By Jeremy M. Jacobs, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP
The accounting firm recruiting season is an exciting and hectic time for any accounting student. Having just undergone this process myself last fall, I wanted to share some information which may help you navigate this stage in your career. To help prepare you for what lies ahead, I have authored a series of blog posts focused on the three stages of the accounting firm recruiting season—Meet the Firms, On-Campus Interviews, and Office Visits.
I will be writing from my own experience as an accounting student at UNC-Wilmington, and while I recognize each school has a different approach to the structure of the individual events, the concepts and principles remain the same. I hope you benefit from this series and wish you the best of luck with the upcoming recruiting season.
This is the first post in a three-part series focused on the accounting firm recruiting process.
The accounting profession is unlike most other business disciplines when it comes to job placement and recruiting. The firms looking to hire come to you via on campus events. The representatives take the time to attend school-sponsored events such as Beta Alpha Psi, NABA, and NCACPA events like SLINC, and they put extensive time and resources into the recruiting process. It is important to get to know the representatives who will be handling the recruiting events at your school. The more they get to see you and talk to you, the easier the subsequent steps in the process will be.
Meet the Firms
Usually, you will begin the recruiting process with a Meet the Firms event. This can be an overwhelming experience the first time you attend, but it is similar to a career fair. At UNCW we had three nights for this event. During the first two nights, the firms in attendance were placed in designated classrooms and we were assigned to groups of 15–20 students. Each group had a specific amount of time to learn about the firm and then break out for individual conversations (usually by geographical location or service line) with the representatives. Each group would then rotate until all firms had been visited. On the final night, the firms in attendance were set up in one location and attendees could visit with firms at their own pace.
It is important to speak to the representatives from all of the firms in attendance. In many cases, this is the representative’s first impression of you and how you present yourself at this even could be a deciding factor when it comes to the selection for on-campus interviewees.
Do Your Homework
Make sure you research the firms in attendance prior to the event. I recommend that you know which firms have offices that are geographically favorable to you and what services lines each firm offers in your desired locations. It would seem obvious that you had not done your homework if you tell a firm you want to work in forensic accounting in its Charlotte office, when the firm does not do forensic work and only has an office in Raleigh.
Keep Your Options Open
Remember to keep your options open. You may have decided that you want to work for one firm in particular, but you must be prepared if that firm does not extend an offer. If you close yourself out to the other firms from the beginning, it will prove difficult to backtrack at a later date. I suggest you keep all of your options open until you accept a position.
Know What’s Important to You
I recommend having a list of 10–12 attributes which are important to you in an employer. It is important to remember while the firms are evaluating you, you are also evaluating them. For the most part, the firms will provide the same type of work—I believe that it’s paramount to find the firm culture which best fits your career goals and expectations.
Be Mindful of Your Conversations
Some of the representatives you will meet with may be your friends or associates who recently graduated. It is important to remember they are now evaluating you for a position within their firm. Remember to act professionally and leave all talk about “the good times” out of the conversation.
Don’t forget Business Etiquette
It is imperative you have business cards to pass out to the professionals you speak with. Some schools will provide you with a generic template. I chose to create my own so I would stand out. After the event, make sure you follow up with each person you met. I sent an email to every individual I received a business card from. These emails do not need to be lengthy—just a quick thank you for their time and a polite “nice to meet you.” It is important that you not send the same exact email to every representative of the firm and make sure the email is addressed properly to the person to whom you are sending it. The best practice is to make a note of something which stood out about the person (interest, background, etc.) and use that in the follow-up.
At the end of the event, you may receive an invitation to join the firm at a post-event networking social. If you are invited, you should attend. If you are lucky enough to be invited by multiple firms, attend the event with the firm of your choice and politely decline the other invitations. It is also acceptable to state you have been invited to another event, but you would still like to stop by after.
Networking Throughout the Process
The most important thing to remember is networking with professionals throughout the process is important. If you do not interact with them, they will not know how great you are, and you will be remembered as that person who just stood in the corner or worse, not remembered at all.
I wish you the best of luck with your Meet the Firms events. I hope you’ll read the next blog for tips on the next step in the recruiting process, On-Campus Interviews.
Jeremy M. Jacobs is an audit associate with Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. He received his MSA and Bachelors in accounting from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Jeremy has served as the student liaison for the Young CPA cabinet and as a board member for the Cape Fear chapter. Currently he is a member of the Student Outreach, Advancement and Recruitment Committee (SOAR).