“Surviving the dreaded Westminster Interview…”
BY A CONTRIBUTOR, Westminster Spin Doctor, PR blogger
If you are reading this, you have to admit to yourself that you are afraid. Afraid of what? I hear you asking yourself. Well, you have applied to Westminster University and found yourself in the position of attending an interview either for the BA Public Relations course or for the other media courses. Nonetheless, you are here and still afraid about what to do next. What to wear? What to say? What to do?
I remember when I was invited for a group interview at Westminster University and I was terrified at the thought of being in a room full of people, competing against me for a position on the BA Public Relations course. What was I going to say? What was I going to do? What was I going to wear? Would I make it there on time? Will the interviewers be tough? I did not have a clue, you could say I was clueless or maybe uninformed. Take your pick, but I know that is how you are feeling right now. I remember ‘Googaling’ for hours trying to find an answer, but all I encountered was people trying to give me tips such as: “practice, practice, practice interviewing; dress to impress; check out the people/company/university which are interviewing you; etc…blah blah blah. Dear Internet 2.0, I am a student, I am lazy, afraid, busy most of the time with social activities or work and in the mood to party, and let’s not forget the fact that I need to annoy my parents every second of the day, so… that is already a job in itself. I just do not have the time to do all those things. Well, I am here to tell you that you do not really have to do all those things. You cannot practice for an interview as you cannot practice for a football match. Okay, maybe not the best analogy, but what I was trying to say was that in football, much like in interviews, the unexpected can happen. Of course, you can train, practice, engage, pursue, learn, take your pick again from the Synonym Master, but can you ADAPT?
When I went for the BA Public Relations interview last year, Simon Goldsworthy and Trish Evans were there to interview us. Of course, I am talking about ‘Merlin’ and ‘Miss Independent’. But let me start the story from the beginning, so that I do not become one of those ‘bloggers’ who talks too fast. Hiss!
Ahem (clearing throat)… My interview was scheduled on a dark and gray day, at around 5 o’clock. I am not exactly sure of this, because my head is filled with PR matters, nevertheless, for the purposes of this story, let us assume it was 5. I arrived in Harrow, at Kenton Station at about 12. Well, I thought I would make a head start but boy that was a head start! I arrived at the University and having been guided by security people to the actual reception/small room/ not enough chairs!, I was relieved and happy to be here. But I was not really, because now I had to think about the interview. Aaaah…make it stop! “What?” … says the little English voice in my head. “It does not matter, you never listen anyway”. So, I decided to go outside for a cigarette. Well, that did not go accordingly to plan, as I did not have any cigarettes left. SEE! this is where you have to adapt!? Anyway, I decided to go into “town”, but I took the wrong turn and ended up in a small pub asking if I can use the toilet. “I saw a shop!” … says the little voice. I go to it, open the door and ask the shopkeeper to give me a 10 deck of Marlboro lights. Well, I am happy now. Cash or card? Card! Beep, Beep goes the little machine and I apparently have no money. No money, No cigarettes, and No interview for hours! Why did I not take some money with me? Because I forgot. I followed the tips on the internet and ended up worrying about what I was going to wear. White Shirt? Red Shirt? Don’t ask me what I wore, because for the life of me I cannot remember. It was something along the lines of Jeans, flat shoes, a shirt and a jacket. I think I looked PR enough, right?
#Make sure you dress smart/casual and not over the top. Bright colours such as red which inspire passion, strength and make you stand out from the crowd is your best bet, whilst staying within the socially accepted limits.
Now I had to go back to the actual reception/ small room/ not enough chairs! and relax. I did not really, relax that is. It was nerve racking watching the clock tick, second by second and then smile, as more people were coming in for the same interview. I then decided to have a conversation with the Lady who was in control of this reception. She was a sport, but still did not manage to make any nerves go away.
#remember to engage in a conversation with those around you so that you can control your nerves about the interview. do not panic, just patiently wait and control any emotions thrown at you. If in doubt, keep it simple, small talk and try to release your “bad energy” onto others or around the room.
But enough of this. I have an interview. After the herd had gathered, some early, some late, we were greeted by Merlin with a “hello and a how are you today?”… “Nervous?” “No”… half scarily answer from the herd. We walked through The Street (as it is called) and we were taken to the elevators. Well, that was awkward. Complete silence. Of course, Merlin could smell the fear and was smiling all the way to the top. I remember someone attempting to have a conversation, but that was short lived. Him: “how are you?” Us: “Fine..How are you?” Him: “Not bad” … BING! Doors open and we are then guided through a corridor to a room. Quite small I might add again, the room that is. What is with these small rooms? Are they purposefully trying to make us scared? We all sit down and take our jackets/coats off. Merlin was not joined by his other half Miss Independent, therefore he decided to give us a talk about Public Relations at Westminster University.
#do engage in a conversation with your interviewer if the opportunity arises. It is important to get noticed from the start so that when the selection process ensues, you will have more chances to get picked from hundreds of students applying for 40 positions!
Anyway, the atmosphere was quite tense. People were not relaxed. It was like a Hunchback Convention/Introverts gathering, everyone was dreading to speak or be spoken to. After a few minutes we were fine though, mainly because we were oblivious as to what was coming next. We were asked questions and we answered them to the best of our abilities. Jolly good! … says the English voice in my head. Wait, who’s that? It’s Trish Evans. Now it all begins. They are here, we are here…let’s do this. Amber?..Here!; Matthew?..Here!; Philip?….Philip?..Here! Phew! I almost blew it. It was fine though, so I assumed. Now they start firing questions at you. Who are you and tell us your interests? I had a plan to say that I like surfing, but I forgot about it. I think I said : “My name is Philip, I am 18 years old and I like basketball, movies and girls”. Hmm… That answer is debatable. It provoked some laughs from my fellow competitors, but the PR Duo were smiling and noting everything down, just like most professors will do in your interviews. Did I say something wrong? Aaaahh…okay, do not panic! I said to myself. It’s all good.
Why did you choose to study Public Relations? I wish I could have said girls, but I said something like: “Well…I am interested in Sports PR and I am eager to learn about this profession”. I said more but I cannot remember what it is that I said. The thing with interviews is that sometimes you feel like you are in a trance. 90 percent of you probably, will not remember your university interviews afterwards.
The questions stopped and the scenarios ensued. What would you do if you worked in Public Relations and you had to work for a tobacco company, selling cigarettes to children under the age of 18, in an undeveloped country? Wow… !? I would! I said proudly. Why?…because it’s a job, not a crime. Yet, this is debatable. The scenarios evolved into: “Let’s assume that you work in PR and you have the chance to get to the top but that means that you have to reveal a secret told to you by another PR friend, would you do it?” I said: Yeah!.. but what I meant to say was: ” No!” I thought that that was the answer they were looking for. Let me tell you something dear readers, at University, there is no right or wrong answer, there is only a debate. And that was that. We put our coats/ jackets back again and us students left together feeling confident that we did the best we could. And we did.
#try to be yourself as much as you can when answering questions about scenarios or any questions for that matter of fact. Remember that originality, your own self and an analytic mind, that does not just agree to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but rather takes into consideration the debate, will succeed and get ‘extra points’ in the eyes of the interviewers.
Some of us prepared for the interview, some did not. What happened was the unexpected and we had to adapt. We were all afraid but gradually began to build confidence in ourselves and in our responses. There is no right or wrong, no preparation or preparation. There is only you and Merlin and Miss Independent and a couple of other students around you, feeling the same way that you feel. It is natural and everyone has to go through it at some point. I hope that my experience has taught you something. I hope that you, Yes You!, who are reading this and asking yourself : “What is this blog?”, just be YOU! Do not be someone you are not. And as for the preparation for an interview, do read, blog and ask people who have gone through this experience before! But, remember, interviews are meant to test who you really are, not who you are trying to be. That they will teach you about it in classes and lectures every day from 10 o’clock until 4. I have no more advice, other than, go forth, practice and be yourself!
Let me know how you did in you interview or if you have one coming up soon, I would be more than glad to help you along the same journey that thousands of students go through every year.
Peace and Love,
*This article has been posted by Westminster Spin Doctor to help prospective university students with their university interviews. He gives a great account of his personal experience with his PR interview and as much as it is witty, comical and at times repetitive, it is definitely worth a read!
StudyPR would like to thank Westminster Spin Doctor for his willingness to share one of his articles with us.
Follow W.S.D on twitter: @wspindoctor
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