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How to nail your interview presentation

Posted on: August 4th, 2015 by admin No Comments


Today, 89%1 of global professionals believe that communicating with clarity directly impacts their career and income, which is why employers want to test your ability to pitch before they hire you, particularly if you’re applying for a senior role in sales, marketing, or management.

Of course, the interview environment is already highly pressurised, but that’s the point: if you can stand there and confidently present under such circumstances, the employer will feel confident that you can handle future pitches, client meetings, and any internal and external business affairs.

For this article, we’ve broken the interview presentation down into its three core stages; preparing for the big day, what to do during the presentation itself, and how to effectively follow-up with your interviewer once it’s all over.


A major part of the panel’s assessment criteria is how well you prepared for the presentation in advance, as it demonstrates that you want the job and are willing to put in extra effort to succeed in the workplace. It’s painfully obvious when a candidate has thrown together a PowerPoint presentation the night before an interview, so always give yourself a few days to prepare.

Heavily research the topic you’ve been asked to talk about; find out how the department handled it in the past, look at what the company’s competitors are doing in the field, and unearth relevant facts and figures to highlight key trends in the industry.

Next, decide what you want to say in three sentences, and then elaborate. This is important because it takes a clear message to create a world class presentation, and if you can’t summarise what you’re trying to say in three sentences, then the basis of your argument is not concise enough.

You’ll need to structure your presentation sensibly so the panel can easily follow you. A typical presentation structure would look something like this:

  1. Short introduction explaining what the presentation is about and what you are going to cover
  2. Separate sections for each theme within the presentation, structured in a logical order
  3. Summary of the themes you have covered
  4. Clear conclusion with specific recommendations, identifying the resources needed to deliver them

Allow some time for the panel to ask questions at the end. You can predict what will be asked during this Q&A session by understanding who will be on the panel (their job title, history with the company etc.) and thoroughly reading over your presentation beforehand, looking for sections that each interviewer may want you to elaborate on. Some common questions that interviewers ask following a presentation include:

  • Why are you implementing option X and not Y?
  • What resources would be necessary to implement this solution?
  • How would you convince key stakeholders to get on board with your idea?
  • What risks are involved and how would you minimise them?
  • How does your recommendation fit in with the company’s wider activities and strategies?

Practice your presentation in front of friends and family as many times as possible, as the better rehearsed you are, the less dependant on your notes you’ll be, allowing the presentation to flow better.

Try to get your timing down to a tee. Most interview presentations are set at ten minutes; fail to hit this mark and you’ll appear to lack knowledge in the designated area – run over your time limit and you’ll look unorganised.

Finally, have a back-up plan! The last thing you want is to be left standing in front of the panel, embarrassed after your laptop fails, so email a copy of your presentation to yourself or store it on an external memory card, just in case.


No matter how many times a person has had to present in front of an audience, most people find interview presentations daunting, leading to trembling, erratic arm movements and broken speech. Learn to channel your nervous energy into positive attributes, using it to demonstrate passion for your topic, speak strongly and with varied inflection, and move around the room interacting with your audience.

Another major criteria that the panel will be judging you on is your ability to engage your audience. To build rapport, use lots of eye contact, smile often, and remember your interviewers’ names so you can directly communicate with each person on the panel.

The Q&A session at the end of your presentation is your chance to demonstrate that you really know your topic inside out. Take your time to respond to each question, and if you don’t know the answer, be honest with the interviewer – you can tell them that you will come back with the answer later that day after you’ve had some time to look into it. If a difference of opinion occurs between yourself and an interviewer, try to find a compromise, or ask another person on the panel for their input to diffuse the situation.


Ensure you take the lead interviewer’s email address so you can send them a copy of your presentation once you leave the site, or print out a copy in advance to give them whilst you’re there. The company may have lots of candidates to get through over a period of several weeks, so you’ll reduce the risk of them forgetting your presentation if they have a copy on hand that they can refer to.

Finally, in your follow-up email, let the interviewer know that you are grateful for the opportunity, you enjoyed meeting everyone, and that you are free to answer any more questions they may have.

If you secured your interview through a recruitment agency, you should receive feedback promptly via your agent. If you applied independently, you may have to wait several days or weeks for a response if the hiring company chooses to wait until they have interviewed all candidates before providing feedback, and even then, some companies will only respond to the successful interviewee.

1The Guardian, 2014. Eight tips on how to make your interview presentation shine. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 3rd August 2015].

A guide to competency-based interviews

Posted on: July 13th, 2015 by admin No Comments


Got a competency-based interview coming up but have no idea what to expect? This guide explains what a competency-based interview is and shows you how to prepare for one with easy-to-remember answering techniques and example questions.

What is a competency-based interview?

You’re probably familiar with a normal interview format (called unstructured interviews). These feel like conversations, as the interviewer asks you general and open-ended questions to get an overall impression of your attitude to work. Whether you successfully pass the interview or not is therefore a rather subjective process.

Competency-based interviews (sometimes called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic, with each question carefully constructed to determine your experience of demonstrating specific skills required for the job. Essentially, the interviewer wants to hear about practical examples, so instead of asking ‘if’ you like to work in a team, you’ll be asked to recall the last time you did so.

Employers use this approach as a method of predicting how you will react to the workplace scenarios you’re likely to encounter if they offer you the job.

How do I prepare?

Competency-based questions require upfront preparation.

Firstly, sit down with the job specification and make a list of all of the competencies required for the role. These may include:

  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Communication skills
  • Decision making
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Organisation
  • Goal orientation

Next, sift through your employment history to draw out concrete examples of when you demonstrated these skills.

Finally, practice your answers using the STAR technique.

What is the STAR technique?

STAR is an acronym, which stands for:


The STAR technique is a universally recognised communication method, designed to produce meaningful and complete answers.

Recruiters conducting competency-based interviews will often incorporate the STAR structure into their assessment criteria, marking your responses at each of the following three related stages:

  1. Situation or task

    You’ll need to set the scene by describing the situation you were confronted with or the task that was presented to you. Make it concise and informative; so if you’re being questioned on conflict management, explain how the encounter occurred, or if you’re being asked about teamwork, outline the task that your team was given.

  2. Action

    Tell the interviewer what you did, how you did it and why you did it.

    For example, when being questioned about conflict resolution, most people will say something along the lines of ‘I told my colleague to calm down and explained the situation to him’. However, you’ll make a much bigger impact by highlighting the skills you used to do this, hence a stronger answer could look something like:

    I could sense my colleague was feeling frustrated so I gently asked him to tell me what he felt the problem was. By allowing him to vent his feelings, I gave him the opportunity to calm down. I then explained my own viewpoint to him, emphasising how it important it was that we found a mutual solution.

  3. Result

    Finish your answer by explaining the final outcome of the situation. Also, use this opportunity to reflect upon the situation, highlight any other skills you used to achieve the objectives at hand, and to tell the interviewer what you learnt from the event. This is important because recruiters want to see that you’re focused on achieving objectives rather than relying on chance.

How will my interview be assessed?

Before the interview, the interviewers will have determined which type of answers will score positive points for a candidate and which answers will work negatively against them.

For instance, they may plan on asking you to ‘Describe a time when you had to deal with pressure’ and have set out a number of positive and negative indicators which they will tick during the interview. Positives could include a willingness to seek external assistance and the ability to compromise, whilst negatives could include perceiving challenges as problems and adopting inappropriate strategies to deal with them.

You’re then likely to be marked on a 1-5 basis (poor to excellent) for each attribute on their list.

This is a very rigid recruitment process, which can be daunting for interviewees, but there are occasions when a recruiter can see potential in you and will probe for more details if you’ve failed to address the question fully.

Example questions you could be asked:

Below is a list of example questions that you could be asked during your competency-based interview according to the skill being assessed. However, it’s important to do your own research before attending your interview, as the questions you can expect will depend on the industry you’re entering and the role you’re applying for.


  • Which change of job did you find the most difficult to make?
  • Tell us about the biggest change you’ve had to deal with.


  • How do you ensure compliance with policies in your area of responsibility?
  • Describe a situation in which you went against company policy. Why did you do it?


  • Describe a time when you had to win over a reluctant colleague.
  • Give us an example where your listening skills proved crucial to a business outcome.
  • How do you plan the writing of a report?

Conflict management

  • Tell us about a time when conflict led to a negative outcome. What have you learnt from it?
  • Describe a situation in which you felt differences were a positive driving force in your organisation. How did you handle the conflict to optimise its benefit?

Creativity and innovation

  • Describe a project where you felt the conventional approach was not suitable. How did you manage a new approach and what challenges did you face in doing so?
  • Tell us about a time when you trusted your team to derive a new approach to an old situation.


  • What big decision have you made recently? How did you go about it?
  • Give us an example of a situation that required you to make a decision without input from key stakeholders that you knew would judge you on the choice.


  • What type of responsibilities do you delegate?
  • Give an example of a project you were compelled to complete yourself. What stopped you from delegating?


  • Give an example of a project where a positive outcome was achieved by the input of people from a wide range backgrounds.
  • Tell us about a time when you included someone in your project because you thought they’d bring something different to the team.


  • Tell us about an unpopular decision that you have made recently. What was your thought-process behind it? How did your colleagues react?
  • What steps do you take to understand your colleagues’ personalities?

External awareness

  • Describe from experience how you measure the impact of your decisions on external parties.
  • Tell us about a time when you underestimated the impact of your decisions on external stakeholders.


  • Describe a time when you had to change your approach halfway through a project.
  • Tell us about your strongest and weakest colleagues. How do you deal with differing personalities within your team?


  • Describe a time when you disagreed with a superior. How did you handle it?
  • Which constraints are imposed on you in your current job and how do you work with them?


  • Tell us about a situation in which you influenced others on an important issue. What strategies did you employ?
  • What is your worst selling experience?


  • When have you had to lie to achieve your aims? Why did you do it?
  • Tell us about a time when you were asked to do something against your principles. How did you react?


  • Tell us about a time when you encouraged your team to improve their performance. How did you manage it?
  • Describe a situation in which you received reluctance from your team about a decision you’d made.

Organisational awareness

  • Describe a project that required you to involve input from other departments. How did you identify this need?
  • Tell us about a time you failed to engage at the right level in your organisation.


  • Under what conditions do you work best and worst?
  • Which recent project has caused you the most stress?


  • What risks do you see in moving to this new post?
  • Tell us about risks you have taken in your professional or personal life. How did you make your decisions?


  • Describe a situation in which you played an important member of the team (not a leader).
  • Give us an example of a time when you worked within a dysfunctional team. Why was it dysfunctional and how did you attempt to change it?

Hopefully, you’re now mentally prepared for your competency-based interview. The next step is to get physically prepared; click here for interview attire advice »

What NOT to wear to your next job interview

Posted on: June 5th, 2015 by admin No Comments


According to psychologists, you’ve got just one tenth of a second1 to make a good first impression, and it’s fickle, but your clothing plays a fundamental role.

This is particularly true in an interview situation, during which the recruiter is looking for indicators that you’re up to the job. This is where media professionals struggle.

If you were applying for a job in finance, finding the right job interview attire would be a doddle, as all you’d have to do is don your smartest suit.

Media jobs are trickier because most media companies don’t enforce a strict dress code, resulting in an eclectic workforce wardrobe, wherein employees err towards the casual or trendy. Don a suit in this environment and you could come off as uptight, stuffy and uncreative, making you look like a bad fit for the role.

The following tips will help you gauge what you can and can’t get away with wearing when interviewing for a job in the media industry.

Always overdress

You may have looked the company up on Facebook and seen that their general office wear comprises of Converse and graphic tees but that doesn’t mean anything until you’ve been given a job offer.

Overdress for every job interview you secure because it shows the interviewing manager that you’re taking the opportunity seriously. You don’t need to wear a full suit but a smart pair of trousers or a pencil skirt combined with a crisp shirt is timeless and can seriously up your professional persona.

Keep tattoos discreet

Whilst it’s true that your tattoos are unlikely to raise any eyebrows at the cool, Shoreditch-based start-up you’re about to interview at, it’s worth keeping them under wraps during your initial meetings with management.

This is purely because you need all of the attention to be on your experience and skillset, and tattoos have the potential to distract and steer conversations off-topic.

Avoid a hairy situation

If you’ve got long hair, you may want to tie it up, as British weather and tube journeys habitually leave ultra-stylish hairdos tangled and/or stuck to your face by the time you’ve reached your destination.

When it comes to facial hair, opt for clean-shaven or a trimmed beard to demonstrate that you’ve made an effort.

Leave accessories at home

Novelty ties, excessive amounts of jewellery, hats… Save all of your favourite accessories for once you’ve actually got the job and your colleagues know you better because, at this stage, it could just end up looking unprofessional.

Wash away the weekend

You may be wearing those festival wristbands and hand stamps from last night’s epic gig with pride but your future employers could get the wrong impression. Dispel of any remnants that could have you marked down as unkempt or more of a partier as opposed to a hard worker.

Unplug yourself before entering the building

Tuck your iPod leads out of sight before even setting foot in the office – you want to appear focused and ready for your interview from the moment you enter the reception.

Once you’ve nailed your interview outfit, the real challenge begins: answering an hour’s worth of interview questions. Click here for our guide on how to tackle the toughest interview questions ever asked.

1 Psychological Science, 2006. How Many Seconds to a First Impression? [Online] Available at: [Accessed 5th June 2015].

“Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” and 4 other bizarre interview questions

Posted on: May 9th, 2015 by admin No Comments


Your phone rings. It’s your recruitment agent calling to say you’ve landed a job interview at that super-cool company in London you’ve always wanted to work for.

You spend the next week going over every possible question the hiring manager could ask you, preparing each answer with heavily-researched precision and carefully reciting your responses, facial expressions and body language in front of the mirror until you’re 100% sure you’ll nail this.

And then the day arrives. You don your smartest suit, arrive at the ideal 10-minutes-early mark, and deliver each answer like a pro, until out of nowhere, the interviewer drops the following line:

“Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?”

What?! You’re thrown. Red and flustered, you mumble something about kryptonite and wonder how this suddenly went so wrong.

Difficult interview questions like this are not just bad luck. Hiring managers use them to determine how you handle unrehearsed situations and to reveal more about your personality.

We’ve put together a list of the strangest interview questions that interviewers have asked our candidates during past interviews, along with the best ways to answer them.

1. How many pairs of shoes are there in the UK?

If an interviewer asks you this, they want to test how logical you are.

You’re not expected to know the definitive answer but you should explain how you’re calculating it. So, if the average woman owns 21 pairs of shoes and the average man owns 12, and the UK population is 64 million, you’re looking at around 2,112,000000 pairs of shoes inside peoples’ closets.

You’ll want to do a thorough job here, so you’ll need to then take into consideration the amount of shoes that have yet to be bought. How many shops stock shoes throughout the UK? What are their average stock levels? How many shoes are being manufactured in UK factories right now? How many pairs of shoes are currently out for delivery?

The more factors you consider along the production and distribution line, the better, as this will show the interviewer that you understand how businesses function. And don’t forget to double-check your sums to demonstrate your attention to detail.

2. What would you rate your skillset out of 10? I’d give you a 2.

This one is about how you respond to criticism and how you approach self-improvement.

Tell the interviewer that you understand how they have come to that conclusion with the limited experience they have working with you but assure them that you can and will deliver in the role you are applying for.

Have you had to prove your capabilities to a doubting colleague or client in the past? This is your chance to tell the interviewer how you surpassed their expectations and the skills you hope to develop in your next role.

3. Where does your boss think you are right now?

Hint: The answer to this one is not “Oh, my boss thinks I’m stuck in bed with the flu.”

Hiring managers don’t want to employ people that will lie to them and they certainly don’t want to recruit anyone who thinks it’s ok to call in sick when they’re perfectly well.

Your best option is to tell the interviewer that you booked the day off work in anticipation for your interview. Expand on your answer here by letting the interviewer know that you value honesty and integrity in every working relationship.

4. Tell me what your biggest weakness is.

This question is common so it shouldn’t take you by surprise but it is difficult nonetheless.

“I’m a perfectionist” is the go-to answer for most candidates, and it makes employers glaze over in boredom, so avoid it.

Are you a people pleaser, self-critic or new to the industry? Tell the interviewer but follow it up with a swift recovery clause – after all, you’re easy to work with because you’re keen to please people, you always produce quality work due to your tough critique and you may be new to the industry but you’re a real fast learner.

5. Who would win a fight, Batman or Superman?

Do you prefer Eastenders to Coronation Street? If you were a dinosaur, which type would you be? Is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit?

These are all personality probes – so keep it professional but do take the opportunity to show some humour and connect with your potential future colleagues.

Oh, and for the record, the answer is Batman.

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