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4 Ways to Master the Art of the Presentation Interview

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In the phone interview, you learned about your candidate’s motivations. Next, the skills fit interview showed you that they’ve amassed the baseline skills to succeed on your team. And during a 1:1 interview with your candidate, you learned that they can take initiative and overcome challenges like conflicts with team members. Now, you want to know more than whether or not they can do the work. Can they showcase that work to the team and articulate their thought process? 

In this final post of our “How to Design Your Interview Process” series,  we’re taking a close look at the presentation interview stage. Whether you’re hiring a designer, engineer, or marketer, your candidate’s ability to present their work is directly linked to your team’s overall success. If they can explain their decision-making process, their teammates can provide useful feedback and learn from their work. The presentation interview comes in a variety of forms, but after chatting with CoverHound’s VP of Culture and Administration Quinn Morrison, CoverHound’s SVP of Engineering Kjersten Elias, and GoGuardian’s Head of Talent Tyler Bell, we learned surefire tips that you can apply to every interview.

 

“We tell them about a problem and our corresponding goals, then ask them to present a 90 day strategy and discuss why it would work over other strategies.”– Tyler Bell

1) Look for strategies you can immediately implement

At GoGuardian, the presentation interview is an integral stage in the interview process. First and foremost, Tyler and his teammates hope to see candidates formulate a strategy that the team could conceivably use the next day. Right now, his team is hiring a Director of Channel Management, a role that requires you to analyze data and draw conclusions. “We give them a project where they have to look at a segment in the sales education market and present a strategy for the next 12 months based on the previous year’s data,” explains Tyler. Afterwards, the candidate uncovers trends and presents their recommendation for what the team should do over the next 12 months. If the candidate paid attention during the interview process, says Tyler, they know our company goals by the presentation stage. Ideally, they can use that detailed context to arrive at a dynamic solution.

 

In Tyler’s experience, it’s almost always advantageous for companies to create a presentation interview. More than a written assessment, the presentation is first hand insight into how candidates respond to challenges on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, it allows the candidate to see whether or not they would even want to solve these challenges. The most important thing, advises Tyler, is to create an interview that is unique to your company. What works well at GoGuardian likely wouldn’t work at Snapchat, for example, he explains. “If I was hiring another recruiter here, I’d have them create a persona of a product manager, and then they’d have to draft a message to that persona,” theorizes Tyler. “I’d have them do a full cycle of recruiting from reach-out to closing the candidate.” He recognizes, however, that this type of interview wouldn’t work for every team.

 

‘How would you develop a relationship with a potential partner? How would you communicate throughout the process?’- Quinn Morrison

2) Empower them with an additional selling opportunity

The presentation is generally reserved for one of the last stages in CoverHound’s interview process. It’s also reserved for specific roles. “When we’ve hired business development partners, we’ve asked them to put slide decks together that outline their communication process,” explains Quinn. “We want to see how they’ll make our partners comfortable.” She’s gathered that the presentation is particularly useful when hiring for externally facing roles. When she recruits business development partners, she needs to see how candidates establish a connection with partners. “How do you get them interested? How would you talk about our product and services? How would you communicate with them?”, she asks. Oftentimes, the candidate will present their process and strategies, and then Quinn likes to quickly turn the interview into a conversation. 

 

At CoverHound, candidates also use the presentation interview as their selling tool. The presentation itself is not usually a requirement, and the CoverHound team recommends that candidates invest their time in it only when it can help their candidacy. In fact, candidates in the past have used the presentation interview to convince her team that a role is necessary in the first place. As CoverHound’s goals evolve, they have begun hiring for more niche roles when candidates convey the absolute need for them.

 

‘Submit your design of  X to us, and do so within a 2 hour timeframe.’– Tyler Bell

3) Standardize your presentation interview

When Tyler’s team interviews designers, they ask them to present their work early in the process. The team sends the candidate a project to complete within a 2 hour timeframe, and then the candidate submits their design. If the GoGuardian team is blown away and wants to learn more, they’ll ask them to come on-site and talk more in-depth about their work.

To give candidates the best possible candidate experience, Tyler’s team manages every process the same way. First of all, when they send projects to design candidates, they provide stipends to compensate them while they spend time away from their job. In this competitive job market, candidates are often juggling several opportunities alongside their current role, which makes it even more important to respect his candidates’ time and energy. His team is also deliberate about using the exact same rubric when interviewing different candidates for any role. In order to create a fair and standardized process, they know to measure every candidate against the same expectations.

 

Once candidates come on-site, their interview is their opportunity to defend their work. “We ask them questions like: ‘What’s their design philosophy? What school of thought do they align with? Why did they create a button vs. a drop down menu?’”, says Tyler. Armed with these questions, Tyler’s team learns who is passionate about design and solving complex problems. He sees who will go the extra mile to work at GoGuardian vs. who is blindly applying to several jobs. “I promise it’s a two-way conversation though,” laughs Tyler. “It’s not a masters defense.”

 

At the end of the candidate’s process, every interviewer who watches the presentation enters their feedback into Lever. To further encourage objectivity, they can’t see the scores of the rest of their team before they submit their own. “We want to make sure there’s no bias or groupthink,” says Tyler.

‘Can you explain something complex that you’ve worked on?’ – Kjersten Elias

4) Mirror their typical workday with the presentation interview

Kjersten has noticed that in typical developer interview processes, teams give candidates an algorithm question to tackle on the spot, and then stare at them as they first grapple with the problem. That may be a skills assessment, but it doesn’t reflect the dynamic of a typical workday.

To mirror their future day-to-day, Kjersten’s presentation panel asks candidates to explain something complex that they’ve worked on in the past. As the candidate stands in front of a whiteboard with 4 engineers around them, they delve into a topic that they’re already comfortable with. “Here’s what does happen in your workday: You’ve already worked on something and you need to pass information onto another developer,” explains Kjersten. “Maybe you’ll explain the business case, maybe you’ll draw it out on the whiteboard.” 

 

At CoverHound, sharing information with others is a central part of the culture. In the presentation interview, Kjersten’s team looks for those who understand concepts well enough to guide others. “We ask: ‘Why did you make this decision? Did you consider going about things in a different way?’”, says Kiersten. That way, her team can also get a strong sense of how candidates respond when coworkers question their decisions.

Conclusion

The presentation interview won’t be necessary with every candidate, but you won’t regret assessing its value as you structure your interview process. Whether your candidate will interact with customers or just team members in their future role, they’ll likely have to walk others through their problem-solving strategies. In the presentation interview, you can focus directly on assessing that ability and entering the feedback into your recruiting software.

This is the last post in our interviewing series, but we’ve compiled dozens of tips along the way. If you’d like to take a look at the five posts that came before, our introductory post is the perfect starting point. And if you subscribe to our blog, we’ll notify you when we launch our next series!

Thank you to every recruiting guru who helped us design this sample interview process. We couldn’t have gathered these insights without you, and we hope to work with you again!