5 steps to conquering interview presentations

It’s becoming increasingly common for our candidates to be asked to present as part of the interview process. Presenting during an interview might be a foreign concept to you, but don’t be thrown off by it or let your nerves get the better of you. This is actually the perfect opportunity for you to showcase more of your personality, experience and skills.  

It’s very unlikely that you’ll be asked to present during the interview without prior warning. You will usually be told exactly how long you’ll be expected to talk for and on what topic. If you’re not properly briefed on this then it’s not unreasonable to ask; nor is it unreasonable to ask whether a projector/screen will be available, as this will have a bearing on how you approach the presentation.

Think about what those present in the room are going to be looking for. Usually, they’re assessing three main things:

  • Creativity and knowledge: the content of your presentation, your aptitude for problem solving and how you have used your experience to answer the brief 
  • Communication skills: your ability to engage with an audience, build rapport and trust
  • Time management: your capacity to manage and adapt the pace of the presentation based on frequency of questions/interruptions – so that it finishes on time

Here’s some best practice advice on making a lasting impression – for the right reasons.

  1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Once you’ve been provided with a subject then do your research. If you have gaps in your knowledge then reach out to your contacts that are most familiar with the field and use the internet to enhance your understanding.

It will also benefit you to know who’s going to be in the room so that you can adjust your presentation accordingly. Try and appeal to each audience member individually based on the information you are able to glean from sites such as LinkedIn or the company website.

Use the job and person specifications to help inform your presentation. What is the employer looking for and what challenges are you expected to resolve? Showcase your suitability by meeting these requirements where relevant throughout the presentation.

Most importantly, make sure to rehearse your presentation, ideally in front of a crowd. Get feedback and gain confidence by practising. Don’t forget to train yourself to keep to the time limit.

  • Break the ice

As soon as you step into the interview room the mood can often change and, to those more susceptible to nerves, become intimidating. Mitigate this by building as much rapport with the interviewers beforehand as possible – even if this is just a comment about the weather while walking down the corridor.

  • Look the part

This is a basic piece of advice but one that, should you ignore, will most likely cost you the job. Dress as you would on the first day of the job – you may use the company website to gain an idea of the dress code. Once you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing it’s easier to project calmness and confidence.

  • Focus on the key takeaways

Your presentation can go into as much detail as you decide appropriate to answer the brief, but don’t overload the audience with a million different bullet points and takeaways. Demonstrate your ability to think clearly and distil complex information down into a few key points. This is advice that applies to your presentation in both verbal and physical form; if presenting with the aid of a screen then you really only want a few points on each slide.

  • Expect the unexpected

Finally, expect the unexpected! Your ability to think on your feet and adapt to changing situations will help separate you from the pack. Make arrangements for the possibility of the screen not working, there being more people in the room than expected, the topic evolving just before the presentation and so on.

Presenting at an interview is very much a 21st-century concept, but one that when harnessed correctly gives you a greater opportunity to display your full set of experience and your potential for the role.

So don’t be nervous – see this as more as an opportunity than a threat.