Presentation Interview Tips
A presentation interview is a common way for a panel of interviewers to evaluate a candidate’s communication, cultural fit, job skills and more importantly how they would represent the company should they join. Most presentation interviews happen near the end of the hiring process.
The interviewing panel judges a presentation’s content as well as the candidate’s delivery. Successful candidates differentiate themselves from the competition by delivering a compelling plan outlining how they will directly benefit the company as an employee.
Follow these top 10 tips when preparing for a presentation interview:
1. Fully understand the assignment.
First things first: find out the interviewer’s objective and type of presentation they want to see. Meticulously read any instructions provided. Get an example presentation or a detailed verbal description, if possible.
Before starting the presentation, find out:
- How long should the presentation be?
- What skills or data do the interviewers want to see?
- Who will be in the room?
- What technology is available?
2. Conduct thorough research.
Research is critical at every stage of the hiring process. Before even opening PowerPoint, consider the objective the interviewers have set. If there is no central question, or if topic is broad, then identify a targeted, relevant question to answer within the topic. Think about how to answer this question, and gather data accordingly. Document every fact—do not trust unreliable sources.
Compare preliminary research against the objective and consider if there is enough data to answer the question convincingly. If not, find and close the gaps in the data. For instance, a candidate attempting to show personal growth as a salesperson over time may focus research on chronological sales data, awards, quotas, targets hit, etc. An engineer describing a past product launch might pull design notes, road maps, brochures, spec sheets etc..
Do not share any confidential or proprietary data! This is grounds for immediate dismissal and potentially a lawsuit with the company who owns the data. It also is a sign to interviewers of dishonesty and carelessness with private company information.
3. Keep slides simple.
A good presentation highlights the information it contains, not the formatting and design. Keep each slide objective-driven and limited to one or two main points. Each slide’s purpose should be immediately clear.
Avoid the common pitfall of reading the slides verbatim. Each slide should have a header and a few bullets to serve as the talking points.
- The text should be large and clear; a sans serif font such as Calibri is easiest to read).
- Large blocks of text will lose the audience’s attention quickly. A good rule is 50 words or less per slide, with bullet points to facilitate easy reading.
- Choose a limited color theme that is high-contrast and neutral (preferably a light background and dark text), with no loud or competing colors
- Use the same 3 or 4 colors throughout the presentation
- Slides should have a professional looking and consistent background.
4. Use pictures with purpose.
Pictures can be beneficial to a presentation—they can express a lot simply, they can keep the audience’s interest, and they can add aesthetic value. But pictures are not necessary, particularly to a serious presentation. If using pictures, make sure they have specific purpose and are there to advance the points in the presentation.
5. Save the presentation in multiple locations.
Plan for technical issues. It is inexcusable to show up to an interview with no backup plan. Most of the time, the interviewer provides the technology, but bring a laptop just in case. Save a copy on the hard drive in both PowerPoint and PDF formats. Additionally, save a copy on a USB flash drive and keep a fourth copy in an email. Know what technology is available (e.g. Mac or PC). If possible, test the technology beforehand. Do not let technical trouble get in the way of delivering the presentation.
6. Use humor sparingly.
Humor can be beneficial to a presentation, but more often than not, it is an unnecessary risk if a joke falls flat. Keep the presentation content firmly on target and to the point, and avoid the potential of turning off an interviewer. Some humor during the small talk before the presentation is acceptable.
7. Include an agenda.
Including an agenda as one of the first slides is a powerful tool for two reasons. First, it shows that the presenter did a good job following directions and reassures the interviewers that the presentation is going to cover what they asked. Second, it helps keep people’s interest—when they expect what is coming, they find it easier to stay focused.
8. Keep the presentation on target.
After completing research on the topic, analyze the data and refine the central conclusion or theme. Match it to the objective to make sure it addresses the question or target. Scrutinize each point for relevance and interest to the interviewers, and keep their seniority level in mind. Back up the main conclusion with several points, and support each of those points with data. Demonstrate superb knowledge of the market, the industry, trends, competitors, and technology relevant to the job.
Each point should relate to work that the interviewing company is doing. Bring in examples of past successes that showcase the skills for the job. Use research and notes from past conversations to tie in examples that exemplify the company’s business plan, mission, or workplace culture.
No matter what, keep within the allotted time frame. If time is running out, do not simply talk faster and rush—just skip a few points, or even an entire slide. Include extra slides that can be excluded or included depending on timing and delivery. Include critical details in the thank-you note.
Prepare for questions. This means leaving ample time at the end, and having additional information ready.
9. Use good presentation etiquette.
A presentation panel audience usually contains 2 to 5 interviewers. Consequently, make eye contact with each one to include them in the presentation and engage them. Smiling is critical—it will help you relax and calm nerves, and show excitement and enthusiasm about the material.
The interviewers may not remember all of the figures and information, but they will remember when a candidate engages and excites them. Smile, make eye contact, and genuinely get excited about the points in the presentation. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Recording the presentation beforehand helps to adjust and improve the delivery. Candidates will become more familiar and comfortable with the material, and it will give them a firsthand look at things they like and things they would like to change. Additionally, the presentation length is important, and this is a great way to find out if it is necessary to cut out or elaborate on material.
10. Roll with the punches.
In addition to the presentation content, the interviewers will be evaluating candidates for personality and communication style. Be natural, and attempt to connect personally with each of the interviewers on the panel.
When giving a presentation in an interview, rarely does everything go according to plan. Candidates may experience technical challenges or presentation hurdles. An interviewer may interrupt or cut the allotted time short, to name just a few potential concerns. No matter what, stay on target and be adaptable. Keep a sense of humor and show the interviewers a willingness to adapt, improvise, overcome, and get the job done.
See Blue Signal’s other interview guides for more tips and advice on succeeding during the hiring process.