Going to a job interview for that all important career step in Events or Marketing can be far less daunting when you walk in feeling well prepared - and the good news is there is a clever technique you can use to help you shine.
Many interviewers these days use competency based questions. These are questions that ask you to demonstrate your experience and skills with examples. You can spot these questions because they usually start with something like: “Tell me about a time when you have…” or “Can you give me an example of when you had to…”
The interviewer is looking for real life experience here, so don’t start talking about what you would do in such a situation. They want a case study of what you did do! Unfortunately, it is highly likely in the pressure of an interview it will be very difficult to readily recall some of the many relevant examples or experiences you have had.
So before you go into an interview it is essential to spend some time preparing some of these mini-case studies that describe a specific situation and what you did. Take time to look back over your career and the projects you have worked on, and the challenges and successes you have had. It’ll be time well spent.
The STAR technique is a recognised and useful way to make sure your answer includes the main points the interviewer is looking for.
STAR stands for:
Situation – What was the situation you were faced with?
Task – What did you have to do?
Action – How did you go about completing the task?
Result – What was the outcome?
Your first step in answering any competency-based questions is to describe the situation you were facing or the challenge you had to address. For example, if you are asked about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline, you might describe a time when you were brought in to run an event at short notice, perhaps because someone had fallen ill. Or if you were involved in running a marketing campaign to launch a new commercial event, you might talk a little about the background to the sector or its audience.
When you have explained the situation, you can now talk about your position or task in the scenario and what specifically you had to do. It is important not to talk about the role of your whole team, but rather what you did as an individual. If you are asked the question ‘tell me about a time when you’ve worked as part of a team’, the situation would be why you were working as a team and the task would be your individual role, such as securing a venue and keynote speaker.
You need to also be able to explain what action you took, such as the marketing channels you considered and how you selected and used them in the campaign. Or that you considered using more local suppliers if delivery times were an issue on materials required for your event. This is your opportunity to demonstrate a methodical, proactive approach and show the interviewer how you cope in different situations.
It’s great to conclude with a measurable - and ideally impressive - result. An answer such as “the event was attended by 300 people, against expectations of 280, and achieved satisfaction scores of 4.8 out of five” or “the campaign generated 370 leads and 20 sales in the first six months, resulting in an ROI of 67%” will always impress more than “it went really well and my boss said she was very pleased.”
Sometimes the activity will not have gone so well, but these can still be useful case studies if you can demonstrate what specifically you learned and what you would do differently next time.
This may sound a bit complicated or clinical but try developing a few examples and saying them out loud and you’ll soon find it makes preparing answers much easier.
Preparing in advance
“That’s all very well,” you may say. “But how does it help me prepare in advance?”
The fact is, most interview questions are very predictable. As we explain in this blog (What sort of questions will I be asked in a marketing job interview?) you can often anticipate the likely questions you’ll face by looking at the job description and using a bit of common sense. Some job descriptions are even helpful enough to indicate which requirements will be assessed in the interview.
So if they are keen on someone who can demonstrate problem solving techniques, have an example or two in your back pocket. Part of your interview preparation should be thoroughly reviewing the job spec and ensuring you have examples that you can draw on from your own experience against each of the required competencies.
If you get thrown a curveball of a question, you might even be able to adapt one of your prepared STAR answers to address it.
A bit of time spent preparing your STAR to shine will be well invested - and you can use your answers across any number of interviews. So always make some time for this kind of preparation before your next interview.