The job interview is still the biggest stumbling block for job-seekers

Job candidates appear to have brushed up on their résumé skills, but they’re still struggling to come off as polished in a job interview.

That’s one takeaway from a new survey by Accountemps, which asked US CFOs to list the part of the job application process where candidates made the most mistakes.

Forty-three per cent of respondents believe those seeking employment make the most mistakes during the interview, up from 32% in 2010, the last time Accountemps asked that question. The next most common trouble area is the résumé (or CV), which got 19% of the vote recently but 28% in 2010.

The other trouble spots from the recent survey, in order: interview follow-up, 11%; cover letter, 10%; phone interview/screen, 7%; reference check, 5%; don’t know, 5%. Another area of improvement from the previous survey is the reference check, which was picked by 10% of CFOs as a trouble spot in 2010.

“Hiring mistakes are costly to businesses, and employers are increasingly wary of choosing someone who is a poor fit for a job,” Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, said in a news release. “The job interview can provide the best insight into whether someone is a good match.”

The Accountemps survey did not detail what the exact missteps are, but here are a few possibilities: showing up late, getting tongue-tied, paying more attention to a mobile device, and failing to fully research the company. A 2011 Accountemps survey said the most common mistake during an interview was little or no knowledge about the company.

Applicants should take more time to prepare, and that preparation should include readiness for different interview formats, including the following from Accountemps:

Behavioural interviews: Asking questions such as “Can you tell me about a time when you increased productivity at your last job?” helps employers gain insight from a job-seeker’s work experience that could relate to the open position.

Video interviews: This is a cost-effective way to meet candidates from all over the world, but job-seekers should treat it as if they are going to be in the same room.

Multiple interviews: Employers want to be certain a candidate is right for the job, so it’s common to have him or her speak with multiple people, not just hiring managers or supervisors.

Panel interviews: This is a time-saving strategy for companies, but it can be daunting for the job-seeker. Accountemps recommends making eye contact with each interviewer, using their names when answering questions and requesting business cards so you can send personalised thank-you notes to each.

Group interviews: These are not as common as the above practices, but companies sometimes conduct interviews with multiple candidates to observe interpersonal skills. Candidate should strike a balance between assertiveness and respect for others.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

CFOs Most Crave These Two Non-Accounting Skills”: General business knowledge and IT expertise are the non-accounting skills CFOs in the United States are seeking most from finance and accounting job candidates, according to a 2013 survey.

20149407.aspxWhy the Job-Hopper Label Is One to Avoid”: Hiring managers consider a job-hopper to be someone who has worked five places in ten years, according to a survey that also offers tips for employees thinking about changing companies.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.