Candidate gives interview presentation
Image: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

4 ways to wow with your interview presentation

19 May 2017

Have you been asked to do an interview presentation? They can be daunting prospects, but Hays’ Karen Young has some pointers that should help you deliver yours like a pro.

You were already feeling pretty nervous about your upcoming interview. Then you were asked to give an interview presentation. It’s one thing preparing to answer some tricky questions, but preparing to give a presentation as well? Well, that’s less familiar territory for most people.

As you progress higher up in your career and into more senior roles, interview presentations are something that you will encounter more and more. In fact, we are now seeing recruiters building in interview presentations for a number of roles at entry level and upwards.

For the sake of your current and future interview success, it is important that you tackle this skill sooner rather than later.

Why am I being asked to give an interview presentation?

By asking a candidate to deliver a presentation as part of the interview process, the interviewer is looking for proof that he or she can do the job, has strong communication skills, is organised and is diligent. If you take the time and effort to prepare a presentation that showcases all of the above, you will also demonstrate your commitment to the process and enthusiasm for the role. With this in mind, how can you deliver the best interview presentation possible?

1. Prove you can do the job

One of the reasons you have been asked to give a presentation in your interview is so that the interviewer can feel confident in your ability to do the job at hand. You therefore need to use the presentation to demonstrate just that. Where do you even start?

  • Understand the task. Before you do anything else, make sure you are absolutely clear on what you are being asked to do and what question you are required to answer via the presentation. You must re-read the brief and double-check with the recruiter that you have interpreted it correctly – don’t hesitate to ask them any questions. The recruiter will be in regular contact with your interviewer and can help clarify anything you’re not sure of. Better to check now than not check at all.
  • Demonstrate your skills. This presentation is testing for key competencies. Which competencies are these? Revisit the job description, highlight the required skills and incorporate these into your presentation.
  • Do your research. Now look at the business objectives of the company and, if possible, what has and hasn’t worked for them before. For example, are there any major industry or company changes that would affect the way in which somebody would usually approach this assignment?

Take the time to understand this task and tailor your approach according to the skills required and the company information to hand. This will prove your suitability for both the role and the organisation.

2. Demonstrate your written communication skills

Now you know what you want to say during your interview presentation, think about how you are going to say it using your presentation slides. Even if it’s not a core part of your role, written communication skills will prove important to many day-to-day tasks, such as sending emails, giving presentations, setting meeting agendas or putting together briefs for a project.

  • Structure your presentation. The first slide should give an overview of the contents of your presentation. Your introductory slide following this could contain a ‘grabber’, ie an interesting fact, quote or statistic relating to your presentation topic that will make the interviewer sit up and take notice. Each slide following that should provide a headline of what that slide is about, then either a great visual (the preferable option, in my view) or a few succinct bullet points that you are able to talk around and provide further detail on.
  • Keep it concise. When I say ‘succinct bullet points’, I mean one to two sentences per slide and no more. Someone once told me that presentation slides should be like road signs. They should contain enough information to get people’s attention, but not so much that they are distracted.
  • Know your audience. You may be presenting to an interview panel with different areas of expertise, so research what these areas are, and make sure that what you have written is relevant and engaging for all. For this purpose, keep the language simple and avoid using too much jargon.
  • Double-check the contents. Next, always ask somebody else to check over what you have written and to check that the purpose of what you are trying to communicate on each slide is clear.

In doing the above, you can make sure the contents of your presentation are clear, informative and a reflection of your strong written communication skills.

3. Showcase your verbal communication skills

It’s one thing having good written communication skills, or being good at putting an impactful slide deck together, but all of this will go to waste without a strong delivery. Being able to communicate clearly and in a verbally engaging way is important, and your interviewer will be assessing your face-to-face communication skills throughout your interview presentation.

  • Don’t read from a script.  Instead, reiterate the key points from each slide and then talk around them in more detail. If you practise what you are going to say beforehand, this should become ingrained, but bring verbal prompts in the form of cue cards just in case. By avoiding spending the whole presentation reading from a piece of paper or slide, you will allow yourself to make eye contact and gesticulate as you talk, thus engaging the interviewers and further building rapport. At the end of the presentation, reiterate and sum up the key messages you want the interviewer to remember.
  • Practise your delivery. When working on your delivery, I would recommend either practising your presentation in front of someone who can give you feedback, recording yourself speak or delivering it to yourself in front of a mirror. Critically assess the indicators of confident communication, including speaking pace, tone and body language. Time how long it takes you to deliver so you have a reference on where you should be at which points in your presentation. This will help you avoid over-running on your time slot. If you do, you may lose the full impact of your presentation and thus affect your overall performance in the interview.
  • Calm your nerves. If you get nervous when speaking publicly, take steps to calm these nerves both when practising and on the day of the interview. Take deep breaths, don’t rush your sentences and remind yourself that the interviewers are just people who have been in your shoes before. What’s more, they’re not trying to trip you up. They want you to succeed, not least because sitting through a bad presentation is awkward and a waste of time! But they also have faith in you and your strengths as a successful candidate. Why else would they invite you in for an interview?

In practising and getting into the right mindset before your presentation, you can communicate with conviction and engage the people in front of you.

4. Show that you are diligent

Finally, the interviewer will want to see evidence during your interview presentation that you are diligent, organised and conscientious in the way you approach tasks, and that you have fantastic attention to detail.

  • Plan for the technology. Will you be using their devices or one of your own? Make sure you ascertain this beforehand, and know how to use whatever device you will be working on. Ask someone to check your slide deck (if using one) beforehand to ensure that everything works.
  • Bring a backup with you. Even if you are presenting this slide deck on your own device, take a backup copy on your USB. Email it to yourself and the recruiter to pass onto the client. You should also bring printed copies to hand out to all of the interviewers. In the worst-case scenario, this means you have a Plan B and could still deliver your presentation effectively.
  • Stay conscious of time. Find out how long the presentation needs to be and make sure you don’t run over. When practising your presentation, remember to time it and leave room for questions at the end.
  • Try to be on brand. Look at the fonts and colours on the company website and use these in your presentation. You could also try to find existing presentations and webinars on their website and match the format.
  • Double-check everything, from the formatting to the layout, as well as the spelling and grammar. Get somebody else to proof your presentation for you, too.

The above tips all hinge on giving yourself enough time to prepare, get feedback and ask questions on anything you’re unsure of. In taking the time to plan a well-researched, tailored and strongly delivered interview presentation, you demonstrate to the interviewer just how passionate you are about this role. Moreover, you demonstrate why they should be just as passionate about you!

By Karen Young

Karen Young is director at Hays UK. Young is responsible for the company’s UK finance recruitment business. Her knowledge covers finance appointments across sectors, and she is an expert in talent acquisition methods.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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