Whether you’re planning a benefit concert in Antigua or coordinating every detail for that perfect B2B marketing conference, being an event planner ensures your career will be anything but dull. In this fast-paced, results-driven field, you’ll be sharpening your skills as a negotiator and flexing your creative muscles every day. Once you’ve landed an interview for an event planning role, be sure to master the basics with our handy interview guide; then, review our 10 essential interview questions and answers below.
Table of contents:
- How do you stay organized and prioritize tasks?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a last-minute change when planning an event.
- What’s your experience with social media?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you stay on budget for an event?
- How do you stay aware of industry trends?
- Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
- How do you measure the success of an event?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult or angry client.
- What event planning tools have you used?
Event planning requires you to be super organized and hyper aware of deadlines. You’ll need to be a multitasking master, too—especially when it comes to planning multiple events at once. Your answer should reflect your ability to multitask and your organizational and time management skills. Clearly state how you keep track of your various tasks (and their respective deadlines) and how you separate the less-important tasks from the urgent ones. Bonus points for mentioning that you re-assess priorities and needs on the regular!
“I love to-do lists, and I started using Asana for finals this year, since it allows me to track multiple deadlines. It’s a perfect tool for event planning, too, letting you break each larger event into smaller, more manageable tasks. It sends me a reminder every morning with all the tasks due that week, so I immediately know if I’m falling behind—but I still have plenty of time to reassess and get back on track. I’m also a big proponent of non-digital communication, so I schedule regular check-ins with clients and vendors alike, to ensure there are no crossed wires and account for last-minute changes.”
They warn you that things can—and will—go wrong at any big event, but they never mention that it’s the event planner who will be scurrying behind the scenes to clean up the mess. The interviewer is checking to ensure you’re able to think, and act, on your feet, and that you’ll have a contingency plan for any setback—whether the presentation won’t load or the caterer forgets dessert. Use the STAR method for this behavioral interview question:
“I interned at a local nonprofit last summer, helping with event planning for their fundraising gala. That night, there was a big storm; a tree came down, blocking the main road. Knowing that half the guests would be late, my supervisor and I sat down with our chief contact at the venue and proactively adjusted the schedule. We extended the cocktail hour by 45 minutes, so that late guests could still attend for a brief time, and gave all of the guests who were already there an extra raffle ticket as a token of our gratitude for their patience. We then served the salad and entrees at the same time, ensuring a quick dinner service. In the end, most people barely noticed!”
Event planning is all about communication, and your potential employer wants to ensure you can communicate face-to-face as well as screen-to-screen. Show that you’re a promoter par excellence by giving an example of how you’ve executed a comprehensive social media strategy—and if you can point to having a measurable impact, all the better. Oh, and if you haven’t handled social media professionally? Personal accounts count, too!
“I manage all social media accounts for the theatre troupe I’m in at school and know all the major channels. I post 3-5 times a week leading up to each performance, with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes photos, and I create unique hashtags for each of our performances to encourage engagement. Since I took over, attendance at our shows has gone up 15%. Additionally, I have a strong personal social media presence with a diverse network of contacts, which I’ve built organically over the years.”
The interviewer wants to know that you’re in event planning for the right reasons and for the long haul. Make it known that you have no reservations about this being the job for you, and emphasize what drew you to this career path. When you consider the future, you don’t have to have a specific role in mind, but ensure your career goals follow a natural progression from this position to more senior roles in the industry.
“Once I’ve completed the virtual internship I’m currently doing, I’m excited to build my skill set as an on-site event planner for your organization, learning everything I can from your expert team. Over time, I’d like to work my way up, eventually taking on managerial roles and being the key point of contact for clients. Overall, I just want to keep moving forward and learning new things.”
Event expenses can add up very quickly, and a big part of being a great event planner is executing that perfect event while staying on budget. Your interviewer wants to ensure you can work with clients and vendors alike to keep costs down. Emphasize your detail orientation, creativity, and organizational skills:
“I start with an overall budget, which includes allotting 10% of funds for surprise costs or last-minute needs. In considering vendors, I always have a preferred vendor for several different cost points—a low-cost option, a mid-tier one, and a high-end one. I refer to each event’s budget sheet every single day, tracking every expense. I find that paying attention to detail, knowing how to negotiate, and having that contingency budget ensures everything stays on budget.”
Your interviewer wants to know that you’ll stay up to date on the latest industry happenings and technologies, so that their clients are getting the latest and greatest. It’s best to do your research so that you’re aware of a couple of resources out there for event professionals, but your response can also focus on your ability to learn new software quickly and your desire to grow your knowledge going forward:
“I read Eventbrite’s blog every week, and I subscribe to Greater Giving’s emails. Once I graduate, I look forward to attending trade shows and event planning conferences, where I can meet and learn from other professionals face-to-face and see the latest technologies in person.”
If ever there was a job that required good people skills, it’s event planning. Your interviewer wants to ensure that you communicate well, follow through when working solo, and play well with others. The best response should incorporate what you enjoy about each style of working:
“I became interested in event planning because it’s truly a team sport. I love working with experts in so many different areas—catering, floral, venue, music—and I feel like I learn so much from every event I’m lucky enough to be a part of. We all work together to pull off this one great evening, and it’s such a thrill. At the same time, I sometimes prefer to put my head down and focus when it comes to crafting a day-of schedule or working through a budget.”
For a nonprofit, a successful event could mean raising X dollars in revenue or signing X new donors. For a corporate product launch, it can mean meeting KPIs or converting leads to sales. For everyone attending, a good event is enjoyable. The interviewer wants to know that you understand how different events have different goals—and that you will work to meet said goals. A good answer might look like this:
“Success is dependent on the specific event, and before beginning any engagement, I’d want to sit down with the client and ask what they’re hoping to get out of the event. Then, I’ll try to deliver beyond that. Beyond hitting any numbers, a successful event is a great experience for all who attend it, so I’ll always encourage clients to send out a post-event survey to all attendees. This way, we can make the next event even better.”
Event coordination is stressful, and for clients unaccustomed to the complexities of the process, emotions can run high. The interviewer wants to ensure you can keep your cool, even if the client can’t. Craft your answer carefully, focusing on your actions and responses, rather than the client’s. If you haven’t worked directly with clients, speak to a school project during which you had to work with a challenging person:
“At my internship last summer, there was a miscommunication, and we gave away a customer’s date to another client. They were, unsurprisingly, furious. We felt awful, and it fell to me to win them back. Once we’d secured a new date that worked, we gave them a large discount on food, waived corkage fees, and gifted each team member with a local gift card. It was stressful, but it’s important to empathize with the client and try to meet their needs to the best of your abilities.”
These days, you have to be well versed in online tools to ensure an efficient, smooth event planning process. From setting up online ticket portals to sending post-event satisfaction surveys, your answer should demonstrate your knowledge, as well as your willingness to learn and adapt going forward.
“I’ve used Eventbrite for ticketing and Trello for coordinating tasks among multiple parties. I often share documents via Google Drive—everyone has it, and it’s really intuitive to use. I pride myself on mastering new programs quickly, so if you have any preferred management tools, I’d love to learn them.”
Banquets and budgets, networking and negotiations, revelry and reliability—a career as an event planner truly has it all. Before your first interview, be sure to review our interview prep page; then, craft your own answers for these 10 essential questions. You’ll be planning the next royal wedding in no time!