We recently completed an executive search for a leading healthcare system and as part of the interview process, the organization had candidates prepare thirty-minute interview presentations for the board of directors followed by Q&A sessions. The presentations were candidates’ opportunity to prove to the organization that they had the knowledge needed to do the job, were persuasive, and could communicate effectively. The candidates all wanted and could do the job, so the stakes were high.
Going into the presentations, we knew the executive team was strongly leaning towards extending an offer to one of the candidates, but was going to heavily weigh the board’s feedback on candidates’ presentations into their final decision on who to hire. We knew all of the candidates participating were strong communicators who regularly gave presentations, so we didn’t expect that the interview presentations would significantly impact the hiring organization’s decision.
We were wrong. A candidate other than the frontrunner ended up “wowing” the organization with his ability to connect with the audience, persuasive message, and confident delivery—he ultimately walked away with the job offer.
More and more organizations are using interview presentations when hiring and they can make or break your candidacy. To help you succeed the next time you are faced with an interview presentation, our team of executive recruiters is sharing our top tips for delivering an effective interview presentation.
- Understand what is being asked of you. If the organization hasn’t provided specifics, make sure to inquire about who you’re presenting to, the specific topic they’d like you to cover, how much time you’ll have, what the technology set-up will be, and whether a copy of your presentation is requested in advance.
- Know your audience. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the background and role of the people to whom you’ll be presenting. To the extent possible, also learn about the organization’s goals, culture, and background to help you craft an appropriate message. Keep in mind that audience members may have different levels of familiarity with your topic and plan accordingly.
- Develop engaging content. Start by writing down the purpose and goal of your presentation, and outlining the key points you need to cover. When structuring your message ensure you start with an introduction and agenda, and that your message has a clear beginning, middle, and end. If you are working with limited information, it may be appropriate to explain any assumptions you made or what additional information is needed. Wherever possible include stories and real-life examples to bring your message to life for your audience.
- Create strong supporting visuals. When drafting your slides, it is important to remember that your slides are there to support and complement what you are saying. One of the biggest mistakes we see is candidates overloading their slides with text and reading from them or using them as a crutch during the presentation. You want the audience focused on you and not your slides, so put just the high-level points on your slides. Consider creating a separate handout with more detail if you think your audience needs a more thorough takeaway.
- Rehearse and polish your presentation. Thoroughly practice your presentation so you’re comfortable with the delivery. Also, pay close attention to your timing and make sure you stick to the time allocated; not using your time well suggests to the audience that you’re unprepared, can’t follow instructions, and if you go way over, seems disrespectful.
- Anticipate questions. Think through the questions you’re likely to encounter and rehearse your responses. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit you don’t know and offer to follow-up if appropriate.
We know interview presentations can be nerve-wracking, but following these guidelines will help set you up for success.