Even in a candidate-short, rapidly growing market like the one I work in, there are still a thousand ways to fail at getting a job. Whether it's not spending enough time spell-checking your CV, messing up the maths or excel test because you didn’t read the instructions properly, or showing major nerves because it's your first interview for ages, there are a lot of pit falls and booby traps between you and the job you want. There is one such challenge, however, that trips up more than it's fair share of good candidates: the dreaded PowerPoint Presentation.
I can’t stress how integral this can be to some hiring processes. Often an applicant can go from strong favourite to being knocked out of the race, all on the strength (or lack thereof) of their presentation. Having read way more than my fair share of such presentations, good and bad, I’ve devised 5 key tips to help give you a fighting chance of success in getting that dream job:
1) READ THE INSTRUCTIONS
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people fall at this first hurdle. Presentation briefs can vary from pages of guidance and data to a really ambiguous single sentence question, but whatever you’ve been given, follow it to a tee. If they ask for a full campaign breakdown including expected results, give them that. If they ask for a top level set of ideas as to how you’d approach the problem, give them that. One of the most consistent reasons for a hiring manager to ‘no’ a candidate is that they didn’t actually answer the question posed to them in the presentation brief –it suggests you’re not detail oriented, have trouble following instructions, and wouldn’t be able to ‘get it’ from day one.
2) EDIT DOWN
Most interview presentations should clock in within the 10-20 minute mark, and should be presented on a roughly equivalent number of slides. Unless you’ve been expressly asked to deliver something longer, if you’ve got 40 slides, you’ve gone wrong somewhere. Ultimately, the longer you’ve got the interviewer sitting through pages of info, the more chance there is for them to get bored and for you to lose your way. It's important to remember that you’re not only being judged on the content of your presentation, but your ability to communicate it effectively and succinctly to an audience - so chances are, if you’re waffling in an interview, you’d do the same in front of a client. Keep it short, and keep it to the point.
3) VISUALS ARE IMPORTANT
I don’t just mean that you’ve got to make it look good, though this is clearly a massive point of distinction. The most important thing to remember when it comes to visuals is ‘how does this relate to what I’m going to be talking about on this slide?’ photos and graphs are great but if you don’t actually reference them when you talk it through, they’re nothing more than ornamentation. Another point to consider when making up the slides is your use of the actual discussion content – nothing screams ’amateur’ more than a PowerPoint presentation that is a word for word reproduction of everything you say when you stand up there. Once again, when it comes to words up on the screen, less is more, so summarise key data and themes, and save the details for your script.
4) STRUCTURE A BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END
Even if you absolutely nail the middle part, the ‘meat’ of your work, you won’t come across well if you don’t make an effort at both the start and finish of your presentation. It’s important to start with addressing the central question, contextualising it with how you approached it, what research you did, what challenges you faced etc. Positioning your presentation this way allows for the interviewer to see your thinking up front, reducing the chance of them not ‘getting’ where you’re coming from. Similarly, a presentation with a strong ending - a conclusion or review of your findings and some analysis of results (or expected results) leaves the interviewer with a firm impression of your overall thought process, and whether they agree with your conclusion or not, they can appreciate the internal logic of your presentation.
5) MAKE YOURSELF MEMORABLE
Chances are your presentation will be one of many these interviewers are assessing over a period of a couple of weeks, so to stand the best chance of getting the job, make sure your presentation is the only one they remember. A lot of the core content of the presentation will be naturally very similar to your competitors, so don’t be afraid to innovate in either content or form - make videos, have something interactive, hand out detailed mock-ups of what you’re suggesting (make sure, however, that this isn’t at the expense of the core content of your work.) It’s also important to remember that the real article on display isn’t your presentation, it’s you – so be as charming, humorous, articulate and confident as you can be – all of which will be made easier by knowing you have a kick-ass presentation backing you up!
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