a job candidate tried to give us a presentation we didn’t want

A reader writes:

I’m a manager at a large organization and am almost always is the midst of a recruitment process for one role or another. Our organization is big on diversity and inclusion and so our hiring and interview guides are built to stop as much bias from creeping in as possible. In practice, this means that I usually have a set of questions that I plan to ask all candidates, and then I leave time for candidates’ questions. Unless they ask our recruiter, they don’t generally get given any information on the format ahead of time, nor are they asked to prepare anything.

Today however, I was surprised. A candidate walked into the interview room with his laptop, and after pleasantries, proceeded to tell me he had a presentation he wanted to make that would take 15-20 minutes! This threw me off, and I quickly reacted by saying that I felt that would take up too much time and that we would stick to a regular question and answer format — which he actually did quite well at.

In a water cooler conversation with some other hiring managers, others said they’ve seen this happen lately as well. This makes me wonder: should I have allowed him to present? Is this something that job-seekers are now routinely doing?

Ugh, this thing. Yeah, this is something that a few job-search advisors suggest people do. It’s terrible advice, for exactly the reason you identified: As the person who extended the invitation for the candidate to come meet with you, you have specific plans for how you want to use that time. Sitting through a 15-20-minute presentation (which is a big chunk of the time allotted for most interviews) will mess up those plans and mean you can’t get through all the topics you need to cover. And there’s no guarantee that the person’s presentation will touch on the things you’re most interested in learning.

The people who advise doing this also like to say that interviewers who balk at it are overly rigid … which an is eye-rolly argument. Interviewers who balk at this are often interviewers who have prepared for the interview and planned questions and exercises to suss out who’s best matched with the needs of the job — and who are convinced (with good reason) that using their time that way will serve them better than any of the alternatives. They’re also often interviewers who know that treating candidates equitably means that you don’t suddenly change the process for one person and not change it for everyone else (or who at least work for employers who know that).

It’s not rigidity for the sake of rigidity or a lack of creative thinking or desirable openness. It’s because you’ve decided that structuring your interview process the way you do works better than other options.

And that’s all aside from the cheesy salesiness of this kind of attempt to hijack the interview process — which is a type of pushiness that a lot of interviewers won’t respond well to.

You handled it exactly the way I would have advised handling it — “we have a lot of questions to get through and won’t have time to do that” and maybe a suggestion that he email it to you afterwards if it’s in a format that would allow that.

{ 239 comments… read them below }

  1. Delta Delta*

    I feel like if a candidate showed up and said “I’m going to give a presentation” my immediate reaction would be “about what?”

      1. OhNo*

        Lol, my first too! If I was having a bad filter day, I’d probably accidentally say something like, “This is an interview – it isn’t the pace for your MLM sales.”

      2. Amber Rose*

        “I know this couple who retired as millionaires in their 30’s and are looking to mentor someone just like you.”

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        “So there’s this book I read called The Business of the 21st Century and it changed my life!”

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Coming here to post exactly this.

      If you’re giving me a pitch on how you’re going to help me, you assume you know more than I do about my organizational problems and how to solve them. You do not.

      If the presentation is about you, I already have what I want to know in front of me and I’m going to get what I’m looking for with my interview questions.

      If the presentation is about the job and/or organization, again, I already know more about how either one fits into the wider landscape than you do.

      What else is there?

      1. Czhorat*

        I’d not be cruel to them; This is almost certainly a result of getting poor advice from someone who the applicant trusts, but shouldn’t.

        Job hunting is hard; many applicants will look for whatever real or imagined advantage they can give. To gently redirect them is the best path. It sounds as if this candidate handled it well enough and successfuly pivoted to answering questions, as expected.

        1. Name Required*

          Just because I get certain advice doesn’t mean I need to apply it. I can think for a second about whether it makes sense. Besides, this none of Snarkus Aureliu’s language reads as cruel, imo. Just matter of fact.

        2. Natalia*

          You’re right..you do not need to be rude or cruel. Just nicely say you don’t have time for the presentation and stick to the original planned interview.

      2. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

        What else is there?

        A 15-20 minute presentation on his hobbies, pets, and other extracurriculars.

        1. OutAndUP*

          I will absolutely sit through 15-20 minutes of kittens. Good thing I’m not in charge of interviews, eh?

        2. Lupe*

          We once had a candidate spend 20 minutes on the “so, tell me a little bit about yourself” starting question. It was awful. We tried to get him to stop repeatedly, but he just kept going.

          He then started explaining things very slowly and condescendingly to our highly competent, female, boss. We actually tried to politely cut short the interview, but, as it was a government job, we had to ask a set list of questions. Literally the best we could do is hurry him through them.

          This trend brings back horrible flashbacks

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is why I could never sit through the government interview process. If a candidate can’t be 1-3 minute concise on the icebreaker and are then condescending (particularly in a way that reads as sexist/racist), I know 100% I’m not going to hire them. And I hate having my time wasted and am not going to plow through an entire list of questions with someone I’m not serious about hiring. I am fortunate that HR screens out the truly unqualified/NOPE ones, but every once in a while, someone who spends their time telling me they don’t want to work OT (in BigLaw) or don’t want to do [insert types of work the position does often] or spends an inordinate amount of time bragging about a resume point that is barely related to the position – the cut-it-short option is how I survive those.

      3. Quill*

        You could chatter for an hour about how you hope to get a movie deal out of the book you’ve written five pages of?

        (Worst speaker I ever booked, hands down.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I once attended a leadership meeting where the speaker that was booked was a dude talking about how undergoing weight loss surgery changed his life. Like, who even thought that was a barely passable idea, let alone a GOOD one. :P (And – not that this would have been a good topic for any audience at a leadership meeting – but on top of the rest of it, this was a room that was 80% sedentary menopausal women, most of whom are actively dieting pretty much constantly with whatever the newest fad is.)

      4. Zil*

        I feel like people are really overreacting to this. It’s not as weird as y’all think. I work in web design and it’s expected that you show up with work samples (typically on a portfolio website). Last time I interviewed, I put them in a presentation format because I didn’t have time to update my website before the interview (the company approached me about the position so I didn’t have my hiring materials up-to-date). I got the job based on the strength of the work shown in the presentation. I’ve also been on the interviewer side, and I’ve seen illustrators, account managers, and developers all show up with Keynote presentations. There are some jobs where showing up to an interview with a presentation would be VERY normal.

        In this case, the interviewer declined to see the presentation and the candidate did not push it or ask again. So I don’t see the problem. It’s very possible they used to work in an industry where this is common, or got advice from someone who does.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Presentations are very field specific. OP’s reaction to the candidates announcement of the presentation indicates that it is very much not the norm for their field. Candidates are also usually told ahead of time that a presentation, portfolio, etc…will be required when applying in those fields.
          I do see your point that someone changing fields might not be aware that presentations are not the norm over all fields, but even then most candidates won’t lead with “I have a 15 minute presentation for you.” They will wait until prompted by the interviewer to provide their materials.

        2. Serin*

          But you work in web design.

          Someone who’s applying for a writing job ought to bring writing samples. Someone who’s applying for a design job ought to bring a portfolio in whatever medium is appropriate.

          It’s really different for someone who’s applying to be a baker or a nurse or a bookkeeper to show up with a 20-minute presentation that answers the questions they THINK the interviewer might want to ask.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          Sure, but in your industry the presentation is a sample of work product. I am in the legal biz. I would bring a copy of a pleading I had written, with the names redacted. Maybe they want it. Maybe they don’t. So have it ready, just in case.

          The problems in the letter are that (1) the candidate didn’t know the industry standard; and (2) tried to hijack the interview. I say go easy on the guy because who hasn’t followed bad advice at some point? But that doesn’t change that it was a terrible idea.

        4. Artemesia*

          This seems irrelevant. I hired in a field where we made people lead research seminars/do research presentations and also teach a class before we hired them — that was OUR requirement and our applicants were prepared for it. They didn’t decide to come in and hijack our process.
          In a field where a portfolio is standard then having it in a particular format like this is probably fine — coming to an interview to be finance officer, or a project manager or whatever with a ‘presentation’ is a time waster for everyone.

        5. Name Required*

          I also work in this industry. It would be really strange for a designer to show up and say, “Thanks for inviting me to this interview. Nice to meet you. For the next 20 minutes, I will now show you my past designs.” The interviewer still dictates when those work samples are presented by the candidate, and the format in which they want to discuss them. In fact, work samples are usually asked for before the interview as part of the application process.

          Really not the same thing here at all.

        6. JSPA*

          Yeah, but they didn’t say (per OP) “I have some samples of my work cued up in the form of a presentation, if that would be helpful.” Interviewee expressed an intent not only to give a presentation, but to have it be a considerable length, determined by the interviewee, taking up a huge percentage of the interview.

          Frankly, even for an all-design job, I’d want to use the interview to figure out how the interviewee approaches a task, deals with setbacks or changing requirements, suss out what they’re like to work with. For that, I’d use Q and A, set them new brief tasks, and ask them questions about work that they HAVE ALREADY SUBMITTED. Waste of time to be led through a presentation of pretty pictures of work that might (frankly) owe a lot to other hands and minds than theirs.

        7. NotAnotherManager!*

          No one’s saying that this is normal/reasonable/expected in some industries, but it does not sound like LW’s is one of those. At best, it sounds like the candidate didn’t know what the norm was for that organization and didn’t bother to find out from the interview contact if they would be provided the time/resources to present. (When I go into an interview, it is not always in a space with a screen/HDMI connection, so you’d definitely have to ask in advance — and I’d say “no, thanks” because the positions for which I’m interviewing typically do not have a presentation component to them, and my questions are more important to me than a skill they will rarely, if ever, need for the job.)

    2. Emily K*

      I think it’s fallen out of favor more recently, but a few years ago it was on-trend in the marketing world to present your “30-60-90” plan when you were applying for a director role or higher, for what you would achieve on your first those many days on the job if given the role. I never liked the concept because any plan I make without having any real understanding of the current program is going to be close to useless. I might as well be making a 30-60-90 for a hypothetical llama shearing company for all I know about the company I’m applying to.

      1. Serin*

        If a candidate can understand the position well enough to make a plan for the first 30 days before the interview, then what’s the point of having an interview? The candidate already knows all about the job.

        (On the other hand, I can see this being relevant for an internal promotion, where it *would* be reasonable to expect the candidate to have a good idea of the challenges and priorities of the job.)

      2. Kat J*

        Yes, I had to do this for an internal GM role. As you say, a candidate doesn’t generally have enough information to make meaningful change in the first month! I think they were disappointed that my plan was essentially to investigate and gather data during those timeframes. They hired the guy who (presumably) promised them the world in a 90 day timeframe… he was fired about 6 months into the job.

  2. Ali G*

    Was it a Barney Stinson-esque promotional video? I might be down for that (but probably wouldn’t hire them).

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The thing about memorable job applicants following advice to stand out from the crowd is that while they don’t get the job, they stick in your memory even years later.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes. If you’re a good candidate, people remember you in a general kind of way: “Oh yeah, she was great, I have a general positive feeling about her,” or “Oh yeah, she was the one we wanted to keep in mind for when we open the llama division.”

        If your job interview was itself memorable, it’s probably not for a good reason: “Oh, yeah, that’s the woman who sang “Never Gonna Give You Up” from the back of a llama, wearing a suit made entirely of copies of her resume. I remember her.”

      2. Jaydee*

        How are these people not more afraid of being remembered poorly?!

        There are exactly three ways I want to be memorable to an interviewer:
        1. I’m memorable for being the most qualified and they offer me the job.
        2. I’m memorable for being very qualified. I don’t get the offer, but the interviewer remembers me positively when another opening comes up and I apply for that.
        3. I’m not a good fit for the job/company, but I made a favorable impression because of my knowledge or experience on something and then the interviewer calls me in the future or chats me up at a networking event to talk about that topic.

        Anything less favorable than that, and my goal is just to fade into the undifferentiated mass of “unremarkable humans we have interviewed: was she the one from Cleveland or the one with the blue suit or the one we interviewed on Tuesday, it’s hard to keep them all straight…?”

        1. selena81*

          I assume they got terrible advise, along the lines of ‘there is no bad publicity’ (which is not even true if you are a shock-vlogger, let alone a serious banker or lawyer).
          And it flies over their head that if they ever get an invite it’ll be because either that hiring manager is very bored and wants to see where the rabbit hole ends, or the hiring manager is a moron who hires only flashy idiots.

          I admit i screwed up an interview recently: the job was in a field i had little experience in and it was clear within 2 minutes that i was not a good match (and if the interviewer had looked at my curriculum he would not have made me travel all the way out there). I’m not proud of it, but the stress made me go ‘fuck it, lets see how long before they cut short the interview’

  3. Sara*

    As someone in a field in which presentations are often required of candidates, why would anyone prepare a presentation voluntarily?????

    (Intellectually I get why. Emotionally I absolutely do not)

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think you are even more equipped to ask this question because you understand what is REALLY involved. These people recommending “gumption” and/or whatever the shaky legs are holding this up do not. A good presentation should serve a specific purpose, not be a multimedia cover letter.

    2. lyonite*

      Yes! It is 100% a relief when I don’t have to present–I’d much rather just answer questions.

    3. Quickbeam*

      I am a public speaker for my company; in my interview I was asked to do an off the top of my head 10 minutes on any topic. That made sense. But to go in with a PowerPoint for the interviewers? really weird.

      1. Athena*

        10 minutes off the top of your head? I’m struggling to think of anything I can talk about off the top of my head that long outside of Harry Potter…

        1. Heidi*

          Well, they said any topic, so Harry Potter should count. You could talk about how they were really emphatic that using an Unforgivable Curse would earn you a life sentence in Azkaban, but by the end, everyone was using them. Did they change the wizarding law on that? Maybe Pius Thicknesse repealed the law while under the Imperius curse (irony), in which case, is it law or not? Is it okay to break a law that isn’t getting enforced? We need answers!

          Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          I could easily talk running for 10 minutes. And then segue into Potterhead Running Club, which would quickly become a discussion about why Hufflepuff is awesome.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I have said this many times, and I believe it to be true: The world needs more Hufflepuffs.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              It’s too bad we often get the short end of the stick in pop culture. *side eyes the new Wizarding World site*

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s why in this context it’s a great job-specific ask. It’s quite likely Quickbeam, if hired, will field questions on random topics and need to talk off-the-cuff about them in an engaging way.

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          Heh. Practice speaking about upcoming changes that you want to implement to a bunch of very cynical sysadmins. You get pretty good at capsule explanations of complicated technologies.

          If I got that, I’d ask what kind of topic they wanted me to cover, and hope they gave me 5 min for an outline.

    4. designbot*

      I’m wondering if they were moving from one field to another maybe? It’s normal for candidates to present something to us, and I could imagine if I interviewed in another field where that wasn’t the norm not knowing what to do with myself.

      1. LW here*

        The industry isn’t one where presentations in interviews are common, and his current employer is in the same sector – so I’m putting this down to a misguided advice-giver!

      2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Maybe, but the weirdness of “before we get to the interview, here’s my presentation” sticks out. If you thought the interviewers expected you to give a presentation, wouldn’t you ask instead when they want it to happen? Or say “I do have a presentation, if you’re interested in it.”

    5. PlainJane*

      My thought on a lot of these, from the emotional level, is that the project of making something that will make you stand out is a kind of salve on the anxieties of job hunting. Look… I do all of these things well! I’m not just like 500 other applicants! I’m a unique human being! I admit, I’ve looked at all the advice to “brand yourself” and, while I suspect it wouldn’t go over as a job search technique in my staid field (in fact, I recently learned that the only thing looked at is the electronic application; anything else is irrelevant), I’ve often thought it would be fun to try as an intellectual exercise. Just, you know… to do it.

    6. MicrobioChic*

      I’m with you. Presenting regularly on my work is one of my current expectations, and any job interview I get in my field after grad school is almost certainly going to require a presentation. The good news is that I can build on all the presentations I’ve been doing.

      The idea of coming up with a presentation from scratch when it’s not required? That’s just dumping extra stress on yourself.

  4. Heidi*

    I’m actually curious about what this presentation would have been like. What if it was truly awesome somehow? What if it was so awful I could share the anecdote for years to come? Now we’ll never know.

    1. Fabulous*

      I was just thinking the same thing. If the job has any sort of presentation element at least you’d immediately suss out their abilities on the first slide!

    2. StaceyIzMe*

      And yet, I’d LIKE to know… I can’t help but wonder WHAT that presentation contained and how well (or how poorly) it was crafted?

  5. Carrie*

    A presentation/“job talk” is a standard part of the interview process in some fields (academia for sure, and scientific research even outside academia), but in those fields, presentation time is explicitly scheduled as part of the interview, and everyone is expecting it. When I read this letter, I was expecting the candidate to be someone switching from academia to another field that doesn’t do job talks. I was surprised to read that there’s advice floating around to prepare a job talk for interviews where one is not expected, just to “stand out”. That seems like a terrible idea!

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      We require candidates for positions at a certain level to do a presentation (library in academia) but we send a prompt relevant to the open position as well as a time expectation for the presentation. And all candidates for the position get the same prompt or prompt options. Sometimes, the presentations are actually the most telling part of an interview but I think that’s largely due to the fact that we choose something directly relevant to the position.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, for our higher level positions we do require a presentation at the second interview stage. But we tell candidates all the relevant information about the presentation in advance so they’ll know what to research and prepare.

        In general, if your interviewer wants you to give a presentation at the interview, they’ll tell you about it and give you the parameters beforehand. Otherwise, just assume they don’t want that and don’t waste your time.

    2. Antilles*

      That’s true, but as you said, it’s explicitly scheduled ahead of time and told to candidates. A candidate providing it on their own volition? Nope. [b]If the company thinks there’s benefits to a presentation, they would ask for it[/b]. If they didn’t, it’s presumably because they don’t want a presentation.
      My first private company actually had all candidates give like a 30-minute presentation with the office in attendance for lunch. We mostly recruited people straight out of college, so it was nice for the existing staff to keep on top of the state-of-art research that the candidates had done in university. In terms of judging the candidates, that was much more iffy – a couple were absolutely stellar (presumably the students who took classes on presentation skills), a couple were total disasters (typically it was apparent that they hadn’t prepared at all), but the vast majority were just fine, whatever.

    3. China Beech*

      Yes, that “advice” is probably from the same circles that advocate going around the hiring managers and send a letter directly to the manager of where you want to work, telling them you know who to solves their problems.

    4. blackcatlady*

      Yes, for science position you would be scheduled for an hour power point presentation. Then as you met with individuals they would expect a short off-the-cuff chalk talk. It’s a lot of work to put together a good science talk. I’ve sat through the whole range from awesome to awful.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        Science can vary. In chemistry, presentations are standard for entry-level PhD’s interviewing at big chemical and pharma companies, but seldom if ever asked of entry-level BS/MS folks. For experienced hires, they’re sometimes requested. It’s a much easier thing to ask of a new PhD grad because they can talk about their grad school research. Asking an industry chemist to do a job interview presentation can be a cumbersome request – I have a few conference presentations that have been approved by my management and don’t contain any confidential material, but it would be very difficult for me to make judgement calls myself if I had to write a presentation from scratch on my current/recent work.

        I wonder if the person in this story had a few interviews where a presentation was requested, and erroneously concluded that it was a standard thing everywhere. In my experience, most interviews for experienced chemist jobs didn’t ask for one. I was lucky to be able to re-use my past conference talks when I’ve been asked to do a presentation in an interview.

    5. Forrest*

      Teaching is part of my job, and it’s pretty common to get asked to do a presentation or teach a session. However, it’s always very deliberately SHORT–usually a hard 7 or 8 minutes if it’s a simple presentation to the interview panel, or 20-25 minutes if it’s a teaching session. It’s a real “sorry for the long letter, i didn’t have time to write a short one” challenge: to use that short a time effectively, you have to be very well-prepared, precise, and On It. (I have fcked one of these up before by going way over 8 minutes, which is very easy to do!)

      I would never present without being asked to, but if I was going to, I absolutely wouldn’t present 15-20 minutes. That feels both too long for a focussed “let me demonstrate my presentation skills and a brief introduction to my skills, approach or understanding of the field” and too short for a high-level “here is a substantial analysis of the problems your organisation is facing and how I would approach them”.

  6. Flyleaf*

    Gumption. Pure, unadulterated, gumption. I’m sure they will go far, if only the rest of us would get out of the way.

      1. HairApparent*

        I think it’s an unfortunate and possibly inevitable mutation of Gumption. We can only be vigilant and make sure that it does not become self-aware. Gumption takes many forms and it absolutely WILL NOT stop…until you agree to hire it.

    1. Arctic*

      I don’t think that’s fair here. They are following established advice (bad advice but advice growing in popularity). And they didn’t do anything intrusive to get the interview or after the interview (which I associate with Gumption.) When told no they took it fine and were apparently prepared enough to do well.

  7. chitheatergirl*

    I once had a candidate for an incredibly entry-level data entry job come in with a 19 page packet. It contained her resume, past job descriptions, a list of programs she’d worked with, and several letters of recommendation. I don’t need all that, thank you.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This is why I hate colleges and universities that tell students to make a video or personal website to pitch to potential employers.

      There’s a reason I asked for the information I asked for – it’s because that’s all I can handle. If I want more, I’ll ask.

      1. Becky*

        I mean personal website make sense for some fields–design/art/portfolio work but in many fields it does not.

        1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          I think it can make sense in every field, LinkedIn is essentially a way to “build” a portfolio website after all.

          It just depends on how you craft the information, presentation, and how you let them know about it. Personally, I like the approach of “here’s the information you asked for, and if you would like to find out more you may visit URL.”

          Most of the tools available for this, including LinkedIn, will let you customize the link, but it’s super cheap to get a fully custom domain name that automatically redirects to your profile.

        2. Quill*

          In that case though it’s usually a field that made you send them the portfolio on paper in days gone by.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        The university I just graduated from had all of its business students create personal web sites to “stand out.” So 20-something accounting students with no work experience made sparkly web pages about their cooking / music / sport activities, uploaded entire [undergrad] papers, and posted videos of themselves riding motorcycles, skydiving, visiting a park, etc.

        I pushed back up through all the levels of command in my area (accounting) but, by golly, from the Dean on down, all the academics thought the idea of a personal website was FABULOUS. They even gave an award to the professor who came up with the idea and tout it in their marketing literature as evidence that their students graduate with modern tech skills.


        That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I’ve had more than one professor reach out to me and say “my dept is making students do this, am I right in thinking it’s a bad idea?” (Usually accompanied by “they won’t listen to me even though I’m the only one who’s worked outside of academia.”)

          1. tra la la*

            A month or so I attended a presentation on a campuswide career readiness initiative which I suspect would have made you weep…

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Well, learning how to make a website is probably a reasonably useful skill. But they definitely should not give out that information when applying for accounting jobs!

    2. cubiclezirconia*

      I mean, it might be helpful for her to have copies of all those things on hand in case the interviewer asked for a copy, but handing over an packet unsolicited is unnecessary.

  8. Librarian of SHIELD*

    I once had a job applicant email me a (very poorly made) powerpoint presentation about himself, complete with photographs and quotes from friends about how he’s such a nice and reliable guy. It did not result in him getting an interview.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Maybe. Based on the resumes he was a borderline contender. One of those applicants who you’ll interview if your interviewee pool is small enough that you’ve got a spare hour in your interview day and you’re feeling curious. The PPT made me much less curious.

        1. Lepidoptera*

          Do you remember if it included all types of animations (e.g. entrance, emphasis, exit) and all different types of slide transitions?

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I don’t remember all the slide transitions, but I do remember there was some sort of chime sound effect when you changed slides, like the sound they put in those old books on tape that tell you when it’s time to turn the page.

            1. Quill*

              Oh god no, I only ever used that ONCE, and that was for the nostalgia factor as I presented a Magic School Bus / picture book on tape themed ‘creative’ presentation for school.

              … and discovered that nobody else in the class watched a lot of PBS as a kid, but that the professor, who had children a little older than me, was nearly dying with laughter.

              1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

                I did something like this my freshman year of college, and was mortified to discover that no one was using effects in PowerPoint anymore, lol.

  9. Junior Dev*

    it’s easy to make fun of this guy but I have a lot of sympathy for people who are feeling stuck/powerless in the job search process and have landed on some gimmicky thing that will supposedly give them an edge.

    Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for candidates to do this, but I would direct most of the blame at whoever gave them that bad advice.

    I work in a field where people do all manner of cringy stuff trying to get jobs, but I’ve also seen the people who are profiting off of giving terrible advice to job seekers (mainly code schools/bootcamps, that are totally unaccredited and unregulated, and can’t admit that getting a tech job is just *hard* sometimes, without admitting that the promise of an easy job search was a lie that you paid for). I’ve had people do really inappropriate stuff trying to get me to help them get a job where I work. I really feel for them because I’ve been in the position of needing that kind of help. But it doesn’t excuse acting like this.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      Separating this because I’m not sure if it’s derailing. You know, someone I care about is putting together a portfolio with Flatiron school right now. It seems like a lot of their process involves setting up their candidates with in person interviews through the school, which gives me hope, but I’d love to know what the bad advice is.

      1. ArtK*

        Hmmm. For-profit university owned by WeWork (which just announced that it’s deeply in the hole and unlikely to dig itself out.) I’d have some grave doubts about this.

      2. Lalaith*

        I know someone who went through the Flatiron school, and did in fact get a job out of it. And has continued to work in the same field through a couple more jobs.

      3. Junior Dev*

        It’s good the school is doing that.

        Honestly having the person read AAM would be good. A lot of the advice I’ve seen involves giving people an unrealistic idea of how easy it’ll be to get jobs, and to make a lot of money, and telling them to inflate their credentials and be really aggressive about negotiating. It’s simply not realistic for someone trying to get into the industry.

        Your friend should try and do some networking and attending meetups related to their technology without the explicit intention of getting a job–specifically they should try to talk to people about their job search and get a reality check on things, without also asking those people for an “in” at their company.

        Unless they have prior relevant experience (like, they have a statistics degree and they went to bootcamp to learn to code so they could do data science) they will probably be looking for internships and jobs with “junior” or “associate” in the title.

        A lot of advice bootcamp grads get boils down to trying to get them to learn the shibboleths of technical experience without actually having the experience–like, yes, you should know the difference between Java and JavaScript, and the difference between Git and GitHub, but you learn those things by being in the field, not by memorizing them. There’s also lots of people with Strong Nerd Opinions (“StackOverflow sucks,” vim vs. emacs, rebase vs. merge, “object orientation was a mistake”) that they will present as the Gospel Truth but are actually, just, like, your opinion, man. Joking aside, what this means is that there are a lot of things that look like shortcuts to knowing what you’re talking about, and bootcamps often try to get students to memorize the Correct Opinions and pieces of trivia to do this, but it’s not actually a good strategy. Much better to spend time around people in tech, go to meetups, watch videos of conference talks about technical topics (not impostor syndrome or culture or what have you), read articles on dev.to and other programming blogs, and try to have informed opinions on things while also staying humble.

        The reason this letter felt so familiar to me is there’s a strong vibe of trying to “hack” the interview process, to appear more qualified than you are, and that feels very very similar to my experience both attending a bootcamp and trying to help people who have gone.

    2. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

      I don’t think we can assume the candidate did this because he feels stuck or powerless.

      1. boo bot*

        We don’t have to, but it’s kind of the most compassionate assumption to make, and for me that’s often useful in terms of understanding possible reasons for the things people do.

    3. Witchy Human*

      I feel for him too–clearly, someone told him to do this. I’ve improved as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve always been a little too trusting. In my early twenties, if an “expert” told me something with absolute confidence about a topic I was completely uncertain about…

    4. sacados*

      That’s so true. On the one hand, you want people to be skeptical/rational enough to be able to see that kind of gimmicky advice for what it is and realize it’s not actually a good idea. But I also know that not everybody has the experience to really see that– or sometimes you’re desperate enough for a break, any break, so when someone in a position of “authority” and “insider knowledge” comes along with The Guaranteed Trick THEY DON’T Want You To Know, it sounds pretty darn convincing.

      1. Witchy Human*

        And all it takes is one success story. (I feel like every ridiculous gimmick has at least one).

        Plus they can feel like they have actual evidence that whatever they’ve been doing just doesn’t work, because they still don’t have a job. It’s hard to accept that you’re doing everything right and you’re still not getting anywhere.

        1. Helena*

          Gimmicks do sometimes work, unfortunately. My friend got her first job in Marketing by sending an appropriately-timed Valentine’s Day card to her prospective boss (“Roses are red, violets are blue, I really want to work for you”, if memory serves).

          To be fair a) this was Marketing, and b) this was in the early 90s when this sort of stunt was much less common and so she actually did stand out – these days you wouldn’t look original, because so many candidates will have done something similar.

      2. taffygrrl*

        I actually know someone who got a job by going into the interview with a presentation. The hiring manager said he blew them away because he was so prepared. So it can be a thing.

    5. wittyrepartee*

      I feel pretty bad for him too. I’ve been in this situation, it’s really maddening and sometimes terrifying (if you need the job to pay rent).

    6. Arctic*

      Agreed. People should be discouraged from doing this kind of stuff. But there is usually a shocking lack of empathy in the comments for people desperate to get a job.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I certainly feel for people. I always assume they mean well and are trying but were misled somewhere along the way.

      But I still cringe inside and it will still lead to them not getting the job in the end. It’s usually just a story about how strange and different everyone is when it comes to interviews in the end.

      I’m certainly not here for being mean or rude to someone. I think the OP handled it extremely well and kindly, which is great to see. I know some chilly people who would react rudely to such a random curveball needless to say.

  10. Sharrbe*

    This just shows that you do not consider other people’s perspectives or needs when making decisions. Definitely would put him out of the running right there.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I came here to disagree with this comment, but the comment immediately this one makes my point.

  11. House Tyrell*

    I hope it didn’t immediately remove him from consideration if his answers to your questions were good- you said he did quite well. Sometimes people get bad advice and someone in need of a job/new job may take it thinking it will strengthen their chances if they haven’t had any luck going through the hiring process in the “normal” way. Otherwise strong candidates shouldn’t be immediately rejected because they took some bad advice that wasn’t creepy or borderline harassment or anything.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I agree with you. It sounds like the candidate pivoted well and ended up giving good answers to the interview questions, so if it were me I certainly wouldn’t disqualify him based only on this.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Exactly! I can’t believe how rude some people are being about this poor kid. He had obviously prepared well and didn’t miss a beat from having his presentation turned down.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          If anything, he demonstrated that he’s able to keep going when things aren’t going the way he expected them to go, which is a good quality in a job candidate.

            1. Jedi Squirrel*

              I’m at the age where someone with only ten years of work experience is still a kid. I just hired two very competent, very professional young men in their twenties, and the parent in me sees them as kids.

              The manager in me, however, sees them as competent young adults who are doing a great job.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                10 years or so of work experience could be early 30s if we’re counting from post-college. Definitely not kids. Not even “young adults.” Just adults.

                But I see it mostly from dudes in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                I started working at 19, so I was 29 by the time I had 10 years of experience.

                Only my actual father got away with calling me or my friends/peers “kids” and that’s because he’s my dad and I’ll always be his kid. Anyone who is his age though, they can sit on some tacks, that’s pretty rude. Especially considering the accomplishments in that 10 years. Including running and consulting with different businesses. I have people drooling all over my resume, so being called a “kid” at that point is really gross to say the least.

                I truly hope that you rethink how you’re viewing your younger workers.

                My mentor was a man a few years younger than my father. He never treated me like or called me a kid. He created a beast of a business woman who isn’t here for this kind of thought process because treating me like a competent adult who was able to do anything that he asked me to is why I am who I am today.

                1. JediSquirrel*

                  Yeah, we don’t call them kids. Everyone is on a professional, first name basis, and treated with respect. But I have to remember that I have a lot more, and more varied, experience than they do, and so they won’t necessarily know everything. My role is to lead and guide, not be punitive.

      2. House Tyrell*

        Yeah, like if he’d been pushy and still insisted on giving the presentation then sure, disqualify him. But if he moved on well and didn’t make a fuss about it, then gave good answers, then I wouldn’t automatically take him out of the running.

    2. LW here*

      I wanted to keep the letter to the point, but in a side note, the candidate is most definitely still in the running – he handled me cutting him off at the pass really well, and answered questions really well – and the type of role (customer facing in the tech industry) needs someone who can roll with the punches. So even though I thought he was nuts for arriving in with a presentation, this whole scenario has actually worked in his favour!

      1. Ali G*

        That’s good to hear! So, if you hire him are you going to ask to see the PPT (and then tell us about it)?

        1. LW here*

          Yes!! I hummed and hawed about having our recruiter reach out and request it, but decided I would evaluate him on interview alone

          But I am so so curious!!

      2. Ro*

        I wonder if him coming prepared with a presentation is because he’s been on other recent interviews where such a thing was requested. I work in tech and our company recently decided that all final candidates (regardless of job function) brought in for an interview, must complete a “project”. They are told ahead of time so candidates know, but it’s another dumb example of applying something that might work in some cases across the board, even when it doesn’t make sense. I’ve already heard of hiring managers struggling to come up with an appropriate project. When you can come up with something natural that’s organically part of the role, great. But otherwise- what a pain!

        1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

          Yeah, I work in tech, and that sounds like a gigantic waste of everyone’s time.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, if he didn’t *insist* on giving his presentation or react poorly to their sticking to the normal questions then it shouldn’t be a mark against him IMO.

  12. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Now I’m trying to imagine my team’s interviewer’s face if someone tried to pull one of those. That poor soul’s résumé will be in the reject pile forever for attempting to waste his limited/precious time.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      Really? Just because he asked? He didn’t insist, and OP says in fact he did well in the interview . Just to reject someone for such a minor faux pas — that doesn’t reflect well on your team’s interviewed, IMO.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I know it doesn’t, but he’s the only one available. Should management have chosen someone else? Sure. Is there someone else? Unfortunately no.

  13. Jamie*

    Is it wrong of me to hope that in the presentation they were wearing a superhero cape and ended with the presentation of a framed pic of the candidate?

    I mean if one gimmick is good three are better, right?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve said it before but if someone comes in with a video of them doing a hood-slide like Dukes of Hazzard, I’m going to hire them on the spot.

      Some gimmicks will get you a job but the rub is 1. I have to be the hiring manager and 2. you better do something delightfully absurd.

      I talked someone into doing their introductory “speech” to the group by preforming a song. What do Tigers Dream of to be exact. I regret nothing.

  14. wittyrepartee*

    Oh, I feel bad for him too. Especially if it’s a young job-seeker. I’ve taught in college, and I graduated in 2010. It gets really desperate sometimes.

    1. banzo_bean*

      Yeah, finding a job can be hard enough. Young people shouldn’t have to worry about sifting through AWFUL career advice like “take an unsolicted presentation to foist upon your interviewer”.

  15. College Career Counselor*

    Some years ago, I had a job applicant show me printed materials that he had designed for a previous job, almost like a portfolio. He also seemed to want to go through them in some detail. He brought it up toward the end of the interview, so it was relatively easy to shut it down and move on to the next stage of interview meetings.

    This was not a job interview that asked for a portfolio review, nor even evidence of previous marketing materials. Just very off-base, especially for someone interviewing for a career services job (this person had current career services experience elsewhere!) in a higher education institution.

    TL;DR: Sometimes people make…unusual choices in interviews (he did not get the job).

  16. Phony Genius*

    One possible response:
    “So you spent time working on a project that we did not ask for, that requires us to spend time that we did not budget to look at, and expect this to benefit you in some way. We don’t conduct business that way, so clearly you won’t fit in here, and there’s no reason for us to waste any more of each other’s time. Good day.”

      1. Czhorat*

        THIS so much.

        IF someone puts in the effort to make a presentation, it’s a combination of a few things:

        1) fear of being lost in the crowd of applicants and not standing out
        2) Frustration at the challenge in getting a job.
        3) Receiving bad career advice from self-proclaimed experts.

        None of these really indicate they’ll be a bad employee, and all should be grounds for at least a measure of sympathy. The imaginary internet-staircase wit is tiresome as it is cruel

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      That is borderline rude. The kid knows basically nothing about your company.

      Good lord, if I took some bad advice like this kid did, and this was the response that I got, I’d be damn glad I didn’t land a job with your company.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Agreed, if this is *enough* to dissuade a hiring manager from proceding with this candidate I would hope they would be kind enough to tell them nicely with constructive feedback.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Yes, you could also rebuke them politely. “Well, we’ve set up our interview process with an eye to being fair and equal to all of our candidates, to make sure everyone interviews on an even footing, so we cannot deviate from our planned interview format.”

    2. cubiclezirconia*

      Giving a Billy Madison-(“everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it”)-style rebuke is mean and a little over the top. A simple “we don’t have time for that today, let’s move on to the questions I have for you” would suffice.

    3. Aquawoman*

      This seems extreme. He (misguidedly) worked on a project that he thought would be beneficial to both and when told that it wouldn’t, immediately switched gears and provided what the company asked for (i.e. the interview format that they preferred). It didn’t “require” them to spend time on it because they didn’t spend time on it.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Right!! I could only see saying something like that if the person insisted on giving the presentation even after you said there wasn’t time. If they bring it up, you say sorry, this doesn’t fit our schedule, and they follow your lead, why would it be necessary to say something so harsh?

    4. Ann*

      This response is so over the top aggressive and really cringy. I hope you dont talk to people like that in real life.

        1. Madame X*

          I don’t for one second believe that they would say this in real life.
          ( then again, maybe I’m naive about how mean some people can be.)

  17. archangelsgirl*

    Alison, if you see this, the OP mentioned that the interviewee actually did quite well. Alison, if you were the interviewer, would you be put off hiring the candidate because they offered to do the presentation, or would you just chalk it up to bad advice, and if the candidate did well at the actual interview, move them forward in the process? I’m just curious.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d be actively looking for other signs of pushiness/salesiness or signs they wouldn’t fit in with my team’s culture, and it would give me some pause, but on its own it wouldn’t disqualify them. It would probably be something I’d find a way to ask references about too if he became a finalist (not the presentation itself, but those traits).

      1. Malty*

        @Alison I love that you specified, because now I’m imagining you asking references, ‘and does he have a tendency to, you know.. break into a presentation when you’re least expecting it?’

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Depending of the candidate’s attitude, I’d ask someone else’s opinion before taking a decision. That’s why usually there’s more than one person interviewing.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I’d be looking at the overall strength of my candidate pool, and how significant adhering to norms is in the job I’m hiring for. If I’ve got strong candidates who don’t bring this baggage and/or a need for someone who can stick to a protocol even if they disagree, I’d pass.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      Since OP didn’t mention the candidate pushing the presentation, I’ll assume they didn’t. If the candidate was otherwise great, I’d chalk it up to receiving bad advice and give it little to no weight.

  18. Jennifer*

    This is like inviting someone to your home for a dinner party and they show up with all the food, silverware, dishes and table and proceed to set it all up in your home. You aren’t running the show here, buddy. At first, I thought this guy might be an egomaniac, but after reading Alison’s response, maybe he was well-meaning but just got some terrible advice.

      1. Jennifer*

        Good on you for thinking quickly on your feet! I would have sat there open-mouthed thinking, “What is happening right now?”

        1. LW here*

          No way could I face the idea of sitting through a 20 minute monologue on the life and times of Johnny The Candidate – the only thing I managed to do was tell him politely :D

    1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

      This is like inviting someone to your home for a dinner party and they show up with all the food, silverware, dishes and table and proceed to set it all up in your home.

      It speaks to my laziness these days that I actually think this would be a dream.

    2. Koala dreams*

      In my younger days that would have been the polite thing to do. You don’t expect the hostess to also do the cooking and set the table, do you?

  19. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

    At least you got out of having to listen to the presentation.
    I wasn’t so lucky.

    As I interviewed the candidate, I realized he was not getting what the job was about (QC lab tech-perform assays to a defined protocol. No projects, no research work, not gonna find the cure for cancer doing this job). So I tried to wrap things up. He then interjected that he had a portfolio of all his projects that he felt it was important for me to see. NO! This is not the kind of job where projects are done!

    Next thing I know, he whips open this huge case with all kinds of plans and schematics for things. Stuff of no relevance to the job. Then he tries to pique my interest by telling about folks he’s worked with- including the daughter of a certain movie actor of decades past (he says, “you are too young to remember him, but I actually worked with his daughter on this project”, blah, blah, blah.). He goes into how he’s saved money on every project he worked on, “I can save you thousands of dollars! Don’t you want to have more money??” Sure, but that’s not possible to do in this job.

    I tried many times to get him to stop. He just got louder and talked faster. More papers are shoved my direction.

    He gets so worked up that the president of my company stood right outside the doorway, as he thought this guy was gonna get physical.

    I managed to end this by telling the candidate that it was lunch time. With that, he closed the case, stood up, and I escorted him out.

    We passed on this one.

    1. Czhorat*

      That’;s almost impressive in the pure level of determination.

      Not in a good way, but impressive nontheless.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a situation where you could simply stand up and walk to the door while saying, “This isn’t going to be a fit, thank you for coming in.” And if necessary, “I need to escort you out now.” (It can be hard to know what to do on the spot though!)

    3. Heidi*

      I would be pretty freaked out. It boggles my mind how some people really and truly don’t know when they are making other people uncomfortable.

    4. Witchy Human*

      Oof, that’s not misguided, it’s unhinged. Why didn’t your president actually step in?

    5. Quill*

      Okay, you had me with the “I come from academia maybe I can bull through to a R&D position via QC,” but then he goes and talks about saving all the money ever? If he’s been working in a lab or in product qc he knows that this is NOT where you “innovate” on reducing costs.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I feel sorry for that kid – probably someone who’s been lied to about what great demand there is for STEM workers, then finding out that after all that work he put in, there’s nothing for him except crappy temp jobs doing routine QC.

    7. Buttons*

      WOW! 5 or so years ago I was interviewing candidates for a mid-level trainer position. A guy, who had been a sales trainer for a pesticide company, came waltzing into the interview. He reeked of cigarette smoke, he threw a bunch of binders on the table and proceeded to tell us how he was the greatest sales trainer of all time. BTW, this wasn’t a sales trainer position. He didn’t sit when I invited him to sit, he stood there and launched into his monologue. His materials were so dated, some of them were that smudgy purple of mimeograph machines that I have not seen since elementary school in the 80s.
      He directed all his answers to my most junior employee, I am assuming because he was the only male in the room.
      Ahhh to have the confidence of …. well you know.

  20. ElizabethJane*

    I want to know what they are presenting – I’d like to think I over research a company before I interview and I wouldn’t even know what to present.

  21. Senor Montoya*

    I would not invite a candidate to email me the presentation afterward. 1. I don’t have the time 2. If I look at it, I have to respond to it and (see 1), I don’t have the time. 3. If I look at it, I’ve potentially given that candidate a benefit that the other candidates I’ve already seen did not, and that other candidates don’t know is something that could (potentially) help them. In other words, not equitable. I *could* then ask all the candidates to send me a presentation but again, #1, I don’t have the time.

  22. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I think it’s a gross approach to attempt a hijacking of their interview process. No matter how well you prepare, you can’t possibly know everything they’ll want to cover in advance to ensure that your “presentation” covers it.

    However, I think it’s a great idea to have supplemental materials available for review at their leisure. With tools like google docs, LinkedIn, or fully custom sites if you’re up to it, you can provide samples of your work, more detailed descriptions of previous positions, and even curated personal information so that potential employers get a better sense of who you are.

  23. banzo_bean*

    I’m pretty bummed by the number of comments labeling this job seeker as overly aggressive or filled with gumption. I am preparing to graduate from a masters program after several years of working after my bachelor’s degree. The amount of unsolicted TERRIBLE advice emailed out to soon to be graduates by my career center is astounding. In the past month I’ve been advised to:
    * Seek out current employees of a company I applied to on LinkedIn and ask them to refer me
    * Add a professional headshot to my resume
    * Show up for interviews with a “pain” point to solve
    * Ask 10 questions to my interviewer from a preprepared list

    The woeful state of career coaches and college career centers is something Alison frequently comments on. Falling for these gimmicks, especially early in your career, is completely understandable when you lack real world experience. If you didn’t fall for these mistakes when you first entered the working world, I guarantee you fell for others.

    Seriously the smallest bit of kindness to job seekers goes a long way so let’s all just give this candidate the benefit of the doubt since they took the direction the interviewer gave and DROPPED the presentation after they were asked.

    1. LW here*

      100% agree – he moved on well, and is still in the running for the job – I found it odd but not eliminatory

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I’m pretty bummed by the number of rude comments on here in general (jokes aside, because sometimes you need a dose of humor to get through your day). As a manager, I’ve always believed that it’s your job to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time you see an issue like this. Some people have gotten terrible advice, some people don’t know where the boundaries are, some people can read a policy but until they have it explained to them will just never get it, etc., etc., etc. We hire people, not robots.

      On the other hand, if it’s a pattern of behavior, and polite responses have not changed their behavior, that’s when you have to get more assertive. But note that assertive and rude are not equivalent to one another.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree with you.

      I seriously think that “Career coaches” are like “life coaches”, they’re scammers and con artists. Right along with MLM schemes. There are no standards or criteria for them, you just get to sell your “expertise” to these unsuspecting individuals.

      We also know that college career counseling is also full of awful advice.

      I think it’s important to keep in mind the person in this post was also like “oh you don’t want none of this presentation? okay, moving on.” That is huge. Aggressive is not taking “No that’s alright” as an answer. Suggesting something that’s over-the-top isnt’.

    4. MistOrMister*

      I’ve mostly just skimmed the comments, but it seems like most of what I’ve seen has been commenting more on the bad advice the interviewee received, rather than bashing him for following it.

  24. OMG srsly*

    Oh my stars. I’ve been requested to give presentations as part of an interview process. It took almost 3 hours. I ended up giving the presentation to two separate panels, and also fielded questions.

  25. Amethystmoon*

    15-20 minutes is a long time. Most Toastmasters speeches are limited to 5-7. Even most advanced speeches don’t go much over 12, probably because a standard club meeting takes an hour. For a 20-30 minute interview, that is way too long of a presentation.

  26. ResuMAYDAY*

    I *am* a job search advisor, and oh my gawd. I’d be mortified if any of my clients did this!
    My clients freak out if they are asked to do a presentation in an interview…I can’t imagine someone voluntarily putting themselves through that.
    I’m also mortified to think that any of my industry peers are telling their clients to do this. It’s such bad advice. Even so, candidates have free will. They should be able to recognize bad advice when they get it…or should be able to gauge the reaction of the interview and decide right then and there not to plow on.

  27. No clever username*

    As someone who has recently had the pleasure of helping with hiring for the first time (and who knows, maybe again in the future), I would love to ask folks about the premise of the question, namely that asking people the same set of questions is how you ensure that you get a diverse, inclusive workforce. It seems to me that bias can still creep in (the only way to totally prevent it would be to have blind interviews, which seems logistically difficult) and that a structured format would prevent possibly important follow up questions.

    That said I’m new at this so interested in what other people think.

    (This is not about the presentation, that guy was obviously out of line. Poor dude.)

    1. Arctic*

      I don’t think it’s a cure-all by any means. And I know a lot of people hate it.

      Bias can definitely creep in, easily. But it’s a way to ensure that the candidates are, at least, responding to the same questions. Otherwise you could inadvertently send a bunch easy throws to a candidate you are vibing with (and your response to someone can be based on cultural similarities without realizing it) and curve balls to other candidates. You wouldn’t do that intentionally. But it can be easy to do without thinking.

      In government you often aren’t allowed to stray from the set questions. But I think in most other places you are allowed to do follow-up questions. It’s more a guide than a stringent rule.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, this is important to talk about! So, it’s not that you should have a rigid list of questions from which you never deviate (some employers do that, and it hinders them). Like I talked about in the how to interview article I did recently, you need to ask tons of follow-up questions and probe deeply into candidates’ experience … and you need the freedom to do that. But what’s key is that you should be using the same list of must-have and nice-to-have qualifications for everyone, and you should be evaluating them on the same things. Generally that will mean that you have the same structure and core questions that you’ll ask everyone, but it’s okay to also tailor additional questions to the person’s background and skills.

      But you wouldn’t, for example, test one person’s writing and let another person go untested because “it’s clear from his educational background that he can write.” Or so forth.

    3. LW here*

      I don’t think you can eliminate bias completely, but I try to compare candidates on a mostly-similar structure around key competencies. It does allow me to ask follow-ups, but stops the conversation going down rabbit holes. When interviewing lots of candidates, it’s really hard to compare when the interviews focus on different themes

    4. Forrest*

      There’s research evidence on this: the unstructured interview is notoriously poor at predicting hiring success, but it “feels” better so it’s still widely used. It’s quite easy to find studies on this if you google something like, “hiring structured vs unstructured interviews”. I’ve been told in training that the structured interview has clear advantages over unstructured, and that assessment centres/structured group exercises are best of all, but I haven’t looked at the evidence myself because it’s not directly relevant to my role.

      (My impression from Ask A Manager is that it’s far more widely used in the US than in the UK? You’d only really come across unstructured interviews for professional jobs in very small charities, businesses or sectors where there’s a lot of unpaid “internships” and hiring is extremely informal. But I work in universities and public sector, which tend to prefer more structured, HR-led hiring processes than other sectors so that might just be my bias.)

    5. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

      It seems to me that bias can still creep in (the only way to totally prevent it would be to have blind interviews, which seems logistically difficult)

      This actually isn’t that hard to do. I’m a remote employee for a software company, and all of my interviews were conducted over the phone. No FaceTime – just a plain, old fashioned telephone call. And since I don’t have any social media pages to speak of, and I have one of the most common names around (first and last), it’s not like they could have looked me up before they offered me the job.

      This was probably the best interview experience I’ve ever had in my career.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        But over the phone you can still (usually) determine gender, and you can still hear accents. So you’ve got two of the biggest sources of bias built in (gender and race/nationality).

        A text based could eliminate most of that, except for language stuff that creeps into written text.

    6. Hiring Manager*

      I start with the same questions for each applicant, but ask customized follow-up questions that vary, depending on each person’s answers. Once the same basic questions are answered and followed up, then I ask different questions based specifically on something in that person’s resume. I also tell each applicant that everybody is asked the same questions in the same order.

  28. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    I’ve heard a lot of bad job search advice but not this one! Is there a conspiracy out there to keep people from getting jobs?

    1. MistOrMister*

      I buy this. People putting this bad advice out there in hopes of torpedoing other people’s interviews!

      I am surprised the guy OP interviewed did well on his questions after she said no to his presentation. I think a lot of people would be so mortified and/or discombobulated at having their presentation plan nixed that they would not interview strongly.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Spin on this.

      It’s a conspiracy from the MLM people to get more people to join them. “Oh they don’t see how much of a POWERFUL! business! Person! you are?! I’ve got your solution right over here. Come hock this snake oil!!!!!!!!!!”

  29. MistOrMister*

    Who is telling people to do this??? This is horrible advice. What even goes into that kind of presentation? I mean goodness, at that point just do a video essay a la Elle Woods…it would probably be better received. Maybe make sure your resume is on colored and scented paper as well to give it that little something extra.

  30. Database Developer Dude*

    A presentation? During an interview? WTAF??? The only thing I’m preparing for when preparing for an interview is what questions I’m going to ask, and how I’m going to answer the questions that are asked of me, and the only thing I carry in is my notes, and -a- copy of my resume…for me to refer to.

  31. Needs More Cookies*

    I find myself wondering if the reason why some of these “gumption-y” tactics sometimes work, is that they’re a dodge around institutional fair hiring policies. Even if they’re not intended that way by the job seeker.

    As in, you show up unexpectedly at the office in person to show “gumption” and now the mid-level boss that you accost (who you have no idea is a massive bigot) knows for sure that you, out of all the candidates, aren’t one of their least favourite people types. So now they can use your “gumption” as a legitimizing reason to hire you in disregard of normal policy.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Subconscious bias is much more prevalent than bigoted people consciously looking to find ways to circumvent fair hiring practices.

      So, it’s possible that the impact is the same that middle aged white male managers may be the people being sways by these presentations, which may be a tactic primarily used by white men (no idea if this is true) but it is not consciously malicious, That is really important because when we are only looking for out-and-out bigots, we miss a lot of unintentional discrimination.

      1. techRando*

        I think people who are subconsciously biased often consciously believe things like “I only need to talk to someone for 60 seconds to know if they’re a good hire” and that follows to “I hate going through this whole rigamarole when I already know whether I’ll be going forward after the handshake and the pleasantries”.

        They may not think their quick judgements are bigoted in any way, but they probably are because of how humans and bias and systemic oppression work.

        1. techRando*

          I meant to explicitly say that the dislike of interviewing combined with the belief in their own 60-second-judgements is likely to make these sort of people not just super prone to bias but also super prone to accepting a gumptioneer who passes their 60-second-judgement, so I do think Needs More Cookies is probably right about the effect specifically with gumptioneering and the appeal for certain employers even without the conscious knowledge of why, perhaps.

          1. Buttons*

            That is why, at my company, all hiring managers, recruiters, and anyone who is going to participate in a hiring panel (regardless of their level) attends a training workshop on unconscious bias and interviewing techniques to guard against those biases.
            Since putting that in place, and some rules around blind resume selections we increased our female STEM hires by 33% in the first year. My company is going to be featured in a Gartner research study that will be published soon.

        2. Morning Glory*

          I don’t want to get too far off the subject of this letter, but I do want to emphasize that basically everyone has subconscious biases that could lead to unfair hiring practices, including you and me.

          1. techRando*

            You are absolutely right, I didn’t mean to imply that I wasn’t/we aren’t.
            I was trying to talk about people who I suspect are more likely to have stronger internal biases- people who refuse to believe that they might have biases, while also going on about trusting their gut/intuition over any more rational method of hiring or decision making.
            But yes, we’ve all lived in society and, to varying degrees, we’ve all internalized the various -isms that we’ve been exposed to from birth.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I think the truth is somewhere in the middle here. Dodging the bureaucracy can undermine processes intended to give women and minorities a fair chance, but I’ve been on both the hiring and candidate end when some bureaucrat who doesn’t understand my field is screening the resumes and blindly matching keywords. Mildly gumptiony stuff is often welcomed in technical fields where the hiring manager is as frustrated with HR as the job seeker is.

  32. Gal-in-the-Prairie*

    I was advised to do this during one of my university classes by a professor when I was completing my Bachelor degree in 2015. It was an actual assignment for a class! Thankfully I was already employed and didn’t attempt to use it in an interview!

  33. Jean*

    Good general rule for interview presentations is, if your interviewers want you to present something, they will tell you that AND give you some guidelines for what they want to see. If they don’t ask you for a presentation well ahead of time, they don’t want one.

  34. Richard*

    Yeah, sure, everyone wants to pile on this poor fellow for his bad gimmick, but we never want to talk about the gimmicks that work. Not all of us can be smart or qualified or motivated or hard-working, and we deserve some trickery to get jobs like everyone else.
    Sarcasm aside, I do have a soft-spot in my heart for an earnest creative gimmick. I kinda wish I saw more of them in my applicants.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve had to do presentations for interviews lots of times (Sr leadership in tech.), but it’s known by both sides in advance, and it’s usually for final interviews (not sure what stage this one was) where you’re presenting a 90 day plan or something like that..

    This doesn’t seem THAT outrageous, and some of the criticism of the guy seems over the top. Also, the “interview process” (IMO at least) isn’t some set in stone thing that can’t be interfered with… Personally I see nothing wrong with what this guy did, especially when he was willing to pivot when LW cut it off..

  36. StaceyIzMe*

    Disclaimer: I haven’t been involved in hiring for over a decade. That said- I think that the whole “presentation” idea is fine, IF it’s acceptable to the interviewer. The time to ask that is ahead of the interview, not as you’re about to move into the heart of the appointment. To most managers, it’s going to come off as cheesy, self-preoccupied and perhaps even a tad grandiose. Maybe the best place for something like this is via a link on the professional website that some people now maintain. That way, it’s accessible, can be updated and isn’t being crammed down anyone’s throat, metaphorically speaking. That said- maybe there ARE a few industries where this would go over well? Visual or digital arts and advertising? Entertainment or edutainment? There might be a few additional specialty contexts where this would be okay. But it seems like a canned interview, which this would be, no matter how well done, is always going to pale in comparison to a live interview where a candidate addressed all questions well while still managing the social and professional norms of the hiring context in question.

  37. Heather*

    Well, it’s appalling, but I think it’s still better than the time (recently) when I turned up for an interview and found out that what I’d been told would be a 10-15 minute “Q&A with some staff members you’d be working with” turned out to be A PRESENTATION. I found out about the presentation when I walked into the room and was directed to sit at the front of the room at a computer hooked up to a projector with PowerPoint open and at the ready. I hadn’t even seen the interviewer at this point, and the receptionist who’d walked me to the room disappeared immediately. The 5-ish staff members in the room were all sitting silently and looking at me expectantly. No one said a word! I didn’t even know what topic they were expecting me to discuss! I’ve done enough public speaking (which this role didn’t involve in the slightest) that I was able to fill the time in a decently organized way off the cuff, with enough main points that I outlined up front to make it seem like I might have been prepared. Still, I could tell it had not gone well, but at least I managed to get through it without (I think) embarrassing myself. I wasn’t offered that job, but I can’t say truthfully that I wanted it after that.

    1. Buttons*

      What! they had you present something they had created, and you had never seen before? That is crazy! Did they know you didn’t know the material? Did a recruiter or someone mess up?

  38. Buttons*

    I had no idea this is a thing. I really want to know what he was going to present! I imagine it is like those parties where a friend creates a PPT about their friend, and why someone should date them. Except “This is why you should hire me!”

  39. Laura H.*

    As a job seeker, I hope to all deities and powers that be that this NEVER becomes universally expected. It’s hard enough to do a good/passable/ please don’t laugh resume!

    Also I so wouldn’t do this kind of thing of my own volition.

  40. Ophelia*

    I would have concerns about a candidate trying to control the interview in this manner. I’ve worked for public agencies my entire career and we have strict guidelines on the questions we can ask because all candidates must have equitable opportunity. To have one candidate seize control would violate our EEOC guidelines and we’d have to start our search all over from the beginning if the approved format wasn’t followed. That’s not to say his presentation wouldn’t be allowed in later parts of the interviewing process, but at the initial in-person interview, it would be a hard pass.

  41. reviewing resumes as we speak*

    oh the misery. I have been slogging through resumes for a high level, well paid, position in llama breeding research. What the what. I finally went on line to see who was giving out crappy advice on how to stand out from the pile. Let me tell you NOT THIS WAY. zety dot com cv-templates. If I ever hire anyone with a resume that is presented in this format it will be despite not because of. I want to call each one up and say do it over and have it to me by five tomorrow and we will keep you in the pool. I can’t of course.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Someone posted to a parents group I’m in on Facebook asking if she really needed to include a photo of herself on her resume. She is in the US and applying for local jobs with local companies. The website she was using had a space for a picture on their templates so she assumed that this is what was expected these days. Different website but also a problem.

      You know who recommends people offer to work for free? Harvard Business Review. I was in a bookstore looking at job search advice books and a chapter in one was all about why you should offer to work for free. I did not buy that book.

  42. CoveredInBees*

    Am I the only one who saw the title and was kinda hoping it was some sort of MLM presentation? Maybe even trying to sell and then attempting to light many scented candles? This must have happened at least once.

  43. J. Neil Wutan*

    Okay, so I’ve actually done this before, and hear me out.

    Particularly when the actual TITLE of the role, e.g. Associate vs. Senior Associate is still up in the air at the time of the interview (highly relevant for younger, early career candidates seeking a title bump), I find this to be a very plausible Hail Mary to thoroughly impress a hiring manager WHEN DONE WELL.

    If you’re able to showcase RELEVANT technical acumen that wouldn’t otherwise be covered in a basic, pre-scripted behavioral interview, this is the only feasible way to stand out in a crowd of more experienced applicants. It can also proactively convey the effectiveness of one’s social acumen – the “soft” skills – i.e. presentation and business communication.

    Further, even if the hiring manager ultimately declines the offer to present (at no additional cost to either party), regardless, it would still convey an uncommon level of effort put into preparing perhaps a more complete candidate profile as well as a demonstration of a candidate’s understanding of how they’d fit into the org.

    Just my two cents.

    1. LW here*

      You see, the risk he ran was that of showing poor “Soft Skills” – not understanding what was expected in an interview – while he did well later on, the question I have about him is (and this is a customer facing role) : Will he be the type that will think carefully about what the customer wants ? Or will he steam in & go overboard with a bad interpretation of that ?
      Also, in a bias-conscious hiring process, the only candidates that can “stand out” are the ones with the right qualifications and experience, and communication skills needed to convey that within the interview format

      1. MistOrMister*

        It sounds like he was at least willing to follow your lead when you said no to the presentation. I understand your reservations, but if he was gracious and didn’t argue or try to cuange your mind, maybe this really was a one off based,on poor advice he’d received. And if he did go the wrong way with customers, if they steer him back to what they want maybe he would be able to bounce back and focus on their needs. But, again, I understand how it could make you question his fit for the role. I guess if you have other strong candidates maybe this guy could be a reserve?

  44. Nhom*

    I laughed at that post because actually the exact opposite happened to me: I showed up to a job interview, everyone was very nice and casual, we talked for a few minutes and it seemed that we really connected. Until at some point the interviewer asked me out of nowhere “Do you need something to set up your presentation?”. I had not prepared anything, so naturally I was mortified; I asked if they sent instructions about preparing a presentation and I somehow missed the e-mail and I started blurting out apologies and asking if maybe they wanted to reschedule so as not to lose their time… and the interviewer very casually told me that actually nothing was planned, but the candidate before me came with a spontaneous presentation, and they were all very impressed… So they decided that it showed great initiative and they would only consider other candidates who had the same idea.
    (Needless to say, I looked at him with a blank stare, said “well, good luck to you then” and left.)

  45. Elizabeth West*

    I’m late to the party on this one, but if the expectation is to make a presentation all about your qualifications as a candidate, there are other ways to do this.

    If you’re in a field where an online portfolio is a normal thing, you can include something there. I applied for a job last year that asked for a portfolio document. So I created a report, in PDF format, about eight pages long. I didn’t end up getting the job (it was a little out of my league), but I included it in my online portfolio so employers can download it and review it at their leisure if they want to. The cover photo is a shot I took at Trafalgar Square and it’s really quite nice-looking.

    Personally, I wouldn’t bother to do a PowerPoint presentation if it’s not a requested part of the application. If it is, then fifteen or twenty minutes is excessive. I would make it no more than two minutes, tops. You can supplement it with your portfolio and resume and a stellar interview.

  46. Laura*

    I have never been on the hiring side, but I have gone on MANY interviews in my 7 years of being in the workforce, and I have NEVER been asked to give a presentation. If I were on the hiring side, I would not want to sit through a 15-20 min presentation. Maybe the candidate does possess knowledge of whatever the presentation was about, but an interview (at least the first one, as sometimes companies will do second interviews if they think you’re a fit) seems inappropriate.

  47. Edwina*

    I’m a screenwriter, and was working with a very prominent director. A colleague who I owed a major favor to, let’s call him Bram, begged and begged and BEGGED me to get him a meeting with the director’s head executive (the guy who ran the director’s production company). Bram was starting a special-effects company with two partners and so there was some slight possibility it could help the director’s company.

    So I pulled in all my favors and wangled a meeting for Bram with the executive. I had to in fact promise to help out on another project in order to get Bram the meeting (the director is an A+ director; meetings at his company are highly sought after).

    Bram came with his partners, who gave an incomprehensible presentation–it was never clear what their company actually did–and then….

    ….my colleague….

    ….did an interpretive ballet to a recording he’d brought of The Nutcracker.

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