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One 21st century interview blunder that you must avoid

Eye contact is a problem for a lot of accountants

Despite all the recent stories we’ve heard of mind-numbingly bad resumes and cover letters, the biggest recruiting bombs still go off in the interview room. It’s not just rookie job seekers who are affected, though. It seems some veteran candidates are getting tripped up by interview techniques that weren’t around the last time they were looking for work.

Roughly 43% of chief financial officers said that job interviews are where candidates make the most number of mistakes during the recruiting process, up from 32% in 2010, according to a new survey from Accountemps, a Robert Half company that specializes in placing finance and accounting professionals. Resume errors, meanwhile, are becoming less common. Just 19% of CFOs point to CVs as the biggest trap for candidates, down from 28% in the previous study.

One of main reasons for the change may be the different style of interviews that are being conducted in 2014. Video interviews, for one, are a major stumbling block for candidates, said Tina Fox, an Accountemps branch manager. Skype or teleconference interviews, which are becoming increasingly common in both accounting and banking, can trip up veteran interviewees who aren’t used to the practice or the technology.

Common video interview errors

The most frequent mistake candidates make on video interviews is to not test the technology well in advance of the meeting, Fox said. Spending the first few minutes fumbling with the software, or worse, being late to the interview due to technical problems, is all-too-common. Do a full software check and practice video chatting with a friend before ever sitting down to an interview, she suggests.

Candidates also routinely fail to make eye contact with interviewers because they’re looking at the video feed, not the camera, Fox said. As foreign as it feels, look into the camera to accentuate eye contact, she suggests.

Other feedback from clients includes stories of candidates who fail to recognize their surroundings that are also captured on camera – things that may embarrassing or just simply distracting. Not dressing professionally – as if it’s not an official interview – is another common mistake cited by hiring firms.

Other mistakes

Candidates these days also tend to run into problems during panel interviews, which have been used in consulting for years but are now being relied on in other industries to increase efficiency. Meeting with several people at once can be intimidating, Fox said. Try to share eye contact with everyone in the group and request business cards so you can send each interviewer a customized thank-you note. Writing down each name at the beginning of the process can also help you address each interviewer personally.

Overall, the biggest "mistake" people make in interviews hasn't changed, Fox said. Candidates, particularly on the junior side, come in filled with nerves and anxiety and don't perform as well as they could. Practicing with mock interviews, hopefully with someone with whom you don't have a personally relationship, can help cure the nerves a bit, she said.

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AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • Co
    6 April 2014

    Just "19%" of CFOs point to CVs as the biggest trap for candidates, up from "28%" in the previous study.

    I am not clear with the abover sentence: 19% > 28%.

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