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Second Interview Presentations

It is the norm to be asked to prepare a presentation at the second stage for a sales vacancy. Often a topic is already requested but more often than not the topic is ‘Why are you right for the job?’

I would go so far as to say that a good discipline is to prepare a second interview presentation along these lines, even if you haven’t been asked to prepare one. The effort in putting together a presentation that matches your quality, skills and experience against the job requirements will give you the edge on the day and will really make you think that you are making the right decision in joining this organisation.

It shouldn’t take any more than two hours to put together and will be there to turn to if the meeting really isn’t going in the direction that you had planned.

If you've gotten ahead of yourself and perhaps need advice on first interviews, you can have a look at all our advice on 'how to WOW at a first interview'.

GOLDEN RULE: However, an absolute DON’T is to use your presentation as a ‘safety blanket’ when you haven’t been asked to prepare one, i.e. Interviewer: ‘How do you expect to penetrate into the following markets....?’ You (tucking into your briefcase) ‘well I have a presentation here, that.....’ ONLY use the presentation during the meeting as a last resort.

What the presentation should be short (no more than ten minutes if you have to deliver it) and no more than ten sheets or slides). It should contain:

  • Why you want to work for the company – key facts, direction, etc.

  • Why you want this particular job – the opportunity, etc.

  • What benefits you can bring to the company – experience, strengths, values, etc.

  • Your training and development requirements to succeed

  • Why you are the right person for the role

You may also want to include how you would plan, your approach, how you would structure your working day/week/month/quarter.

How you would impose key performance indicators upon yourself to attain and exceed targets.

GOLDEN RULE 2: The employer knows their business better than you. Keep it general, don’t quote specific accounts that you could bring to the company, the account values, etc.

GOLDEN RULE 3: Always take at least three printed copies of your presentation to the meeting and hand them out at the end. The adage of remembering just 25% of what you’ve heard after 24 hours is true and most hiring decisions are made after a period of deliberation that is typically 24-48 hours. Your presentation document just might have the memory trigging tags to make the decision swing your way!

Obscure second interview questions

You may be asked to prepare a presentation with a title such as ‘The features and benefits of a ping pong ball’ or ‘Nature or Nurture, what is more important?’ or ‘You work for a paperclip manufacturer and you have to sell the features and benefits of a paperclip’ (all of the three detailed here are factual cases!)

Why do employers do this? It may appear churlish but it’s a demonstration of lateral thinking, willingness to go the extra mile, creative thinking, negotiation, commercial flair and above all salesmanship. It's also a test of commitment to the job - how much effort will you put in to 'land the deal', are you prepared to ‘jump through the hoops’! 

If you fancy a list of common interview questions, we've assembled a list of the most common interview questions here.

Obscure Presentation Example: The Paperclip Presentation

As an example I’m going to use ‘You work for a paperclip manufacturer and you have to sell the features and benefits of a paperclip’ (which incidentally, is the standard second interview presentation for a major household FMCG brand).

Many treat the presentation as a game and present it as a game and make it fun and light hearted - they invariably don't get offered the job. Others put together a jazzy presentation on paper clips, their variety of uses and pitch accordingly. Where they fail is that unless you understand the need you can't sell anything – the adage of ‘diagnosing the illness before prescribing the medicine!’

A perfect way of executing this exercise is as follows and please tune it accordingly to the ‘obscure presentation’ that you may have been asked to prepare!

  1. First off. Enter the meeting. 'Thank you very much for inviting me here today to discuss your urgent paperclip requirements. I understand from our discussions last week that today you are looking to agree a preferred supplier of paperclips and I understand that Ben, you are the Group Purchasing Director and Fred you are the, Group Finance Director. I also understand that you are looking to make a decision on a supplier today – is that correct?’ (by doing this they cannot use the objection of - we're not the right person, we're not in a position to make a decision today, etc'.)

  2. Start the presentation with an overview of ‘Paperclips 'R' Us’ (or whatever) - history, services - holding stock, 3 day delivery, ability to supply volume, quality of product, ability to bespoke to need, etc.

  3. It's imperative that YOU ask THEM early on 'what is your budget' - then you might find that you can easily sell to them on price.

  4. Collect a handful of different types of paper clips (shapes, styles, colours), etc.

  5. Ask them to touch the product (you can’t beat a kinaesthetic sale!)

  6. Paint a couple, put tippex on a couple, wrap some coloured tape around some – whatever – I know it sounds somewhat strange but going this extra mile will make the difference!

  7. Then probe to understand their needs - prepare 15 or so questions around the type of paperclip that they require, the volume, added value services, etc.

  8. Prepare a slide per type of paperclip so that you can go into the detail of their preferred clip and skip past the ones that aren't right for their need and explain why

  9. If asked price answer something like - 'I know that price is important to both of us but can we park this just for a moment until I fully understand your needs. I am confident that I will be able to propose a price that is both attractive and works for both of us'

  10. Then pitch the product - the features, examples, benefits of the paperclip that is the solution to their need (have a brainstorm with yourself about exactly what benefits there could be – the amount of paper it can hold, flexibility, uniqueness of the colour, etc. think of every imaginable feature and benefit!)

  11. Then ‘semi close’ - Do you agree that this is the right paperclip for you? Are there any further features that they would like you me to detail? What do we have to do to make the deal today?

  12. Prepare bartering chips other than price - stock holding, delivery time, volumes, payment terms, etc - if you negotiate down on price ensure you give nothing away and always get something in return. Remember, negotiation is where both parties leave happy and it’s a win-win - not where one is battered on price, that’s called discounting!

  13. If you are getting nothing but positives then close it down

  14. Get agreement to product, volume, additional required services, total cost, etc.

  15. Go one step further and pre-prepare an order form - get it out of your briefcase and get them to sign it on the spot!

  16. If they don't agree to this as a minimum get agreement to the next meeting and an agenda for what you will propose - i.e. you'll go back to your R&D department to bespoke accordingly, you'll look at cheaper raw materials to get the price down, etc.

  17. Pre-prepare a price list so that when you get their signature on the dotted line you can detail how well you negotiated to secure the deal!

  18. Remember never give anything away for nothing - everything is tradable and barter accordingly to secure a price and service that is right for both parties!

  19. Go the ‘extra mile and a half’ by creating a logo for the paperclip business, an order form, business card, price list - it'll only take an hour or two but could really make the difference between you and the other interviewees.

  20. Thank them for their time (and their business); close the meeting and job done!

As you can see we have now taken a somewhat trite and childish presentation title into a 'full on' business pitch. This approach will demonstrate how you will succeed in their organisation by questioning, understanding needs, pitching product, negotiating, closing, etc.

Good luck with putting together your second interview questions and we hope that you found this useful!

Date published: 28th February 2024

A photo of Simon Bonner, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment

About the author

Simon Bonner

With over 25 years in B2B sales and recruitment, Simon is an English Graduate from UEA and specialises in recruiting commercial and FMCG sales positions. Simon joined the sales recruitment industry in 1998 before progressing into field sales and returning to recruitment in 2015. As an Associate Director, Simon is well placed to understand the needs of clients and candidates' needs, having spent ten years selling electronic security and managing National Accounts within OEM manufacturers and distribution channels. An avid Luton Town football fan, Simon dotes on his two daughters and enjoys keeping fit, socialising, food and wine.

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