The 7 Most Common Mistakes Candidates Make In Job Interviews and How To Overcome Them

Getting invited to a job interview is a significant achievement.

Especially as at the time of writing (during COVID-19) there are an awful lot of candidates chasing each opportunity.

This might always have been the case for more junior roles.  However I’ve noticed it being the case for accountants and functional professionals too.

Now if you make it to the job interview stage, you are a whole lot closer to getting offered the job.

Sadly some common mistakes often prevent really good candidates getting the job offer.

So what in my experience are the 7 most common mistakes candidates make in job interviews and how do you overcome them?

Failing To Understand The Significance of The Job Interview From The Employer Perspective

Hiring an accountant or other functional professional is a significant investment.

It’s also a significant risk.  Candidates who do really well in the interview sometimes don’t do so well when in the job.

What this means for you is  you really need to be really well prepared so that you demonstrate that you are a good investment and low risk.

Sticking To Their Script

I’m big on candidates preparing really well.

Equally you have to be adaptable.

Yes you may have come up with your list of questions and answers.  Yes you may know your examples and stories inside out. 

The danger is you are so attached to this that you can’t adapt when the interview format is slightly different.

Practice incorporating examples into different types of question.

Not Listening To The Question

You have to be all ears in job interviews and really pay attention to what’s being asked.

If you are asked to give an example don’t answer from a theoretical perspective.

Taking Too Long To Answer The Opening Question

The opening question is typically one where they ask you to talk about your career or your experience and it’s relevance to the role.

The idea is to get you talking and relaxed.

The interviewer doesn’t want you to regurgitate what’s on your CV or application.

They want you to give a brief summary and point out the experience that you feel is highly relevant to the role you are being interviewed for.

Struggling With The Multiple Question

A good interviewer will ask you one question at a time.  In reality they will often ask two or worse still three questions all together.

As a candidate you have to make sure that you answer each part.

Make sure you signpost as you move from one question to the next.

Saying Things That Could Irritate The Interviewer

Two common examples. 

As you will see from my CV. 

As I said earlier.

The first assumes that the interviewer has read your CV.

The second could be interpreted as you thinking the interviewer wasn’t listening.

Be mindful of using phrases that could irritate the interviewer.

Struggling With A To Be Expected Question

The job might be in a different location to where you are now.

It might be in a different sector.

In both cases you are almost guaranteed to be asked a question about this.

So make sure you have a clear compelling answer ready.

Job interviews are clearly challenging meetings.  You won’t do everything perfectly. At the same time you don’t want to be making easily avoidable mistakes either.

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About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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