Continuing on the theme of application processes and my recent experiences, I’d like to turn my attention now to 5 tips for effective interview presentations. In the area where I work, we ask our candidates to prepare a ten minute presentation on a topic area relevant to our role, as part of the interview procedure. The question is usually quite open, to allow a candidate to research a topic area and present their findings, arguments, conclusions and recommendations. Part of the test is to see how well a candidate can condense a lot of information into a well structured, relevant and concise form and get that across in a limited amount of time. There is no right answer, as one generally does not exist, it is to demonstrate the candidate’s approach and depth of research.

This post is not an A – Z of presentations skills, I am sure that there are lots of places you can find that. These are some tips based on the observations of my colleague and I about the presentations we saw and what made them effective for us:

1. Answer the question – in preparing for the presentation, the candidates were given a question to answer. We were surprised to find that some of them never actually answered it, they presented lots of data but never came up with any conclusion or recommendation. The better candidates, provided a clear conclusion and recommendation.

2. Stick to the time limit – when given a time limit to stick to, do so. Given the ten minutes allowed, we had candidates’ presentations ranging from 7 minutes 30 seconds to nearly 15 minutes. A primary reason for the time limit was to see how well candidates could present complex data to a time limit, a skill that is required when presenting to senior people or in busy meetings with tight agendas.

3. Avoid too much information on slides – Almost to a person, the slides were too busy with data being presented as whole paragraphs, rather than just bullet points. This made the slides difficult to read and there was a tendancy for us to read on infront of where the presenter was. That can be very distracting for both parties. The best presentation we saw had just one slide, the candidate had created a diagrammatical model to represent their research and had a few bullet points down the side to provide recommendations. Very powerful.

4. Avoid reading your slides verbatim – the general tendancy of writing whole paragraphs, as point 3, led to the candidates reading their slides word for word, this can be very monotonous and it easy for the audience to lose interest. Many people can read several times faster that the average person can speak, so will be well ahead of the presenter.

5. Ensure that content is relevant & current – In today’s world there are a plethora of sources available to research topics and content for such a presentation. It is easy to get inundated with the volume of data and lose sight of the objective so make sure the content is relevant. Some sources are not up to date and some are just incorrect. It is worth spending time finding a few sources and comparing the information. Once you have collected your data, look at how it fits with the question and how you can use it to build your argument. Again, our worst candidates presentations were not well researched, content was out of date or not relevant; whilst the best had spent time researching, analyzing and condensing their data into salient points before generating conclusions and recommendations from their research.

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Albert Einstein

So there we go, 5 tips for effective interview presentations that from my experience are winners.

I would welcome your comments and insights.