ECH Careers: Job presentations

1 October 2014

  • Follow the brief. If it’s a research presentation, don’t include information about all the courses you have taught; if it’s a mini-lecture for students, don’t discuss your research.  Don’t say:  “I know you said this was about research, but I thought I would also tell you a bit about my teaching”, or vice versa. Don’t give a guided tour of your CV – those that need to know what’s in it will have read it, others will be looking for intellectual and/or pedagogical abilities not information. Don’t say why you have applied for the job, because you will almost certainly be asked that at interview. These points may sound so obvious as not to need making, but time and again candidates don’t stick to the remit. By not doing so, you lose precious time to communicate what was required; you also give the impression of being unable or unwilling to do what has been asked.
  • Keep to time. Most recruitment days are designed around a very tight schedule and you will irritate everyone if you take more time than you are allotted. Nearly everyone tries to say too much in their presentation. Practice it several times and strip out unnecessary detail, which no-one will be able to absorb anyway. It is far better to convey one idea clearly and convincingly than to raise a range of possibilities that you can’t develop. If you have too much material, you will end up gabbling and everyone will switch off. There will be less time for questions, so you will have less time to allay any doubts in your audience’s minds.
  • Manage your own timing. Don’t break off to ask how much time you have left. Decide in advance what you will use, e.g. the clock on the computer or a watch. Have a page or so of material that you can include if you are running ahead (and nerves often make people speak quickly) and omit if you still have time, but do not draw attention to that as you speak (“oh, I’d better omit this bit”).
  • Look at the audience. Include everybody in your gaze and maintain regular eye contact. Think in advance about how to do this, whether you have a written text or a Powerpoint presentation. Bear in mind that the room might not be ideal, or the equipment might not be set up in a way that makes it easy to engage with the audience and speak to what’s on the screen.
  • Answer questions succinctly. Don’t comment on the question (“that’s a great question”) – they are interviewing you not the other way around. Don’t respond impatiently (“as I’ve already said”) – if they are asking about something it’s probably because they don’t think you explained it well during your presentation, so it’s your opportunity to do better. Don’t make it obvious that you think it’s a stupid question (“well, of course…”), even if you do.  Don’t say you agree with everyone who asks you something – there are bound to be a range of views in the room and you will come over as inconsistent if you are too eager to embrace them all. If you haven’t thought about an idea that’s put to you, it is best to say so rather than to flannel, but try to give some indication of how you might set about applying it to your work. After the session is over, write down the questions you were asked and think of further responses in preparation for the interview (assuming it comes later, as is usual).