Get More Out of Interviews by Challenging Candidates to an Ignite Talk

May 26, 2015

The next time you’re looking to fill a position (or several), how about trying something dynamic and creative to separate the good candidates from the fantastic ones? You can do this by challenging each candidate to arrive to the interview prepared to give a five-minute presentation, or “ignite talk.”

How does it work?

The candidates presentation can be on any aspect of the role they’re vying for - how they would solve a specific problem, improve upon or introduce a process, etc. Ideally, the presentation isn't as much about the candidate as it is about what they can bring to the company. The challenge is that they only have 5 minutes and must use 20 slides, with each slide advancing after 15 seconds.

Having a candidate give an ignite talk allows you to have direct insight into their thought leadership, presentation skills, and whether they have a strong point of view – a measure of how truly they want the role.

5 tenets of a successful 5-minute ignite talk:

1. It ignites a conversation.

The topic of the ignite talk, as its name implies, needs to spark lively discussion and is most effective when there is an element of surprise thrown in. So, before they come in to meet you, suggest to your candidate that their presentation be on something they are passionate about, whether it’s problem solving, the desire to lead, or simply the role itself.

2. It demonstrates presentation skills.

Can your candidate tell a complete story in five minutes? The ignite talk is certainly an effective way of assessing someone’s efficiency and ability to give a concise presentation. If they don’t reach the five minutes or exceed it, these can be strong indicators that the candidate lacks confidence, isn’t being considerate of the rules, or simply isn’t prepared.

3. It’s a more engaging way to learn about a candidate.

For at least five minutes of the interview, the ignite talk lets your potential hire do all the talking while you sit back and listen. Simple as that. You’ll know right away if the presentation is successful because you’ll be inspired, maybe surprised, perhaps learn something new, or want to hear more.

4. It saves time.

The intention of an ignite talk is to deliver a tight, compelling presentation. If a candidate can cover a lot in a short time, that’s probably a good sign they’ll be effective (and efficient) in the role.

5. It can be fun.

For you, it’s like having story time several times a day, each told by a different candidate. And, it's a chance for you to invite colleagues who’d be working with the candidate to sit in on the presentation.

The simplicity of an ignite talk makes this presentation method easy to not be afraid to try something new. Give it a shot and you may be happily surprised with the outcome. And remember, it only takes five minutes.

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*Image by numb3r