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If you have a job interview coming up there are a few common and tricky interview questions that you are likely to get asked. Don’t flounder in front of a new potential boss, instead brush up and get your dream job in event planning.
Interviews can be your one chance to sell yourself effectively to a new boss and it is vital that you are well prepared and ready to impress. Difficult interview questions are there to put you under pressure to see how you cope. Navigating them effectively not only answers the specific questions but also gives an insight into your mindset. Here are some common interview questions and advice on how to respond to them.
Tell us about yourself. What do you like to do in your spare time, outside of work?
Often interviews will start with an “easy” question to encourage you to relax. However, the way you answer a question like this also gives a good initial insight into the type of person you are. The important thing is that you show that you are an interesting and active individual, with a passion for life. Not having any hobbies to share or saying something like “watching TV” can suggest that you are quite passive or uninspiring. On the other hand if you have a memorable or quirky hobby or a number of things you like to do in your spare time, this can count in your favour as it may be memorable to the panel and shows your zest for life.
If you do any volunteering in your spare time this is a good time to mention it too and can earn you extra brownie points with the interview panel.
What do employers want? We reviewed 350 event planning job postings. Download the free report.
Have you worked on multiple projects and events at once? How do you deal with it?
Most event planners juggle multiple event projects at once and are skilled at multitasking. What the interview panel are looking to hear is your attitude towards a larger workload and whether you find it easy or hard to deal with multiple deadlines. Chances are you will be needing to draw on this skill again in the job role you are being interviewed for.
Time management is one of the most important aspects to meeting deadlines and staying on track. Do you have an organisational program that you use? How do you ensure that you stay on task and meet the required deadlines? This is about specifics, draw on previous examples if you can.
This question can come up if a client is interviewing you for a new event project too, as they want to understand that you can work on their event without losing quality alongside other projects you have going on. Remaining confident and offering reassurance is key. They will probably also want to know your responsiveness to their needs and project and how you would prioritise a sizeable workload.
What criteria do you use for prioritising tasks?
This is a fairly simple follow-on question that can be useful to assess your judgement and experience in terms of getting things done. You probably do not have enough information about the specifics of the role and company guidance at this stage so try and opt for something a bit more vague that involves mentioning the brand or client’s needs and what has been previously discussed. For example, try something like:
“my priorities would differ according to the needs of the client and the resources available at the time. In my own time I prioritise according to… whereas for an event I use the client and company to guide what is most important and set key milestones right from the start”
This way you get the best of both worlds. You can also draw on any past experience in planning events, or even in managing your workload for college or in life in general. This is a good opportunity to mention your project management skills and how you organize your workload to hit every deadline. Mentioning things like project timelines, calendar notifications, to-do lists, productivity tools and so forth may be relevant here too.
What’s your proudest career achievement to date?
Seemingly innocent and of course you need to grasp this opportunity to highlight your strengths and showcase your portfolio. At the same time don’t forget one important aspect - giving credit to others. While you may have managed or planned a successful event, chances are you didn’t do it alone so they are looking for you to acknowledge teamwork and give credit where it’s due, while also highlighting your own skillset.
What is your least favourite event genre to work on and why?
Asking about your favourite event genre is easy but asking about the events you are least interested in gives insight into what parts of event planning you dislike and also helps to see if you are a good match for the job. In preparing for the interview you should have been reading up on the company and getting as much background information as possible. It would be a big blooper if the organization runs a lot of conferences and you reveal that you hate planning conferences and think that all conferences are boring.
Whatever answer you give get specific about why you don’t like a specific type of event but always end on a positive such as; “but if I was working on a project I would always work to a high standard, whether or not the event type is my preference”. Also remember that you may be describing a project they have in mind so try to let them know that while it isn’t your favourite, it wouldn’t hinder your ability to get it done.
How have you dealt with difficult clients or attendees in the past?
You need to navigate this question carefully as some have the “customer is always right” mentality and event planning is a people-centric role, where customer service is key. They want to understand how you would deal with high pressured situations and navigating customer needs in line with company policy so focus on your resolution and how you dealt with it more than the actual issue at hand and NEVER bash a client or attendee, directly or otherwise.
To prepare for a job interview spend some time thinking about past scenarios and experiences and what you learnt from different situations, such as dealing with difficult clients or irate attendees.
What strategies do you use for dealing with event stress?
Event planning can be challenging and highly pressurized and future employers are interested in how you deal with this event stress. They also want to ensure that they aren’t going to waste time with someone who can’t hack it. Reassure them, not only that you thrive under pressure, but also that you have outlets to channel and deal with the demands of being an event planner.
What sets you apart from other event planners? (i.e. why should we choose you?)
Focus on your strengths here and avoid putting others down, be specific and give examples of how you have dealt with event fails or navigated tricky situations. Discuss everything you can but avoid naming competition or bashing other planners. Competition or not you may end up working with them and you don’t know your potential boss or client’s relationship with them either!
Ensure that your passion, commitment and ability to work comes across very strongly.
Have you ever gone over budget? How did you deal with it?
No one likes to hear that you can’t keep to a budget but at the same time it is important to share how quickly you identified this and got back on track. Did you think creatively, negotiate more fiercely, did you slash expenditure in other areas or identify a new revenue stream? It is best to avoid blaming others (even if it was someone else’s fault) but ideally you can discuss how you nearly come close to over spending but used specific measures and budgeting tactics to come in on budget in the end.
How do you keep up to date with industry trends? What are you watching out for at the moment?
This is your chance to demonstrate your wider interest in the event industry and that it is important to you to keep up to date. Be sure to mention how you read widely and visit websites such as EventMB to keep up with industry trends. This can be important for businesses as they are looking for someone who is adaptive and up to date on developments and ideas. Be prepared to show some of this knowledge by talking in more depth about the new era of event technology and your thoughts on the most exciting developments in the event industry.
What criteria do you feel is most important when selecting a venue or event location?
Again this goes back to prioritising but the specifics of event venue selection can be important to many brands and clients as this is one of the larger (costly) decisions that are made. Explain how you would narrow down options for the client and then work closely with them so they don’t feel as though you would make these decisions without understanding their needs. This would also be a good time to mention your venue negotiating skills to get the best deal.
What tactics would you use to persuade a difficult client?
This question can be as much about morals than anything else and they want to know how you would convince a client to take your suggestions as well as how far you would go. Don’t dwell on the difficult client aspect, stick to your persuasions and letting your expertise speak for itself. You could make suggestions such as:
“I would create an opportunity for the client to accompany me to test or view things for themselves to give them a better first-hand experience that allows me to better explain my recommendations”.
Be sure to put across that you are flexible and want to find the best solution that works for everyone and that this may involve suggesting lots of ideas to the client until you find the perfect solution that gets them excited.
What traits do you consider beneficial and harmful in an event team?
This is usually asked to see if you are a good fit for the current team so bear this in mind when answering because you may end up discussing the traits of your potential boss or colleagues. Keep it broad and give good reasoning for what you find useful and harmful, you may benefit from discussing the traits you admire in others and saying something like
“Great communication skills are key for a team and those who are very open and honest I find I work with best.”
Part of the role may be weekend and evening work, if this is required for the successful outcome of the event. How do you feel about working long and unsociable hours?
The event date is immoveable so making sure that everything is done and ready on time is an essential part of the role. The interviewer is setting their expectations here, most jobs in events will require a commitment to work unusual and long hours, as is necessary.
Which social media platform do you prefer for event marketing and why?
This can be tricky because all platforms have pros and cons and the company or client may have a specific favorite in mind. Event marketing is key and social media is a valuable tool so make your experience clear in which you have dealt with and where you have seen the most success. If the role involves a level of event marketing you will need to highlight that you are adaptable to other social media platforms to suit the needs of the event and audience. If your personal social media accounts are public make sure that your own channels show some of your flair and skills for social media.
What are your motivations for event planning?
What motivates you and why have you chosen this career path? Employers want to know if you will be able to deal with the less than glamorous side - whether that’s long hours or a huge workload - and that you won’t lose interest when the going gets tough. We all need to pay the bills but why have you decided on an event planning career specifically?
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Think carefully about the answer you give here. The ideal answer for most interview panels is know that you are loyal and committed and see a long-term future for yourself within the organization. Show that you are ambitious to help to further develop the success of the company and keen to progress and achieve promotion.
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
Everyone loves an entrepreneur, right? Wrong. For clients, this is often considered a positive because it shows you are full of ideas but for a potential employer having your own dreams and aspirations shows that you might not be in it for the long haul. They won’t want to invest time and energy in training you if they think you are going to take it all and leave. Find an answer that implies you are creative and have vision for the future without making them feel like you can’t be loyal.
Whether the interview is for your first event planning job, or whether you want a career change, or a new challenge, thinking about how you would answer these common questions is a good way to prepare.
Focus on your strengths and always keep it positive in an interview because those who moan or blame others will never come across well. The main point to remember is to get specific, let your experience and expertise speak for itself. Always try to draw on a relevant example to help back up what you are saying and you’ll find future interviews a breeze.
It is also important to remember to take a look at your body language (and theirs) to ensure you are not giving off mixed signals. Focus on being confident, assertive and avoid hesitating “ums” or upspeak because this can give off the wrong impression.