Preparing for an Interview Presentation

There are, I’ve learned, different types of job presentations. For instance, in the academic world, a job talk, as *they* call it, can be very different than an interview presentation given to a Wall Street firm. In this article, I will refer to the type I am most familiar with: the interview presentation for a scientifically oriented software company. More specifically, for one that deals with a lot of R&D applicants, who will later on have to present findings to clients.

I’ve been working for a technology company for about a year now, and having gone through their hiring process relatively recently, which was pretty intense (read Phone Interview with Nuance), I thought I could share some advice with the people out there. Actually, I’ve had the chance of sitting on the other side of the table for a while now, and have probably observed more when assisting at the candidate’s presentation themselves in the past year.

Let’s hope you find the following six advices helpful. Following those six recommendations can only increase your chances of getting that exceptional job. As always, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question or two, I am sure it’ll benefit others as well.

do your research

You should always know who you are dealing with. If you have the chance of having “someone in the inside”, then use him/her to get some information on the people you will meet during your day. You can then use this information to your advantage during your interviews. Not by blackmailing your future co-workers!!!, but by talking about subjects that will matter to them and will help forge some sort of connection with them. However, always be honest during you interviews, it’ll show them who you really are. After all, you will be working with these people for a while and you want a team that will accept you for who you are.

customize the presentation

Make sure you spend quite a bit of time customizing your presentation to the company you are presenting for. There is nothing more boring, than to sit there and watch something that looks like old material recycled four times in the last month or so. This means that the presentation is, to a certain extent, related to the field of work in which you are applying to. Make that clear with subtle, but noticeable hints throughout the presentation.

design is a plus

Don’t use a boring Microsoft’s Office97 PowerPoint template. Try and find a catchy, but not over the top, layout and color scheme. I personally I am much more tempted to follow a presentation that’s nicely put out (and looks nice!) than one with a very blah template that I’ve seen so many times already. Remember, we’ve seen a lot of presentations, make it stand out!

usability is your friend

A navigational reminder is very useful during a presentation. I often find myself wondering where we are in the talk and what we are talking about in the picture. I personally find that a top-level menu with the current location highlighted is a very important detail to any presentation really.

connect it to the company’s research

Presenting on a totally (well almost totally) different subject can be fine depending on the kind of job you are after. In our case, the candidate will be presenting material to clients that often do not have any clue of what he is talking about. Therefore, presenting this kind of material shows your future employer that you can present, and explain, a difficult subject matter to a crowd of non-expert, which is definitively a plus. A key in this case is to always show how your subject is relevant to what you will be doing in your future job. After all, you still have to show your interest in the job. In other words, let your interest in the job permeate through the presentation.

last but not least

You should never try to sound too smart. Let me rephrase this. You should never make someone in the audience, especially not your future boss, feel like a loser who doesn’t know anything. Well, unless you do not want the job and he really doesn’t know what he is talking about. So be diplomatic and respectful. There is nothing worst than a brilliant candidate making you feel like a fool. And, chances are that your future employer knows a lot more than you think.

Plain and simple:

  1. always be honest during you interviews
  2. customize your presentation to the company you are presenting for
  3. Remember, we’ve seen a lot of presentations, make it stand out!
  4. top-level menu with the current location highlighted
  5. let your interest in the job permeate through the presentation.
  6. be diplomatic and respectful

Since writing this article, I’ve come across a very interesting article explaining how to put together a demo (essentially the same as a presentation). Go see Particletree and get some very crucial advice on how to prepare a good demo.


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