How to succeed at interview presentations
So, you’ve done a great first interview and are invited back to for a second interview where you need to prepare a presentation. How do you write an interview presentation and what should you expect on the day?
Whether you enjoy public speaking or not, our steps below should help you to create a successful presentation and land the job.
Read the fine print
Before you begin, you must understand exactly what the interviewer wants and expects. Should it be presented as a sales pitch, a new project outline or a suggested change in current products or services?
Equally important is the length of the presentation – some people will say ‘no more than ten minutes’ or ‘no more than 8 slides’, but if they don’t, make sure you ask your recruitment consultant.
If it is left open for you to decide, we suggest ten to fifteen minutes is a good length for a presentation.
Now that you know what is expected and how long you have, we suggest that you…
Prepare what you want to SAY
Before you start your slides, you should have a very clear outline of what you want to say during the presentation. Write down the key messages that you want to get across and then think about how much detail you want to include for each part.
We suggest focusing on a smaller number of well thought out points rather than a bullet point style list of things you want to say. Explanation is crucial.
If it will benefit you, you can write a full script at this stage. It can help you to create slides and allows you to practice before you start creating the slides.
Create slides to support your message
To get started, you’ll need PowerPoint or a similar program. If you don’t have a license, head to your local library where they will usually have access to computers with the Microsoft office programs.
You can use a template design or create your own, but your slides should be clean and concise. They are there to support your message and to gain the attention of the audience. You do not need to have everything that you plan to say on the slides.
Remember that you will need one slide as a contents/introduction page and one at the end for your summary/conclusions. The rest of the slides are your chance to go into detail on your ideas.
A typical presentation could follow this basic structure:
Slide 1: Title and contents
Slide 2: Summary of the current situation/problem
Slide 3: Benefits and drawbacks of the current situation/problem
Slide 4: Suggested changes to the business process
Slide 5: Explanation of the benefits
Slide 6: Discussion of how to implement any changes
Slide 7: Any possible side effects/benefits to the business of these changes
Slide 8: Summary of your findings and conclusions
We don’t recommend copying these exactly, but we do think they can provide a good foundation.
Ensure each slide (or bullet point) has a clear purpose
Within a slide you can have bullet points, graphics, statistics, quotes or information. Make sure that every thing you include has a purpose – presentations should be as clean, clear and concise as you can manage. Remember that your words can explain each point in more detail and that the slides are there to have an impact that is easy to understand.
You can (and should) use quotes or statistics if possible. For example, instead of saying:
‘Businesses can save money using this new technology’
You could find a statistic such as:
‘80% of businesses using this technology have reported saving more than a third in overall costs’
If you use a fact or a quote, make sure you include the source.
Practice makes perfect
This is an obvious one, but make sure you run through your presentation a number of times and know what you are going to say. Your slides should provide the cues that you need to continue talking, although having a small amount of notes is also acceptable. Make sure you are not reading from a script though.
Interviewers will be impressed if you have the majority of your presentation memorised and it will make you look professional and assured.
Of course, when you are practising you should ensure that you time yourself and try to deliver the presentation at the same speed as you will on the day.
How to save your presentation
We suggest you do all these three to be safe:
- Take your laptop to the interview with the presentation saved
- Save it onto a memory stick
- Email it to yourself
Some companies may ask you to email it over in advance, but we suggest you still take a memory stick or your laptop.
What to expect on the day
If it’s a second interview we usually find that employees will want to start off with your presentation so that they can use it for further discussion. Make sure you are ready to go.
During the presentation you will encounter two types of people (or groups of people) – those who want to ask questions as you go and those who will stay quiet and ask them at the end.
If the interviewer is staying quiet then do not be put off and think it’s going badly. This is probably just their style but make sure you are aware of their body language. If they look disinterested in a certain topic or slide then it may be best to move along more quickly.
On the other hand, if they look interested in a certain slide then make sure you explain in detail what you mean and why you are including that point.
And remember, this is a presentation and it should be addressed to the people in the room. Make sure you make eye contact with everyone and treat it like you are explaining your ideas to them.
Be ready for questions
Whether they are asked during the presentation or at the end, be ready to go into more detail on everything you say.
If you have a clear message and have done your preparation then this should be relatively straightforward. If you understand your slides and your overall theme then answering questions will be much easier.
This all comes back your initial planning and having a well structured presentation that is focused on the question or problem at hand.
Some final advice for the slides and presenting
- Never have a slide that is just a large body of text – you can use bullet points and numbers but the details should be explained rather than written at length
- Your slides should be neatly presented but there is no need to be overly creative – they are there to display your thoughts, not show off your design skills
- Use quotes or statistics to back up your points but make sure you always include the source of these
- Always stand up to deliver the presentation
- Make sure people are not still reading slide when you move to the next one
- When you finish, thank the audience for listening