How to Handle a Presentation Interview

In the many interview situations I’ve been in, I think the most nerve-wracking is the presentation interview. Certainly, in my first presentation interview I was a bucket of anxiety. Not only was I trying to present myself well as an interviewee, but I was also trying to impress them as a presenter. Trying to do both of those things at once? Not exactly a walk in the park.

However, it’s an interview style that everyone will probably experience, as presentation interviews are becoming more and more common. Employers will propose a topic and ask you to give a presentation (generally no more than ten minutes) in order to get a better sense of your abilities as a public speaker, your knowledge of a topic, and your grace under pressure. Though the presentation can be stressful, this does give you the opportunity to really shine if you do it right. To help you along, I’ve compiled some tips so your next presentation interview will really shine.

  1. Assess your audience. Once you’ve been asked to give a presentation, it would be prudent to collect some audience information. How many people are you presenting to? What is their knowledge level on the topic? How long does the presentation have to be, and will you have access to a computer and projector? These are questions to put to your contact at the company once you’ve been asked to prepare a presentation. Having answers to these will help you put together a presentation of which you can be proud.
  2. Use good scaffolding. Have you ever witnessed a presentation that meandered so much you weren’t even certain the presenter knew the topic? If you answered no, you can count yourself lucky! Having a good presentation structure will make it that much easier for your listeners to engage in the topic. Start with a brief introduction where you outline the topic and main points you’ll be covering. Then elaborate on each of the main points. Try not to linger too long on any particular one, but instead move purposefully through them. End with a summary of your points and a brief conclusion.
  3. Get visual. Presentation software like Prezi or PowerPoint can create great visual interest for your audience, although you should avoid simply reading off your slides. Another great way to visually engage your audience is by creating handouts. This will help discourage them from becoming distracted by giving them something to physically engage with. I would especially recommend handouts if you won’t be using a projector—having content written down will demonstrate your commitment to planning ahead.
  4. Practice makes permanent. Just like you would practice your answers for an individual interview, make sure you are practicing your presentation. Speak slowly and clearly, and be sure to enunciate your words. You can use flashcards as aids, but make sure you aren’t reading exclusively from a sheet of paper. You should be as open as possible in your body language. If you can wrangle a friend or family member, rehearse your presentation in front of them and ask for their feedback. They will probably see things that you aren’t aware of and help you create a watertight presentation.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions. About yourself, and about the presentation. This is an interview, after all, and the hiring committee is bound to want further information. So in addition to preparing a solid presentation, practice responses to questions about yourself and your work. Some presentation questions to prepare for include: Why did you approach the project from this angle, what sources did you use, and how would you expand the presentation topic?

Although I wouldn’t say that giving a presentation as part of interview is fun (at least, for me it wasn’t), it is a really valuable learning experience. It also lets you show off your skills in a very tangible way, so use that to your benefit! Remember the tips above, and you’ll be smooth sailing in no time!

Interview preparation is a focus for us here at Career Solutions Group. To learn more, you can email us at We offer free initial consultations and have helped hundreds of career changers make meaningful transitions.

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group