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Using Candidate Presentation in the Interview Process - All Sides Considered

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Many of our clients have considered asking candidates to present a sample of their work or their approach to a marketing plan as part of the interview process. This tactic can have many benefits but if executed poorly, can create complications and disenfranchise good candidates.

The Upside

How do you know if your marketing candidate has a methodology or fully developed ability to create a cohesive marketing plan or strategy? Assigning a presentation to the candidate to review their approach or thought process for creating a marketing plan is one solution. Reviewing an approach to a marketing plan has many benefits for hiring managers:

  • Learn how the candidate thinks and presents

  • Learn how they ask questions to scope a project

  • Create an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas and hypothetical priority-setting

  • Explore the potential dynamic you will have with one of your key staff members.

  • Allows those who have previously interviewed the candidates to assess their ability to listen, digest and prioritize objectives from previous conversations

  • Give candidates a sense of your management style and opportunity to ask questions or gather intelligence on the best way to communicate with you

  • Both build a rapport and develop expectations for your future working relationship.

Asking a creative professional to produce an original sample of their work based on a current need from the hiring firm also has similar benefits when hiring a graphic designer or writer. When executed well, this tactic builds a strong foundation for a good start and strong relationship between manager and a direct report.

Some Downsides

If you are planning to use presentations as part of the interview exchange, you should ensure that they are integrated into a live discussion with potential direct managers (versus peers or other company leaders). Simply evaluating the presentations offline with no planned exchange between the direct managers and the candidates can produce a multitude of potential downsides including:

  • Lost opportunity to probe candidates on their approach and styles;

  • Managing partners appearing ambivalent to the investments the candidates put into their plans; or simply looking for free work product;

  • Getting off on the wrong foot with a key hire, or worse, scaring off a candidate who is the right hire ;

Furthermore, the timing for introducing the assignment should fall naturally in line with the interview discussions. Once receiving the assignment, candidates should be offered an opportunity to ask questions from the direct managers to clarify. Passing the assignment on to other managers to review and discuss with candidates in subsequent interview rounds can potentially lead to:

  • Establishing a confusing communications dynamic of who is in charge of priority setting and overall management by having the assignment discussion with peers or other managers

  • Wasted/awkward time rehashing prior conversations with interviewers who are in a poor seat to truly evaluate and probe on the process or reasoning of the presentation, or to assess if the priorities being presented are on target with previous conversations.

The Candidate Side

Always consider the interview experience through the eyes of the candidate. Creating presentations or creative work requires additional preparation time on the candidates’ part; it’s an investment beyond their daily work. Even if you tell them only to spend an hour, people are inclined to go above and beyond to make the best impression. Most candidates have full-time jobs so this is a big ask in a short time frame. Furthermore, if you are asking creatives to produce actual “work product,” you should always be prepared to pay them for their presentation and state that up front. Also, you should clearly state to marketers that you are not expecting a full plan but only a demonstration of the steps they would use to create one.

The introduction of an assignment might scare some off so the objectives and format of the assignment should clearly state the benefits for them to get clarity on what’s expected of them and get to know their manager better during the interview process.

Our Side

At MICA, we are big fans of the plan presentation vehicle because of its many benefits. However, it must be thoughtfully be integrated into the interview continuum and be leveraged for its full benefit to be successful and not work against your cultivation of great candidates. We work with our clients to integrate this tactic effectively into the process and help design formats that work best with their group.

Presentations in Interviews (1)
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