To complement our feature, "The Job Hunt: Part 3 -- Acing the Interview," M&C asked Dawn Penfold, CMP, president of New York City-based The Meeting Candidate Network, The Meeting Temp Job Network and Meetingjobs.com, to conduct a mock interview with Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, a meeting professional (and M&C columnist) who currently is seeking employment. Felsher, a seasoned planner and event marketer, was asked to begin by finding a listing for a real position that appealed to her. Then, during a half-hour phone interview, Penfold played the role of prospective employer. Following are several of Penfold's questions (typical of what planners are likely to face today) and Felsher's answers, complete with Penfold's critique of same.
Penfold: Can you give an example of one of your projects that failed or didn't meet your level of perfection?
Felsher: I felt pressure from C-level executives to hire comedian Bill Maher for a very conservative audience. Despite my own love for Maher, I knew he was not right for the event and expressed my concerns, but in the end I caved to the executives. The event was not well attended or received, and Bill Maher was not very happy, either. Although the executives took full responsibility for pushing me, this experience always reminds me to ensure talent is dictated by audience, goals and objectives, brand and messaging.
Penfold's comment: That was excellent; you gave a concrete example and assured me you learned from that mistake and wouldn't do anything like that again.
Penfold: Describe a time when you creatively overcame an obstacle during an international meeting.
Felsher: Finland can be a particularly difficult country to work in. In my experience, the contacts I dealt with there were not very open to or trusting of outside cultures and had more reserved personalities.To help bridge the cultural gap and ramp up our credibility with our inaugural program there, I integrated some Finnish staff from our California office into the registration and information desks. Although Finns generally speak perfect English, they were very delighted when they were greeted in their native language at the registration table.
Penfold's comment: This was a good answer -- a little long, but you had a specific example.
Penfold: Your background is very strategic. Are you willing to handle hands-on aspects of the job as well, such as making sure tables are set correctly?
Felsher: I like to be part of the big picture, from beginning to end. My employment history illustrates a senior strategic leader who leverages the full marketing mix, but I am also in the trenches operationally from chair setups to production schedules.
Penfold's comment: You didn't sell me on this one. You need to show you are flexible and willing to handle both aspects. The dilemma in our industry right now is that employers aren't as interested in strategic skills as they are in logistical experience.