CFOs Say Generic Application Materials, Little Company Knowledge Are Most Common Mistakes

MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 1, 2016  — Job candidates have long been urged to put their best foot forward when applying for open positions. It’s simple advice, yet many job hopefuls fail to heed it. In an Accountemps survey, one-third of CFOs said the most common mistake people make in application materials is failing to customize them for the position; 24 percent of executives said typos or poor grammar are the most frequent blunders. The biggest slip up during the interview is not knowing about the organization, CFOs said.

CFOs were asked, “What do you think is the most common mistake candidates make in their application materials?” Their responses*:


“Employers are looking for job candidates who provide the ‘wow factor’ and can immediately demonstrate the value they bring,” said Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps. “Sending a generic resume or showing up for the interview unprepared tells the hiring manager that the applicant has little interest in being hired.”

Typos and grammatical errors can also send a message that a job seeker lacks follow-through and attention to detail. Following are real-life mistakes seen in job applications collected by Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps:

– Skills: “Writing/listening/eaking. I can engage in intellectual conversations with a myrad of professionals.”
– Job Duties: “Assisted company executives with travel arraignments.”
– Education: “Currently perusing a master’s degree.”
– Job Duties: “Communicate financial projections to steakholders.”
– Cover Letter: “All I ask is for you to consider my perspicacious aspiration to become an erudite factotum in your organization.”

Accountemps identifies eight of the biggest job search mistakes and how to avoid them:

– Adding irrelevant information to application materials: Stick to only the facts employers would be interested in, which are typically your credentials, experience and accomplishments. Keep your resume and cover letter concise.

– Skipping proofreading: Even one or two resume typos can eliminate a candidate from consideration. Review your materials thoroughly, and ask a confidant to read them, too.

– Failing to prepare: Research the company by exploring its website and searching for recent news articles. Incorporate what you learn into your cover letter and interview responses by making the connection between what the company needs and what you offer.

– Lying: Be honest. Fabricating or overstating your experience is never acceptable.

– Having an unflattering online presence: Conduct an online audit of your social media pages and remove any posts that could be perceived as unprofessional or inappropriate.

– Being caught off-guard during salary discussions: Consult industry resources such as the 2017 Robert Half Salary Guides to learn about compensation ranges for jobs in your field. Understanding market trends will help you know what your skills and experience are worth.

– Relying solely on technology: Look for other ways to find job openings. Attend industry events, join professional associations and ask your current contacts for introductions to new ones.

– Going about your job search alone: Partner with a staffing firm and let them open doors for you. Be open to different types of positions, including temporary work.

About the Research

The survey was developed by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 2,200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.