Interview Presentations: A Guide To Getting Them Right

It feels great to be invited for a job interview, but if you’re anything like me, hearing the words ‘We would like you to deliver a presentation’ fills you with the kind of dread that rapidly drowns out any delight you felt about being that bit closer to getting the job – as if the interview wasn’t daunting enough on its own.

So in this article, I’m discussing how you can best approach the dreaded interview presentation, and how you can even use it to your advantage to prove you are the best person for the role no matter how apprehensive you are feeling.

Things To Consider Before Doing An Interview Presentation

The main thing for you to consider is the following:

Why have I been asked to do an interview presentation?

There are three possibilities:

  1. The job will require you to do presentations
  2. The job requires you to use tools such as PowerPoint
  3. (Most likely) The interviewer wants to assess your communication skills and see how you approach a task under pressure.

If the job requires you to do presentations, and you despise presentations, you might want to consider whether the role is really right for you or not, and save yourself a lot of pain. But if, which is more likely, the client has simply set the task as a challenge, you need to bear in mind what they expect to gain from sitting through multiple presentations.

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What The Interviewer Is Getting Out Of It

They will get a feel for:

  • Are the candidates well prepared?
  • Do they want the job?
  • How do they handle pressure?
  • Do they have good computer skills, e.g. using PowerPoint?
  • How are their communication skills?
  • Can they follow instructions clearly?
  • Are they engaging?
  • Have they gone above and beyond? (Needless to say, this does not mean delivering a 30 minute presentation when they have asked for a 5 minute presentation!)

What Are You Worrying About?

With these in mind, the presentation is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the other candidates. In reality, unless it is a sales role that involves giving presentations, most candidates will be dreading it every bid as much as you are. So you just need to know how to give yourself an edge. But before we come to that, lets take a look at the most common concerns most of us have about delivering a presentation:

  • I’ll be too nervous and forget what to say
  • PowerPoint is not my friend
  • I’m afraid I’ll ramble

I’m Going To Forget What To Say

Let’s address the first point – delivering a presentation is outside your comfort zone, so of course you will be nervous. The best thing you can do is to plan well, and practice in front of a partner or helpful friend. Have a couple of run-throughs at least. Get them to ask you some questions and give you some feedback.

Preparation is everything – you may still be nervous but if you are well rehearsed you will give yourself the best chance of success. If you are presenting about their business, put your time into researching the website, reading customer reviews, press articles, and make sure you’ve got a handful of key points locked in your memory to mention, particularly those that will demonstrate the depth of your research.

The more research you’ve done, the more relaxed you will be when faced with questions, rather than just trying to ‘wing it’.

You can’t expect to eradicate nerves, and it’s ok to admit you are nervous. A well-timed ‘bear with me, I’m a little nervous’ accompanied by a smile will likely be greeted with patience and understanding by the interviewer, particularly if giving presentations isn’t part of the role you will be expected to fulfil, and it breaks the ice as well as giving you a moment to brace yourself for the task ahead.

Erm, I’m Bad At PowerPoint

It’s likely that the client will have invited you to use PowerPoint or another presentation tool to bring life to your presentation. If this is a recommended option, you should definitely do it if you can, rather than providing handouts. The reason I suggest this is that although using PowerPoint might not be part of the job, it is undoubtedly part of the task that the client has assigned you, so you are disadvantaging yourself if you opt out. It’s a reasonably easy tool to get your head around, so don’t panic if you haven’t got a great deal of experience. Here’s my top tip.

Learn the basics, and then learn one or two cool tricks.

If you don’t have a willing friend that can help you to learn the basics, there are plenty of online tutorials available. The reason I’ve suggested learning a couple of cool tricks as well is that it will give you an edge over candidates that only know the basics, and the interviewer will remember your presentation. A slick graph or something moving on the screen is worth a little extra effort, and it goes the extra mile in showing how much you want the job.

I bet you know someone that can teach you one or two cool tricks on PowerPoint. If not, the internet is your friend.

I’m Afraid I’ll ramble

Not knowing when to stop talking, or going off on a tangent, is a concern for some people when they are nervous. This is where your preparation and practice are really important.

What sort of brief have you been given? If the brief is to talk for 10 minutes, then you need to aim for close to that. You can practice this yourself without the assistance of an audience. Being clear on what the brief is and then preparing well will help you to avoid going off topic.

Use the allocated time recommendation as a guide, and if you don’t have one, ask the client or recruiter for guidance. The key question you need to ask is ‘does my presentation deliver the brief I have been given?’ However vague or specific the brief might be, that should be your starting and finishing point.

Seriously, This Is The Secret

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret that ought to fill you with confidence. Here it is. And bear in mind I’ve been a recruiter for nearly 15 years.

**The person that gets the job is, almost always, the person that prepares the best for the interview.**

I would go a bit further on this and say that the best presentation is not always the one that’s all singing, all dancing, and delivered with staggering confidence. The best presentation will be the one that hits the brief, and whose content is the best, however it is delivered.

A good CV will get you an interview. Being good at presenting will certainly keep you in consideration. But the person that our clients end up hiring is rarely the one who is the best on paper, or the most charming. In fact, the chosen individual might even be nervous, awkward, or uncertain. But they’ve gone the extra mile in terms of their preparation – they know the business inside out, and they have injected passion and enthusiasm into the task.

Seriously, this is the secret.

And as such, being asked to do a presentation is actually beneficial to these individuals, because even if they despise presentations, they will recognise that it is an opportunity to show the client that they are the right person for the job. They might be nervous, but they will get through the presentation that they have rehearsed, making sure to make eye contact and smile. They might even throw a bit of personality into it, or humour, if appropriate. They recognise that it’s a chance not just to impress the interviewer but to start developing a rapport with them.

Remember that even the most experienced presenters experience nerves – there’s nothing wrong with that.

Top Tips For Succeeding In Your Interview Presentation

In summary:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare.
  • Embrace technology – learn the basics plus a couple of tricks.
  • Practice in front of someone at least twice.
  • Breathe. Smile. Make eye contact.
  • And finally, be yourself.

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