Depending on the role you’re applying for within the Life Sciences, you may be asked to give a presentation during the second, third or final round of job interviews. Although these are more common for senior positions, or roles where communication skills are essential, you could be asked to give a presentation for any roles from entry-level up to directorial level.
In this article, we explore the purpose of these presentations, how you can prepare for one, and how to make a good impression in your interview.
Why a Presentation?
A presentation is a chance for interviewers to see you in action. It can help them to assess the following things:
- Understanding of the role/company
- Industry knowledge
- Organisational and communication skills
- How well you’d fit in with the company culture
- How well you can engage an audience
- Creativity, research skills and dedication to the process
Whilst the first and second rounds of interviews are usually intended to screen applicants and assess how qualified you are for the role in terms of formal qualifications, skills and experiences, your presentation should tell interviewers exactly what you could bring to this role and how you stand out against your peers.
What Will I Be Presenting About?
For your presentation, you may be given a topic to present on which will vary depending on the role you’re applying for. It could be a specific challenge that the company wants your help in overcoming or a new idea that they’d like to see a pitch for. It could simply be a presentation about yourself, and the key things you think you could achieve in the role. You could also be asked to produce a blind presentation, where you’ll be given the topic on the day of your interview and a set amount of time to prepare for it.
Regardless of the presentation you’re asked to deliver, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for your interview and help deliver your potential as clearly as possible…
Be Confident of the Details
Make sure you’re clear on the details of your presentation, including the following:
- The topic you’ll be presenting on, or if it’s a blind presentation
- Who you’ll be presenting to
- How long your presentation should be
- What IT equipment is available or if you need to bring your own devices
Always double-check the details beforehand if you’re unsure. It’s much better than getting it wrong on the day!
Do Your Research
Regardless of the topic, it’s good to know information about the business’ objectives, their recent projects and developments (and even failures), details about competitors in the market, current opportunities in the industry and the challenges currently faced by the business. You can incorporate these into your material to give a more focused presentation that will demonstrate a clear understanding of the role you’d play in growing the business.
Also try to find out as much about your audience as you can. It could be one or two interviewers or a panel with different areas of expertise. Know your audience and ensure your content will be engaging for everyone, for example by keeping industry jargon to a minimum to make sure your ideas will be understood by everyone in the room.
Structure Your Presentation
Your presentation should follow a logical structure, with an introduction to yourself, the topic you’ll be exploring and the angle you’ll be working on, and a conclusion that sums up the key points made and the most important ideas the interviewers should take away with them.
Choose a Simple Design
You want your interviewer(s) to engage with you, and not be distracted by the content on your slides. To make sure you do this, keep your slides clean and simple by doing the following:
- Break down text into short bullet points containing only the most important information
- Only give slides to the most important ideas and not every single one, as you need to give interviewers time to engage with your points before moving on to the next
- Don’t use unnecessary gimmicks like sounds and funky slide animations/transitions
- Choose a theme and stick to it throughout the presentation
Keep it Interesting
Try to use a mix of text, images, graphs, statistics and even videos to demonstrate your ideas. Don’t create visuals for the sake of it but do find new ways of presenting your ideas. It will also show off your computer skills, so it’s a double win.
Use the Company Brand
Instead of keeping your slides black and white and ultimately forgettable, consider using the fonts and colours on the company website in your presentation.
Back Up Your Ideas With Figures
Where appropriate, use statistics, facts and quotes to back up your ideas. You can also use real-life examples of similar things that have been done in the industry or in other countries that have shown good success rates to show the feasibility of your ideas.
If you do decide to do this, make sure to provide reference material for the sources you used, and even consider providing some recommended reading for the interviewer as this will show you have a breadth of knowledge about the industry that goes beyond the content in your slides.
Practice your presentation with friends or record yourself doing it alone. Check that you can deliver your ideas within your time slot, also accounting for time at the end for questions. If you do present to other people, ask them what they think were the main points you were trying to make to see if you delivered your ideas clearly.
Don’t Use a Script
Practice talking about your ideas without using a script. You never know what interruptions you might have on the day, or what questions you’ll be asked, so you need to be confident enough on your subject to stay on track in the moment regardless of what happens.
You can still use cue cards or the bullet points on screen as prompts to keep you on track, but make sure to engage with your interviewers by maintaining eye contact and gesticulating with your hands, and don’t be too focused on your prompts.
Pay Attention to Body Language and Voice
Your body language is just as important in making a good impression on interviewers as the content of your slides. Do the following:
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back and your feet together
- Use open body language and use your hands to emphasise your points
- Maintain eye contact with your interviewer(s) and look at each person on the panel equally
And when it comes to voice, also do the following:
- Use a varied tone throughout to keep engagement – this isn’t a monologue!
- Speak clearly and take pauses after your most important points to let them sink in
- Be straight to the point and don’t waffle for the sake of using up time
- Don’t rush through your sentences for the sake of cramming more information in as this will only increase the chance of you falling over your words
Prepare For The Worst
Take back-up copies of your presentation with you on the day on a USB and by emailing it to yourself and the recruiter if you can. Also consider bringing printed copies of your material with you to hand out in case everything else fails. It’s good to arrive 10-15 minutes early to give yourself time to set up and to fix any issues.
Standing in front of a room wearing clothes you aren’t comfortable in isn’t going to help you appear natural and confident, so make sure your outfit is comfortable as well as professional.
Stay on Topic
If you’re given a topic, make sure you stick to it throughout your presentation. It’s easy to go off on a tangent when you’re building a presentation over a couple of days and you forget what the original point you were trying to make was. Keep referring back to the topic throughout the session and make sure every piece of content you include is relevant and helps to back up your central idea.
As long as you do your research, take the time to prepare a well-structured and designed presentation and practice pitching your ideas, your presentation should go smoothly. Taking the extra time to work on your presentation will pay off in the long run and will help your name stick with interviewers if all goes well.
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