By Jim Wong, CPA | January 28, 2015

Have you ever walked out of an interview wishing you could have a redo?

Interviewing for an accounting, finance or IT position — or any position for that matter — can be very nerve-wracking. Whether you’ve just graduated, lost your job unexpectedly, or are looking to make a career change, performing well in an interview is necessary to landing the role.

Rather than second-guess yourself at the conclusion of the interview, go in properly prepared from the beginning. This way, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes that can be avoided and end up getting taken out of the running, or being shed in a light that isn’t your best.

You can never really know what an interviewer is looking for exactly. It may be a particular skillset, a specific degree or a certain cultural fit. But even if you possess all of the qualities he or she is looking for, often times you have to impress them with your interview skills and personality — to ultimately get you selected for the job.

CareerBuilder recently published an article on the Top 10 Unbelievable Interview Blunders from the past year. We took notes from some of the shocking stories and put together a list of the Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid during an accounting, finance or IT interview:

1. Not being truthful

Honesty truly is the best policy. It’s not OK to embellish your skillsets or experience. The truth will be revealed when you cannot answer a follow-up question or when you cannot perform well on a skills-assessment test that may get thrown your way such as an accounting acumen or Excel proficiency test.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s best to be up front from the beginning. Don’t try to guess at a response or talk in circles just to have something to say. You’ll most likely be able to showcase a different strength later on in the interview that will make up for the one you lack. Further, you can reiterate that you are a quick learner and will pick up the missed asset quickly.

2. Not taking cues from the interviewer

Just as important as answering all of the interviewer’s questions appropriately is listening to what the interviewer is saying in return. Often times, interviewees will be so worried about their next response that they tune out the interviewer and miss key information being told to them. This can make for an embarrassing situation if the interviewer has to repeat something he or she just said.

Additionally, you can ascertain by an interviewer’s inflection or tone whether or not he or she is looking for an in-depth response or just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Don’t ignore their signs and ramble on and on when they simply want a one-word answer. Alternatively, if he or she is looking for a lot of detail — be sure not to be too abrupt.

3. Complaining about a previous employer

This should go without saying, but it is not a good idea to bad mouth a previous employer. Instead, show that you’re looking to the future — a future with the interviewing company — and focus on how excited you are for a new accounting, finance or IT opportunity.

You also want to show your integrity and good morals. Being blatantly disrespectful to anyone, even if it is a past employer, will not highlight good personal ethics.

4. Not dressing the part

You only have one shot to make a good first impression. Whether you’re interviewing for a Payroll Clerk, Internal Auditor or an IT Manager, you should dress in a clean suit and tie (for men) and a pressed dress or pant suit (for women) with neatly combed hair and clean or manicured fingernails. You also want to maintain good posture, with your shoulders down and chin parallel to the ground. This all will show confidence and poise.

5. Having a weak handshake

A proper hand shake should be firm and deliberate. Not that you have to aim to break someone’s hand, but a week or limp handshake can make you come off as lazy or not in the moment. Have a not-too-soft but not-too-hard grip and shake up and down two to three times. Be sure to look the person in the eye as well. Not making eye contact during a handshake can make you come off as untrustworthy.

6. Not researching the company beforehand

The more you know about a company walking into the interview the better position you’ll be in. Be sure to visit the company’s website and look at the company history, the accounting, finance and IT-specific department pages (if available), the key products or services the company offers, and any recent news released about the company. You can also check out various social media platforms to see what people are saying about the company including Glassdoor, Angie’s List, Quora, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

7. Not being prepared to ask questions

Going hand-in-hand with number six, if you properly research the hiring company, you’re bound to have plenty of questions to ask the interviewer: What is the reporting structure of the accounting department? How much cross-functional interaction is there within the role? Why is the position open? Has going public affected the duties related to this job? What is the company’s turnover rate?

You should also ask about the company’s mission and values to make sure they align with your personal and professional goals and values. It’s important that you look at how much of a fit the company is for you just as much as they look at how much of a fit you are for them.

What are some other mistakes to avoid when interviewing for an accounting, finance or IT role? Comment below and let us know!

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