Every interviewer has a different style and method to interviewing potential candidates and unfortunately, my crystal ball can’t predict what you interviewer will be like. What I can do however, is outline a list of generic questions that are commonly asked at interviews so you can be prepared well in advance. I have included some advice with question to help you answer in the best way. And remember, make sure you keep your answers concise, relevant and packed full of information about your skills and experience.
Tell me about yourself
Interviewers love asking this question because it puts people on the spot and they like to see how you respond under pressure. Be prepared – what do you think your potential new boss wants to hear? Not how many rabbits you have or what your favourite colour is! Try and keep it job related – see it as an opportunity to demonstrate early on why you’re suitable for the role and would be a valuable addition to their team.
Why are you looking to leave your present job/have you already left?
The interviewer is trying to find out if you left your job because of emotions, finances or general boredom, because this tells them something of your character. So think carefully about your response. If you are looking for a new challenge this is great – you could highlight specific reasons on top of that such as ‘career progression’, new environment and new clients. A less suitable answer could include emotionally motivated reasons like trying to escape a ‘demanding boss’ or because you clashed with management. Stating unsatisfactory pay as your reason for leaving could also be unhelpful. Always be honest but don’t let emotion take over your response. After all, you don’t want to sound bitter, whingey or demanding as this could leave alarm bells ringing in your potential employer’s ears.
What relevant experience do you have?
Review the job spec and think about what experience you have that qualifies you for the post. Give specific examples and be ready to explain how your experience would be beneficial to their clients (see ‘challenges’ section for further ideas).
What are you looking for long term in an agency/company?
Again be professional in your response. Keep it short and to the point whilst avoiding any lengthy moaning or bad mouthing of your current boss or role. Be honest about your personal requirements but make sure you also highlight all the benefits you bring to your current role and what you want to develop further.
What challenges have you come across in (either specific situations, handling specific clients or campaigns) and how did you overcome them?
This is the moment to highlight examples of your amazing problem solving skills! But make sure you phrase it in a positive way. Focus on the solution you brokered; don’t get side-tracked and spend all your time talking about the problem. You should also see this as an opportunity to demonstrate your working ethic, as well as team work, client management and flexibility.
What do you know about the company/agency?
Research, research, research! Know their business – the media split’s, the clients and new business wins. This also allows you to ask open questions around their structure, client management and general team working practices.
To help you answer competency-based questions concisely, why not use the STAR Technique?
Situation - Briefly describe the where/when/who.
Task - Outline the task or objective (what you hoped to achieve).
Action - Describe what you did – focus on your role and your input.
Result - Tell the interviewer what the outcome was, and what skills you developed as a result.
And as a general rule, remember:
- The key to responding successfully to interview questions is to listen, concentrating on the current question
- There is no such thing a ‘perfect’ interview!
- If you feel you answered a question badly, or could not answer it at all, do not dwell on it – move on, and do your best in the other questions
- Employers will be looking at the interview as a whole, and will not focus on the odd slip
- What you need is a positive attitude and a clearly-demonstrated enthusiasm for the job.
One of my biggest clients is the Head of Production at a global “Above the Line” agency. He kindly supplied the below feedback around how he plans his interviews, the questions he generally asked and what he is looking for beyond the CV.
- Why are you looking to leave current job?
- What is your expàerience around (specific media) and (specific clients)
- What are your career aspirations?
- How do you deal with difficult people?
- What are you like at working under pressure?
- Do you have any issues with working late nights/weekends?
- And what are you like at multi-tasking/juggling heavy workloads?
- Things he looks for beyond a CV are; the person must have a good deal of common sense, be friendly, approachable, flexible, accommodating but also be firm when the need arises. A good sense of humour is also a must, as their job is difficult enough so this person must also be able to have a laugh along the way.
After the interview has been completed, thank your interviewer for their time. Re-iterate that you are very interested in the role and ask if they have any reservations around your experience and skills. This can be a bold question but it allows you to defend your skills in case the interviewer has misunderstood something you’ve said. It is a fantastic opportunity to re-sell yourself and get some feedback. Furthermore, it demonstrates your confidence and is usually well received by interviewers.
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