interviewer wants me to create a 20-minute presentation about myself

A reader writes:

I’ve been using your interview and job prep guides and have been getting tons of calls for interviews and am now entering second and third interviews with every company (even ones from across the country!), so thank you so much for your advice because I’m sure my interviews would not be going nearly as well without it.

But here’s my question. I just got contacted for a second interview (the first was via phone). The next is in-person, and they are requiring me to create a 20-minute presentation about myself (a formal presentation to be sent to them prior to my interview date), which I must then present to them in at the interview. I have never heard of such a thing. I thought interviews were supposed to be two-way conversations. Why make the candidate jump through weird hoops like this? Have you heard of this? Is this normal? This is not a job that requires presentation skills and honestly, it’s so weird (and seemingly a sign of a lot of HR and corporate bureaucracy) that I’m not even sure I want to go through with it. What are your thoughts? 

This really makes me want to create a 20-minute presentation about myself, full of glamour shots of me, wise and pithy quotes (from me), childhood awards, the obligatory fashion montage, a randomly inserted scene of a cheering crowd, and a few brief interviews with ex-boyfriends. It would end with a slow-motion clip of me running through the surf. Who wants to do this with me?

That doesn’t help you though. In an interview context, this would annoy the hell out of me. I could see it if the job involved presentation skills, as you point out, although even then they should assign you a more reasonable topic (or let you pick a relevant topic). And I could see it if you were trying out for a reality show.

However, I wouldn’t back out just over this. Annoying as it may be, it does give you 20 minutes to walk them through your professional accomplishments and how awesome you are. So at least there’s that.

Do the presentation, talk to them, and see what your impressions are. It’s always good to have options, even if you turn those options down.

As for the presentation itself, focus on professional accomplishments, how you approach your job, samples of your work if you’re in a field where that makes sense, maybe why you got into your field in the first place. Do not set it to music.

Hell, I don’t know.  Has anyone had to do this who can offer the hard-won advice of experience? Has anyone asked a candidate to do this and, if so, what were you looking for? And what is wrong with interviewing candidates about their accomplishments?

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. M.*

    I’m very curious to know the nature of the job being interviewed for, even though I know you said it didn’t require presentation skills. I have personally been asked to create presentations as a part of the interview process several times (one company even asked me to create one on the fly – I had an hour to create something on a surprise topic), but presentation abilities were also a critical skill set for those particular positions.

    That said, I wouldn’t shy away from it at all. This is a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your accomplishments and skill set on your own terms. In addition to that, the delivery of the presentation will allow your personality shine. Think of it as an interactive portfolio :-). Good luck!

    1. Anne Marie*

      Help!! Have a second interview on Monday and have told that I will be given a topic and 60 minutes to create a presentation, 15 minutes to present and 15 minutes of questions.

      I have no problem creating a presentation or presenting but I have never put one together in 60 minutes on an unknown topic.

      Can anyone please give me advice how I should prepare?

  2. Anonymous*

    Seriously? This economy needs to improve NOW because HR people have really just become too full of themselves if they can come up with this load of BS. As if the never calling after an interview, calling 2 months after an interview on the day before they go on vacation for 2 weeks and not returning their messages before they leave, or the other list of crap HR has decided to pull in recent years to make themselves feel important isn’t enough, now they want us to all put on poodle skirts and jump through flaming hoops. GMAFB. No. Just. No. Stop the madness.

    1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

      What in the hell do poodle skirts have to do with flaming hoops?

      And, more on topic, why are you assuming this is an HR thing?I can only think of one position I’ve applied for, ever, that I’ve been interviewed by an HR person. And as far as I can tell, HR people don’t tell the interviewers how to do things beyond advising them about illegal interview practices, if they even bother to do that. You’re being extremely unfair to HR people here. I understand your frustration, but still, this was just rude.

    2. Marie*

      Anonymous, I totally agree with you. I think the arrogance of these hiring managers and HR people is very cruel, in light of the stagnant nature of the economy. There is no intelligent reason for requiring job-seekers to jump through these asinine hoops.

      1. Anon*

        I’m with Anonymous…HR or Hiring Managers, either way, if the job doesn’t require presentation skills, they shouldn’t be asking for it…. candidates applying more likely than not won’t have excellent presentation skill sets and will be at an extreme disadvantage. I’ve had to do this for a company on a fake product and it was very uncomfortable. To me, this just sounds like laziness on the behalf of the hirers in not wanting to come up with proper questions.

        1. Marie*

          “To me, this just sounds like laziness on the behalf of the hirers in not wanting to come up with proper questions.”


        2. Bohdan Rohbock*

          Really? It’s not hard to come up with interview questions. Google solves that problem in a fraction of a second.

          As an evil HR person, I have people jump through hoops so I can see how well they jump through hoops. I like to think (perhaps under some self-delusion) that the hoops are similar to ones the job has to deal with.

          Just because the applicant doesn’t think presentation skills are involved, the employer may think they are. At the very least, there may be an expectation to have the person run meetings occasionally.

        3. anons*

          Nonsense. I was asked to make a 20 min presentation before and was hired within a week. Let me tell you, I am not a good presenter AT all. I’d get nervous, I’d choke on my words, my voice would tremble, my USB didn’t work right away but the content was good and I answered whatever questions they had.
          I think people are making this a bigger deal than necessary when calling these hiring managers arrogant. I can see how a hiring manager would think this would actually HELP a candidate since they will have more control over the interview. How many times do people come out of an interview and wish they could have brought up a certain achievement or attribute they have? Here’s their chance.

  3. jt*

    There has to be some story in the presentation, either a story of your professional growth, or a story of some job success (describing the process of HOW you met a challenge/opportunity). The latter is probably more important, and can show the former if done well.

    That said, I saw an interesting presentation by James Kane (, a consultant on brand loyalty, that was both a pitch for his skills and also informative. What was interesting was that he used the opening to really give an impression of ourself and to make a connection to the audience. He claims that it is very important to establish connections with people, and that by telling something you have in common with them, you immediately make a connection. So the opening begane with really rapid fire series of slides (shown as fast as he could speak) each with one image and a statement about himself that seemed “personal” but were generally pretty generic. A list of the sort of things he said were:

    I Grew up in X
    My parents did X and Y
    Z siblings
    When I got out of high school I moved to Z
    Met my future wife there, she’s an A
    Went to college in Q and majored in X
    After college worked at A, and B and C and realized I liked X
    So I moved to Z and got a job with X
    And here I am now
    I have a cat named Y
    Most mornings I get up and eat D, having the same thing everyday means one less choice to make.
    I like A, and B and C.

    He had about twice this many items – they took 3 or 4 minutes at the most but really perked up the audience and made us each think we could relate to this guy. Then he finished that part with something like “And here I am now” which transitioned to a more normal presentation style. It was really good and would require practice (and finding the right images for each slide) but conceptually would be easy to do. A danger with this approach is that it can not stand alone. Someone reading it would not understand what it’s about. I think if you use it, it would be best to leave out this opening and just send the rest of the presentation.

    I’m not completely recommending the questioner try James Kane’s approach – it’s a little “out there” and risky. But it’s food for thought.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Ha! I think I’ll do that the next time an interviewer asks me “so, tell me about yourself”. They sure don’t seem interested in hearing about skills and qualifications.

      I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to work for a company that requires me to give a 20 minutes presentation. It suggests that this company is hog-tied with corporate bureaucracy. (I wonder if they’ll hold up score cards when you’re done, like Olympic judges.)

      1. OP*

        That’s my issue, too. It seems super corporate and really bureaucratic. Plus, as if interview prep doesn’t take long enough and people aren’t busy, now I have to create this presentation on top of that. And they are also assuming that I have the software (at home) to do create this presentation. Not everyone has PowerPoint at home and no one should be using their current employer’s computer to create a presentation for another job.

        Fortunately, I do have PowerPoint, but what if I didn’t? That would require me to scramble around to try to find it within the next day so I can whip up a quick 20 presentation about myself. Really? This is just not okay on a so many levels and does make me very leery of the type of company this is.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t disagree with your points – I think this is a silly and unreasonable request.

          But regarding the software I just wanted to put out there, for anyone else who may need it, that Open Office as Impress which is their version of Power Point. It’s free as it’s open source software and compatible with MS Office.

          I have no affiliation with them – I’ve just used it and it’s a good tool. I’d hate to see anyone dropping money while job hunting if they don’t have to.

        2. Erica B*

          are they specifically expecting a powerpoint? If someone told me to do a presentation of myself and didn’t specify, I’d probably make a video of some and work in some photos or charts or whatever. Doing something along those lines takes time and equipment just it get it right. I’m curious as to how long you have to get it done. Frankly, Powerpoints are hardly ever very interesting are are sterile even if you personalize it, in my opinion. good luck anyhow!

        3. Anon*

          If you don’t have MS Office or open source softway, you can always utilize your local public library. Most libraries today will have free computers to use that have MS Office as well as free wifi, meeting rooms, resume help, seminars, etc. If you’re unemployed and looking to save some money while you’re job searching, your local library can be a huge asset. I’ve even noticed that the wifi at my local library branch covers part of the parking lot and they don’t turn it off after hours (for instance, they’re closed on Sundays). If you don’t feel too much like a creeper sitting in your car or on one of their outdoor benches, and you can’t afford home internet right now, this can keep you connected.

  4. OP*

    OP here. Thanks for answering my question, AAM!

    I definitely fought the temptation to do the glamour shot and “I like long walks on the beach” obnoxiousness. However, I do think if I go through with the interview, I will definitely include humor and random facts about me because, well, they are asking for something a little nutty, in my opinion.

    At the same time, I do want to be careful not to mention anything that would give them too much personal information (or something that is legally protected from them basing a hiring decision on, like marriage status, etc). This is obviously a professional presentation and an extension of my personal “brand” (which by the way, is all over the web, so this presentation is going to really redundant).

    @ImpassionedPlatypi, this is obviously an HR/corporate interview policy, along with the personality test I have to take, the number of interviews I have to attend, and the type of interview it is (1st contact- short phone screening with recruiting agency or HR, 2nd contact- phone interview with company, 3rd contact- in-person interview). It’s all very process oriented.

    And I’d also say that about 75% of the jobs I’ve interviewed for over the course of my career have required that I meet with HR, so it’s not an uncommon practice at all. Part of the HR department’s job is to set interview standards and hiring practices so everyone who interviews is treated fairly and they don’t face discrimination suits, so it’s not really being “unfair” to HR to pin this on them.

  5. Wilton Businessman*

    Interesting tactic. Instead of the standard “tell me about yourself” they want you to do a presentation about it. I once worked at a company that installed a ton of overhead projectors and almost required you to have a slide or two at every meeting. Maybe this is that type of company? Definitely out of the box thinkers.

    An uninterrupted 20 minute window to tell you how awesome I am, I’d love to have that.

  6. Jamie*

    “This really makes me want to create a 20-minute presentation about myself, full of glamour shots of me, wise and pithy quotes (from me), childhood awards, the obligatory fashion montage, a randomly inserted scene of a cheering crowd, and a few brief interviews with ex-boyfriends. It would end with a slow-motion clip of me running through the surf. Who wants to do this with me?”

    I’m usually very controlled, but I laughed so loud someone came into my office to ask what was so funny!

    Seriously…how awesome would hiring be if it meant wading through that for every candidate? That could be the one thing that would make HR fun!

  7. OP*

    OP (again). I should also want add that this interview is scheduled to last for 4 hours. Four. Hours. Dear lord.

    1. OP*

      I am having issues with typos today! Sorry, everyone! (“I should also add…” not “I should also want to add”).

      1. Belden*

        Why is a 4 hour interview so horrible?

        4 hours with the same person, yeargh, okay, I’m with you there. But it seems like a reasonable investment of your time to get to know your teammates, manager, and direct reports.

        My software development team’s interviews last 3 to 4 hours, with two developers interviewing the candidate for 30-45 minutes at a time. We work more closely day-to-day than most dev teams you’d think of (we do pair programming, which means two developers at one computer, writing code together) – so it’s important that we find candidates that are a good fit for the whole team, not just for a manager.

        1. OP*

          Because you assumed it was meeting with several people on a team that works closely together. It’s not.

          In certain scenarios and for certain positions (as you mentioned), and in interviews that are further along in the process (versus a second interview/first interview in person where I’m not even sure where I rank as a candidate yet), this seems excessive. Usually first in-person interviews are a bit shorter and less draining than that.

          So yeah, 4 hours is reasonable sometimes. Not this time.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree – this is reasonable for an interview far enough in the process where it’s a very small candidate pool and they want input from the team.

            Unless there are special circumstances, this seems excessive for a first in-person interview.

    2. Dawn*

      Four hours?? Holy crap! Personally, I’d have to really think about putting in all this effort is worth the job you may get in the end. If it was for my dream job or a really spectacular company, I’d definitely go for it. But, if it’s for a job that’s kind of on the same level as every other one I’m applying for, I’d probably skip this one. Sounds like an awful lot of time to invest when you have, what sounds like, many other interviews going on. Good luck!

      1. Dawn*

        OK, I’m having a typo problem, too.

        “Personally, I’d have to really think about putting in all this effort is worth the job…” should be, “Personally, I’d have to really think about WHETHER putting in all this effort is worth the job …”

  8. Dean*

    So the Job-Talk is pretty standard part of the Academic hiring process. I’ve also seen it used it in private industry (biotech/science research startups), which required general research and technical skills. Basically it’s for you to present the original research and expertise you’ve developed during your graduate work/career.

    I would view it as an extension and repackaging of your resume/C.V. Take those bullet-point accomplishments and expand on them. Ideally target your audience with the level of technical detail and jargon to make it really clear what you’ve accomplished and why it was important.

    And like a resume, target it towards thew new firm and highlight the accomplishments and skills you think they’re looking for.

    1. Henning Makholm*

      I think there’s a difference between “come over and give a talk about your recent work” and “prepare a presentation about yourself“. The former (which seems to be standard in my academic experience) is a natural and expected job skill for academics; the latter would feel strange to me.

  9. Kristy*

    I was once asked to email such a presentation, in lieu of a resume. I gave it a shot, but I was young and my PowerPoint skills were poor. So, of course, I added as much clip art and animation as possible. Newbie mistake. I’d like to do it all over again now.

  10. Natalie*

    AAM, your proposed presentation reminds me of Barney Stinson’s video resume (from How I Met Your Mother). If you haven’t seen it, it’s at That whole episode is a pretty decent send-up of crappy hiring practices.

    1. OP*

      Hahaha! Awesome. I think adding a laugh track (like the one from Scooby Doo) would be pretty damn funny, too.

    2. Jennifer*

      Thanks for the reminder of that brilliant episode! I’ll have to go back and watch it.

  11. Lesley*

    Whenever I’ve been asked to do something like this (write a research report, put together a presentation, etc.) for a first in-person interview (usually I’ve been phone screened), the company always ends up completely wasting my time. The three times I’ve had to do major prep work before an interview they were “just doing a preliminary meeting” or “at the beginning of our search.” It’s frustrating, and shows a complete lack of respect for my time (especially since I took time off work). I hope this isn’t the case with the OP and she’s at least progressed past the initial round of promising candidates, but if I get requests for a lot of work before an initial interview–or with an application packet–I take it as a big red flag.

  12. Interviewer*

    Unless this is a dream job, this hiring process sounds like death by a thousand paper cuts to me.

  13. Gwen*

    I honestly can see many reasons for why an interviewer would want you to do this.

    1. Creating a presentation even when the job doesn’t require presentation skills will tell me a lot about how you organize your thoughts, how clearly you can articulate your message, how comfortable you are communicating in this manner and how prepared you are. And I don’t mean just with the content. Did you bring hard copies of your slides just in case there are technical difficulties? This has happened to me more times than I can count, so you need to make sure you plan for that. And if you didn’t, then that tells me a lot about you.

    2. What you decide to put in the presentation is a huge indicator of how quickly you assess a situation and if you can work effectively on your own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to drop everything and work on a spreadsheet, document, email, memo, etc. This is the reality of the business world. Even if you don’t have to do presentations, you have to do some sort of business writing. And if I have to proof everything you do I might not be very inclined to hire you.

    3. The way you present can tell me a lot about your personality and how you might fit in with the current team. Perhaps you just recite the information on the slides without pausing for questions or making eye contact with your audience. This might not be a good fit in a more relaxed/creative culture.

    4. The “what if I didn’t have the software, what about that?” comments are akin to “that’s not in my job description” type behavior. Many jobs require you to identify solutions to exactly those kinds of problems. You’re telling me that even if you didn’t have the software, you couldn’t figure out how to do this? Let me tell you, purchasing software for your home PC is a lot easier than it is in the corporate world(where I work it is not easy, nor can it be done in less than a week), so be thankful there is a quick and easy solution on this one.

    5. If you are a college student without much professional experience/work samples, this can help me assess the quality of your work.

    I’ve experienced the “ace interview” that ended up in a “bust hire” many times in my career. I wish I had thought to require this as a 2nd interview. I would do this after the initial phone interview, not after I’ve already met you in person though.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am a HUGE fan of having candidates do an exercise related to the work of the position. Sometimes more than one. I’d never make a hire without doing that.

      But I think the issue here is that the project they’ve asked her to do doesn’t sound like it relates much to the work she’d be doing. I know plenty of people who are great at their jobs who wouldn’t come up with a great presentation about themselves, because it’s just not a skill they use much. It really depends on the job.

      There are lots of ways to test how a candidate approaches her work, organizes her thoughts, proofs her work, and so forth. This is just a particularly obnoxious one for all the reasons people have mentioned above. The issue isn’t with giving candidates an exercise (which, again, is a great thing to do); it’s with the particular exercise they chose.

      On the software point, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask job candidates to spend their own money buying something so that they can jump through a hoop like this. There are many free ways to have them demonstrate their skills.

    2. OP*

      These are good points, and I do see where they may be thinking along these lines. However, I think all of these things can be accurately assessed in other ways.

      To your first point of “did I bring hard copies with me”- the same conclusions could be drawn based on whether or not I brought hard copies of my resume with me rather than assumed the interviewers had printed out copies for themselves (something I always bring, and on nice paper and it never fails to impress).

      To your second point (and part of your first point)- I have an extensive portfolio for which I included a link in my resume where they can view several examples of how I organize information, what type of content I included, and extensive writing samples as my jobs have always included extensive writing skills (“writer” was even part of one of my previous job titles).

      To your third point- it’s been my experience that all interviews involve “presenting” yourself, just not with formal slides and a full presentation. The best interviews are two-way conversations, not ones where one person “presents” to the other. In my experience, the whole interview is a test of how you present yourself, no formal presentation needed.

      To your fourth point- we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. If they say it must be PowerPoint and that’s the only software they have, well then, I need PowerPoint (or as Jamie mentioned) OpenOffice, which would be the work around in this case. Purchasing software could actually cause economic hardship to some job seekers (what if they are unemployed and do not have the means to purchase such software?). This, in my opinion, assumes too much on behalf of the job seeker.

      On your fifth point- I’m not a recent college graduate and this is not an entry level position (see my responses to your previous points about my extensive portfolio of work).

      So yes, while I can see why a company may think this is a good idea in theory (as your points suggest), in reality I think it’s just corporate bureaucracy at its finest.

    3. Jamie*

      A couple of points jumped out at me from your post:

      1. The only fair thing to infer about an applicant who didn’t bring hard copies of slides is that they assumed you had the minimum technical capabilities to view something you required. If you don’t have a someone to cobble together a laptop and monitor/projector that says a lot about your company, none of it good.

      2. A lot of us have to drop things and re-prioritize to work on a new document. We have jobs. To expect a sample of their work if requested is fair. To expect them to jump on the fly as if they were already employed is not.

      3. I would argue that unless the job has presentations as a major function of the position to use this as a personality test is completely useless. I don’t give good presentations – public speaking makes a lot of people nervous and if that were part of the job then you absolutely should never hire me. But I run a good meeting, have relatively good rapport with my co-workers and bosses, and my tech skills pass muster…but you’d get none of that based on watching me do a presentation, especially on myself.

      4. If you think it’s easier for the average job hunter to come up with > $100 for PowerPoint (which isn’t necessary (*cough* Open Office – but speaking to your point of buying and installing at home) than it is for you to get necessary software on your job…then that’s the second red flag that your company is throwing down.

      I am all in favor of vetting applicants and assigning job related samples is a great way to do this. But the arguments you make just seem so condescending toward job seekers – and I bridle when I see people in the position of hiring with seemingly patronizing attitudes toward candidates.

      Yes, people are looking for work because they are unemployed or dissatisfied with their current positions. And employers are advertising openings not for sport, but because you need someone to fill a position in your company. Done well it’s a win-win for the candidate who is the best fit…but there is no reason that both parties can’t maintain dignity in the process.

  14. Dan Ruiz*

    “This really makes me want to create a 20-minute presentation about myself, full of glamour shots of me, wise and pithy quotes (from me), childhood awards, the obligatory fashion montage, a randomly inserted scene of a cheering crowd, and a few brief interviews with ex-boyfriends. It would end with a slow-motion clip of me running through the surf. Who wants to do this with me?” That’s hillarious AAM!!

    I agree with Dean @10:44. Although this request is more than a little annoying, I would approach it as an extension of my resume and use it to expand on items that I thought would be of particular interest to the hiring manager.


  15. Talyssa*

    I don’t know what the job is, BUT I have heard of people doing this for executive level interviews and it should theoretically apply to anyone interviewing for a position that may require use of presentations.

    Two reasons – one is that some people are just plain BAD at putting together presentations. Flat out. And if its something they anticipate being part of your job, they want to know that.

    The second (And this is the reason given by the people I heard about doing it) is to see if you know how to manage your talking time in meetings and presentations. If you are told you have 20 minutes, make sure you take nearly exactly 20 minutes. Don’t go way under and DON’T go way over. They wanted to see if you understood that a) other people’s time is valuable too and b) you know how to prepare in advance for something like a 20 minute timeline.

    But for some positions I think it would be quite silly – so it really depends on if you think it makes sense or not — and if you think it doesn’t make sense, is it possible you don’t know everything there is to know about the job responsibilities?

  16. Gwen*

    Just a follow up…

    I think there are many ways that an interviewer can make these assessments, but I don’t think it is as onerous as it is being portrayed here.

    Regarding my comment about purchasing the software…my point was not that I expected the person to run out and purchase PowerPoint, it was that there are many solutions to this situation, purchasing the software just happens to be the one I used. Many of you have pointed out free sites, which are equally valid solutions. I guess I didn’t necessarily think rushing to the “what if I didn’t have it, what then” mentality was the best response for the candidate to give.

    Also, I didn’t expect that this would be the only thing accomplished during the interview. I see it as a precursor to the interview. After the presentation, take a break, allow for the interviewer to compose themselves and get in to a different state of mind for the actual, shortened interview.

    I really want people to be comfortable during an interview; otherwise you can easily let good candidates go by. If this makes somebody uncomfortable but I think they are strong otherwise, this would just be a component of the hiring decision. And along the same lines, you could easily let a great job go if you don’t at least make an attempt to do it because you think this means the company is too bureaucratic or corporate.

  17. Jennifer*

    OP, I know you have to use PowerPoint, but for those of you above who dislike PowerPoint, there’s also Prezi ( It organizes your thoughts in clusters, which can sometimes be better depending upon the information you’re presenting. It’s free to use, and it also allows you to have a copy that people can access online.

    I don’t always use it – just when the information is not AS linear and PowerPoint isn’t working for me conceptually.

  18. Karl Sakas*

    @OP: To step back from the nuances of how to do the presentation, you might think whether you want to proceed anyway.

    If your gut is that this activity isn’t relevant, and you already seem to have concerns about excessive bureaucracy, and you already have advanced interviews elsewhere… I’m not sure how well the whole presentation’s going to go, anyway.

    For instance, how enthusiastic do you think you’ll feel during the interview? I can’t fake enthusiasm. And remember, if you do get hired here… you get to sit in on these 20-minute presentations in the future!

  19. Lora*

    This is very much the norm in my industry (biotech). I could even see someone coming from, for example, a finance background, being asked to do such a presentation by the group of science geeks who started the company, and wondering what on earth was going on.

    The intention, in my field anyway, is not at all to condescend to applicants–it’s to see how you organize your thinking and approach a problem semi-independently as opposed to how you perform under the strict direction of someone else. There are lots of people who got PhDs and have a long list of publications and patents, but who got there by riding on someone else’s coattails. Typically such people might put together a decent set of slides, but are highly sensitive to being derailed by a simple question or are unable to answer questions coherently immediately afterwards, are instantly unnerved when anyone asks a simple method question. “Why did you use Instrument X instead of Instrument Y,” sort of questions, really freak interviewees out if they are only good at following orders, whereas people who are nervous but thoughtful are able to say, “we didn’t have access to Instrument Y, but we confirmed the result with Method Z”. It also allows you to see if the published work the person has done are due to their own drive and interests and how they feel it fits together, vs. stuff they did just because they could. Hard to tell that sort of thing from a publication list, there are some publication lists I’ve seen that look very disjointed and all over the place, but when the person presented their work, you could see how the thinking process tied everything together neatly.

    It’s actually a kind of compliment, because such talks would never be asked of someone who was thought to be too stupid to do anything *but* follow orders. This has been an interview requirement both for the huge, massive Big Pharma where I used to work as well as the teeny-tiny startup where I now work.

    1. Natalie*

      It sounds like your talking a presentation of someone’s research, which IMO is different than a presentation about oneself. The OP is being asked to make a Powerpoint slideshow about herself.

  20. Nathan A.*

    Lora –

    Any PhD worth their salt would be used to presenting and defending points in public. It’s a requirement to graduate with a PhD (the dissertation to be precise).

    I think I would take this opportunity to show how well I can present a topic I know so much about (myself) and make it an engaging, interesting experience for the judges – I mean – hiring managers.

  21. Nonie*

    Oh, for pete’s sake, OP. Do it or don’t do it! You sound as though you were leaning towards not doing it anyway. PROBLEM SOLVED.

  22. Cassie*

    For an clerical assistant position, my boss had the candidates put together a few powerpoint slides illustrating why he should choose them. The position doesn’t require presentation skills, but duties do include putting together viewgraphs (though most of the time, you just have to cut and paste from other sources – you generally don’t have to generate the info yourself).

    But I can imagine it would be awkward putting together a presentation on why you are the best candidate. It’s just a simpler topic (for the company, I guess). In our case, the slides were just sent to the boss – the candidates didn’t actually “present” them.

  23. Rachel*

    I would love to do this. It’s like cheating on the interview. You can cover questions you know they’re going to ask with a cheat sheet (the presentation). Strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, goals, etc.

  24. anon*

    Be thankful. Some folks don’t have interviews and cannot afford to complain and moan about a petty instruction. There are many reasons why it would be a good idea and how you can use it to your advantage. They might want to see if you are smart enough to present about your work and achievements. You basically have control over all they will learn about you. As for a two way discussion, do you think they wont be asking you any questions?

    If you have such a problem with the company, back down and don’t waste both of your times.

  25. Kimberlee*

    I like this! I like the idea of hiring managers doing different things and trying different ideas to better evaluate candidates (after all, if the alternative is a standard interview that everyone can easily practice for, how much can that really tell you about a candidate?). A presentation is genius: It gives insight to the way that you organize yourself, express your ideas, put together a presentation visually… even if presentations themselves aren’t required for the job, it’s one of those things that reveals stuff about a candidate that you can’t get from questioning them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can totally see that, but then let them choose their topic rather than saying it has to be on THEM. It’s that part of it that I find particularly objectionable. (Also, I suspect that the interviewer would learn more to by watching how a candidate put together a presentation on a meatier topic as well.)

  26. Safa*


    actually i have been asked to prepare a 30 minute presentation for an internal vacancy (Customer cate Team leader )in my company).
    i was been given 3 questions were in i have to select one of them and have the presentaion about.
    at the begening , i was angry , telling my self why they are asking me to do so , though they know how much i want this position and how much i am passionate about it .
    a simple intreview , or a may a descition among the managers to study if i suit the position or not will be much easier .
    how ever once i statrted to prepare my presentation , i liked it , and i was very disappionted when the intreview was postponed to another week.
    good luck to you .


  27. HDL*

    I just found this older post and thought the idea of the 20-minute all-about-me presentation at a job interview was pretty funny! I’ve given many a “job talk” (standard in the science fields) and they were all about my work, not about me personally. Anyway, I’d love an update about how the OP ended up styling this presentation and how it went over at the interview! That is, if she actually did it at all.

  28. Kui*

    i am asked for a 10 minutes presentation (power point) too for next week interview. It’s an open topic. I have no idea what topic should i present. Anyone can suggest me some topics which are appropriate to present? If i introduce and talk bout myself in the presentation can it be considered as a presentation topic? HELP

  29. Aaron*

    A powerpoint presentation? What’s next, you have to juggle flaming sticks on the top of Mt. Everest to get a job? As someone pointed out, I would only do this if it were for a dream job that I absolutely wanted, otherwise I wouldn’t even waste my freaking time. Thank goodness the economy is starting to improve.

  30. Jessica*

    I am having to do this next week for a position. the position requires the creation of training, so I see why they want to see what I can do with powerpoint. The difference is that I am not presenting my powerpoint, I am sending it to them and it is being shown to the executive to decide the final 2.

  31. Anonymous*

    I was happy to find a site that had this discussion. Recently,
    I was asked to do a 15 minute PowerPoint for an interview. This request actually helped my decide that the job was not a “dream job.” I have another offer in the works and am almost being hired site unseen. I guess this sounds spoiled but I remember the days when the hiring process was more traditional. My kids are “Millenials” and they had to do a PowerPoint for everything in school. After a while, it reminded me of how they used to ask students to make a PosterBoard of everything. The kids would eventually become mindless PowerPoint automatons who could crank out amazing PowerPoints but probably did not hold them in high regard. Being in education and research, I am accustomed to using PowerPoint when it is necessary. I have yet to see one about “myself.”

  32. lisa*

    hoops are for circus clowns
    the only thing making someone “jump through hoops” proves is that you have an idiot that is willing to act asinine for your pleasure and control issues.
    perhaps the interviewers are enjoying making clowns out of everyone and getting a big laugh out of it because they can in this economic environment- jerks.

  33. heather*

    “mindless PowerPoint automatons who could crank out amazing PowerPoints but probably did not hold them in high regard.” exactly. they learn nothing, but hey look at the pretty powerpoints! more presentations more! this is what happens when you get the marketing mba’s to rule every profession out there- stay in your own group and stop giving stupid ideas to other professions about how they should “run their business” and how making oodles of mind numbing presentations is somehow productive.

  34. Catalina*

    This is interesting. I’ve never NOT had to do a presentation as part of any hiring process — I can’t imagine why everyone is getting so bent out of shape about this.

  35. Dawn*

    I was asked to do a video of myself (30 seconds) and upload to YouTube, then send the link. Next would be a Kolbe personality test, before a possible interview. All this for an estate planning lawyer? As a Legal Assistant?

    I’ve done videos professionally…30 minutes is ridiculous. 30 seconds is plenty. 30 minutes of video requires a computer from NASA for editing, and some expensive software. It takes literally hours to shoot, capture and edit.

    I can only wonder…is this guy a voyeur or a lawyer? Not a word mentioned about skills or legal experience….all while the recruiter’s toddler wailed in the background.

    I politely declined. I may be desperate, but I know better. I’m too old and my maturity will show. The “slow-motion running through the surf” was the best laugh I’ve had in awhile. It’s not just hoops, it’s flaming hoops!

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