should job candidates bring PowerPoint presentations to interviews?

A reader writes:

A recent applicant brought a PowerPoint deck to an interview that basically walked through a presentation of her resume, information about herself, and why we should hire her. She referred to it as a “take-away presentation” and said her professors in college advised her to create one for each interview. The only thing was: it was kind of sloppy, used bad clip art, and graphics from the company that were stretched or incorrectly colored, and actually made a worse impression on me than not having one at all.

I’d never heard of it, and I don’t know if I’m a fan or not. Is this a new thing that’s going to get me or another interviewee docked points if they don’t create it? Or an old thing that I was just never aware of? Would you recommend creating one? I’ve only ever heard of bringing a cover letter, a resume and a portfolio if applicable. A PowerPoint deck seems weird.

I swear, I’m starting to think that some college professors and campus career centers are colluding in a sociological experiment to see what happens if they use their positions of authority to spread bad information to a vulnerable group (inexperienced students) who will believe what they say. What other explanation is there for them giving out bad advice about things they have little to no experience with?

No, this is not a good idea for most positions. Certainly not for positions that most recent grads would be applying for, and certainly not if all that’s in the presentation is a summary of the person’s resume and why they think they should be hired.

Presentations can be useful when they (a) are requested, so you know the interviewer actually wants to spend part of the meeting time that way or (b) contain useful information that couldn’t be presented in any other way. This candidate’s presentation was neither.

The other thing about doing an unsolicited presentation is an interview is that it’s a risky move; it has to be really, really good, to justify taking over the interview and spending a chunk of time on something your interviewer didn’t particularly want. Like, outstanding level of good. If it’s not, then you just do more harm than good, as happened here.

This poor candidate should bring a malpractice claim against her college.

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    should job candidates bring PowerPoint presentations to interviews?

    My immediate response: only if the hiring company asks them to.

    On the plus side, this did help you eliminate someone who doesn’t have enough attention to detail or maybe slidesmanship (yes, its a “thing”) to bring an outstanding quality product when interviewing.

    1. Judy*

      The only time I’ve heard of a company asking for a presentation, was for a training position, they asked someone to prepare a 15 minute class on one of 5 subjects. It didn’t replace the actual “interview”, it was in addition.

      1. Alicia*

        As far as my experience goes (and my circle of friends) it is quite common in science to do presentations. I’ve done a few, not just for academic positions, but also industry.

      2. Rana*

        Yeah, it’s common in academic settings, since usually they’re hiring you both to teach and to present your research, and using PowerPoint is common in both contexts.

        That said, whatever was that professor thinking?!

        (At the very least, they should have taught what a good PowerPoint presentation looks like – I have a whole lesson plan that’s focused just on that, which I came up with after having to sit through too many awful, awful class presentations.)

        1. periwinkle*

          “That said, whatever was that professor thinking?!”

          That presentations are the standard for the academic world and thus *obviously* must be standard everywhere? (I think this is referred to “I am the world” thinking)

          I love bad clip art. Was any of it animated, like little spinning tap-dancing list bullets? That would be awesome. I would hire her just to keep me amused.

          1. NutellaNutterson*

            I believe that dancing bananas and hamsters are back in vogue.

            Ooh, the “experience” section of the resume slide could have one of the little “under construction” digging guys!

          2. Jen*

            This sounds like the power points my fifth grade students put together when given free reign.

          3. Rana*

            Hee. This sounds like the “How Not to Do a PowerPoint” PowerPoint I have made up. One slide has text that spins and bounces, another has bright blue text on a yellow background, each slide cuts to the next with a different obnoxious transition, and so on. It was great fun to make, I have to admit. Maybe I should add the dancing banana (or dancing Spiderman?) to the next version.

        2. Mark*

          Yeah – I have to say that this is common in academia and therefore probably why the professor suggested it. But I have to say – and I work in a college career center – what are students doing asking their professors for job search advice anyway?

          Maybe it’s because I used to hire in industry before I moved to higher education, but the practice of asking faculty for job search advice really doesn’t make much sense to me at all. Unless you’re asking for advice on how to be a professor, or they are also working in industry as well as teaching (at the same time) then I don’t really see how they have any expertise to advise you on that at all.

          I also recognize that the same logic can be levied towards career centers and counselors – and it should! – at least career centers have employer relations components to their offices and (theoretically) should be having regular conversations with employers to keep current on best practices when it comes to things like job search. The one thing I tell students I counsel is “if the emperor looks naked, the emperor is naked. Bad advice generally seems like bad advice, don’t let someone’s positioning be the sole factor you consider when listening to someone.” Employ critical thinking, that’s supposed to be what a college education imparts.

          1. Melissa*

            My guess is a lot of students don’t realize that their professors may have never worked outside of academia, or only for maybe 2-3 years 10-20 years ago. Or they think that academic hiring resembles hiring in other sectors.

          2. Loose Seal*

            At my university, undergrads are required to take a job-hunting class during their Senior year. They are terrible and full of required things like coming up with the answer to “If you were a tree…” and having to wear a watch to your faux interview because no one will hire you if you don’t demonstrate that you have one.

      3. tcookson*

        Our applicants for professor positions have to give a 45-minute lecture to the students and faculty, and most of them use PowerPoint or some other form of presentation software. But we ask for that from the finalists as part of their campus interview visit. It would be weird if we were interviewing for a staff position and they whipped out a PowerPoint presentation without any provocation whatsoever.

      4. Anonymous*

        Everyone who interviews at my company does a presentation (does not have to be Powerpoint). I don’t know if that’s common in consulting or not, but I think it may be.

      5. Jessa*

        Training sometimes, or if it’s a position where preparing such things are normal. If your job is to prepare things for meetings or marketing or conventions, then yes they might want one. But mostly the key takeaway on the advice is IF asked for only.

  2. Felicia*

    I’ve never heard of people being advised to bring Powerpoint presentations to every interview, not even from my college career centre, so I hope it’s not a common thing. I did have to do a Powerpoint presentation for an interview once, but that was because the hiring manager told me to bring one when setting up the interview. I wouldn’t do one unsolicited.

  3. Anonymous*

    What’s actually been working shokingly well for me is having a portfolio powerpoint presentation. I’m not in a field or anything where portfolios are standard, but I have several project deliverables that look great and professional and were done in their entirety by me (so I’m not taking credit/usinganother’s work without permission). I have offered to send portfolios after interviews as part of my followup, and one time did it before instead of trying to do a screensharing session.

    My portfolio is visually very good (no bells and whistles, nothing gimicky, just clean and simple design), and the content is deliverables that show the kind of stuff related to this job that I can do. People seem to like it, which did surprise me. It started when one job asked for examples of prior work and I’ve been tweaking it since. Which reminds me, I need to update it…

    1. Joey*

      How does this actually work in real life? Do you bring a laptop and projector and commandeer the interview room? Do you offer it up when they call you for an interview? Do you print the slides and pass them out?

      I would think its weird and gimmicky. If I need to make a hiring decision I’d much rather have a succint 1-2 page résumé and cover letter in front of me than a ppt presentation up on the wall or a booklet of ppt slides.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s in addition to my cover letter and resume, and I send it as an e-mail attachment after they’ve indicated they would like to receive it. I do ask first. ;) It demos my deliverables; it doesn’t reproduce my cover leter/resume except in that it demonstrates things discussed in them and contains my contact info.

        When I demoed it in an interview, I emailed it in beforehand, so the interviewer would have it on the computer already hooked up to the screen. I can also bring it on a usb drive.

    2. AmyNYC*

      I feel like this can only work in a visual/arts/design field. I did one interview with a digital portfolio and prefer hard-copy.

      1. HAnon*

        If you’re looking for creative jobs, it’s best to have an online presence as well…CD’s/flash can been good if you actually make it to the in-person interview stage and it’s something you can leave behind, but when our agency was hiring/pre-screening creatives we immediately looked at their resume to see if they had an online portfolio. If they didn’t, they automatically went in the “no” pile.

    3. A Disillusioned Employee*

      I have used a career portfolio with some success. It is a CD with all my publications, including a book, project deliverables (unless confidential), and some odds and ends. I hand it in at the conculsion of the interview.

      If a presentation was a part of the interview, it would be included as well.

      Next time I have to job hunt (hopefully, not for a while!), I will use a USB drive since CDs seem to be going the way of the dinosuars!

  4. Victoria Nonprofit*

    How does one get a job at a college career center? I’m not being snarky; I’m genuinely curious. What’s the background that someone in that position would have? Higher ed administration? Worked their way up from being a student worker? HR?

    1. AM*

      They come from a variety of backgrounds. All of the things you mentioned are possible. I’ve also met a few who had counseling-related degrees. Some worked in the field for which they are advising.

      1. Felicia*

        Probably depends on the college. I actually have a friend who does that now and she has a degree in psychology and a diploma in HR. It seems that the career centre she works at is pretty good, but her coworkers seem to come from a wide variety of backgrounds. I think the biggest plus is being an alumni of that particular college (not everyone is, but it helps), and other than that it varies.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A lot do start as student workers or right out of school, which is problematic for obvious reasons. A shocking portion have never done much hiring, or even any hiring.

      1. Twentymilehike*

        I have found this to be very true. Also, as a 30 year old it is a little unnerving to be getting advice from a 19 year old college student along with a, “trust me, I work I’m a career center” comment.

        No, I do not think it is a good idea to harass the CEOs of a company on LinkedIn to show much I want the job.

        1. Tina Career Counselor*

          My office includes staff with master’s degree in higher education, counseling, college student development and similar. We also have someone with a law degree and someone else with a PhD in French Lit! Though I should point out that PhD also has a counseling degree.

          Our interns are either graduate students or individuals making career transitions, we do not use undergrads to provide any services.

          1. Anonymous*

            Anyone who actually has spent time working outside of academia, or better yet has been in a hiring/managerial role?

            1. Tina Career Counselor*

              Yes, though not all (some of us worked in other fields before transitioning to this one). We have strong relationships with our employer partners, and make concerted efforts to be informed about what they’re looking for. We have training sessions with recruiters/managers from assorted companies to understand what they want, we bring employers and alumni to a good majority of our events to educate students and ourselves, have events where managers do resume critiques, etc.

              Do we know everything about every industry or occupation? I wish! That would be impossible, especially given the number of majors/programs at our institution and potential jobs in the world. But we definitely know enough to help students get started on the process, and if we don’t know the answer to something, we can help them find it.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But what’s key for this type of work is having a lot of experience managing and hiring. Without that, the masters degrees won’t matter at all.

            1. Tina Career Counselor*

              And I’m happy to say, we’re pretty much aligned with the advice Alison gives.

          3. Joey*

            I’m curious. What’s the rationale for hiring folks with those degrees? I would think you’d be more interested in hiring someone with a successful and diverse background in hiring and managing.

            1. Anonymous*

              As someone with an advanced degree in college counseling (not career advising though), I think the rationale is that career counselors do more than tell students how to format their resume and what to say during an interview. Many students go to their college Career Center because they have no idea what they want to do (or have unrealistic ideas of what they want to do), and their advisor helps to identify their professional interests and strengths and facilitates the decision-making process of choosing a career path. These are the kinds of skills that you learn in a graduate counseling program, as well as internships and experience directly working 1:1 with students. Of course, I’m not arguing that experience in hiring and managing isn’t essential as well – I’d suggest that the best candidates for career counseling positions should have both skill sets.

              1. Tina Career Counselor*

                Thank you Anon, I was going to add that. There’s actually quite a bit of counseling in our roles and tends to go beyond the most obvious job search pieces, including choosing/changing majors, using career assessments and inventories, facilitating decisions, helping students work through values/interest conflicts, and similar topics. The counseling background particularly comes in handy with distressed/crying students, those who are overwhelmed, experiencing conflict with their parents about their education/career choices, etc.

                1. Tina Career Counselor*

                  And of course I also agree about the value of the recruiting/hiring skills. It’s what I try to read as much as I can (particularly this blog) and talk to as many of our employers as possible.

                  We also sometimes experience a challenge attracting candidates with managerial/recruiting backgrounds who want to transition to working in a higher ed environment, especially given the likely pay cut to do so.

        2. Melissa*

          At our career center the students only do administrative work, not any actual counseling.

      2. bearing*

        “Where do college career center workers get their so-called expertise” would make a great freelance article or column if it contained data or at least some anecdotes drawn from cold-calling a few career centers.

        Pitch it as a shocking exposé.

      3. Ruffingit*

        I have found career centers at colleges to be horrendously unhelpful. I’ve had them tell me all kinds of things that make no sense at all, among them:

        1. Address your cover letter to the person doing the hiring, not “Dear Hiring Manager.”

        2. Follow-up to ensure they received your resume and ask if they have questions.

        3. Format your resume with some bizarre text/style so you stand out.

        And so on and so on and so on. It’s really just sad and depressing to think that these people get paid to dispense such bad advice.

    3. Ramona*

      I’ve seen a lot of post-academics (people who usually have PhDs but decided not to become professors) work in counseling centers. They usually get hired because they already have experience working with students – but surely that doesn’t translate over to being able to advise about job searching.

      During grad school, I went to the career center. The counselor, as far as I know, had no training or experience whatsoever to advise me on how to find a job. She told me she got her job because she had already worked in higher ed admin, and she spent a day “shadowing” her current supervisor (apparently that showed enough interest for them to hire her). This was at an Ivy League.

      1. Mark*

        This is not necessarily true of all prestigious schools, but while I interned at a public, west coast ivy I had more than one colleague or supervisor speak to the correlation between the institution’s prestige and the poor quality of their student services at one time in their history. The general consensus was “we serve our students through our academic reputation; that’s what gets them jobs, so who cares if career services sucks?”

        Thankfully, good leadership changed that culture at the institution before I got there, but it was recent enough then to still be mentioned to me when I started. So I’m not surprised – but sorry -that you had a less than stellar experience at your ivy league school.

    4. Kimberley*

      I have 10 years of recruitment experience. Then I joined a career centre. I am not the norm unfortunately. I am currently hiring for a new career advisor and the applications that I received were horrible. “Why yes, your master’s degree in folklore is incredible applicable to giving career advice to accounting students.”

  5. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Oh, and a suggestion: I know several folks on here have commented on previous threads that they have had good experiences with their college career centers. I’d be interested in an “Ask the Readers” post on that: For those who have found their college career centers helpful, what specifically was helpful? What do they think made their experience different from all the terrible experiences we hear about?

    … apologies if this is off-topic. I really appreciate how Alison keeps things focused here, and I don’t want to threadjack.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d love to hear that too! I know there *are* good ones out there, and it would be nice to hear what they do, specifically, that the others ones aren’t doing (or aren’t doing well).

      1. Xay*

        My college career center is very good about involving alumni through mentoring, Q&A sessions (on campus and via Skype), organizing trips where students can visit a group of companies/organizations within a particular industry and internships. The career center staff also make a point of networking by attending alumni club events all over the country.

        I worked at the career center as part of my work study and most of the focus for students (aside from the ubiquitous career inventories and personality tests) was getting basic resume, cover letter and interview skills without any of the gimmicks that I have read here. That was about 11 years ago and I have been an alumni volunteer since and I have only observed good results from the students that use the career center. The students that rely on their professors for advice, not so much.

        1. Xay*

          Oh and my role as a student worker was mostly data entry and showing people how to use the resources (library, alumni database, meeting with counselors). By junior year, I was allowed to review resumes for spelling and grammar only, but not for content, format and drafting.

          1. Elise*

            I had a great career counselor who was excellent in helping me make the decision to go to work vs. straight to grad school, helping me find resources for/prep for my case interviews, and assisting me in identifying other companies similar to the one with which I was interviewing in case that process didn’t work out (it did!). Interestingly, she had recently moved from my university’s business school career center to the career center for liberal arts majors (I was in the liberal arts school). The other career counselors I had encountered within the liberal arts school’s center were not of the same quality to the point I almost didn’t go back.

        2. Felicia*

          I think the best part of my college career centre was bringing alumni who had graduated from the same program and were now successful and their various fields. It was great to talk to people who had done the same education as me to see how they got where they are. They also had an awesome database of jobs and internships that you couldnt access other places, because those companies had a relationship with the school.

      2. Joanne*

        One of my favorite things about my college’s career center was that they pushed volunteering internships so strongly, and fostered relationships with organizations in the area – my junior and senior year, I volunteered 2 days a week (for just a few hours, not a huge commitment) and was able to get some insight into the roles that interested me and the jobs that were a completely bad fit (like being a therapist in a federal half way house. thank you, college, for helping me dodge that bullet.)

      3. Pussyfooter*

        I’m considering going for a higher degree. I’d like to know the names of the schools that have better career centers.

    2. literateliz*

      I was just thinking I’d be interested in this too! I only went to my career center once and got mediocre resume advice, but in retrospect, all of the professors in my department (journalism) gave excellent career advice. Probably had to do with the fact that most of them were working journalists and editors.

      1. Felicia*

        I had a whole course (mandatory) called Transition to Work, and it was actually pretty good. The career centre, specifically, was only helpful in finding on campus jobs. They were also the ones who organized the career fairs, which were helpful for certain people

  6. Anon234*

    We expect all internal candidates to bring a portfolio to their interviews. Internally we call portfolio decks “decks” at my employer because all of the examples and templates and career and development training are typically developed in pp. I could see someone getting confused if they haven’t gone through the training and try to present the portfolio as a presentation.

  7. Jen*

    I guess I’ll disagree with everyone but this doesn’t seem so strange to me. My husband works in advertising and he’s interviewed people who put together a powerpoint of their work and shared that and he’s done that for jobs he’s interviewed for. I’ve sat in on an interview for a PR Director where he did a great powerpoint on his experience, his PR philosophy and highlights of his best work. While I wouldn’t say it’s common, it’s acceptable in creative industries as more of their porfolio pieces are online, it just makes sense to do an electronic presentation rather than print everything out for a paper presentation.

    1. Dana*

      My husband is in PR as well, and he does interview with a PP presentation for the reasons you listed above. I think in this scenario, and some others, it works. But for a recent graduate who is using it as a different resume format it doesn’t work and it is strange.

      1. hauntedlibrarian*

        I agree that it’s fairly common in creative industries. My husband works as a commercial producer at a TV station. He has an online portfolio, a show reel and was asked to also give a PP presentation for a previous interview. In his line of work, he has to show he has great presentation skills. That being said, he also has a detailed resume and includes a cover letter when applying for jobs. So a mix of paper and digital for him.

    2. OP*

      Totally agree, Jen. I think it makes perfect sense for people in a creative role and ESPECIALLY if they have strong creative skills. I think the biggest detriment, though, was the terrible formatting, use of graphics, etc. Which would be really bad for a creative role, but it almost felt like “Why draw attention to something you aren’t good at unless you have to?” :-)

      I’m all for portfolios, decks, PP, multitudes of presentation formats when the employer asks or when the interview will be enhanced by their presence. Not so much when it was both not requested and detracted from focusing on their skills.

      1. Jen*

        True – for a new grad it’s a bit awkward especially when they clearly don’t have creative skills. It’s possible he/she has heard it not only from the school but also a parent or older sibling who’s in the creative world and thought it would be a good way to make extra impact since things are so competitive out there.

  8. AnonHR*

    On a somewhat related note, we’re currently fielding calls from a management professor who teaches HR at a nearby university. After his adult son applied, the professor (cold) called directly, multiple times, to ask when his son should plan to start, which we eventually responded to by letting him know that was an inappropriate avenue for his son to find employment… I had a lot of great professors and career center assistance in school, but hearing about the advice from the OPs applicant and dealing with this individual makes me really concerned for students in school now. As if finding your first professional job isn’t hard enough without bad advice/examples!

    1. Tina Career Counselor*

      There are so many things wrong with that scenario, I’m not even sure where to begin.

    2. periwinkle*

      Tell the professor that golly, you would have considered hiring his son immediately… but the poor uninformed lad forgot to bring a PowerPoint presentation to the interview.

    3. Chinook*

      I had to reread that numerous times just to wrap my head around all the things that are wrong.

  9. Tiff*

    It seems weird to base a power point almost entirely on the candidate’s resume and cover letter. But I was given an assignment for the second round interviews at my current job and completed the assignment using pp and gave a brief presentation at the interview.

  10. LJL*

    I’ve noticed that in higher education (administrative as well as academic), training, and the like, a talk accompanied by a PowerPoint is often expected. This will be related to the job itself, though, not just a PowerPoint version of your resume and/or talking points. For those kinds of jobs, always have one waiting in the wings (email to yourself, store on dropbox, bring on a keychain drive) just in case. Better to have it and not need it….

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve worked in higher education administration for about 10 years, hired dozens of employees, and I’ve never heard of this. Faculty, yes, but not staff.

      1. LJL*

        I’ve been surprised in situations in which I was not told to bring a presentation (so I didn’t), but was asked to present in the interview. It may have been crossed wires or an anomaly, but since then I always have one I can pull out. Just in case.

          1. Tina Career Counselor*

            Actually, I’ve seen it reguarly for staff. Since career counselors do so much presenting in terms of workshops and class presentations, we require everyone to do a presentation. I also know people who work in assorted student affairs departments, such as student activities, residence life, etc. that have had to do presentations.

  11. J*

    Interviewer to recent grad interviewee: That’s a bad newbie! Oh bad. Don’t do that anymore.

  12. Twentymilehike*

    I swear, I’m starting to think that some college professors and campus career centers are colluding in a sociological experiment to see what happens if they use their positions of authority to spread bad information to a vulnerable group (inexperienced students) who will believe what they say. What other explanation is there for them giving out bad advice about things they have little to no experience with?

    As a psych major, this comment made my morning. Sadly I would love reading the papers on this.

  13. Tina Career Counselor*

    The only time I can think of using a PowerPoint presentation is when the employer asks for one. That’s useful when they want to see presentation skills, knowledge of a particular topic, samples of your work, etc. I don’t understand the value of a presentation (never mind a poor one, as described by OP) that simply reiterates your resume and letter.

    Otherwise, if you wanted to show some samples of your work, maybe bring a portfolio or just a few samples with you, but don’t hijack the interview with a PP.

    1. AJ-in-Memphis*

      But wouldn’t the interviewer have to allow a person to hijack the interview? I would just say no if someone tried to pull that one on me or launch into a Kevin Hart-inspired rant: “see, the way our presentation room is set-up….”

  14. totochi*

    Our company asks engineering candidates to present to a large group of management as the last step of the interview process, i.e., once they pass all 1:1 interviews. It give a larger group an idea of who they will be working with, and a chance to object if they perceive some type of deal-breaker. Candidates also don’t present their “resume” but more technical details on projects they’ve worked on in the past.

  15. OP*

    A.) Super excited to see my question answered!
    B.) Glad to know I’m not alone in the mystery that surrounds bringing an unattractive (nevermind unnecessary) PowerPoint to the interview.

    I think everyone made a lot of good points about the need for one in a more creative field though, I think in that instance I can’t imagine attending an interview WITHOUT a well-created portfolio.

    Kind of similar, but is anyone else also seeing the trend in resumes being created online? Like someone has and it’s just their resume? Or similarly, what about the whole making the resume super fancy now… with graphics… is that something you think will sweep all industries as we move towards more enhanced visual capabilities (in regards to computers being able to generate the resume v. a typewriter if you go way back, or even just MACs with superior graphic capability compared to say… an older Windows machine…)

    Just wondering…

    Thanks again, everyone!!

    1. Kathryn T.*

      My husband has a name-domain with his resume parked on it. (well, and links to online writing samples; he’s a technical writer.) In his case, he did it because he has the exact same name (first and last) as a bassist for a gore death-metal band, and he was trying to game the SEO so that results that were pertinent to HIM were higher in the search engine results for his name than the violent, profanity-laden interviews with his musical namesake.

        1. Evan (now graduated)*

          Unfortunately, one of my namesakes (real name) is a pirate.

          Fortunately, anyone doing the most basic research on my namesake will learn that he was born a few centuries ago.

          1. Cali7*

            If you google my full real name, you get a certified secondary English instructor. Which amuses me because I am a certified secondary English instructor in a completely different state. She is actually quite accomplished in the field, i am not so. :)

    2. MarieK*

      On the creative, infographic-y resume front: I hire graphic designers and I could care less about that. Yes, I expect a designer’s resume to be formatted nicely, but if I have to spend time examining it to figure out exactly what your skills are, forget it. I’d rather see a clean resume and a portfolio of your actual work.

  16. Rob Bird*

    So, how does one do a PowerPoint presentation for you resume at an interview when the employer didn’t say to do it that way? Do you bring your own laptop and projector? Do you ask the employer for those?

    How does this happen?

      1. Rob Bird*

        “Yes…I know this is a Deli Clerk position….but if you could provide me with a laptop, projector, and WiFi so I can show you this resume I did on Xtranormal and uploaded to YouTube, that would be great!”

  17. Brett*

    Presentations are become pretty standard in tech interviews too…
    but it better not be powerpoint.
    Slideshare, Google Docs, and Keynote are the low end. Prezi and url talks at the higher end. There are many other alternatives out there, but the simple gist is to use alternatives to powerpoint effectively.
    I have even seen presentations in Notepad++ and command line presentations at tech conferences/meeting; the latter being one of the most dangerous types of presentations to do live. The possibility for massive disaster in both of these styles wold probably be bad for interviews though.
    Whiteboarding is also often encouraged (doing a technical presentation with nothing but a whiteboard or a flippad), and would probably be a very useful idea for an interview. But again, risky unless you are bringing your own materials. (I would more be prepared to whiteboard, but not count on doing it.)

    1. Chinook*

      I am guessing that, in tech interviews, you would know what programs are available for your presentation? Having worked in a mixed Mac/PC environment (shudder), I know how hard it can be to use Keynote on a PC.

      Also, to give PowerPoint its due, even the best program is going to come off looking bad if someone decides to use poor grpahics, illogical movements and 10 different fonts with too many words on a page. PowerPoint just happens to be more accessible and/or user friendly to those who don’t know how to create a proper presentation. It is sort of like blaming illegible writing on using a Bic disposable pen instead of a Waterman fountain pen.

  18. Annie Onymous*

    Thank you, Alison.
    Years ago, when I worked at a college, they made a big deal out of this professor who has having his students do Power Point presentations, burn them to CD-Rs and bring them to interviews. The school was touting this as “look at how up-to-date we are.” I thought it was ridiculous but I also figured, “I’d better get out of the Stone Age.”
    Now I know I was not totally off the mark.

    1. AP*

      I once sat on an advice panel at a local art school which included members of the school’s curriculum and career counseling depts. (They were trying to stay up to date and asking us for advice.) They told us that each graduating senior spends a whole quarter working on a reel (the film equivalent of a portfolio) that they are encouraged to send out to potential employers to show off their skills and we all about died. A whole quarter’s worth of tuition, on something that your mom might watch once before deleting? That not one employer anywhere is going to look at? Egads.

      The panel seemed sort of hurt that we told them no one would ever watch these, but I hope they went home and rethought the whole thing.

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    My only experience with PowerPoint in an interview was being asked to make a slide to show I could work with the programme.

  20. Brett*

    Another way to think of this…

    PowerPoint is a 23 year old program. There is nothing modern or cutting edge about having skills with PowerPoint .

    Demonstrating your PowerPoint skills is essentially the same as taking a typing test at your interview. Your skills better be exceptional and job relevant if you are going to do that.

    1. periwinkle*

      PowerPoint is a 23-year old program still used extensively in the corporate world. It’s not cutting edge, and I wouldn’t call it as essential as Excel or Word (both of which are around 30 years old), but it’s still a need-to-know application for a lot of people.

      As an instructional designer I create many slide decks; some are used as is for classroom learning while others become the foundation for rapid e-learning development. It’s not sexy, but like Sumatra coffee and AAM breaks, it’s essential for my productivity.

      I don’t think the candidate intended to demonstrate her PP skills with the presentation. However, she successfully demonstrated her lack of skills. Bad move.

  21. Pussyfooter*

    Between the expectation that we were capable of creating power point presentations for my interpersonal communications class (it was a requirement to pass but wasn’t listed as a prerequisite for the class or anything else!)…
    AND an article I read saying that the way for people to land jobs in these rough times is to figure out a company’s needs and give a “presentation” demonstrating what accomplishments you will achieve for the company within a set time frame…
    I’d have believed the silly professor too. :-(

  22. Ruffingit*

    PP presentations are fine if you actually have something worthwhile to present such as a portfolio of work in one of the art or communication fields.

    But using a PP presentation when you’re right out of school and all it has included is your resume? No. That is bizarre.

  23. MR*

    One thing that I thought of, in addition to what Brett just above mentioned, was that I see way too many positions that ask for ‘PowerPoint skills’ in the job descriptions. Same thing with Word/Excel/Outlook/Microsoft Office/Internet skills.

    It’s possible that the student in this case saw some version of this in the job posting and decided to prove (unsuccessfully) her skills with PowerPoint. Please, for the love of some supernatural being that you may or may not believe in, managers: STOP putting these nonsense requirements in your job postings. Anyone under the age of 30 or who has been a working professional in the last 20 years has these skills.

    Oh, and OP, why did you let the job applicant control the interview and instead, not take over and put a halt to this PowerPoint nonsense?

  24. Anonymous*

    This is, indeed , a very common thing in academia jobs, and in hard science jobs that require grad degrees. Every single interview that professor has participated in probably involved a presentation. It’s a way to show your presentation skills and a way to prove you can concisely show your research. It is also considered the appropriate time to ask any outstanding hardball questions and make the candidate sweat. It is our industry’s “example of how you would perform in the normal execution of your duties” because giving presentations on your research is extremely important.

    Of course, outside the science industry and academia, this would not be especially helpful or sane to do. Shame on the prof for giving nonsense advice to people it obviously doesn’t cover.

  25. Melissa*

    Professors are the often the worst people to give out non-academic career advice, because so often they have never worked outside of academia (with the exception of professors in professional fields, and even then) and don’t know what it’s like to interview in non-academic job environments. In academia it IS common to prepare a PowerPoint presentation as part of your job talk, but academic interviews are often 1-2 days long and also involve conversations with a number of faculty members in addition to the job talk. I’m assuming that some of these professors transplanted their interviewing experience on this student.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is what I assumed as well. Sometimes people who have been in one field for a long time (or forever) don’t realize that there’s a whole other world out there and things don’t work in the same way.

  26. Therapist*

    I pretty much gave up on career counseling centers when I couldn’t get a job in one despite the fact that:

    1. It was a professional school and I have a a degree in that profession. I have also worked in the profession for many years.

    2. I’m an alum of the school.

    3. I have a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in career counseling.

    4. I have done freelance consulting wherein I have written resumes and advised job seekers on interview strategies and cover letters with a high level of success.

    I actually met with the counselors at the career center after I applied and did not get an interview. As an alum, I can make use of the counseling center so I did so. I told them I had applied there and did not get an interview and I would like to know what I could do to make myself attractive to other employers.

    Every single piece of advice given to me was everything AAM advises AGAINST! It was then that I realized that in order to be hired as a “career counselor,” you need to have never worked in a hiring/career field at all. You need to have searched the Internet and compiled every piece of bad career advice in the universe that you then are required to pass on to students.

    The counselors working there had very little background in anything having to do with career help. No HR, no counseling backgrounds, etc. It’s really scary the people they are hiring to give advice to unsuspecting students.

      1. Therapist*

        I thought so too. It would be one thing if my qualifications weren’t exactly on point to everything a reputable career center would need and/or if I didn’t have the experience to back it up. But that isn’t the case and I still couldn’t get a job there.

        I’m not kidding when I say that everyone who works there lacks a background in HR/management. You clearly need to be totally unqualified to hand out career advice in order to get a job as a counselor there. Pretty sad and I do worry for the students at my alma mater. They are being told things/directed toward things that are not going to be helpful at all to them. It’s a shame.

  27. Irish reader*

    Here in Ireland, I’ve seen job postings here requesting Powerpoints for media/advertisting/marketing vacancies, FWIW.

    Re my uni career office. Oh good lord, were they useless. I studied French and they always put my class in with the Biology students for a career talk. Where was the logic in that? So we’re there in this hall while the career councillor is going on about all these lovely lab facilities opening up in Dublin, while we get completely ignored.

    Of course, we asked questions to try get some focus and attention for our class but they had nothing better to suggest other than 1) do a postgrad 2)teach 3)move to France 4)translate. Original, huh.

    Apparently nothing has changed there since I left in 2000. I’ve reached out to the language school head and career office with the offer of graduate placements in my department and …tumbleweed…

    1. Ruffingit*

      This just proves that no matter where you’re from, we’re all the same in some respects. University career centers are generally useless. Sad to hear that it’s such a pervasive problem worldwide!

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