The Ultimate Accounting Recruitment Guide

UAAC wants to provide you with the best tools to assist you with your accounting recruiting experience! Although we were going to write an original comprehensive blog post, we found a resource that encompassed everything that we wanted to say. The following information is adapted from a blog post someone kindly shared on Reddit. Based on some of our executive team members’ experiences in successfully acquiring jobs with the Big 4 during their university degree, they can testify that this post speaks the truth, and they have catered this blog post to our local recruiting environment. We hope that you read this, take it as a tool, and use it in the upcoming month!

How to Prepare for and Take On Recruiting Season

By now, you have heard time and again how important networking is in order to obtain an internship or entry-level full-time position in the accounting field, but usually it is not thoroughly discussed on how to network. The purpose of this guide is to bridge that gap between the process of knowing about networking and how to properly execute it. We also want to inform you on how to best become a prepared recruit. Successful networking requires building a good rapport with firm representatives and this cannot be done by simply going to one or two events. The most prepared and successful recruits are the ones that go to every recruiting event. Firms pre-identify students through these events, so the more they meet you, the more you will stand out. Here are some important tips that encompass almost every topic you will need to know during recruiting season:  

Use your resources to the fullest – Networking is all about building relationships. Use your professors, fellow students, alumni network, graduate students, accounting organizations, and school’s Business Career Centre in order to learn how to prepare and create connections. This field is as much about the people you know as it is what you know. With this in mind, do not ask someone to pass along your résumé without getting to know them first, as that person will be vouching for you.

Linkedin AccountIf you do not have one yet, you must create one immediately! Leaving a positive social media trail is important for you to get your name out there. Linkedin is an exceptional tool for expanding your network and staying connected with those that you meet. Most of the professional business world is on LinkedIn now and there are ample recruiting tools and opportunities available through the site. Be sure to use this to your benefit in order to grow your reach. With this in mind, make sure your Facebook page is secure and tame to the public eye. You will be searched online during the recruiting process and you do not want the wrong images or information to be broadcasted for all to see.

Join one or more student accounting organizations and get involved – Being a part of these school organizations not only provides exclusive access and opportunities for students to meet firms, but also show employers that you are well-rounded, involved, and hold leadership positions outside of the classroom. 

Continuously improve your résumé – Your résumé is always a work in progress and it never hurts to have others take a look at it. The more feedback you get, the more developed it can become. Firms receive thousands of résumés each recruiting season and likely hundreds just from your school’s career fair alone. Small details stand out when being compared to such a large candidate base. Know everything that is on your résumé and be prepared to talk about it in detail. For more resume tips, visit UAAC’s tip blog post here: http://www.uaac.ca/recruitment/ 

Elevator Speech – Have a well-rehearsed brief summary about yourself that lasts about 20-30 seconds. It is key to make a proper first introduction to professionals. State your name, major, year, expected graduation date, the position you are interested in (intern/full-time, tax/audit/advisory), and most importantly, something unique about yourself.

Know your Goals – You should have an idea of some of your short-term and long-term goals. For example, some short-term goals might be to obtain an internship or finish your degree, while long-term goals might be to pass the CPA Exam, decide on the service line you want to go into, and where you want to be in 5-10 years.

Stay current with news about firms of interest – Most firms will either frequently be cited in the news or actively post their own articles on their firm’s website. Be sure to keep up with this information to provide relevant conversation topics and show that you are interested in the firm.

Professional Attire –Never be underdressed; it will never look bad to dress more professionally (make sure your clothes fit well). Conservative is always better, especially during interviews. Be sure to conceal tattoos and do not wear revealing clothing. For networking events, you can try to wear a conversation piece like cool socks or a statement necklace; these will help professionals remember you.

Business Cards – Business cards are very important because outside the career fair, résumés are too obstructive to hand to professionals at each networking event. A simple business card providing your name, contact info, and status in school is all that is required. When the corporate hands you their business card, on the back of the card, take a couple seconds to glance at their card to show them you are interested; do not stuff it in your pocket right away. On the card, write down an identifier that will help you remember who they are (ex. Which event you met them at, their appearance). After the event, go home and e-mail the person you met with your résumé.

Good Questions to Ask - You should be asking thoughtful and engaging questions to learn more about the people you network with and their firms. Do not simply ask yes or no questions, and definitely do not try to ask highly technical questions with the objective of stumping the professional. Use the following as a guide to come up with your own questions, do not just copy these:

• Give me an example of a time you made a mistake and describe how your superiors dealt with it.

• What does your firm do to prevent conflicting assignments for low level staff between two different supervisors?

• Give me some examples of how your firm distinguishes itself from the competition.

• What is one realistic thing you wish you could change about your job?

• Does your firm's culture reward employees who get outside their comfort zone and take on new challenges, even if they make mistakes while trying something new?

Thank You Notes – In most circumstances, e-mail is the appropriate form of sending thank you notes as it is faster and more convenient. Always send an e-mail to every professional you speak to at each event within 24 hours of meeting them. If this was at a small event and the first time you met them, attaching your résumé is a good idea. Firm professionals meet hundreds if not thousands of students throughout the year and if you do not follow up quickly, they are likely to forget who you are and the connection you made will be lost. In the e-mail, it is good to ask a relevant question in order to create a dialogue. Be sure to review your emails multiple times for errors before sending them. 

 

Career Fairs and Networking Opportunities

All your preparation above is to succeed at networking opportunities. Most firms, at least in the Western Canada region, meet their hiring needs for the next 12 months during the fall recruiting season. This makes it essential that you attend as many events as you can over the summer and during the month of September. Bring plenty of business cards, wear your business professional attire, and prepare to network the entire time with recruiters and professionals. The goal is to convince these people that you are someone they would like to work with.

Do not go to your top choice of employers to start. Go to a couple firms you are not very interested in and use this as a chance to get warmed up. You are probably going to feel a little awkward and nervous standing around in a big convention centre, waiting in line to talk to a stranger and hand them a résumé. That is exactly why you do not want to start out at your top choice and make a terrible impression. Get comfortable and then move to the booths of your favourite firms.

The Interview Process

After the preliminary networking events, firms invite students to interview for internships and full-time positions. The campus recruiting process has two rounds of interviews. The standard format is one 30 to 45-minute interview with a single person (usually a manager, senior manager, or partner) from the firm. Some firms could conduct two 30 minute interviews with two different firm representatives. Essentially, different firms slightly change it up to cater with their specific needs.

After the first interview, firms make some cuts and invite the remaining candidates to an office interview or a networking interview. This could possibly take include a tour of the office, conduct different interviews, and at least one of the interviews will be with a partner.

Try not to be nervous. The goal is to find out if you can have a conversation and communicate effectively. An industry rule-of-thumb is that about 75% of candidates invited to second round interviews receive a job offer, so just relax and be yourself. Be competent and able to converse about something related to the business and accounting world. If you cannot fill the entire interview session, you will appear rude or uninterested in the job. Stay current with news from the Wall Street Journal, Accounting Today, Current Accountants, CPA newsletters, etc. During office interviews, show respect to everyone including those at the front desk, staff, and facility workers. You are being graded on how you treat every single person you make contact with at the firm.

Throughout each stage of the process, if you end up not receiving an offer with a particular firm, be sure to follow up respectfully with the firm to ask what you could have done better. It is all a learning process and knowing is half the battle. If you are able to identify your faults, you will have a much greater opportunity to improve going forward.

Be sure to follow up appropriately after the interview process. Generally, firms will provide a date when you should hear back from them. Try to be patient and not pester them prior to this date. However, the blackout period has been eliminated in Edmonton and firms are tending to operate on slightly different time-tables. If you happen to have an offer from one firm that will expire prior to hearing back from the other firm, make sure to notify the firm you are waiting to hear back from about your time constraints. Firms understand this situation and most are willing to do their best to accommodate for it. Do not prematurely accept and offer as you will burn bridges if you later decide to rescind your acceptance to take an offer from another firm.

Hopefully, if you execute everything well, the end result will provide you with one or more offers for an internship or full-time position. If you successfully land multiple offers, be sure to follow up appropriately with the firms you decline offers from. The accounting world is very small and you do not want to burn any bridges. You never know where your career will end up taking you and having long lasting connections in the field is very important.

Common Mistakes

Talking too long to one person - At networking events, leave them wanting more for the next time you meet. Limit conversations to no more than 5 minutes. It is always better to talk to multiple people for a few minutes than one person for a long time. The more people you meet, the better the impressions you can make. With this in mind, make sure the few minutes you do spend are meaningful and effective.

Asking boring questions - Boring questions get boring answers, avoid yes or no questions. If you do it right, you can steer the conversation where you want it to go through the questions you ask.

Poor handshake - Give a firm handshake with proper eye contact. You hear this all the time, but this is still a very common problem with candidates and is such an important first impression aspect to the process.

Not speaking loud enough - It is going to be crowded and loud at networking events and the Employer’s Showcase. You must talk loud enough to be heard. Otherwise, you are just wasting your breath and not appear confident.

Assuming a strong GPA résumé are enough to get the job - These will get you in the door, but showing your personality will get the job. This is achieved by attending as many events possible and building relationships.

Having the attitude of finding a job instead of starting a career - It is just as important that you find the firm that fits you as it is for you to fit with the firm. Make the due diligence to research the firms to find the one that is the best fit for you.

Bringing up politics, religion, or other topics with strong personal beliefs - You would think everyone knows that it is off limits to bring up these types of topics into discussion during the interview process, but it still happens every year. Be prepared to have thoughtful conversations throughout the process so that you do not accidentally use politics and religion to fall back on. You do not know what beliefs people you are talking to have and bringing up conflicting views will immediately put you in a negative light.

 

How to Build Lasting Connections

       When you meet someone, be sure to listen to them. You do not have to talk them to death, they will often have great advice for you and have important information for you to know.

       Pay attention. Remember as much as you can, so you can engage in the conversation and recall parts later.

       Exchange business cards. If you do not have your own, get some immediately.

       After speaking with a firm representative, step away and take a moment to briefly write everything you remember about them and the conversation on that business card.

       When you get home, send each person you met a brief thank you email. Be sure to note something about your conversation so they can better recall meeting you. If you do no follow up, that is a lost connection.

       Use an electronic contact storage (Gmail is good for this). Store all your obtained information into that database including the personal info you jotted down right after you met them. Email them again about every six months to a year in order to keep in touch and retain the connection. You never know when they may be useful to you or you useful to them in the future. This is how you build a long lasting professional network.

       Next time you see them, if you have your contact database linked up on your phone somehow, you can pull up a little info about them. You can buy them their favorite drink, ask about their kids or family, ask them about their business, etc.

 

Adapted from:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Accounting/comments/1k4cec/the_official_public_accounting_recruiting_guide/ and https://docs.google.com/document/d/10vZEI8_0rWePbVo0cIS6CWlM1sYbX0ywVsgIbokm2bk/edit