interview Answer

My undergraduate degree was in the theater, so we had a lot of hands,on projects and productions where our professors were also basically workplace supervisors. In this case, I was in a middle-level directing class that involved a public staging of our scenes as part of the final exam, and I had it in my head that this should be an opportunity for fundraising for the school. The problem is, when you stage plays for educational purposes, you can only do it if you do not accept admission fees. I talked to my professor about ways we might make voluntary or suggested donations without breaking the rules, and while he didn’t go with it during that semester, he did use it when he taught my advanced section during my senior year with the program. While we worked together on my scene for that class, I was given the opportunity to design a donation program and submit it for approval, and he cosigned it as the supporting faculty. Now, there is a donation drive during every senior scene festival, but they still don’t view it as worthwhile for the lower-level productions.

The key when answering these behavioral interview questions is to directly identify your role without overselling it, so that the listener understands your process and results clearly.

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