I am invited to an interview and was asked to prepare an introduction of myself and my proficiency, i.e. explain briefly my CV and an example project I am currently working at. I was given a time limit of only 10 minutes. They said I am free to choose between projector, flipchart, whiteboard, etc.

While I think ten minutes is quite short to have a deep understanding of my profession (Engineering & Software), I have these questions:

  • Which way of presentation is considered to fit the best (especially regarding the ten minutes)? I guess flipcharts and whiteboards allow a lot of creativity and spontaneous ideas, but I'm concerned that my handwriting will be bad if I'm nervous and it does cost a lot of time. On the other hand it adds a good personal insight because it's individual.

  • Should I present my personal interests as well? I thought about adding a note at the end, for example I'm into sailing, driving motorcycle, etc., because I usually do so in my CV and I would like to keep it consistent. But again I only have ten minutes and I'm not sure if it's important enough to be mentioned.

My location is Germany but all ideas are welcome.

  • Will you be doing formal presentations like that yourself to potential clients? Is that why they want to see this kind of format? Personally, I would have refused to do it in this case. It's not that I dislike making presentations and public speaking. I actually love it and I actually love practicing with toastmasters.org It's just that an interview is a dialogue and a two way exchange, where you get pick their brain, about their business and about the job, as much as they get to pick yours. May 16, 2016 at 6:49

1 Answer 1


Ten minutes is far longer than you think. This is a talk you need to rehearse many times - at least some of the other candidates will have done so. Given that they are offering you visual aids, it's my expectation they expect the majority of the time to be on your project. A well-structured talk will reveal a lot about you while you explain your project.

Step 1 is to outline the talk. I might do something like this:

  • 1 minute name, graduation date, years of experience or number of jobs, brief statement of awards, times on the deans honours list, overall average, or other things only if they make you appealing
  • gear-changing section explaining that you will now tell them about a project you completed recently, and explaining why you chose it (it was important, you loved it, it is your largest project, whatever). 30 seconds to a minute.
  • context for the project - both for you (it was paid employment, it was for a course, it was as a volunteer) and the world (trying to make solar power more efficient, understanding Topic X, improving technique Y, expanding product Z, ...) again 30 seconds to a minute
  • 6 minutes or so on the project itself. PLAN AND PRACTICE THIS INTENSELY. Design a diagram that explains your algorithm, your workflow, the people on the team, the architecture of the system, something. Do not give up until you can think of something that needs a diagram. Maybe even two things. Design the talk - you'll say some things, draw the diagram, say a LOT more things while pointing at parts of the diagram, and possibly replace the diagram and talk about the new one, or about the project using the new one as an aid. Make sure you face the people, not the whiteboard, while you're talking. If you must turn to the board to point, stop talking, or say single words like "here" and "next" at most, then turn back to continue to talk to the people listening to you. Throughout this section, while you're nominally talking about the project (and you must explain it) you're showing them you - what you're good at, what you've done, what's important to you, and how well you can do a presentation. This is actually quite complicated and not something people can just "wing". As you practice, ask yourself what that 6 minutes revealed about you and whether that is what you wanted to emphasize. Say you are proud of being very well organized and not forgetting anything. Does your presentation give you a chance to point that out? If not, how can you work it in? Say you don't really enjoy writing documentation. Are you using up minutes discussing something you don't want to end up doing for them?
  • 2 minutes (perhaps slightly less) to summarize and turn the topic back to you. What you learned, how you grew, adjustments to your career arc, and so on. You want to leave them in a state of "wow! what a project, and what a candidate! Well explained, cares about the stuff we care about, I want this candidate on my team!"

Practice this a few times drawing the diagram each time. If you're not able to, because it just takes too long, consider preparing the diagram and bringing it on a laptop, then projecting it and talking about the projection instead of a diagram you've just drawn. Practice doing that, because it's physically different, in how you turn and point, and how you make sure your voice and face are pointed at the people while you say things, again with the possible exception of pointers like "here". Also, you don't know how big their screen is and whether you can physically touch the top half of it or not, so you might practice waving the mouse over your diagram or having "builds" -- animations -- that draw a red box around one part and then other, or draw arrows. Don't overdo that, though, or the illusion of spontaneity drops and ironically, people don't like talks to be too well-prepared (though they don't like them underprepared either.)

Every time you practice, time yourself. If you're short, think about material you can add. If you're long, be firm and cut some - you don't want them stopping you mid sentence.

Do not waste any of your ten minutes explaining your profession. Explain your experience and a project that matters to you. If you persuaded a team to use a particular technology or methodology, then a sentence defining that technology or methodology would be appropriate, but nobody wants a ten minute "What is Agile" lecture from a potential hire who was asked to explain their own CV and a sample project.

Should you find that you got through too fast on the day (because you were talking nervously fast, for example, or accidentally skipped a section) then smiling and saying something about your personal interests won't hurt, but I wouldn't plan on it - it's not what they came to hear.

  • In this context "talking to the projection" means talking to the audience about the projection. Some presenters make the mistake of talking facing the screen, with little or no connection to the audience. May 15, 2016 at 16:10
  • @PatriciaShanahan excellent point, thankyou, edited May 15, 2016 at 18:23

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