Some Of The Hardest Job Interviews I’ve Had (Deloitte, WPP, Daniela & Growing Pearl Lemon)

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Hey guys,

I wanted to walk through some strategies that you can employ to make sure that you nail any interview, based upon my experience of the thousands of interviews I’ve been involved in (on both sides of the table).

From when I got my first job at 13 years old – the paper round – to the meeting I’m going into in a couple of hours to discuss the marketing campaigns for two new startups.

Interviews are a part of life. Meeting your life partner, a date on a Friday night, the in-laws, a new hire, a new client, networking event catchups, initial email introductions, sending a presentation to someone, someone Googling you.

It’s pretty much all an interview process.

Incidentally, being Indian and having never dated an Indian woman has probably been one of the biggest interview processes and life skills I’ve picked up along the way.

The fundamental premise when you’re being tested is to impress someone almost immediately and continue from there.

This post is going to be a little more instructional than story-led as an FYI 😛


Deepak Shukla With Prime Minister

Interviewing for an IT Support position when I was 19 taught me a lot about the power of randomness and storytelling.

The interviewers were most interested in my travels through South East Asia because the lady had always wanted to see that part of the world and asked me what that experience was like.

My travel experience got me the job I think in that instance

I applied to be a childminder when I was weight training during university and looked completely the opposite of anyone who you’d want to be childminding for you. However, I actually came a close second and I’m really proud of this failure because it’s the most unusual role I’ve applied for

I chose to lead with the obvious ‘weakness’ in my application and turn it around into a strength. “I recognise that I don’t fit the look for a childminder and that’s what makes me excellent at this role. I’ve learnt games, teaching styles and more to overcome this”

I recently met an entrepreneur/investor type of figure who took me for lunch and opened with these two questions. ‘Deepak you’re pretty smart aren’t you?’ That was question 1. Question 2 was ‘On a scale of 1-10 how smart would you say you are?’ That was question 2.

In a situation like this humility counts for a lot and my answers were ‘I think I work hard and I’ve got a decent amount of common sense’. And the answer to question 2 was maybe a 6 bordering on 7.

Humility is very important and a trait of successful people. Because in general, when you achieve something you only focus on the road ahead and what else you have to do. 8/10 times unless it’s an application for an actual sales position, play down your triumphs.

When interviewing for Deloitte one of the critical components of the application process was making sure that I knew important data points about the company and could seamlessly weave them into the narrative of my application.

In the interview I could reel off facts, dates, company size, operating offices, news reports and more. I was much better prepared than the average applicant and it didn’t take as long as you might think. Get good at scan reading and picking out pertinent data from Wikipedia as well as the company in question’s website and then search via the Google news tab.

Those three things will serve you well.

During an interview for an IT recruitment sales position, I applied for they fired sales questions left right and centre. ‘Sell me this pen!’ ‘What makes you better than the candidates outside that door?’

The way to prepare for stuff like this is to develop your ‘just-in-time’ thinking. One game you can play to improve your improv skills dramatically is a game I used to play in my childhood. Pick a random subject and then you have to speak on the subject fluently without buts/erms or pauses it needs to make sense and be a cohesive narrative without repeating yourself. And you need to do this for 60 seconds. Try it.

When filling out my Deloitte and WPP application there were a multitude of qualitative questions about ‘why the company’ ‘why you’ ‘leadership’ ‘teamwork’ examples and the like

When preparing answers to these questions I wanted data, no fluff and flair. Data = In June 2017 Versus ‘a couple of years ago. Fluff = ‘I’m determined, ambitious and driven’ Vs I had 2 failed startup attempts where I raised 5 and then 75k. But here I am, back to get it right the third time.


The growth of any agency is ultimately delivery and sales. It’s a complex service you’re offering that’s effectively commoditised. There isn’t anyone clearly definable USP that an agency can trade on.

They/we all need to work extraordinarily hard to get noticed as an SEO/Facebook/Full Service/Otherwise agency.

Some questions I’ve been asked include:

‘What makes you guys the best?’

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‘How can you be any different? You all do the same thing!’

‘Walk me through your SEO process’

When you’re selling your own brand/process/company then other elements are important.

Be mindful of everyone singing from the same hymn sheet ‘we’ve got X years of experience, have won X awards, we deliver great quality work’.

Please note there isn’t a single USP in all of those answers. So then the key is to make everything you say irreverent and memorable (don’t get me wrong you need all the stuff above as well)

But you need to recognise what your USPs are and work with them. Me, I raise my British standard and Indian work ethic. I mention my appetite for hard work comes from my sports and that is the culture of our company. The global team ensures around-the-clock work.

I’ve also asked companies that have knocked us back – ‘why didn’t we pass the interview process?’

I’ve discovered some people want verified reviews (see here) others want video reviews (see here), others want more company team info (see here) and so on and so forth. And slowly I started adjusting to everything that I was asked to do to build our ‘sales positioning’ (this is a never-ending journey by the way)


Daniela and I live in London together. She’s Italian born and raised and is here alone, with me and in the process of building a life here.

Finding the woman you’d like to settle down with (and all the dating previous to that) is an interview process.

There are many phases to this interview process.

Courtship and dating are the initial phases, and then you move into long-term discussions of the future and that requires different things.

Being able to demonstrate ambition is important for her (and her family) in the initial courtship phase. Alongside manners, etiquette, interest etc.

As you move into the phase I’m in now – Daniela has returned to full-time education and I’m building our support base – which means I need to be financially stable enough to support our upward trend of living.

I don’t need to do any of the above of course – but everyone’s ambition is relative.

Furthermore, meeting an Italian standard of living, having no financial worries, and understanding the nuances between British and Southern European courtship and where we end up as required:

Reading. Yes, read up on the details of this. Don’t JUST ask a mate.

Trial and error. Story of our lives.

Persistence. Nothing good worth having comes easy.


For those of us ambitious folk – this is the hardest interview of them all.

When you compare yourself against your past and future self in terms of where you want to be in life – as well as making dreaded comparisons with others.

We’re probably similar to you and I – especially if you’re this far into reading my content.

You have a burning desire to succeed.

For me, that means waking up at 430am to get things (like this) done.

It means questioning very regularly WTF I’m doing, whether am I doing the right thing and trying to find the right way to navigate my path within all of this.

My focus has been:

Try to get 1% better each day (not sure I achieved anything today yet but it’s 557am so let’s see).

Keep experimenting and trying things – your education and experience will make you the most money in your life. Not your current income.

And work hard. Work f*cking hard.

That’s all for today – catch you in the next letter 🙂