Building a Strong Events Team From the Ground Up

Selecting the right team members is not easy. Let’s face it. Everybody is on their best behaviour during interviews. No one is going to readily admit that they have a wicked temper or habitually overspend their clients’ budgets. Coupled with this, few managers, directors, and executives receive training in strategies to interview and hire the right candidate. Candidates with similar interests or who went to the same school as the interviewer are subconsciously given more of a preference.


Whether you’re building a sports team or creating an effective team to produce exceptional events for your clients, your job will be a whole lot easier if you recruit the right team members in the first place. If you end up with the wrong individuals on your team, this could have a negative impact on harmony within your company and strained relationships with clients.

A 20/20 documentary also revealed the role that “looks” can play in selection decisions. The models were consistently offered employment over the candidates with actual job experience.

Untrained interviewers also have a tendency to use the same questions that they have been asked when they have been interviewed for jobs. I have facilitated competency-based behavioural interviewing workshops for thousands of executives and managers in North America, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Despite the significant differences in culture, the same set of ineffective interview questions has circled the globe faster than a viral video.

Your go-to interview questions and why they don’t work

Consider the pitfalls of the following interview questions that have become staples in selection interviews around the world:

Tell me about yourself.

  • This question takes control of the interview away from you and puts it directly in the hands of the candidate.

What is your greatest strength?

  • Candidates will tell you what you want to hear.

What is your greatest weakness?

  • Any candidate who has done a minimum of reading about how to present themselves in an interview, will know that the best approach is to turn a strength into a weakness. You’ll get answers like “Overcommitment.” or “I work too hard.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • Perhaps this was relevant during stable times. The global economy and the marketplace in many industries is much too volatile for anyone to predict with certainty what they will be doing in 5 years.

 7 strategies to avoid selection interview pitfalls

1. Remember, event planning teams require a variety of skill sets.

When one thinks of the skills and attributes event professionals require, creativity often comes to mind. To successfully execute events, attention to detail, analytical skills, and financial acumen are also important. The best approach is to balance your team by creating a variety of roles to leverage theses skills and recruit for those roles.

2. Develop a competency/skills profile for each organizational role.

A competency is an overarching cluster of skills. Competencies vary with the organizational role and level. For example, if the projects which an organization handles involve a lot of change competency profiles related to change my look like this.


MPI has developed a competency framework for event planners that interviewers can customize to fit their own organizations.

3. Build your questions around a complete skills profile.

During interviews, you will need to probe a variety of skills including:

  • technical skills
  • cross-functional (also known as soft skills)
  • values-driven (these are related to company values and the type of corporate culture you are trying to foster)
4. Always use a panel interview for initial interviews.

Using a panel of 2 – 3 interviewers is a proven strategy for counteracting some of the biases that are inherent in the hiring process.

5. Ask better questions.

Competency-based behavioural interview questions will yield much more useful answers than some of the examples we provided earlier. In this approach, job candidates are asked to give specific examples of how they have handled situations in the past.


  • Please share an example of a time that you were particularly creative in your approach to an event for a client.
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to realize significant cost savings despite the fact that you were  in danger of going over budget.
  • Please tell me about a specific situation in which you disagreed with a client’s proposed approach and you were proud of your ability to find a win-win solution.

An important aspect of a behaviour based approach to interviewing is to probe for contrary evidence. This means, ask the candidate for examples of situations in which they were not successful. By using a variety of questions, flipping back and forth, and probing, interviewers can encourage candidates to be more forthright and reveal a lot of information.

For example:

  • Please tell me about a time when, despite your best efforts, you were unable to come up with a creative approach that was within a client’s zone of comfort.
  • Please describe a specific situation when you went over budget.
  • Please describe a time when you lost your cool when you and a client were in conflict about an approach to an event.
6. Change your approach to evaluating answers.

Weighted averages can blur the distinctions between candidates.  Use a behaviour-anchored rating scale that assesses the candidate’s skill strength based on the answers they have provided.


Each interviewer should complete an independent assessment of the candidate. Then, they interviewers should compare note and formulate a joint assessment for each skill and an overall assessment of each competency.

7. Be alert for the “too”  and “over” effects when assessing female candidates or candidates from visible minority groups.

Some of the same attributes that are perceived as positive in a man may be perceived as negative in women. The same applies when considering clients from visible minority groups. If the word too or over is put in front of an attribute that is normally considered to be positive, you will know that this dynamic is subconsciously at play.


(Over) confident.

(Too) organized

(Too) assertive.

By using these 7 strategies and providing executives and managers with training and practice, any organization can improve its ability to select the right candidate.

What’s Next?