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CPA Roundtable

Jason Wong
Published Date:
Aug 14, 2015

Hiring managers: What's the most unprofessional thing a job candidate has done during an interview?


Lea BenderLEA BENDER | Human Resources Senior Manager, New York

I typically interact with students and other candidates who are applying for entry-level positions. There have been a few instances in which a student has left his or her cell phone on and it rang during the interview. Usually, they’re apologetic and turn it off immediately, but one individual, two years ago, actually picked it up! Needless to say, he did not get the job.

I’ve also interviewed candidates who are very arrogant, which I find surprising, especially for students or people who are trying to get their first professional job. I’ve had people boast about having multiple job offers. When done correctly, it’s a good point for conversation, but when the tone is boastful, it can be off-putting. Body language can also be a big indicator of professionalism—or lack thereof. Sometimes, people get too comfortable and end up slouching or spreading their legs wide, which isn’t very appropriate. Finally, candidates who don’t know very much about the firm never leave a good impression. Some people think that if they quote the website six or seven times, that’s enough. It isn’t. Candidates should research the firm past the website and talk to their contacts.

Lou GrassiLOUIS C. GRASSI | CEO, Jericho

The worst thing is when they bash the firm they currently work for. That’s a total turnoff and has no place in the interview. Whether the candidate had a bad experience or it simply wasn’t a good fit, nothing merits that sort of behavior. Instead of focusing on the negative, you should be trying to convey who you are as a person, what you bring to the table and how you fulfill what we’re looking for as a firm. 

The candidates who make a great first impression are the ones who’ve done their homework, know our organization and are very professional in how they discuss their experiences. They keep their editorial comments to a minimum when asked about their soon-to-be ex-firm. At the end of the day, we really just want to hear about who they are as people, their professional experiences and what they love doing.    

Michael RosenblattMICHAEL F. ROSENBLATT | President, New York

One potential concern is when a candidate requests a delayed start date. When candidates request more than a week to make a decision on whether or not they are accepting a position and resigning from their current job, it generally is a sign that they are still shopping around and looking at other opportunities. 

My company specializes in executive search and business advisory services. One individual at the partner level recently accepted our client’s offer three times over a period of a month and a half, but never really resigned from his old firm. He apparently used our client—and our firm—as leverage to get a better role and compensation at his current place of work.

Another example of a lack of professionalism is when a candidate shows up late for an interview and doesn’t apologize or explain why, or when a candidate shows up unprepared. Candidates should have read material about the company, and reviewed its website and financial information, if available. They should also be appropriately dressed and bring several copies of their résumé with them. 


The opinions expressed in this section are those of the individual and should not be taken as representative of the firm for which he or she works. 

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