6 Top Ways Job Candidates Fail

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Young businesswoman sleeping during meeting, disappointed Boss looking at herThe job-hunting process is a minefield filled with potential pitfalls. One employment agency has quantified where job seekers are most likely to implode with the interview being the worst area.

A new study of chief financial officers by Accountemps finds “the job interview is where candidates make the most mistakes, up 11 percentage points from a similar … [2010] survey. Another 19 percent of executives felt applicants most frequently slip up when writing their resumes.”

More than 2100 CFOs were asked, “In which of the following job application areas do you feel candidates make the most mistakes?” Their responses:

  • Interview – 43%
  • Resume – 19%
  • Interview follow-up – 11%
  • Cover letter – 10%
  • Phone interview/screen – 7%
  • Reference check – 5%
  • Don’t know – 5%

The results would be skewed towards those working in the accounting, finance and bookkeeping where Accountemps specializes. The temporary hiring agency highlights five common job interview scenarios and how job seekers can ace them (so as not to become a failure statistic):

  1. Behavioral interviews. When asking behavioral-based questions (“Can you tell me about a time when you increased productivity at your last job?”), employers are looking for insight into your past work experiences that could relate to the open position. Be prepared to offer compelling anecdotes that illustrate how you delivered positive results or solved problems.
  2. Video interviews. Skype and other video chat services make it easy and cost effective for employers to meet with job candidates regardless of location. Conduct a tech check before the virtual meeting, dress as you would for an in-person job interview, make sure the background is free of clutter, and remember to look at your computer’s camera—not the screen. Here’s another tip along those lines – keep the area off camera uncluttered as well so you don’t get distracted during the interview.
  3. Multiple interviews. Employers may ask a candidate to go through multiple job interviews because they want every assurance they’re making the best, most informed decision. View follow-up interviews as an opportunity to elaborate on your most pertinent skills and highlight your in-depth knowledge of the company. Of course, your in-depth knowledge should be shared at the first interview and built upon in further interviews.
  4. Panel interviews. Companies conduct panel interviews because it’s an efficient way to get candidates through several job interviews in a timely fashion. These meetings can be intimidating; help yourself by making a connection with each interviewer. Make eye contact with everyone, use peoples’ names when answering their questions, and request business cards so you can send each interviewer a customized thank you note. Remember, as cited above, the thank you note is one of the top failure areas.
  5. Group interviews. While less common, some employers conduct group interviews with multiple candidates simultaneously to observe their interpersonal skills. Assert yourself respectfully by making sure your voice is heard, but never by interrupting others. Even though you’re competing for a job, treat your fellow interviewees in a professional, diplomatic manner. Again, you’ll also standout in this type of interview through your follow up.

Allison Doyle, the job interviewing expert at About.com, offers some statistics on job interview thank yous. She says, “When asked about the most appropriate way for candidates to follow up, 38 percent of managers surveyed said that hand-written notes were acceptable, while 87 percent said email worked. 81 percent said a phone call was appropriate, as long as the interviewee didn’t call multiple times. Social media is another way to say thank you, with 27% of managers considering it acceptable. Only 10 percent thought text messages were appropriate.”

She adds this interesting tidbit that should put you ahead of others: “It’s important to note that about half of applicants don’t send a thank you note after an interview. So, if you’re one of the applicants who does spend a few minutes taking the time to send a thank you note to your interviewers it will be worth the effort.”

Read more in Interview Tips

Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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