Skip to content Skip to navigation

Please Give a 90 Minute Talk as Part of Your Final Interview. What???

January 17, 2009
by Tim Tolan
| Reprints

The interview process requires solid preparation a chance to highlight your career accomplishments, discuss why you are the best candidate for the position and yes… sometimes a chance for our new employer to evaluate your public speaking skills. YIKES! More and more of our clients are asking our candidates to participate and lead a 60-90 minutes discussion on a modern healthcare technology subject to 20-30 other executives (total strangers) to really understand your public speaking capabilities. You may also be asked to discuss how you will spend your first 90 days as the new CIO.

It’s not the only indicator of selecting the right CIO – but your public presentation skills do matter and shows how you respond to pressure - and how well you rise to the occasion. Don’t panic – develop a few strategies to help you nail your big presentation. Here are a few tips that might help you if you are asked to do a PowerPoint presentation as part of the interview process:

· Bring your own laptop and download your presentation on a memory stick as a back-up in case there are any technical challenges.

· Know your material - and know it well. This is not the time to “wing it”.

· Have an agenda on your topic so your audience will be able to follow your talk.

· Practice your material to make your key points and your slide transition more natural.

· Make your material “topical” by inserting relevant clip-art for each slide. Otherwise it could be “death by PowerPoint” for those listening to your talk.

· Always use complimentary colors for the background and font colors - and always use large fonts so your audience can clearly see your material.

· Time yourself. Make sure your material and your talk allow you to finish at the end of your allotted time.

· Inject some humor into your presentation to break the ice several times during your talk. This could be done by inserting a funny slide (or slides) to help you make your point.

· Never –Never just read your slides (This will be a slow death for you and everyone in the room).

· Make eye contact with your audience by picking someone near the center of the room that you can focus on during your talk – but pan the room frequently.

· Make your talk interactive – this engages your audience and puts you at ease.

· Get someone to give you a “10 minute warning” so you can begin to wrap up in time.

· Ask your audience at the end if anyone has questions.

· Relax and try to have fun!

Topics

Comments

I think that, perhaps, stories would work especially well around the topic of ethics. One can always say, "I will always act ethically in this position you are offering," but this has far less impact than taking the interviewer through a sitution in which one had to live up to their convictions and ACT ethically. When I interview someone, I don't just want to hear particular words, but they must resonate. Nothing accomplishes this like a the story format.

Tim, Joe, how do you feel about answering a question with a SHORT story during a regular interview? I have found that effective in the past as well. I think it can really show the interviewer that you understand the question and that you have significant powers of recollection and communication.

Anthony,
It's really important, during an interview, to provide behavioral examples to key interviewer questions. It demonstrates

  • listening skills,
  • understanding,
  • ability to think on the spot,
  • and the thought processes and outcomes associated with attributes on the position description

The strongest, briefest way to do this is through pre-thought-out, SHORT stories, linked to resume accomplishment bullets.

I've mentioned this previously, somewhere. The Manager-Tools Podcasts have a 16 part series on interviewing for a job. This is audio, with each part being about 20 minutes. In that, Mike and Mark walk through in some detail how these stories need to be conceptualized before writing your resume (or at least before finishing and sending one for each opportunity.) Their advice? The resume needs to be very tight and brief. The interview needs to frame the skills, accomplishments, and hard outcomes.  They will, by definition, contain SHORT, focused stories that concretely demonstrate that you have the stuff  they're looking for.

It's a lot of work, takes prep time and contemplation. The results are obvious. Judicious use of SHORT stories, well constructed, planned, and of course, true, are the most powerful communication tool in existence.

It's not a grand slam.  If we're not the best, available fit for the position, SHORT stories wont lead to an offer.  SHORT stories are the single best way to establish fit.  {There's an important caveat as well:  If prior success, exemplified in the story required good will, don't expect a candidate to bring that with them.  No candidate can.  Manager-Tools covers that topic in depth in their 'hiring during an economic downturn' cast.}

Anthony is right.  Tim is right.  (I thought you guys wouldn'd mind seeing that occasionally.)

Tim,
This was another great blog posting. I'm thrilled with you calling attention to this practice, as well as your prescriptive, bulleted advice.

In my career, I have, both formally and informally, been asked to audition. This process has uniformly been great. It's led to moving forward in accessing my fit for the role and organization. Obviously, culture fit is a number-one issue for most of the positions we're talking about.  Auditioning is a great probe.

Auditioning has also led to some of the best feedback and coaching I've ever received. A number of years ago, I audition for a job with a company, let's call it ABC. Their practice leader, a presenter and former Harvard educator, Steve Ketts, was both complementary, and offered phenomenally useful feedback.

My point?  It's a reciprocal opportunity for the candidate and the organization to show their stuff.  Mutually acquaint the candidate and the organization to their chemistry and commitment to each other.  So, I agree with you.  At multiple levels, auditions are good.

Two additional pieces of advice to these presentations:
- try to ask the audience a relevant question about your topic, within the first five minutes.  This gives them the opportunity to validate their passion about your substantive topic.  If you can do this, you'll have their validated attention and support.  If you can't, you're sushi --- meaning you're destined to be percieved as cold, dead and fishy.
- be sure to insert some humor.  Well choosen, it lightens the audience, humanizes you, and can help to tie things together if done well.  It also serves as a powerful early-warning-system.  If the audience doesn't respond, they're sending you a signal.  Their either not there, or they don't want to like you, for reasons unrelated to you.  As an candidate, this is a critical test.  Omit it at your own peril.  (Yes, humor poorly done can be risky; don't do it poorly!)

Tim, your thoughts?

(Here's an example of a humor probe, if your topic includes safe practices:)

Agreed Joe - and what a GREAT example of ing humor! Love it!
Engaging the audience in the first 5 minutes is a great addition to the list. In a leadership role CEO's want make sure that members of the executive team have the skills and the presence to always represent the organization in a positive way to internal and external audiences. Thanks Joe for your feedback.

and may I add ... Tell stories, tell stories, tell stories (to make a point, of course). NOTHING engages listeners like use of the story format. "Here is a story that is interesting for you to hear, but also let's you know how I came to learn what is now a guiding principle in my life."

Anthony - i agree. It must resonate and provide examples of how the candidate's actions "moved the needle" in the story they are telling. It's actually easy to help validate the story by peeling the onion (a few layers) and asking questions about the "story". Body language tells us a lot!

Great point, Anthony. Let me offer a 'story' to illustrate combining stories with an audience participation question.

I have started out my HRO (high reliability organizations and healthcare) talk with the story of American Airline, flight 965.

In 1995, it was on a routine flight from Miami to Cali, Columbia. The pilot needed to enter the final radio beacon name into the navigation system the beacon name was ROZO.

The pilot typed the first letter, R, and the list of R choices came up. The first one was of approximately the correct latitude and longitude so he ed that one.

Unfortunately, the list was sorted alphabetically, and there was a nearby radio beacon, ROMEO, that alphabetically sorts before ROZO. Also, unfortunately, the final flight path involves flying essentially through a canyon.

The the pilot ed ROMEO (intending ROZO), the plane immediately began turning to the left to fly toward ROMEO. A few seconds later, AA flight 965 crashed into the Andes.

"Was the crash the pilot's fault?"

I've given this talk dozens of times. There have always been passionate opinions from the audience, effectively setting up the rest of the talk.

That's an example of an effective story AND question.

Well I step out of the office for a day or two and look what happens! Blog traffic! YES!!!
Great feedback from your both of your posts! The stories I like to hear are around how a candidate made an impact on the organization and the benefits that were directly tied to his/her actions. You said it above Joe - it's all about the outcomes. I tend to want to hear those stories in an interview setting - more than I do in written form.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

To help readers cope with the shortage of skilled healthcare IT workers, Tim Tolan’s blog...