The more senior the role you’re applying for, the more likely it is you’ll be asked to give a presentation as part of the recruitment process. This can be nerve-wracking; not everyone likes public speaking, but think of it as a positive: you’re building and delivering the presentation, which puts you in control of the narrative.
Here’s our tips on how to sell yourself with a winning interview.
Confirm the brief
The brief for your interview presentation may be vague, perhaps even deliberately so. The ability to dissect and challenge a brief is a valuable skill as it shows that you don’t just blindly follow instructions, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As a bare minimum, you should know:
- The topics you need to present on
- How long you have to present
- Preferred tools or data points to use and reference
- What tools you’ll be given to present with (e.g. a projector, a touchscreen monitor, an interactive whiteboard)
- Whether your interviewer(s) will ask questions during or after the presentation
- Who will be in the presentation, and their knowledge level on the subject area
The last of these points is especially important. If you’re being interviewed by a hiring manager or board member, they may lack detailed knowledge of the topic in question. You’ll want to keep these presentations more top-level and free of technical jargon. Conversely, if your interviewer is a sector specialist, it’s likely they’ll want you to drill down into the specifics. This allows you to flex your technical muscles.
Structure your presentation
Every presentation should tell a story. Decide on the key points you want to make (ideally no more than two or three), and ensure that every slide offers insight or learnings on these points. There’s no room for wasted words or irrelevant data; if a slide doesn’t further your narrative, it shouldn’t be included.
Broadly speaking, your presentation should incorporate a compelling introduction, followed by clear, data-backed arguments in the middle, and a firm conclusion. But remember this is an interview, so you’ll also want to pepper it with examples that demonstrate your relevant hard and soft skills.
Keep your presentation concise
Each slide should be like a road sign, providing enough information to be useful, but not so much that it becomes a distraction. A common mistake – particularly among people with minimal experience of presenting – is to cram slides full of text, graphs, tables and screenshots, then to simply read it all out. Less is definitely more.
A good presentation should work without the visual elements; the slides should only be there to back up your arguments. If you absolutely need to include lengthy sections of text or graphs that you’ll refer to throughout, print them off and hand them out instead.
Prepare notes, then practice your delivery
Even the best public speaker can succumb to nerves in the high-stress environment of an interview, so bring notes to jog your memory and keep you on point. Don’t rely solely on the technology; it has a funny habit of malfunctioning when you need it most. Instead, make handwritten notes, flash cards or similar. And make sure you practise in front of an audience before the big day. If you can’t find a willing spectator, record yourself with your phone and watch it back to pick up on potential stumbling blocks.
Review data, formatting and spelling
Think spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting aren’t important? Think again. Interviewers are drawn to typos, ugly spacing and misplaced apostrophes like moths to a flame, so check your work – and ideally have another person read it through too.
Finally, ensure your data is rock-solid. Many a promising presentation has been scuppered by a missing decimal point or inaccurate currency conversion. This could render your entire argument incorrect, so take particular care with your figures and be sure to include sources. If you’re referencing multiple studies and data points, consider detailing them in an appendix and circulating it as a handout.
Looking for more advice to ace your next interview? Check out our Job Interview Tips content hub. For more career support, browse all of our advice here or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to discuss your career options.