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July 29, 2015
How to Present at an Interview — and Get the Job!
For most people, the very thought of preparing for an interview is daunting enough, but when you get the email that says: “Please prepare a 10-minute presentation on what you will do in your first 90 days in your new role,” that’s when the sleepless nights really begin.

The challenge is to firstly reframe the mortal dread into the opportunity to show them who you really are and why you’re perfect for the job. After all, what they are really asking you to do in those 10 minutes is:
  • To show your ability to structure your thoughts in a clear, compelling, and articulate way
  • To show how you would approach the question creatively; what makes you different
  • To show how you cope under pressure
  • To show how effective you are at getting your message across
If five people are on the short list to present at the interview, rest assured that all five of you will be experiencing similar levels of anxiety. Channel your nervous energy into being fully prepared for the interview.

Be different. Most interview presentations start with something like “Good morning. My name is Maurice, and I’m really pleased to be presenting to you. During my presentation, I will be sharing with you what I intend to do in my first 90 days in the role.”

That’s boring and predictable. Don’t do it. Leave it to one of the others.

The first thing you should do as you stand to present is nothing.

Pause for three or four seconds, smile, and show them you’re comfortable up on your feet and that you’re in control.

Say or do something that immediately grabs their attention and arouses their curiosity by daring to be different. Make a thought-provoking statement, share a short story, draw or write something on a flipchart.

Whatever you do, your first task is to create an emotional connection by getting your interviewer to see within the first 30 seconds that you’re not like the other four candidates.

Make it visual. Research suggests that nearly 70% of us are visual learners. Given that the interview panel are there to learn about you, take advantage of that statistic. Unless they insist you use PowerPoint, avoid doing so; ask for a flipchart instead.

Don’t say, “But I can’t draw.” Practice drawing until you can illustrate your point effectively with a Sharpie. You don’t have to be Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s not what they are looking for. You just have to be able to get your message across in a way that makes you stand out.

If you have to use slides, remember just two things.
  1. Whatever you do, don’t read them out.
  2. Keep text to a minimum and use compelling, relevant pictures.
Have a conversation. Most people think that when they are asked to present for 10 minutes, that means they have to stand up and talk to their audience for that time. Think about the distinction between the last time you were presented to and the last time you had a stimulating conversation.

Crafting a meaningful conversation rather than a one-way presentation will always serve you well. The best way to do that is to get your audience involved and engaged; ask them a question, for an opinion, or even to imagine something.

Make a connection. As well as evaluating your technical and professional competency for the role, the one thing they are looking for beyond everything else is that you will fit in. To achieve that, you need to connect with your audience and by far one of the best ways to do so is by making eye contact. When you make eye contact, not only will you feel more comfortable, they will, too. They will feel as though they are having a conversation rather than being just presented to.

Don’t just make eye contact with the most important person in the room; share it equally amongst your audience. If you are asked a question, don’t make the mistake many presenters do and only answer the person who asked the question. Make sure you involve everyone in your answer with appropriate eye contact.

Be an eight of clubs. For many interviewees, confidence is the most significant issue they face when presenting to a panel.

Imagine you’re holding a deck of playing cards with the Royalty removed, so all you’re left with is aces right up to ten for each suit. For the purpose of this exercise, the ace represents the lowest number in the pack. It’s a one.

Now imagine each card represents a level of confidence. If you’re holding a two, you have very little confidence. If you have a ten, you have maximum confidence.

Practice being an eight as you prepare for your interview. When you go for the interview, take the eight of clubs with you in your pocket or handbag. Moments before you step into the room, hold in your mind what an eight looks like as a level of confidence. Stand tall, breathe deeply, and be the eight.

In my experience, most interviewers hire the person they like the most, even at the expense of declining slightly more qualified or experienced candidates.

People like people they feel connected with, and these five tips will ensure that you make that all-important connection.

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Maurice De Castro is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s best loved brands. Maurice believes that the route to success in any organisation lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that. Learn more at www.mindfulpresenter.com
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