Interviewing for CSM's: Presentation Required?

SYoung Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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edited August 2023 in CS Org Conversations
What is current thinking around requiring a preso when interviewing for a standard Customer Success Manager? I'd love to hear POV's from hiring managers, recruiters and also from the other side. When has a preso been helpful in deciding on a candidate? When has it been helpful AS a candidate? Thanks GGR community!


  • Chad Horenfeldt
    Chad Horenfeldt Member Posts: 57 Expert
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    I’m a big supporter of it. It can help separate one candidate from the rest. It tests many aspects that are hard to test for in regular interviews. 
  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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    I have witnessed a few and more often than not I do not see it having a lot of value. I have seen many great presentations and very poor fits for CSMs. It tells me they have experience with presentations and are more likely very rote thinkers who can take direction but try to vary, even a bit, and they sit and twiddle their thumbs. Used to the corporate world where varying, even a bit, from the standard directive and the accepted groupthink is frowned upon, or worse punished. (Harsh? Yes, but accurate.) 

    Being a CSM requires an ability to pivot, quickly, be prepared for change (it's coming, no matter what!) and able to go with it and to be able to think creatively, outside the box in ways to engage and add value for your customers.

    Show me enthusiasm and indication of creativity, VS. a seasoned professional who can do a presentation, and the former wins every time and will be the stars of your department. 
  • dsquires4406
    dsquires4406 Member Posts: 7 Navigator
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    I think the correct answer for your organization depends on what you want out of a CSM. If they are going to be delivering presentations regularly (onboarding/kick-offs/etc) or holding EBR/QBRs, then it likely makes sense. It is one thing to be comfortable and confident in a 1:1 setting and a different thing to be the same way in a group setting. If the CSM typically holds meetings in 1:1 or small groups where presentations aren't entirely necessary, cater the "presentation" towards a more typical day to day setting as a CSM in your organization.

    Regarding @Brian O'Keeffe's comment, you can always get a sense of the candidate's ability to pivot quickly and think on their toes by asking challenging questions like an executive might during an EBR. For example, ask them to dive deeper into a specific slide by asking "this isn't clear to me, can you expand on that?" and seeing how they respond (even if it was entirely clear to you). This has been done to me in previous interviewing roles both in-person and virtually and felt totally fair given the context of the role I was taking on. 
  • SYoung
    SYoung Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    Thanks for your insight @Chad Horenfeldt @Brian O'Keeffe and @dsquires4406 I have historically been  a huge fan, but now am leaning towards a leaner interview process to to economize time. Your recommendations for other ways of assessing that enthusiasm, curiosity, empathy and client facing aptitude are helpful. Are there any other ideas you may have for doing so, or making the process itself more efficient? 
  • Reece98
    Reece98 Member Posts: 1 Newcomer
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    As someone who helped guide multiple CSMs, CSEs, Head of etc through the interview process all I can say is it depends on the role, company and responsibilities. 

    I'm a massive advocate for presenting on a topic of 'YOUR' choice, this gives you the opportunity to prepare and present on something you're genuinely passionate about. Even if the presentation is 5 minutes long, it provides the candidate with the chance to showcase their presentation and speaking skills. 

    Although reverting back to my first comment, it does depend on multiple factors. If the role is solely focused on that middle ground of the customer lifecycle where you're responsible for QBRs, kick-off meetings, demos etc then absolutely you need to test how well they are in front of clients from all walks of life. If the role is more focused on commercials, I.e. upsells, cross-sells and renewals then it may not be required as much. 

    Just my two cents, but I hope that makes sense! 


  • dsquires4406
    dsquires4406 Member Posts: 7 Navigator
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    @syoung perhaps you could have the candidate record a presentation so your team can still get a taste for the candidate's presentation skills without requiring multiple people to be in the room. This would tackle enthusiasm and client facing aptitude from a presentation perspective. I agree with @Reece98 about the topic selection. Let them present on something that excites them. This minimizes the time they need to research a topic and then can focus on crafting a presentation within the time limits you provide them. 

    For curiosity you could have the candidate answer questions related to how they approach professional development, personal growth or what they do when they don't know something. If they are a curious person they will have an impressive answer.
    • "What happens when you run into a topic you don't know? What do you do?" 
    • "What is your approach to professional development?" 
    • "Outside of business related topics, what other interests do you have?" 
    For empathy, you could have the record a video and/or write a response to a mock scenario where a customer is extremely upset and wants to churn. This would also check client facing aptitude for difficult conversations.

    I hope this helps!

  • SYoung
    SYoung Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary @Reece98 and @dsquires4406. I like the "your choice" and short preso combo.... then the questions you pose @dsquires4406 are great follow up. 

    Appreciate this community so much! Thanks all.

  • Mhayes0716
    Mhayes0716 Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    I have heard of some of my AM counter parts having to give a presentation as part of the interview process and they are often wondering how they did, because the direction was not entirely clear what it was that the hiring company was wanting to be shown.  No necessarily the content, rather the overall request.  Are they looking at presentation skills, how the AM responds to a question that is posed that they may not know the answer to, pivoting to take a deeper dive on the fly (jump into tableau real time), etc... 

    As an AM, I can say I am a bit relieved that I have not had to do this.  Some of the statements I have heard from my counterparts who have had to do this have been, "I hope I gave them what they asked for.  I did my best, but the full direction was not clear." or "They wanted me to present something that I was not completely familiar with, so I am not sure how they can grade how I did."

    If the direction is clear, what is being asked of the applicant to present is readily available from the company website, and all expectations are in place (even the expectation to be thrown a curveball, so know our website well), then I think it would be exciting to see who the AM approaches this task.