9 Secrets to a Winning Interview Presentation

By Arnold Sherr

Your audience has assembled; the curtain is about to rise; are you ready? Imagine the redundancy involved with interviewing many applicants’ day in and day out. How then will you captivate your audience? To follow are nine steps which, as briefly as described, are the basic recipe for cooking up a great results-oriented interview.

Controlling from the start: Essentially, job interviews are sales presentations! Just as in sales, they who control the process shall take home the gold medal. Whatever position is being interviewed to fill, assuming and maintaining control are clear signs of leadership and sales ability. Moreover, this may be the only opportunity an applicant is afforded in which sales and leadership abilities may be proved by example, far more effective than simple rhetoric. In fact, interviews present many unique opportunities to eliminate statements that infer applicants ‘are’ by demonstrating rather than simply stating as if reading a laundry list of characteristics and attributes (I.e., “I am an exceptional leader, I am a proved effective salesperson, I have exceptional communicative skills, I am personable, get along well with other and have developed excellent people skills, etc.”).    

Digging Deep: Directing an effective interview presentation, which will have interviewers on their toes, requires more than the usual question and response format. Moreover, it is extremely important to uncover the specific ‘needs’ being sought. In as much as most applicants interviewing for a specific career designation will have been selected partly because they have in common a combination of skills and attributes inherent to the position’s requirements, there still remains certain unique and explicit objectives; the goal of which is the interviewers to identify in and of the applicants before them. Those who demonstrate equitable solutions to those specifics certainly improve their chances of prevailing. The question remains, how can the applicant uncover and address these very important wants and needs? By ‘digging deep,” asking the right questions, involving interviewers in probing discussions, and generally being clever and innovative (another example of demonstrating rather than stating) most times will bring such concerns to the top of the list. They who inhabit the sales leader-board have mastered the ability to identify customer (interviewer) hot buttons; those special wants and needs that, if satisfied, result in an easy and successful close. Applicants should have the same objective throughout.

More is Better vs. Less is More: In sales, a long-time teaching points directly to un-complicating presentation content; “KISS” (Keep it Simple Stupid). The relevance of “less is more” is uncanny. It is unwise to make interview presentations top-heavy by filling them with everything but the kitchen sink; amazingly, some even make room for the sink. “What the eye sees, the heart believes” and “Actions speak louder than words” are two seldom over-used principles. More to the point, incorporating them into interview presentations may purposely lessen the required rhetoric. After all, it is never necessary to state the obvious!

Practice Delivery: Famous and those acclaimed best actors who perform their specifics repeatedly to varied audiences must sound each time as if it is the first and only. They must present the same enthusiasm and vitality every time the play is performed, generally two or three times daily, six days a week. Unfortunately, interviews are fewer in number and much less frequent. Therefore, keeping up, or should I say – like the actor – rehearsing over and over is mandatory; it helps keep interview presentations fresh, exhilarating, and interesting.

Too much humor can be an interview ruiner: True as it is, interviewing can be trying, and a bit of wit can go a long way in relaxing and bettering a tense experience for many. However, the appearances of Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien will do great harm and little good. Interviews are not the time or place for comedy. Although inducing smiles and chuckles reduces tension, it is important to stay focused and keep audiences focused. Little enough is retained after the average interview; hopefully, at least 20% from memory – taking interviewers off on unrelated mental journeys is counterproductive and ill-advised.

Minimize you – “SIZZLE” them: “Frankly, interviewers care little about employment histories; however, they care about adding to their team an employee who has demonstrated the skills to solve specific challenges. Write a presentation script that honors the audience (interviewer) with the lead role; that faces the challenges that you will help them solve. “Is it the recipe that titillates the taste buds or perhaps the result of the said recipe?” Do not sell from the spec sheet (resume); sell solutions, remedies, and preventive measures. Most with whom applicants compete can perform that which is specked; few can effectively solve, cure, and prevent future occurrences and do so at the interview with little or no time for analysis. Even if suggested solutions are a bit amiss, the fact that having demonstrated the affinity to challenge-solve spontaneously is admired and will, I assure you, be recalled. By the way, doing so is another “actions speak louder than words” demonstration.

Speak the Language: Assume interviewers are not of literary genius for safety’s sake. Leave out 50¢ words; speak clearly with emotion and believability. Place monotonous voice patterns in the “trash bin.” Know your script and make no assumptions. Be conscious of eliminating ah’s and uh’s while speaking; moments of silence better effectively replace these and other verbal distractions. Moreover, saying these “stall words” (they permit time to think) distract listeners and, more important, they contradict what is generally written to resumes; “excellent communication skills.” It is soon realized that rehearsing presentation scripts is the best way to reduce or eliminate the need to “stall for thought.”

Believability: Actors who reach their goals of achievement do so by creating the illusion of believability; they are who they portray while performing, not themselves. Being believable builds what I call the “integrity of the role; of the presentation; of the part; of the messenger. It is important to remember that what is being sold at interviews is not the person; solutions, contributions, and productivity standards are ultimately ‘sought’ and, when found, ‘bought.’ Just as actors become the character they are selling, applicants must become the ‘product’ which best solves employer needs; they are in essence the messenger, not themselves. If anyone has ever said to you, “sell yourself,” you may now answer, “I can and I will.”

Urgency and a single objective: After courting or being courted by a soon-to-be spouse, I’m sure when it was decided to pop or answer the “will you” question, it is clear that this person is the only one; no others waiting in the wings. How about if when popped or having just been popped the question, there is a suspicion that either the asker of or the asked have possibly second or even third marital choices waiting, once again, in the wings. Perhaps either lacks the “integrity of the role.” In any case, an answer to this scenario is academic, I am sure. However, most times, interviewers are aware that some applicants are investigating or have investigated other employment options and may even have other scheduled interviews or offers already on the table. Often, when offers of employment are presented, interviewers have second and maybe third choices selected just in case their first-choice defects. But, consider this; if an applicant tells with passion and believability that there is only one employment goal, to work for this company during a particular interview. That as long as I can be remembered and because of good things heard; the companies’ terrific reputation, and the remarkably wonderful way in which employees are treated, here is where I want to work and be a part of this team, grow and prosper while contributing unselfishly towards this companies’, no other’s, success, growth, and profits.

When the “Will you marry me” question is posed, it is assumed and believed there are no other choices; if not, who in their right mind would answer “YES”? And who will ask the question unless sure the question is believed to get the desired answer?

You be the judge!   

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