6 Things to Avoid in a First Interview

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Interview prep is all about creating a plan and deciding how you should act and respond when interacting with the hiring manager. However, we can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t by looking at what doesn’t. Once you know what kinds of mistakes will make you lose points, it’ll be easier to navigate through the obstacles. Remember to avoid these six things and blow your first interview away.

  • Not Doing Your Research

Hiring new employees costs money, and in the meantime, there’s work waiting to be done. Smart hiring managers invest themselves in the people they can see sticking around for a long time. Anyone who doesn’t appear to have long-term interests with the company may slide down the prospect list.

A good way to look temporary is to show up knowing nothing about the company or the position. Those who are truly interested in working for the business will have done at least a rudimentary dive into the brand’s website, social media profiles, and Internet presence to gain a sense of the company culture. It’s easy to tell who is and isn’t familiar with the company and the nature of the position right off the bat, so a lack of interview prep could make for a short conversation.

Some people also have a tendency to talk about themselves too much, which can come off as a lack of knowledge about the business or the position. It’s good to let the interviewer know what your goals are, but you want to put the emphasis on what it is you can offer. Go into detail about how you can help the team thrive in this particular role to let them know you’ve done your research.


  • Arriving Early, Late, or Unkempt

Punctuality is an interview no-brainer, but what many people don’t realize is that showing up early can be an inconvenience as well. Plan to show up 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment. This gives you enough time to account for any obstacles you might come across, and you won’t make the hiring manager feel rushed or distracted.

Showing up to an interview late is a classic blunder that starts the relationship off with an awkward tone. You could end up with a shorter interview, or you might offset the schedules of other interviews the hiring manager has on the docket.

Whether you’re early or late, it’s a double-whammy if you don’t look put-together. Even if you don’t know the dress code, do some digging online for an educated guess. Make sure you’re wearing clothes that fit you and aren’t stained or wrinkled, and make your hair presentable before the interview.


  • Not Enough (or Too Much) Enthusiasm

You need to look like you want the job, and you can’t do that without a little enthusiasm. This is where body language comes in. Start with a firm handshake, and keep your feet on the floor and your back straight. Maintain eye contact, don’t interrupt the interviewer, and laugh and nod when appropriate. If you slouch in your chair, speak quietly and drearily, and appear generally disinterested, the interviewer probably won’t see you as a positive addition to the team.

Too much enthusiasm can also be detrimental though, and it can come off as desperate. If you’re one to wildly gesticulate when you speak, try to keep your body language in check. Being over eager and making plans before you get the job can be off-putting. Try to keep a balanced demeanor and show your interest in the job without going over the top.


  • Forgetting Important Materials

Though your interviewer should already have a copy of your resume and any pertinent materials you sent in as part of the application, but you should have a file of your own to bring with you. The hiring manager might have hundreds of applications to review before finding the right candidate, so make their lives easier by coming prepared.

If you have a habit of forgetting things, make a checklist of everything you need as part of your interview prep. This might include your resume, accomplishments, references, and questions you have for the interviewer. Keep a file in your briefcase and a backup in your car if you’re worried about leaving it behind.


  • Not Asking Your Own Questions

They don’t ask you if you have any questions as a simple courtesy—they want to know what you want to know. Turning the tables and opening up to your questions gives you the opportunity to demonstrate just how much thought you’ve put into working for the company. If you’ve looked into the company and already picked out a desk in your mind, you’re going to have some questions.

On the other hand, the chance to ask questions is indeed courteous and acknowledges the fact that the interview serves to find a good match for both sides. Don’t think that you have to ask only the most impressive questions you can think of. You could be spending many years with the company, so ask what’s on your mind, even if it’s just about the dress code.


  • Failing to Follow Up

You did the work, hit it off with the interviewer, and left off with positive words and a firm handshake. Now there’s one thing left in your power that can increase your chances of getting the job: follow up. You’re probably not the only applicant for the job and you can’t control how the other interviews go, but what you can do is renew the lasting impression you made during yours.

This is another area where you have to find the right balance. Don’t follow up too aggressively, but don’t neglect to follow up at all. If another applicant had an interview that went just as well as yours, you’ll want to make sure the interviewer doesn’t forget about you.

Your follow up should really be a thank you note that shows your appreciation for the business’s time and consideration. However, you can send any additional materials that might’ve been requested during the conversation. Send an email within 24 hours after the interview, and then leave the ball in the company’s court. Don’t send multiple emails, and never call the office after sending the initial email; the extra follow up is typically not appreciated.

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What Hiring Means In the Finance and Accounting Industry

These six factors apply to any job interview in any industry. Here’s a quick recap for accounting and finance interviews.

  • Research — Get to know the firm you’re applying for. Don’t go into an interview without understanding the position or role within the business, and learn about the company culture.
  • Punctuality and Dress — If your job is to work with numbers, you should be on time. Don’t wait until the interview to look into the dress code.
  • Enthusiasm — Numbers don’t have to be your whole life (and it helps if they aren’t) but you should stay attentive and engaged throughout the interview.
  • Preparedness — Bring an updated resume and references as well as any accomplishments you’ve had from previous jobs.
  • Questions — Finance and accounting are crucial components of every business, so this one may be different than others you’ve worked for in the past. This part is also a good test of your interest in the company. Ask questions about the position or company culture, but don’t forget to ask questions.

Follow Up — Don’t forget to send a thank you note following the interview, but don’t send more than one.

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