We asked PA of the Year Awards judges Sarah EL-Doori and Susanna Tait as well as previous award winners for their tips on how to prepare for the interview stage of the selection process.
Each year we receive hundreds of nominations for the PA of the Year Awards, the best and brightest of which our judges pick to move on to the interview stage.
While the prospect of an interview can understandably be daunting, you shouldn’t let this aspect of the Awards prevent you from nominating yourself. As 2018’s Social Media PA of the Year Craig Harris told us “if the interview process puts someone off being nominated - don’t let it. Everyone that interviews you is lovely.”
Craig Harris, Social Media PA of the Year 2018
As the deadline for nominations is fast-approaching, we decided to gather some PA of the Year Awards interview tips from past winners and judges alike.
Be prepared to talk about your unique experiences
Former Awards finalist and PA at Arsenal Football Club Sophie Curthoys advises this year’s shortlisted nominees to be prepared to talk about their careers in depth - accomplishments and challenges alike.
“The judges talked through my experience, my role and my skills as well as challenges I’ve faced at work and they provided me with an overall view of the awards and how everything worked,” said Sophie. “The interview with Sarah and Susanna was great, very informal and dare I say it… enjoyable!”
Meanwhile, Susanna Tait - one of our PA of the Year judges and Chief Executive at specialist PA recruitment consultancy Tay Associates who sponsor the Awards - highlights that “the interviews give the shortlisted candidates the opportunity to express, in their own words, what they love about their role. We don’t want to catch anyone out, we want the individuals to bring to life their unique experiences.”
Forget the formalities
We know the connotations of the word ‘interview’ but rest assured, shortlisted PAs, EAs and Office Managers won’t be subjected to a starchy, overly formal affair. Over the years many of our finalists and winners have praised the relaxed nature of the PA of the Year Awards interview - read some of their testimonies below.
“The interview process was brilliant. It was more like a conversation than an interview. I was made to feel really relaxed and just asked lots of questions about my career and current role. It was the most fun I’ve had at an interview!” - Sarah Kingdom, Office Manager of the Year Finalist 2019
“I could not have felt more at ease during the interview process. I was extremely nervous at the start but within a couple of minutes felt like I was sat with my friends just having a cup of tea and a chat. It went so fast and I could not have wished for a more relaxed, friendly, engaging and encouraging interview. It was an utter delight.” - Joanne Wilson, Legal PA of the Year Winner 2019
Cat Mangan, Office Manager of the Year Winner 2020
“Everything for me was 10 out of 10! I couldn’t fault anything with the entire process and the people I met along the way. I really enjoyed the interview even though I was nervous, it really was more of an informal chat." - Cat Mangan, Office Manager of the Year Winner 2019
“I thought the interview process for PA of the Year was very enjoyable. It didn't even feel like I was going for an interview! Susanna and Sarah made me feel so comfortable and it was so nice to be able to just sit and talk informally rather than feel under pressure.” - Eleanor Lawson, Legal PA of the Year Finalist 2019
What are the judges are looking for?
When asked about the winning qualities she looks for in nominees, Susanna told us at the top of her list are “a genuine passion for the profession and someone who through the challenges, hurdles and problems to solve, genuinely loves what they do.”
Meanwhile, SecsintheCity Marketing Director and PA of the Year Awards judge Sarah EL-Doori highlighted that "this year especially, we know that many PAs, EAs and Office Managers have shown extraordinary commitment during this challenging time. If you work with a PA or Office Manager who deserves to be celebrated, we encourage you to nominate them.”
In case of emergency…
2018’s Outstanding Achievement Award winner Joyce Dadzie told us that, even if things seem to go awry, you could still be named a winner at the PA of the Year Awards.
“I thought the gods were frowning on me when the fire alarm sounded in the middle of my interview,” Joyce tells us. “The whole building was evacuated but we just went back into the office and continued chatting! It was such a calm process – referring to it as an interview just doesn’t seem right.”
Joyce Dadzie, Outstanding Achievement Award Winner 2018
A key piece of advice from judges and past winners alike is to be yourself and show us what really makes you tick.
“It’s about the unique experiences that nominees have encountered along the way,” affirms Susanna. “We want to meet the person behind the paper and learn about motivations, inspiration, challenges and achievements that are meaningful to them.”
2017 PA of the Year Awards nominee Lyn Lennox put this into practice and ended up winning that year’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. I will not lie, I was nervous,” remembers Lyn, “and I didn’t know what to expect, but I remained ‘myself’ and the interview turned out to be relaxed and good fun.”
Lyn Lennox, Outstanding Achievement Award Winner 2017
Make the most of the interview
Even if you don’t end up winning an award, many former finalists have told us how the interview itself acts as a confidence booster and a great opportunity for reflection.
“Meeting with Susanna and Sarah and digging into my employment history and how it’s shaped me professionally and emotionally was eye opening” said Rhoda Abbey, an Office Manager of the Year finalist at last year’s Awards. “It also gave me a major confidence boost.”
Rhoda Abbey, Office Manager of the Year Finalist 2019
Meanwhile, 2019 PA of the Year finalist Paula Gibson told us “it was nice to be able to reflect on all I’d achieved through speaking with [the judges] – I came away feeling proud and excited to learn if I’d made it to the next stage.”
“It is quite a confidence boost to be able to talk about your achievements in that way,” adds 2018 PA of the Year finalist Elisabeth Vinton.
Don’t underestimate your performance
It’s normal to leave an interview thinking about what you could have done differently, but as last year’s PA of the Year winner Sarah Hodson can verify, you shouldn’t underestimate your performance!
“To be honest, I found the interview a little terrifying as it had been so long since I had been in that kind of setting,” Sarah disclosed. “I came away thinking that I had completely blown it and did the usual post-interview response of thinking of great answers to the questions after I had left! So it was a real surprise to be invited to the ceremony, and I was shocked when I was announced as the winner!”
Sarah Hodson, PA of the Year Winner 2019
So, are you ready to make your nomination for the PA of the Year Awards? Click below to begin!