Ready or Not, Here it Comes: The Presentational Interview

Ask a professional what they find most nerve-wracking about their job search, and in many cases, you’ll get the same response: the interview. There are many tips and guides available on how to handle even the most unconventional of interviews, but what if the interviewing process is suddenly coupled with one of the biggest known phobias, public speaking?  Depending on the position, some employers are now implementing presentations into the interviewing process to assess the candidate’s hands-on skills.

If you’re an introvert, we have some insight on how to step out of your comfort zone and excel in your job search and career. But you don’t have to be an introvert in order to feel nervous at the idea of giving a presentation during a job interview. So if you’re unsure of how to approach such an interviewing style, or if you’re simply looking for tips on how to ace the presentation interview, read on!

First, make sure to obtain all the necessary information. If this is your first presentation-based interview, you’ll likely have a lot of questions—and the best person to answer those questions is your interviewer. The only way to ensure that you cover all your bases is to know what they are to begin with, so be sure to fully understand what material is to be covered, if there are any content minimums or limits, and who you’ll be presenting to.

Then, make an outline. Make sure to include all the information you’ve been given and organize your ideas as best as possible. One of the main points of a presentational interview is to assess not only your public speaking and presentation skills, but to determine your knowledge of the industry and the company and how well you organize your thoughts. Be clear on the information you want to include and where to include it before working on the actual presentation.

When it comes time to prepare the presentation itself, keep it simple. This is not to say leave any important information or visual aids absent, but when putting together a PowerPoint presentation, for example, it’s much more effective to keep slides a few lines long and avoid clutter. The easier the presentation is on the eyes, the clearer your points should be, and the audience can quickly absorb the visuals and turn their attention to what you’re saying. A presentation littered with full paragraphs and excessive imagery can often distract your audience from your main points and may leave them confused and frustrated.

Once your presentation is prepared, you must—like with any interview—practice your delivery. Don’t go into the interview room without trying out your presentation first. Knowing what you want to say when, and how to say it, will reduce your nerves come presentation time. Likewise, bring cues if appropriate, like index cards, to refer to if you get stuck.

Finally, ask questions. We encourage that all candidates ask questions at the conclusion of an interview, but in the case of a presentational interview, your inquiries should be focused on the presentation itself rather than the position. Act as if you already have the job and you’re presenting to a room of your colleagues by asking for their input, questions, or comments at the end. This will signal that your presentation is over and invite your interviewer(s) to take the reins.

For more general interview advice, take a look at our Resume & Interview Tips!