Being asked to give a presentation for a job interview is becoming more common. This is particularly true if you’re applying for more senior positions. If you were nervous about the interview before, this added step is bound to make the whole thing seem excessively intimidating! Creating and then giving a presentation is not familiar territory for everyone, so we’ve come up with some tips on how to impress your interviewers with your presentation.
It might be tempting to believe that the purpose of the presentation is simply to unnerve you, but an interviewer can learn a lot about you from your delivery. The most obvious thing they’re looking for is proof that you can perform a task well when asked. You’ll therefore need to demonstrate that you fully understand the task, that you’re willing to put in the time when it comes to research, and that you can produce an outstanding end result.
The presentation is also used to evaluate your organisation and communication skills, along with your diligence and commitment. Simply by creating the presentation, you’re showing that you’re fully invested in the job, and are willing to take the time to craft a fantastic interview presentation.
When you’re initially asked to give a presentation, you firstly need to check that you have all the details you need. Have you been given a clear topic to speak about, and told how long you’ll be presenting? Are you confident that you’ll have access to a projector if you need one, and should you bring your own laptop? What about who you’re presenting to? These may seem like basic details, but they’re not the sort of things you want to make assumptions about.
If you know who you’re presenting to, for instance, you’ll have an understanding of what expertise level you need to pitch to - whether this be your colleagues, bosses, or potential clients. You can also make sure you hit the right tone. You should be able to find out more about your interviews through the company website, or through sites such as LinkedIn.
Once you know the basics, research your topic thoroughly. See if you can find out how the business currently handles the issue you’re discussing, and what their competitors are doing. Facts and figures are always impressive too, giving you more credibility.
Bring your research together to form a strong argument, and present this information through a clear structure. You’ll need a short introduction, defined themes or sections, and a summary of your arguments. Try to end with clear recommendations on how to proceed too, with examples of any resources needed, and the steps to be taken.
It’s also important not to forget that this is an interview - it’s not enough to simply give a great presentation, you also need to link the topic to yourself, and give examples of your skills and experience. Weave them into the narrative, and try to tell a story with your presentation, such as how you got started in the industry. Then end the presentation with your vision for the future.
When it comes to the slides in your presentation, less is more. You want to keep the interviewer’s attention on you, not focussed on reading everything on your slides. Use each slide like a billboard - only give the key points, just enough to peak their interest, and then their attention can move back to you.
Try to only have one message per slide too, so as not to overwhelm your audience. And remember that you don’t need to have a slide for each point - try to restrict your slides to no more than one slide per minute. You can always give out handouts if you want to add more supporting information.
Bullet points are often used in presentations, to keep the message short and to the point. By all means, use bullet points, but don’t have them all listed at once, otherwise the interviewer can read ahead, and see where you’re going before you get there. If this happens, they may not want to listen to your current topic, but jump ahead to a more interesting part of the argument.
You may know how long you have to present, but unless you practice giving your talk, you can't guarantee that you won’t run over, or be stood there with nothing to say for several minutes at the end. The former would make it seem that you have not done enough research to present additional points, while the latter could make you appear unorganised.
Practicing your timing isn’t always foolproof of course - people tend to speed up a bit when they’re nervous. But you can always decide ahead of time which section you can leave out if you’re running behind, and have another point prepared in case you’re running ahead.
It’s also a good idea to test out your presentation on an audience, preferably one that has some knowledge of the subject matter. That way they can point out any obvious arguments you may have missed, and let you know if the presentation is clear enough. Your colleagues are generally a good test audience, as they’ll have industry knowledge.
Running through your presentation ahead of time also allows you to consider any follow up questions that may be asked, and prepare answers for them. Ask your test audience to think of questions at the end, and give practice responses. Common questions often include the risks of your proposed strategy, why you have chosen that particular approach over others, and the resources needed to implement your plan.
As long as you’ve practiced your presentation enough times, you shouldn’t have any real issues when the time comes to give your talk. You’ll feel more confident the more prepared you are, and you’ll be able to better engage your audience if you use eye contact rather than constantly refer to your notes.
It is good to have a back up plan though, in case you experience any technical issues. Email your presentation to yourself, in case you have an issue with the memory stick, and print out hard copies too, so that you don’t have to completely rely on the projector.
Finally, don’t forget to make your interview memorable. Make sure you dress appropriately and speak clearly and confidently. Engage your audience by making eye contact and don’t distract them with large gestures. Try to pause in between points, so that you don’t rush through your speech, just to get it over. And remember that you’ve got this far, so there must be something that the interviewer likes about you - you’ve simply got to stand out from the crowd and be memorable.