Easter Holidays are bitter sweet for students. If you’re in your first year it’s normally a great opportunity to go home, relax, rewind, be fed and pull yourself back together for the final semester. In the years after that, your guilty conscience will probably start to kick in if you have exams because you know that they’re right around the corner. If however, you choose to join the CPLAN ranks, students (in 2nd and 3rd year) don’t have that many exams regardless of what modules you choose. I know, I’m so lucky and you can’t believe I only have one exam… if you would like a detailed overview of what my deadlines for coursework and presentations have been like this year, I’ll be more than happy to fill you in!
In amongst all my deadlines, the looming prospect of needing a job in a few months time has slowly been getting to me. I was lucky enough to make it through to the final interviews and assessment center for one of the biggest PR companies in the UK and although it came down to me and one other person for one of the positions, I’ll have to put that one down as a helpful experience and carry on the search.
The day itself was like something out of The Apprentice. 20 people, split into four groups of five, we were given a live brief in the morning after a quick creative workshop and then given about 4 hours to come up with a strategy, presentation and pitch it to the marketing directors and CEO. If you’ve ever found it hard to work with people for a group presentation at Uni, it’s 10,000 times harder. DO remember that you need to show you can work well in a team and get on in a productive, timely and efficient manner with people you’ve just met, but DON’T forget they’re all your competition. You need to work with them, but you need to be better than them… if you can figure out a formula for that one then let me know! Throughout the day we were all called individually for a panel interview were I was asked to explore my strengths, weaknesses, recall a story about my life than defined me and explain how certain choices I had made related to the challenges presented to us in the brief. Of course it involved knowledge of the company and industry I want to work in but it was enjoyable (as much as interviews can be!). The most grueling part was probably the questions at the end of the pitches, which were very blunt and to the point – you were constantly on the back foot trying to turn negatives into positives! It was a 10 hour day and we all left feeling like we’d be run over by a bus, I couldn’t even really speak for about 30 minutes as I just processed the day I’d had!
DO come mentally prepared with a ‘can do’ attitude. You’ve been chosen for a reason – make the most of the opportunity!
DO check Internet forums and anything else you can find on what the interview process or questions have been like in the past for that company.
DO remember that every group or team will have ‘The Creators’ (the ones with the ideas) and ‘The Developers’ (turning the ideas into something feasible), will it be an advantage to be a ‘leader’ or a ‘follower’? Or somewhere in the middle? (Being the time-keeper is a good way to show you have good time management skills)
DO network as much as possible – build contacts at the company if possible to maintain any connections for future job opportunities.
DO ask for feedback – onwards and upwards!
DON’T get stressed or frustrated. You’ll reach a point where you’re tired, you can’t think anymore and the people you’re working with are probably doing your head in. Work through it.
DON’T be disheartened if you don’t get the job. It means the company were looking for something different, they probably even had a particular type of person in mind. Remember you got to that point for a reason and that another role will come up that’s meant for you!
Whether you’re at that stage in Uni where you’re going to assessment centers or just going for an internship, all of the above apply. Learning how to handle interviews is a life skill and I dare say I have a few more ahead of me before I fully get to grips with them. Take advice where you can, make the most of the opportunity and keep on smiling. Good luck!