Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

Should you ask candidates to prepare a presentation for the interview?

By Charles Trivett | Mar 29, 2016 | Assessing Applicants

cartoon man doing a presentation with a sign saying 'why you should hire me'Many companies now challenge candidates to come up with their own interview presentations, as a part of the recruitment process.

  • Some hiring managers give candidates free reign to talk about anything they fancy, from current affairs to the netball team they play for.
  • Others will create strict presentation briefs based on current industry topics, which obviously requires a lot more effort from both interviewer and interviewee.

Either way, (along with a set of great interview questions, of course) presentations can reveal an awful lot about your candidates.

Here’s everything that you need to know…

Why bother?

If the role requires presentation skills (for example, certain managerial, marketing and sales positions) then it’s good practice to get a candidate to do a presentation for you.

However they can also be used to assess a variety of different things, including…

Specific knowledge.

If the role requires a certain level of subject knowledge (either specific or general industry insight) then you can set up a presentation brief to assess candidates.

  • For example: you could ask a marketing candidate to give a presentation about how they would increase the amount of leads received online, through the website over a 6-month period. Including, a budget, targets and step-by-step guide to the new marketing strategy.

Each candidate MUST get the same brief and you should include a question and answer session at the end (just so you know they’ve not simply rehearsed a load of information for the presentation).

It will soon become clear if they don’t know what they’re talking about!

Specific skills.

You can use presentations to assess a variety of wider, transferable skills.

For example, you could evaluate each interviewer on their…

  • Research skills. Can they do sufficient research to come to a sensible conclusion?
  • Preparation and organisation. Is their presentation well planned and structured?

…and of course, are their presentation skills up to scratch?

In this case, it doesn’t really matter what topic you choose because you’re basing your observations on the skills they exhibit whilst actually presenting.

Remember; be fair!

Only ever assess candidates on the basis of skills that they genuinely need to fulfil the role!

Beliefs and Values.

If you’re interested in finding out how well a candidate will fit into your team, then it’s important to learn a little more about their beliefs, values and general personality.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

To find out, you could set the following tasks.

  • Do a presentation on a subject matter that means something to you.
  • Choose a story that’s been in the news lately and create a 10-minute presentation, outlining the important details and some of your thoughts on the matter.
  • Create a presentation outlining the pros and cons of {Relevant Industry Debate}, ending with your own conclusion on the matter.

This will help you to form a real view of them as a person and check whether their personality will actually fit in with your company culture.

Warning: you cannot base your hiring decisions on political and/or religious beliefs, so keep that in mind, when you’re asking questions and setting presentation tasks.

Take a positive approach – what does the candidate have in common with your team?

The ability to follow instructions.

If the role you’re recruiting for requires someone who knows how to follow instructions, then you could use a presentation to assess for that.

  • Does the candidate follow your brief?
  • Do they misinterpret your instructions?
  • Is the end result structured and clear or confused and irrelevant?

Of course, you’ll have to make sure that your instructions are clear and reasonable – your candidate (probably) won’t be able to read your mind.

The ability to cope with pressure.

Let’s be honest; having to do a presentation is nerve-racking for the best of us!

So, setting one (especially at the panel interview) will definitely expose your more confident candidates.

However, it is also bound to put others off (especially the more shy ones) so ask yourself…

Does your new staff member really NEED to be a super-confident presenter?

(You could also choose to ask really difficult trick questions too – like these – but that really is a bit mean!)


Assessment Days.

You can ask candidates to prepare a presentation for the assessment day (normally to take place during the individual interview portion of the day) but it will make the day a lot more difficult to organise.

Presentations will overrun, candidates will be left waiting around and to be honest, after a full day of aptitude tests and group activities, is it really fair?

(To find out more about assessment days – check out this blog.)

Face-to-face Interviews.

By far the best time to set a presentation task is during the individual or panel interview… at the final stage of interviews.

Ask your last few candidates to do a presentation for you, so that you can really suss out who is the best candidate for your business.

But always remember that you’re bound to lose some candidates who can’t bear the thought of completing a presentation.

How Long?

You must give your candidates some sort of expectation on how long the presentation should take; it’s unfair to make them guess – and will be irritating if people talk at you for too long.

It’s also important to really consider how long someone can and should talk about a particular topic…

  • If the presentation is all about themselves, then they’re probably not going to be able to talk for more than 5 minutes (it’s uncomfortable anyway).
  • However, if it’s a specific, research-based task, then depending on the amount of detail you require, they could talk for a lot longer.

I would personally never ask a candidate to talk for more than 30 minutes… exceeding this will be a serious strain on their brain and won’t give you a chance to get to know them after the presentation.

Don’t forget to prepare!

Before interview day, ask each of your candidates what they’ll need to complete their presentation, so that you’re fully prepared when they show up!

Recruiter Pro Tip.

You might want to check with your candidates – they may need…

  • A projector/ large television/computer screen.
  • A USB port.
  • Access to Microsoft Office.

…or similar. You’d be surprised how many people forget to sort these things out and are left red-faced when their interviewee arrives.

Always remember, recruitment is a two-way street and you don’t want come across unorganised!

If you’d like to read more articles on how to streamline and improve your recruitment process – including loads of sample interview questions – click here to subscribe to this blog.

Alternatively, you could always task your candidates to do something weird and wacky, like these interviewers did!

- Charles Trivett
Charles - blog author

Charles Trivett

Charles heads up Coburg Banks’ IT Division, and has worked in recruitment for nearly 20 years.  His knowledge of how to optimise and get the most from a recruitment campaign is second to none, and he now works with a select handful of clients in maximising their recruitment ROI.

> More blog posts by Charles Trivett

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