What is an interview presentation?
As you progress further in your career, particularly to executive level, you may be asked to give a presentation for interview. Perhaps you’ve been asked to conduct research and present your findings to a panel, complete a task and show how you approached it, put together a business plan and present your ideas, or even give a presentation about yourself and how you would excel in the role. Whatever you are presenting about, how you approach it should remain the same.
Many people find giving presentations intimidating, especially during an interview when you’re already nervous, but it’s something that you may have to do throughout your career – the sooner you tackle this skill, the better.
Why are you being asked to do a presentation for a job interview?
Many employers opt for a presentation-style interview as it gives a better overview of your general aptitude when compared to, or combined with, a traditional question and answer interview, like a competency-based interview. The interviewer is looking for proof that you can do the job and that you possess the required skills and traits.
Additionally, if you put time and effort into your presentation, this will highlight to the hiring manager that you are committed to the role and enthusiastic about joining the company. How many times have you been asked in an interview ‘Why do you want this position?’ or ‘What is it about this role that attracted you to it?’. They want to know how much you want this position, rather than just any position.
How to prepare a presentation for an interview
Where do you start? What should you include? The presentation is your opportunity to showcase your knowledge, experience, and communication skills as well as your organisational skills and diligence – so start with the job description and person specification and pick out key skills and traits that the company is looking for. Then you can prepare your presentation around what they want to see.
For example, if the business is looking for someone creative, pay great attention to the style of your presentation. If it is looking for someone who is a confident public speaker, spend more time perfecting your speech. If attention to detail is paramount in the role, double and triple check your spelling and grammar. This is a great starting point and gives you something to build your presentation around.
What to include in an interview presentation
Although you may be tempted to go all out and show your potential employer that you are committed to the job, don’t fall into the trap of creating a 30-slide presentation with reams of text. Try to keep each slide short and significant and aim for no more than 10 slides. This ensures the information you deliver is memorable and will help you to stand out from other interviewees. Some interviewers may even give you a specific amount of time for your presentation, make sure you factor this in and don’t go over the time limit – otherwise you may appear to have poor time management skills.
Another way to make sure your presentation engages hiring managers is to include a range of formats to help you illustrate your points. Include graphs, statistics, diagrams, video clips, and images to help break up large volumes of text and maintain the attention of the interviewers.
If you are conducting research as part of your presentation, include quotes from industry leaders and/or research pieces. This gives your points authority and demonstrates your commercial awareness.
You should also try to incorporate the company’s colours, fonts, or style in your presentation. This will show that you have done your research and highlights your brand awareness.
Finally, check your spelling and grammar thoroughly! Small mistakes can really undermine the content of your presentation.
Tips for presenting at the interview
Presenting is a skill which can be learnt. Even if you are not a confident public speaker, the more you practice, the better you will become.
Present confidently and enthusiastically - Remember to speak clearly, make eye contact, and use open body language.
Don’t just read the slides - There is nothing worse than watching a presentation where the presenter has their back to you the whole time just reading reams of text from their PowerPoint notes.
Try not to talk too fast - Make sure you breathe, and take your time.
Practice, practice, practice - Ensure you are well rehearsed so that you are familiar with the structure of your presentation and are able to deliver it smoothly. If possible, practice your presentation with family members or friends to get used to speaking in front of other people.
Arrive early to give yourself time to set up the presentation and settle any nerves -
Get comfortable with PowerPoint and presentation equipment. Make sure you know how to work any projectors, screens, or remote controls before you begin to avoid any awkward stumbles or pauses.
Stay within the allocated time - If you have not been given guidance on length, aim for the 10-minute mark. Time your presentation when you are practising to make sure it will fit within the time limit. If you need to reduce the content of your presentation, cut out the least relevant or weakest points.
Be prepared to adapt - You may have practised your presentation in a certain way, but the interviewer might not respond accordingly. Be prepared to be interrupted by questions or further discussion unexpectedly.
Breathe and try to enjoy it - By relaxing, you will find yourself presenting better and, if you enjoy it, your interviewers will respond to that and be better engaged with what you are saying.
Tips for keeping the interview presentation simple
It can take a lot of work to make something simple, yet effective, and when it comes to interview presentations less is often more.
Keep it short - As previously mentioned, try to keep each slide short and aim for no more than 10 slides in total.
One idea per slide - To make sure your presentation is clear and concise, each slide should represent a different point/idea you want to make.
Stick to the important bits only - If you don’t think it’s important enough to spend time on, don’t have it on your slide.
Use the 4x6 rule - Aim for either four bullet points with six words per bullet point, or six bullet points with four words per bullet point. This way, your slides won’t look too busy.
- Instead of writing paragraphs of text, use bullet points and a minimum font size of 24.
What's better for your interview presentation? Cue cards or presenting from memory?
Should you use cue cards in your presentation for interview or try to present from memory?
The answer to this question depends on what you feel most comfortable doing. If you find that having cue cards will help ease your nerves and ensure that you don’t forget your speech, then there is nothing wrong with that.
However, if you choose to use cue cards, you should not rely too heavily on them. You shouldn’t stand in front of the interviewers and look down at the cards continuously, neither should you write your whole speech out on the cards and read directly from them. They are cue cards for a reason and should only give you prompts on what to talk about. If your interview presentation has a lot of statistics on, using cue cards to remember the figures if you are unable to memorise them all is an excellent strategy.
What to do when things go wrong
You can practice your interview presentation as much as possible, but something may still go wrong and it’s important to be prepared for this eventuality. Here are some things that could go wrong and how to deal with them:
There is not a lot you can do to prevent technical issues, especially if you are using someone else’s computer. But there are ways you can prepare just in case. Ensuring you have access to multiple sources of your presentation is key. Email the file to yourself and the recruiter, bring a copy on a USB stick and printed handouts. This way you are covered if anything goes wrong with the file you’re intending to use.
Your mind goes blank
Even those who are pros at presenting can sometimes lose their train of thought and find that their mind goes blank. The key here is not to panic. If possible, take a bottle or glass of water in with you and use this chance to take a sip, breathe and try to relax. Then look at your presentation slide or your cue cards and pick up where you left off. It may be helpful to repeat the last point you made as saying it out loud could spark your memory for your next point.
You are asked a question that you don’t know how to respond to
If you have allotted time at the end of your presentation to allow the interviewer to ask any questions (which is recommended), don’t worry if someone asks a question that you are not sure on. It may be that the interviewer is looking to see how you respond to a challenging question, so how you react is often more important than the answer itself.
If you do not understand the question, ask the person to explain. There is nothing wrong with doing this and shows more confidence than just saying that you don’t know. If you understand the question but are not sure of the answer, then admit that you don’t have the full answer, provide what information you do have, and offer to come back to them at a later date with a complete answer.
10-minute interview presentation template
Below is a presentation for interview example. Use this as a baseline and adapt or reorder where appropriate based on the task you have been set by the interviewer.
Slide 1 - Introduction – Reiterate the objectives you have been set and lay out the structure of your presentation so that the interviewers know what to expect.
Slide 2 - About you – Detail your professional experience, skills and working style.
Slide 3 - Company history – Give a brief summary of the company history, any milestones or awards.
Slides 4-7 - Answering the brief – Give your responses to questions you’ve been asked to answer, the benefits and limitations of your suggestions.
Slide 8 - Question and answers – Include a slide titled ‘questions and answers’ as a cue to pause for interaction.
Slide 9 - Conclusion – Sum up the key points you have made, reach a decision, and explain your reasoning.
Slide 10 - Personal achievements – End the interview on a high with a brief slide highlighting achievements that show how you will succeed in the role.
For more information on how to ace your interview, download our free guide, ‘Getting the best from your interview: Candidate interview tips and tricks’, or contact your local recruitment specialist today.