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.
PREPARING FOR YOUR INTERVIEW PRESENTATION
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:
- Short introduction explaining what the presentation is about and what you are going to cover
- Separate sections for each theme within the presentation, structured in a logical order
- Summary of the themes you have covered
- 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.
NAILING IT ON THE DAY
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.
FOLLOWING UP AFTER YOUR INTERVIEW PRESENTATION
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: http://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/eight-tips-how-make-interview-presentation-shine-job-offer. [Accessed 3rd August 2015].