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Top 3 reasons why candidates fail at interview (and how to avoid them)

Posted by Tom Eagle

Research suggests that the Top 3 reasons below are the main culprits for candidates not getting passed the interview stage. Two of these reasons are really quite baffling, (Number 2 & 3) and as a high-end recruiter, it seems to be suicidal that any candidate is allowed to go an interview without the proper brief and preparation. Fortunately, these interviews were not at the mercy of Pro-Finance candidates as we fully prepare, brief and assist our candidates at every stage of the process. Getting the interview is part of the hard work (your CV needs to really sell you) but there is also hard work in the preparation for the 2nd or 3rd stages of the interview process. Here is our advice to help you avoid the pitfalls.

1.     Technical Ability

Over 63% of firms stated this was the reason a candidate was rejected, making it the most common reason. In 2016, firms saw a rise in numbers of types of case studies and tests that candidates were asked to sit during the interview process. One Top 10 client even introduced a group assessment day for qualified accountants, which was the first of its type seen in our industry.

Whilst either you have or don’t have the requisite technical skills to do the job, there are ways to help your case at interviews. Before the interview, read the job specification. Read each and every bullet point on the job spec and think to yourself when you had experience of such a task. Most candidates go to an interview unprepared and think they can answer these questions on the spot. Very often, 30 minutes of mental preparation on projects you have worked on and technical issues encountered reveal you have much more experience than you give yourself credit for. Write these points down as this will help you to remember them in an interview. If you really do not have some of the technical experience, suggest to the interview how you might go about getting the right answer to approaching the problem. Often showing how you would approach the problem will win a client over with your ‘solution solving’.

2.     Candidates lack of knowledge about the firm

This was quite possibly the most surprising reason. Candidates who were unprepared to be able to answer questions on why they wanted to work for the company and what they know of them came in at position number two. Many candidates were unable to reproduce simple facts such as services the firm provided, number of offices or size of the workforce. A large proportion of clients suggested that the candidate lacked any real drive to work for the firm, and this was supported by their lack of knowledge of their business.

A lack of knowledge about the firm you are interviewing for is simply criminal. If you have gotten to interview stage, then why not read up on the firm that is going to interview you. Pro-Finance will always send you a full job description, link to the client website and other news about the interviewing firm, as well as notes on the specific person and office you are interviewing with from our meetings with that client. In the age of the web, there is no excuse to not know every aspect, not only about the firm interviewing you but also the individuals. Pro-Finance will also show you how to ‘deep mine’ information on the website so you will have plenty to talk about should the client ask the question ‘what do you know about us’. The real winners are the candidates that have some hidden gems of information up their sleeve.

3.     Inability to build rapport with the interviewer/communication skills

In at position number three was the interaction between the candidate and interviewer. This is understandably one of the hardest areas to get right, but some of the feedback suggested poor eye contact, lack of confidence and inability to convince the interviewer that the candidate would be able to sell the firm/meet clients.

Not everyone is, or can be, the suave debonair candidate they would envisage they would need to be at the interview, but here are some really easy wins for you to implement.

  • Project your voice more so than you would normally, a strong handshake and firm eye contact also are important. 
  • Remember to nod and agree when appropriate with the interviewer as this gets mental recognition. To 
  • To emphasize and get the interviewer on-side, use their first name at regular intervals.
  • Show real passion and enthusiasm at the interview, don’t be timid and really get engaged.
  • At the end of the interview ask a personal question of the interview (keep it clean!) like why did they join the firm or what is their background. Avoid stock questions about the firm. Show genuine interest about the interviewer as this is the quickest and easiest way to get someone to like you.


Pro-Finance is proud to have a success rate of over 80% of candidates being interviewed and making it to the next stage of the process, and this is only possible by the investment in time we give our candidates who interview through us. No candidate should ever go to interview without a mock interview, some serious prep time and the tricks of the trade when it comes to interview style. The old saying ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ is never truer here.




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