Hundreds of different questions have been asked at political selection meetings. Candidates often find it challenging to predict the line that questioning will take and to prepare adequately.
“Who was your favourite James Bond?”
Some questions are frankly bizarre, so much so that they are unlikely to be asked again, so you don’t need to waste time preparing for them. You could well get a surprising question but it will be a different one and you will just have to deal with it. If you are smashing the other questions you will ride over it like a bump in the road – but if you are already struggling it could spell your doom.
Most questions can be categorised by type and this will give you a good clue about how they should be answered. The three most common types are listed here:
“What sort of a Conservative are you?”
They want to know about your political views. This should be easy if you have prepared and if you are comfortable with your own beliefs. A soft question like this gives you space to expand on your own achievements – it often crops up at the start of the interview, so hit it out of the park and move on with confidence.
You get extra points for talking about how you came into politics. Your selectors have made that same journey and it is always good to talk about common experiences as you can build a rapport which could save your chances if things go awry later in the meeting.
“What will you do to help reduce knife crime?”
Policy questions can be very wide ranging. They occur most often in finals when the moderator throws the session open to random questions from the floor. The audience are interested in your political views but they expect politicians to try to avoid direct questions.
That is why you should answer immediately – then provide an explanation or give some context. It feels unnatural to make an argument this way around but the danger of concluding with your answer is that some people could have switched off before you get there.
Be straight about your views on important matters and don’t try to second guess the audience or lie to them. If you lie, they might select you but it won’t be a positive relationship and you could be stuck with each other for years…
“Tell us about your campaigning experience.”
This question is certain to crop up in an Executive Stage interview and it will probably feature in the Final too. Smaller selection meetings tend to contain a higher proportion of committed campaigners and they are looking for someone who can lead them.
Campaigning experience includes canvassing, leafletting, broadcast and print media, public meetings, fund raising and of course social media – so there’s plenty to talk about. The danger is you might go on for too long and force them to drop other questions. Time is limited so use it wisely.
Throw in some numbers when talking about previous campaigns – vote swings, doors knocked, funds raised – for example. You might include a story about a voter you met or a campaign you ran as this will make your answer unique and memorable.
If you are fighting for a safe seat, every one of your competitors will have good campaign stories to tell – or they wouldn’t have got this far. So, it’s not enough to present yourself as a great campaigner. You will need a stronger and more high profile political brand.
What got you here – won’t get you there…
Most candidates view the questions as a row of hurdles that they must clear to reach the finishing line. The flaw here is that almost everybody finishes the course but only one person gets selected. So you need to do more.
Winning candidates view the questions as a row of platforms that they can stand on to promote their greatness. This takes confidence and preparation – but anyone can do it. I can help so Contact Me for advice on CVs, speeches and interview techniques.
“So, what three words most accurately describe you?”
“Often bad at arithmetic!”