Top 10 tips: Writing a Retail Business Plan for interviews

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The last few months have seen a significant improvement in market conditions and the volume of vacancies is increasing significantly. However while the pool of immediately available candidates has dropped sharply in recent months there is still some strong competition coming from ‘passive’ candidates entering the market for the first time in several years. As a result it is still important that you approach every interview process you enter with energy and focus.

We are finding that Retailers are increasingly using business presentations as a useful tool for judging the calibre of candidates. Presentations provide a huge amount of insight in to candidates, covering your capabilities in research, written communication skills, verbal communication skills, analytical capability, financial and commercial acumen, leadership / management style, key focus areas, strategic thinking, detail…. The list could go on and on! The temptation in any recruitment process is to focus on the interview but in reality the presentation will often be the element that can set you apart from other candidates and therefore determine your success.

We have compiled a few tips, some very obvious, that might help you prepare your presentation.

1. Read the brief. Read the brief, Read the brief and keep reading the brief. It is all too easy to take the presentation in the direction that you want to go but ultimately does it answer the question? This is both the easiest thing to get right, but often the first thing to get wrong. Revisit the brief title throughout your preparation and after each draft to ensure you are on track.

2. Keep your slides to a sensible number. We have all heard of the saying, death by power-point, but it is well versed for a reason! The number of slides required will depend on the presentation time allowed and the information you are required to present, as a rough guide you should allocate 2-4 minutes per slide. A useful tip might be to include additional information such as a PEST or SWOT analysis in to an appendix rather than the body of the presentation. This allows you to demonstrate methodology and perhaps detail without killing your presentation.

3. Keep text to a minimum and break it up. Text heavy presentations tend to miss an opportunity in that you will fail to demonstrate a multi-skilled approach to communication. People have different preferences in how they absorb information and it is best to vary the presentation of your slides; pictures, graphics, diagrams, graphs and charts will have a greater impact that just text. Slides with text should have no more than 3-5 bullet points. You can take additional notes with you to act as a prompt. You will lose the interviewers if they mentally ‘wonder’ off while reading a text heavy slide.

4. Ask a peer or recruiter to review each draft. It is crucial that you seek advice and support throughout your preparation. Depending on the circumstances of your application you should try to get someone with knowledge of the interviewer to review your presentation. They may be able to provide some insight in to style or specific preferences. Take on board any feedback and act upon it.

5. Cover the obvious Key areas. People, Profit, Product. It is crucial that you relate this to the customer throughout your slides and verbal presentation.
6. Know the business you are presenting to: In order to get the right tone you should be mindful of the company’s vision, values and mission statement. It is also important that you have read any press releases or industry press articles about the business. If a company is doing well they are likely to be looking for a different candidate than a business that is issuing profit warnings.

7. Be mindful of confidentiality. In all likelihood during your research you will pick up confidential information from conversations with various people. It is important to strike a balance between demonstrating an intimate knowledge of your prospective employer and putting people in an awkward position. Where you have any concerns it might be best to keep some points for verbal reference only.

8. Punctuation, spelling & Font. The devil is in the detail and a failure to get this right could undermine your entire presentation. I recently presented to a client whom picked up on what he thought was a spelling mistake, he became quite fixated on this and it was quite disconcerting. Fortunately the spelling was correct but it serves to show that you need to be confident that you have covered the detail!

9. Judge your audience. Is humour appropriate or perhaps something highly creative? If you are presenting to a fashion retailer then the style and imagery will be critical. Likewise some people just want it to be very simple. Either way, ensure you understand what the interviewer’s preferences are.

10. Structure, structure, structure. Ensure your presentation has an introduction, perhaps detailing the brief, the body of the presentation and a conclusion. The main body should flow from slide to slide.

I would be interested to hear any other tips that you may have.

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