I’ve been asked to prepare a presentation on an aspect of project management for an interview. Could you provide some advice and tips on how I can do this successfully?
There are two approaches you need to take depending on the amount of preparation time you have been given. If you have been given the instructions in the days before the interview, great you have time to do more detailed planning. If you won’t be given the topic area until you are actually at the interview you can still do some preparation beforehand, just not the thinking around the topic area.
The approach you take to the presentation is just as important as the content. You will most likely be given a set time to deliver it so the planning centres on this. In an interview situation presentations tend to be between 10 and 15 minutes long so you should be thinking about one slide for every two minutes. Sticking to the time is one of the key assessment areas and one where many people fail so you absolutely need to stick to the timings.
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In presentations like this, the topic area is normally a specific project management scenario. The interviewers will be interested in what approach is like to planning, implementation, control and management so a structured approach to the presentation is crucial.
For the first slide start with introducing yourself and presenting the scenario, laying out your understanding of it and any assumptions you’ve taken. The next slide should be dedicated to the planning you would undertake. Be careful with your use of project management jargon, not everyone on the interview panel will have a detailed understanding of project management. Your language use here will be an assessment point on how you convey information to different audiences. Make sure your content is short and bullet pointed enabling you to use these as a prompt to provide further detail in the speech.
Interviewers are interested in the steps you take just as much as the final outcome. After outlining your plans, your next slide will cover what needs to be done and your ownership of that. After that, your next slide should cover the outcomes. Make sure that you leave time for a summary. This is a powerful way of wrapping up, ensuring that all the dots are connected through planning, to action and outcome.
Throughout the presentation, make sure you are maintaining eye contact with each person on the interview panel as well as the clock. At the very end of the presentation you should ask if anyone has any questions.
There is another popular presentation example that is sometimes used when the candidate is given minimal time to prepare. The document based presentation is where you are expected to analyse, summarize and provide a course of future action. These could be mocked up project status or progress reports. The presentation is normally nothing fancier than a flipchart and you should be aiming for one page for the summary and one for the course of action.
Although time is short for preparation, make notes before committing them to the flipchart and make sure your spellings are correct. These presentations can feel pressured but that’s why organisations like these ‘stress tests’ to see if you are able to deliver. The plus side is a good presentation often works much more in your favour than a question and answer interview. You are more able to convey and actively demonstrate your experiences which have got to be a better approach when job hunting.