Technical queries put me down

Q: I went to an interview recently and going grand with all the general questions – my attitude, my ambitions, and all of that stuff. But then one of the panel, who had been silent until then, swung into action. He fired five technical questions at me. All five landed like crunching blows to the solar plexus. I wasn’t prepared for that. My question is not really a question, but a word of advice – know the stuff you’re meant to know about your job, they may just put you on the spot. I didn’t get the job. But I’ve dusted myself down and I’m ready to go back into the ring again. (KP, email)

A: Good advice, KP. Sometimes interviews can be polite affairs where nobody really gets to the heart of the matter – and sometimes the panel will bring in real stuff. Candidates should be ready to go to that level.

A sound engineer may be asked to resolve a fictional problem with an outside broadcast. A social media expert could be invited to roll out a three-point plan to promote an event. A technician could face a very precise query to which they should know the answer.

So, prior to interviews, brush up on your hard-core skills.

And if, in an interview, you find yourself unable to answer an question, it is better to admit to not knowing rather than trying to bluff. Few events ruin a candidate’s chances more fully than being caught out on a bluff. Red face, sheepish look, I’ll get my coat.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” you could say, “but before I’d try to execute it in the workplace, I would read up on it or get advice. I’m not the kind of person to take an unreasonable chance.”

The generalist

The generalist can suffer when they arrive at a career crossroads. “Oh,” they say, “I don’t know what I am.”

At times like that, they wish they had a title, a badge, a category: a carpenter, a teacher, or an astronaut. Or something defined.

The generalist can struggle to see their strengths.

“I’m a bit of this and a bit of that, and, really, not a lot of anything,” they wail (perhaps too strong a word, allow me my moments of dramatic flourish) in their more pessimistic moments.

But, ultimately, it’s the ‘bit of this and bit of that’ that makes the generalist the powerful person they can be. They can run an event. By that, I mean they can book the venue. Find the photographer. Give the photographer good instructions.

Haggle on price. Decide on room lay-outs. Prepare briefing notes for the key speaker. Warn the MD not to tell the racy joke that just doesn’t go down well. MC the event. Get people into the room on time. Defuse conflict. And so on and so forth.

Generalists fly in roles that allow them put their broad skills to use. I am currently doing some research in this area, and am looking for people who might be deemed to be generalists to complete a short survey. If you feel you fit the category, please email with ‘generalist’ in the subject line.

I will make the findings of my research available to all who take part – it might help them better understand their skills and strengths.

Sli Nua Careers ( have an online service that allows you to create a superb CV from the comfort of your own desk or home. They also have offices in Galway, Dublin, Limerick, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. For more details, visit