The interview process is becoming more in-depth
The number of talented professionals looking for jobs has increased massively, as a consequence of the recession, and employers are responding to this by investing the time to ensure the interview process helps candidates demonstrate they have the skills required so that they can identify the right person for the role.
While technical and specialist skills are a must, we are seeing more and more demand for individuals with strong communication skills and presentations are being used to test a professional’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
The importance of communication skills in HR
The HR function has really risen in prominence, as businesses have had to make major cut backs and difficult people related decisions, with most organisations relying on HR professionals to help implement these and get buy in from key people. This has created a demand for senior HR professionals who are able to communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders, from board level down.
Having to stand up and talk in front of complete strangers can fill even the most experienced public speaker with dread. Therefore, it's important to take time to thoroughly prepare and practice as this will improve your confidence and help you to identify any areas for improvement so that you deliver the presentation successfully on the day.
What might a presentation focus on?
A presentation will usually come at either the second or third stage of the interview process, by which point you will have met your prospective employer and will probably be competing against a handful of other applicants. At this stage in the recruitment process, you will have already displayed your competencies and it will be up to you to show that you are a well-rounded, commercial HR professional who understands the impact HR can have on the performance of a whole organisation. The presentation will typically last around 15 minutes which should give you enough time to demonstrate your understanding of the task but also your communication skills and presentation style.
The style of presentation will depend on the task the employer has given you, the type of role you have applied for, and the sector in which the organisation operates in. However, at this level, interviews tend to focus on topics such as, how to translate strategy into practice, how to align performance management with the business objectives, managing change through tough economic times and engaging your team through the recession.
Consider how HR is viewed
In order to deliver an insightful and well thought out presentation, show that you understand the business objectives, recent history in terms of business performance and key stakeholders. It's worth considering how HR is perceived within the business you are applying. Is it an established function? Does the HR director sit on the board?
It would also be helpful to look into the main staffing issues within the business; is there a high turnover of staff? Does the organisation suffer from any particular skill shortages? Are they likely to be impacted by organisational changes such as mergers, TUPE transfers, downsizing, off-shoring? Once you fully understand the issues you can strategically formulate your ideas and your presentation is much more likely to be aligned to the organisation’s needs.
What tools do you need?
While it might sound obvious, it's important to establish the style of delivery you need to use at the outset, whether this is a PowerPoint presentation or using handouts for example. Bear in mind that your options might be limited, so make sure that you have checked what resources are available to you and have a ‘plan B’ in case the equipment doesn’t work.
While whiteboards and flipcharts offer a very simple way to convey information, they have limited space and visibility might be an issue as they divert you away from your audience. PowerPoint slides are another popular means of presenting information, but don’t overload with so much information that you aren’t providing any additional insight.
It's all about the preparation
The main aim is to really demonstrate your understanding of the business through an effective presentation so it is important to think about the style – have you presented your facts in an easy-to-read format and have you used imagery where necessary, for example graphs or tables?
The preparation will be most of your work, once you are in there it is up to you to perform and demonstrate your knowledge. Make eye contact and build rapport with one or two members of the interview panel. Remember to smile as it really can help to engage your audience and gives the impression you are comfortable.