Today is the day. Your resume is crisp. Your breath is minty fresh. You looked at the company website. You loaded your GPS with the address. You’re confident. The job is yours. Here’s what really happened: Your crispy resume was filled with typos. Your breath was minty and so was your suit – evidenced by the glob of toothpaste on your lapel. You scanned the website on your phone at red lights on your way to the interview hiding it when the cop pulled up alongside of you. And although your GPS worked fine, you forgot to fill your gas tank and you were 15 minutes late. Your confidence turned into a panic-filled sweat combined with temporary amnesia about all of your previous employment. And you never heard from the company again.
It’s a good thing the New Jersey Society of CPAs has some experts who can help. Frankie R. Francese, CPA, managing partner of Fortis Consulting Group LLC and Howard W. Kutcher, CPA, owner, recruiter and tax career counselor at Kutcher Tax Careers, Inc. make it their job to make sure people get the job. Here are their “10 Reasons Why You're Not Getting the Job.”
- Your resume is not strong enough to earn an interview (Francese). Candidates must realize that the resume is a marketing document. It is a 1-2 page advertisement that must catch the employer's eye in a very short period of time. The average amount of time spent on the initial review of a resume is a mere 15 seconds. Therefore, a resume must be error free and easy to read. A resume should answer all of the initial questions that an employer would have: date of graduation, degree, dates of employment, certifications, computer skills and, most importantly, the responsibilities and accomplishments of the candidate. If the potential employer has too many unanswered questions, the resume will not result in an interview.
- You were rude to or aloof with the receptionist (Kutcher). Since the first person you meet on an interview is usually a receptionist, this encounter represents the first impression you'll make. Don't mistake low rank for low input. You may think the receptionist's job is to just usher you into your interview, but the receptionist has the power to pave your way positively or negatively before you even set eyes on the interviewer. The interviewer may also solicit the receptionist's opinion of you after you leave. The way you interact with this "gatekeeper" may be used as a barometer for the way you may deal with other personnel both inside the company as well as their clients, customers, patients, etc. Furthermore, if asked to complete a job application, do it, even if all the questions are answered on your resume. And make sure you cross every "t” and dot every “i.”
- You did not properly prepare for the interview (Francese). With today's technology, there is no reason to be unprepared for an interview. The first step in preparing is to know your own resume. Go through each line and make sure you have a story to tell that supports the responsibility listed. Next, go through some of the basic interview questions that might be asked and be prepared to give well-thought-out answers. Finally, make sure you have performed research on the company and, if possible, who you are meeting (that means you can ask who you’ll be meeting with). Almost every company has a website with information about what they do, their financials (if publicly traded) and recent press releases. A candidate should have read more than just the home page. You want to show that you are truly interested in joining that particular company. This question will often be asked on an interview, "Why do you want to work for us?" The candidate should be able to provide an answer that describes how his or her career goals directly tie into what the company has to offer. In addition, the candidate should try to research the employees that he or she will be meeting. If an itinerary is provided, the candidate can often gain valuable knowledge by learning about the interviewers' backgrounds via sites like LinkedIn. With all of the information that is available, there is no excuse not to do your homework before an interview.
- You spoke negatively about current or past employers/managers (Kutcher). The fastest way to talk yourself out of a new job is to say negative things. Even if your last boss was Attila the Hun, never, never state your ill feelings about him/her. No matter how reasonable your complaints, you will come out as the loser if you show that you disrespect your boss. The interviewer will assume that you would similarly trash him or her. When faced with the challenge of talking about former employers, make sure you are prepared with a positive spin on your experiences.
- You did not follow the basic rules of interviewing (Francese). In order to have a chance at being offered a new position, there are some basic rules of interviewing that must be followed.
- Arrive approximately 15 minutes early to the interview. You do not want to go in earlier than that and you certainly do not want to be late. Walking in 15 minutes early will provide enough time for any type of sign in, security checks, etc. It will also give you a few minutes to sit in the lobby and mentally relax before the interview begins.
- Wear a suit to an interview. The suit should be clean and somewhat conservative. If the environment is business casual, you can dress that way when you work there but you are on an interview to show an employer that you are very serious about your career, and dressing appropriately is a necessity.
- Take the time to be nicely groomed. Men, make sure you are clean shaven, no dirty finger nails. Trim those nose hairs. Do not chew gum and make sure your hair is neat. Ladies, dress modestly with minimal jewelry and no overpowering fragrances.
First impressions are developed based on the initial appearance and set the tone for the rest of the interview.
- You asked about benefits or other employee perks during the first interview (Kutcher). Wait until you've won the employer over before beginning that discussion. Often the company’s human resources staff will address these issues. Some company websites list benefits. Take time to review them so that you can have questions prepared. If going through a recruiter, you can inquire with them. If you have been with your current employer a long time, you should expect to take a step back in exchange for a potential furtherance of your career. Lastly, you should realize that within certain industries, the vacation time, title, etc. is more liberal than others.
- You were not honest during the process (Francese). Honesty is important during every phase of the interview process, from resume preparation to the point of starting with your new employer. Candidates will often "embellish" on a resume or falsify an application regarding items such as salary, dates of employment and reasons for leaving. A candidate may "stretch the truth" during the interview. However, these white lies or minor fabrications always end with the candidate being caught in the lie and missing out on the opportunity. A lie on a resume is often identified during the interview process as questions about a candidate's experience are being asked. If the candidate decides to lie during the interview, those lies often backfire with contradictions throughout the meeting. The employer who is conducting the interview can usually tell if someone is not being completely honest, and a lie on an application is always caught during the background check. This usually is identified just before a candidate is ready to start a new position and sometimes after he or she has already given notice.
- Not following up after sending a resume and/or the interview (Kutcher). Since companies nowadays get inundated with resumes, it is crucial to follow up to see if your background information was indeed received. Sometimes it’s because it was accidentally discarded, other times it was never looked at. This step provides the candidate a chance to pique the interest of the potential interviewer. If you already interviewed at the company, there are two main reasons for sending a follow-up email or letter: first, you want to positively reinforce your interest in the position. It’s a chance to reiterate some key points made at your meeting that separates you from the pack. The other reason is to make sure you’re not the only one who did not send one!
- You lack enthusiasm (Francese). People hire people they like. If you want to do well on an interview, you must show enthusiasm throughout the entire process. The enthusiasm starts with the ice breaking and needs to be maintained until the closing handshake. The interview should be very conversational, and the candidate must be positive about all of his/her prior experiences. An employer is not looking to hire someone who speaks negatively about a former employer or co-worker. Every answer should be said with energy, and the candidate should close the interview by letting the employer know just how interested he/she is in joining that company.
- Poor or weak references (Kutcher). When you submit your job application, you will be asked to include 3-5 references. These people will be contacted if you make the short list. You must make sure that your references include former employers and supervisors who will speak positively, frankly and in detail about you and your work while employed at their company. Avoid weak references at all costs. In fact, you will be better off not including them. Nowadays, for legal reasons, many companies are reluctant to provide information other than verification and dates of employment with that organization. These are objective references, but if you are fortunate to receive at least one (positive) subjective one, then of course you should capitalize on that strategic advantage. Remember, thanks to business and social networking tools, it’s much easier to track down some of your former superiors, whether you list them as your references or not. Prior to your interviews, update your LinkedIn page with recommendations. Now you’ll have an idea what your references will say about you when they get the call from your potential employer.
Frankie R. Francese, CPA, is the managing partner of Fortis Consulting Group LLC. , a full-service accounting and finance recruiting firm serving clients throughout New Jersey and New York City. Upon graduation from Rutgers, he joined Deloitte & Touche LLP where he performed the audit function for a variety of clients and was the chairperson of the On-campus Recruiting and Mentor committees. In addition to his recruiting experience, Frankie taught for more than 10 years with Becker CPA Review. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant. Frankie is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs, Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Howard W. Kutcher, CPA is owner, recruiter and tax career counselor at Kutcher Tax Careers, Inc. He graduated from Baruch College in 1981 with a degree in accounting and passed the CPA exam shortly afterwards. After working as an auditor, he moved on to tax work, both in the public and private sectors, eventually serving in the tax placement area. He received his MS in Taxation from Pace University in 1988 and started in own firm in 1990. He is a member of the NJSCPA State and Federal Taxation interest groups. You can reach Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both Francese and Kutcher regularly appear on the NJSCPA Connect Most Active Members list.