How To Give a Successful Presentation During an Interview

Learn how to prepare for and ace a job interview presentation

Woman giving a presentation

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For certain roles at some companies, the interview process may require that candidates give a presentation. Even confident speakers can feel some nerves about presenting in an interview setting. It can be a challenge to showcase your ability in front of a prospective employer, regardless of how much experience you have.

The keys to giving strong, effective presentations that wow interviewers are planning and practice.

Review advice on when employers request presentations from candidates for employment, tips for preparing for in-person and video presentations, and advice on how to ace your presentation during a job interview.

Why Employers Request Presentations

Interviewers are most interested in seeing you present if presentation skills are a key part of the role.

“The goal of having candidates present in interviews is to make sure whoever is hired can speak eloquently,” Melissa Hirsch wrote in an email to The Balance. Hirsch is the principal recruiter at Betts, a nationwide technology and recruiting services firm. 

Presentations are most often requested of candidates seeking roles in sales or leadership, according to Leslie Schmidt, vice president of recruiting at Betts, via an email to The Balance. 

Depending on the role, other factors may be at play. For sales roles, for instance, it’s typical to ask candidates to present on the company’s product.

“When a company asks a candidate to demo their current product, they are listening to their communication style, sales process, how well they qualify and close, and overall selling strategy,” Schmidt said.

Interviewers may also be looking for how well you understand the company’s product and the common pain points for customers. 

If you’re applying for a leadership role, you may be asked to share your plans for your first three months on the job, Schmidt said. If that’s the case, be specific. Talk about exactly what you would do, and how. 

Giving a presentation on top of a job interview may feel overwhelming. It may help to remember that, in a way, the job interview itself is also a presentation.

“You are presenting yourself as the product to be ‘sold’ to the hiring manager,” Tom Cobin wrote in an email to The Balance. Cobin is the founder of DynamiCoach, which offers coaching and workshops to improve public speaking and presentation skills.

Follow these strategies to prepare for and ace an interview presentation. 

What Interviewers Will Be Evaluating

 During presentations, interviewers will be keeping an eye on your communication skills and organizational skills.

Communication Skills

Interviewers will want to see if you are well-spoken and can share information clearly.

“Depending on the job you're applying for, they may be interested in analyzing whether or not you communicate in a way that will connect with the appropriate level of individuals (for example, senior leadership),” said Lisa Nichols, career and leadership consultant and CEO of Love Your Niche, LLC, in an email interview with The Balance.

Organizational Skills

They’re also looking to see how you organize and share information. Interviewers will be looking for a well-organized presentation and assessing how you use visuals and handouts and get participants involved. 

How To Prepare for an Interview Presentation

As with thinking through answers to common interview questions, a bit of preparation will help you feel at ease during a presentation. Try these strategies below. 

Confirm What’s Expected

Before you fire up your PowerPoint, make sure you have a good sense of what the hiring manager is looking to see.

“Most companies are more than happy to provide extra information and answer questions about the presentation prior to your interview, but make sure you can’t find the answer yourself first,” Schmidt said. 

Before you begin preparing, you should have a sense of the following presentation details:

  • Topic 
  • Length 
  • Audience (e.g., whether the presentation is geared toward C-suite executives, clients, or another group)

Keep It Short 

You’ll want to adhere to any time guidelines set by the hiring manager. As a general rule, if the timeline is uncertain, keep it short.  And remember to leave time for questions at the end.

“If an interviewer says you’ll be given 20 minutes to present with extra time for Q&A at the end, then your presentation shouldn’t be 10 minutes or 30,” Schmidt said. 

In terms of slides, 10 is a good maximum, with an intro slide, agenda slide, and a final slide with the next steps or Q&A.

Go ahead and share your slides with peers for feedback, too.

“The more eyes and feedback you can get, the better” Hirsch said.

Don’t Procrastinate

If you’re pulling an all-nighter to get it done, that might show. Spend sufficient time, and focus on the project.

“Hiring managers can tell when there was a lack of effort and time put into a presentation,” Schmidt said. 

Keep in mind that multiple candidates may be presenting on the same topic, making it easy for hiring managers to compare your work to others. Investing time in your presentation will help you make the best impression.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve planned your presentation and perfected your slides, you’ll want to practice. The goal is to be very familiar with the material—without memorizing it, according to Cobin. That way, you won’t stumble if you forget something, but your delivery will still be natural: Memorizing can lead to a stiff, stilted presentation. To get comfortable, try rehearsing in front of a mirror or recording yourself.

Tips for a Successful Presentation

Take a look at some additional tips for giving a strong interview presentation. 

Make Slides Attractive

Your slides should look good. Here are some tips for creating effective supporting visuals: 

  • Don’t use too much text: Aim for a few bullet points. “The goal is to engage your audience and make it interactive," Hirsch said. "Nobody wants to be talked at for 30 minutes, and nobody wants to read a 10-paragraph essay that's a size 6 font either."
  • Don’t read your slides: Instead of reading slides out loud, you should use them as backup, including data, tips, and charts or summarizing your points, Nichols said. Consider printing out copies of your presentation for the interviewers, as well.
  • Add color and logos: But don’t overdo it. Your slides shouldn't look busy or distracting.
  • Add your contact information: This will help with follow-ups.
  • Check for errors—then check again: A typo on a big projector screen is particularly embarrassing. Review for accuracy, spelling, and grammar. Consider having someone else proofread, too.

Visual materials should support—not detract or distract from—your core message and any supporting points you’re trying to make.

Be Clear and Succinct 

A presentation should show off your verbal communication skills. That means you don’t want to ramble or be poorly organized in how you share information. Limit filler words, such as “um,” “like,” and “you know.”

Aim to make your presentation interesting and engaging.

“Connect with interviewers on a human level. If you start with a stat or a story that grabs their attention and makes it interesting for them, you will be more memorable,” Nichols said.

Then, be clear on the main points you want to communicate. 

Be Mindful of Your Nonverbal Presence 

You’ll want to seem engaged, poised, and knowledgeable during a presentation. To that end, pay attention to your tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal body language. 

How To Ace a Video Interview Presentation

It’s not uncommon for interviews to occur over video. That’s true for interview presentations, too. Here are some tips for performing well if your presentation is occurring on a video screen: 

  • Get in front of a good background: You’ll want to be well lit (but not backlit), with a professional background. Remove kids, pets, and other distractions from the room beforehand. 
  • Master the technology before the presentation: Make sure you’re comfortable sharing your screen, for instance.
  • Make eye contact: Look at the camera to make eye contact while also monitoring the faces of your audience. Avoid looking at another monitor for your notes or the presentation deck. That can be confusing for your interviewer. 
  • Stay high energy: It’s a bit harder to be engaged during a video presentation (whether you’re giving one or in the audience). Still, make sure to keep your energy high. “If you can visualize yourself standing in front of a live audience while you speak, it can help you feel more energized,” Schmidt said.

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure your presentation meets the interviewer’s guidelines for topic and length. If you’re not sure, check with the hiring manager.
  • Prepare your presentation well in advance, and practice it beforehand.
  • Consider getting feedback from peers, friends, or family on both your presentation and your slides.