Posted on August 21, 2010 by Catherine Adenle | Comments (3)
Written by Catherine Adenle
Yes! You jumped up and punched the air. Why? You have just landed a job interview.
You were lucky enough to get the job interview. Now as you further read the letter, you have just realised that you must prove yourself by giving a presentation to the interview panel on the day. To assist your future employers in their assessment of your qualifications, they have asked you to make a presentation on a particular subject related to the position you have applied for.
In addition to traditional face to face interviews, many businesses now use other ways of selecting potential employees. These include job interview presentations. In this economy, companies are slashing costs and slashing their workforce, to only keep the staff that are most skilled and are capable of delivering by adding value. So it is getting harder and harder for people to find jobs as each available job is going to have more competition. It is really important for you to stand out from the pack, otherwise you have no chance.
The only huge secret to delivering a compelling presentation during an interview is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Those who are prepared for such competitive moments in life will perform better because they will be more confident and self-assured.
To make both your presentation and interview the best anyone in that company has ever seen, the following tips and strategies will help you to create a presentation that grabs attention, is memorable for some time to come post-interview and prompt your interviewers into wanting to hire you. So before the day:
Be organised, read and re-read the interview brief, job advertisement and understand what the presentation is all about. Highlight and focus more on the job and presentation requirements – they are the important points. These are what you are likely to be asked about so prepare. Note the language used in the job description and replay it in the interview. If possible, call and speak to one of the person interviewing you in advance. Ask if there is anything important that isn’t mentioned in the letter or advertisement. By doing this, you may find out something useful. Also use the web to find out more about the company, their products or organisation.
What do you need to take with you to the interview? It is important to take few printed extra copies of your CV/resumé, have a nice suit, a USB flash drive containing your presentation and the electronic file of your CV. If you can brand up a CD with a label and your name, then that’s a good idea. You can hand it over after your presentation. I recommend that you take your laptop if you have one just in case.
Buses and Trains run late, think of traffic jams and the fact that there might not be a parking space when you get there. So, it is advisable that you leave yourself plenty of time. Know where you are going and if in doubt, dry run and test the journey beforehand. Find out who is going to meet you and have their telephone number with you. If for any reason, you are running late, then phone ahead to let them know. And when you arrive a simple apologies for being late should suffice and let’s face it, if you are a great candidate they will have forgotten in a few minutes.
Usually you will be given a topic for the presentation, ensure that you research the title on the web but if not, it is important to prepare something on a familiar subject in case you are given a free reign. In that case, the subject matter for your job interview presentation might not necessarily be important, which means it is just an opportunity for the potential employer to see that you can structure and communicate information articulately and effectively. So, prepare by understanding and researching your subject matter. However, I encourage you to research all about the company; its products then, choose a topic more relevant to its products and current market scenario.
Ahead of time, you can call the company and find out the number on the panel, level of responsibility or level of expertise, any other specialist knowledge. This will help determine the material examples and the amount of detail you can use in your presentation.
In general, restrict your presentation to three main sections. This helps to keep a strong focus to your speech. Three tends to be the magic number that people remember things in and it is easier to follow and make the audience remember the message and you as a speaker. Your presentation should follow the following structure:
The Aim – What is the message that you want to convey?
What the Presentation contains – Tell them what you’re going to say
Deliver – Tell them
Recap and summarise – Tell them what you’ve told them
Your presentation must convey one key message and this message will act like a backbone for the presentation and should hold everything else together. It is important that you make a strong opening at the start of the presentation. This is the time when you want to grab the interviewers’ attention. There are few ways of doing this, for instance you might start with a question, or a quote, or an important fact to arouse interest. A good start will set the tone for the rest of your presentation.
Practice your presentation in the mirror, many times, so that it really becomes part of you. This will give you an all important confidence when you begin your presentation.
Quite often, you will need to use a visual aid. This most commonly will be PowerPoint. Depending on the duration, you can adopt the 10, 20, 30 rule ad explained by Guy Kawasaki. Then, be sure to make your slides simple, compelling and captivating. Also remember the KISS rule – Keep It Short and Simple. Your slides should include the key points only, with one idea per slide. Summarize this key message in one powerful sentence and keep it foremost in your mind throughout the presentation. See these don’ts:
- Do not create a large number of slides. Limit the number of slides to a maximum of 10 and provide clear and crisp information.
- Do not dump loads of text into a slide.
- Keep a consistent slide look and feel throughout your presentation. Use the same font, size, color, and capitalization format.
- Use simple graphs to communicate findings. If too much information is presented, very little will be remembered.
- Use few colours and ensure that they fuse well
- Unless you are good at utilizing animation on your slides, don’t have everything singing and dancing
- Avoid using complete sentences. Instead, use short phrases that capture the important points. The only exception is the use of quotations, which can be cited in their entirety.
- Always use a font large enough to be seen by all panel members. Use 34 – 36 point for titles and no smaller than 28-30 point for the text or bulleted items.
- Avoid border areas; maintain enough white space on your slides to ensure that the graphics or text are easy to read.
- Create bullets for better appearance; provide ample spacing with readable font and size.
- Use pertinent visuals – a visual presentation would increase the reach-ability of the information.
- Do not add large tables that fill the entire slide.
- Do not read the visual presentation to the panel, they can read. They need you to present.
Complete the presentation a few days before the interview. Proofread the contents for grammatical and logical mistakes. Rehearse at least four times so that you can have an error-free presentation and communication.
The Time Factor
Take note of time limits and use this to build your slides then try and find someone to listen to you and time your presentation beforehand. This gives you a chance to fine tune, and will help highlight any annoying habits or overuse of particular words like …um… and …er… and make sure that you are presenting appropriately.
Your interviewers will most likely ask questions about your presentation. It is recommended that you question yourself on your own presentation by writing down a list of possible Q&A and going through them. Where possible, you must handle any questions in this order:
- Thank the person who raised the question
- Rephrase the question to check that you and the rest of the audience understand it
- Think for few seconds and answer the question
- Check with the person who raised the question that they are satisfied
- Then, thank them again
Whatever you do, ensure that you look like a good cultural fit on the day. It is said that within 15 – 30 seconds, people make up their minds when you enter the room. This may or may not be strictly accurate but be sure to create a good impression as first impressions do really matter. So dress appropriately and look the part. People like people who are like themselves because most people tend to employ in their own image. Nonetheless, always err on the side of smart. Address the interview panel at the beginning of the presentation before starting the slide show. This will help you to build a relationship with the panel from the start and it will also create the impression that you are the one controlling the presentation. Introduce yourself, qualifications, experience, topic and description about the presentation.
Manage your nerves
I know that this is easier said than done but to be honest, nerves aren’t necessarily a bad thing because they pump adrenalin around your body. It is common when we are nervous to feel short of breath. So, while you are waiting to commence, take some deep breaths. Take your time and if you feel your mouth getting dry then ask for a glass of water. If you do find yourself getting flustered or tongue-tied then remember that it is not a matter of life and death, it is just an interview presentation. Try and smile as it reduces the tension for the interviewer who may be sharing your nervous energy too.
Show confidence – this comes from understanding your subject. An interview is a place to create a positive impression about your technical and communication skills. So remember that this is your chance to sound smart, fluent and be considered. When presenting, take your time to change slides. Pause and allow the panel to take in what is on the screen before speaking. They need time to assimilate what has just been said and to absorb the information on the new slide before you start to speak again. It will also give you time to gather your thoughts before you begin to speak.
Make sure you use gestures and proper body language. They are directly proportional to your confidence. Smile, a smile every now and again says that you are easy to work with. Be sure to top and tail the whole interview with a smile. Be sure to make lots of eye contact. You should radiate positive body language. Keep an open body posture. Show enthusiasm, but do not gesture wildly. If you are asked to present sitting down, don’t slouch, it implies a lack of energy and avoid the too casual look that can come from leaning back. Move your chair if it helps you to talk to the panel as a group.
Breathe and take your time to change slides. Pause and allow the panel to take in what is on the screen before speaking. They need time to assimilate what has just been said and to absorb the information on the new slide before you start to speak again. It will also give you time to gather your thoughts.
Walk the room, presenting to a panel means that you need to work the room. Make eye contact with each person, share out the smiles and remember to address everyone with your answers.
Let the interviewer talk – people like people who listen. Give a subtle nod when the interviewer is talking. Don’t interrupt them and if they interrupt you, let them speak. And listen to make sure that you are answering the questions asked. If you don’t have answers then politely say “Sorry, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” This is a better response than make an answer up.
After the presentation, you want to ensure that you stand out, maintain an ongoing interest in the minds of the panel afterwards, so go the extra mile by preparing and bringing in something to show your future employers that you are forward thinking. Bring with you a printed handout to cover more points on the subject of your presentation. It shows that you have thoroughly researched the subject and you are willing to take initiative. Remember to add your name to any materials you hand over to them. Handouts are extra additions that can help the interviewer clear doubts without interrupting the presentation. End the presentation by thanking the interview panel.
After the interview, hopefully you have the names of the interviewers. Check on LinkedIn and see if you can add them as connections. However, before you do this, make sure that you have a really good LinkedIn profile. Make sure you have a lot of connections, as well as a lot of recommendations from previous employers or friends.
It’s not enough just being the right person for the job, you have to show that you are. Job interview presentation is often the difference between being a strong candidate, and getting the job offer.
The quality and delivery of your job interview presentation could literally make or break your chances of landing the job so don’t fall below the mark.
- Career Journal: Acing That Job Interview (blogs.wsj.com)
- Your Job Interview Face (lifescript.com)
- How to Ace a Job Interview (lifescript.com)
- Tips for Ensuring a Successful Interview (encourageblogging.com)
- 5 Sites With Job Interview Tips To Help You Ace Your Interview (makeuseof.com)
- Interview Tips for First Time Job Seekers (brighthub.com)
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