I have been interviewing for technical trainer position in a medical company.In my last interview I was given an assignment to do a presentation on a specific medical device.I have been given a 255 page device manual and asked to do the presentation in German.

My German is good in conversational level and the interviewer is aware of that. This was the instruction I received: If I were to given this job I would normally conduct a 4 hour presentation to individuals who would like to learn about this machine. My task for the next level of interview is to prepare such a presentation, but the interviewer would select a topic on the spot and ask me to present it for 1 hour.

My questions are: What sort of points should I consider when asked to do a presentation on such broad topic?

Would it be a red flag ,if I call the interviewer and ask for a selective topic?

  • 9
    A four hour presentation would take me at least 40 hours of work to prepare, probably more. On an unfamiliar topic in my second language? Far more. Did they mean "spend four hours preparing, and we'll ask you to do a few minutes on any topic in the book"? This is an important distinction. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:10
  • If I get this job, I would be training individuals about the machine.This training lasts for 4 hours.The need me to prepare as I would do it in the job, but they would ask me to present about any topic on the spot.
    – Shruthi
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:15
  • This sounds a lot like the training equivalent of giving a software engineer an interview project and getting some work out of them at no cost.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 18:34
  • I think this is excessive for an interview. 4 hours presentation per person they interview?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 18:48
  • Ich wünsche dir viel Glück - du wirst es noetig haben ;-)
    – Mawg
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 8:51

3 Answers 3


Even an hour-long impromptu talk is a lot to ask for a job interview. I can tell in 5 or 10 minutes if you're a confident speaker who is aiming at the right level. And since you could be asked to do any topic, you basically have to write, prepare, and rehearse the whole 4 hour thing, just in case. That's a lot of work. I've interviewed technical trainers before and we told them to prepare a 10 minute talk on something technical of their choice, and during the interview we asked for 5 minutes completely impromptu (tell us how to get here from your place.) These showed their pacing, voice control, detail level, ability to stay on track, etc. No need for an hour of talk by them or of listening by us.

If I were being asked to do 10 or 15 minutes on literally any part of the guide, to be chosen on the spot and with perhaps a minute to prepare, here's what I would do.

First, I would spend about half an hour to an hour skimming the guide to establish the overall theme of this device, which might be one or more of:

  • it is very advanced compared to all the competitors
  • it has a ton of settings and knobs
  • it has a ton of lights and sounds
  • it is very delicate and should not be bumped
  • it is very robust and sturdy
  • it is small and compact
  • it is very intuitive to use

Then I would learn simple basics like how to turn it on and off, how to configure it for metric/imperial or adult/pediatric or other commonish things. Going through the instructions I would connect them in my head to the themes. So it's not just "press the X button" it's "because on this device the most useful things are just one button press away, simply press the X button". Or alternatively "because on this device everything is on the central touch screen, simply touch A then on the next dialog press the X button." Making it sound like the most natural and obvious way to do the thing.

Since you can't memorize 4 hours of training, I would not try, but I would read the guide repeatedly so I understood how to work the device and the sorts of things people need to do. To use the analogy of a car, could you do an hour on "how to check the fluids under the hood" for an arbitrary car? You could if you remember already what "the fluids" are and if you're allowed 30 seconds to remind yourself where the dipstick, washer fluid reservoir etc are, as well as trickier things like the radiator cap. (Or if you can fake it by telling the interviewer "I would have a diagram here and would point out the location of A, B, and C as well as the special instructions for opening the A." This can be very convincing and accurately reflects how you would prepare training material. You could even "point out" these locations on an entirely imaginary diagram that is not actually projected behind you.)

Between knowing the general principles that the guide covers, knowing the "theme" you're going to hang your instruction on, and being familiar enough with the guide that a quick glance will refresh the details you need, it might be possible to prepare for this task. Might. At a 5-10 minute length, it would be far more feasible. But obviously some people have agreed to the hour, so you probably must to get the job.


The device manual should literally be your guide here.

Take the main subject headings in the guide and use this to split your tutoring into bite-sized chunks or prompt markers for when you want to move on with the teaching.

Be aware that if you're training people, then you don't have to stand at the front of the class talking at them for four hours, that will quickly become mentally tiring for them, no matter how good you are at public speaking.

Use the time effectively and get people involved. Show them how to use the device and let them try for themselves. Encourage them to talk about their experience, encourage them to learn, make the time engaging enough and the time will soon disappear.

Even if you're only presenting to your interviewers, still get them off their seats and getting involved, they'll enjoy that.

If you get enthusiastic about teaching them, they'll get enthusiastic as well. You'll probably find that you run out of time before you run out of material.

  • Would it make me look bad if I ask for a selective topic, as I would be doing the presentation in another language?
    – Shruthi
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:33
  • I don't know what you mean by "selective topic". I just saw that you're tasked with teaching people about this device.
    – user44108
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:34
  • I mean could I request them to give me few topics like :Device installation,Configuration and Troubleshooting the device something like that?
    – Shruthi
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:41
  • @innov: I think your question answered that as they apparently said the topic would be selected on the spot. I'd start reading that manual.
    – NotMe
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 8:58

I would imagine since it is a very broad topic (255 pages worth divided into however many topics) the interviewer is looking at how well you can be a johnny on the spot. He's probably looking at you being able to retain some base level information that can be expanded upon. It could be since you're expected to conduct a real-life demonstration/training for 4 hours that he wants to see if you're able to provide any useful information during that 4 hours. My other guess is he's testing your level of German. If you can be a johnny on the spot and speak out useful information in German, he's going to expect at a reasonable level you'll do well with actual clients.

With that said, I would ask if he can give you at least some topic areas. My guess is that he's going to expect you to know 1) What the product is ("This is the Rayomatic Model 2000, our newest model released in 2017"), 2) What it does ("This model will do X, Y, Z!", 3) What it does NOT do ("This model will not cure cancer.", and 4) Some basic start up/shut down ("Let's start a demo, let me patch in the demo mode and as you can see..."). Me, I'd just skim over it after reading the intro. I wouldn't sweat it too much. If you don't know, just say, "I don't know but I recall reading an area about in in the chapter about X."

I don't think it's going to be technical asking for precise information. He may "pretend" to have a issue with the device that is in the manual but something very basic. Something like he can't start it, or it won't complete. Very basic, I don't think he's expecting you to know how much power it uses or giving precise numbers.

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