What Do Students Expect When Firms Visit College Campuses?
By Michael Thiele
President, Beta Alpha Psi, James Madison University
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of guest posts from members of the James Madison University (JMU) chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an honors fraternity for accounting students. These posts will cover topics of interest to accounting students.
The first and foremost item I look for when firms
visit campus is a solid presentation. When a firm comes and gives a
well-planned, well-rehearsed, engaging presentation it shows that they are
serious about hiring and are really aiming to impress. At some point during the
presentation I am also looking for the firm to provide a cultural overview of
their company. This may be the most important area that the firm can cover. If
we as students are going to be spending the next chapter of our lives at this
company, we want to know that the culture there will coagulate with our own.
Immediately following that should be what sets their firm apart from other
similar firms. It is no mystery that many public accounting firms do very
similar work, but what we really want to know is, “what makes your firm so
special?” Many of the firms that visit highlight their financial success and
awards they have won which is nice, but what we are really looking for is that
special trait that sets their firm apart from the rest. Whether it be jean
Fridays or paid time for community service, certain attributes attract
different people and highlighting them is critical to picking the right future
employees. Another area where firms can set themselves apart from the others is
highlighting their work-life balance initiatives. We have all heard by now that
public accounting may not be the most stress free profession at times so
hearing what firms do to balance out the work can be a deciding factor.
Aside from the general overview of the firm, students
also like hearing certain specific key details such as the types of clients the
firm deals with. While none of us have experienced firsthand what it is like to
deal with different types of clients, some people may be particularly
interested in working with federal or non-profit clients as opposed to huge
public companies and vice versa. Thus, it is important to showcase what
industries the firm is associated with.
Other key details that must be conveyed to student
include credentials needed for hiring as well as the general interview process.
Firms need to let students know what criteria they must meet for employment for
the student’s sake as well as their own. This can save a tremendous amount of
time on both ends as students won’t apply for a position where they clearly
don’t meet the requirements. An overview of the interview process is also
important so that students have time to rearrange their class schedules and
such. This is especially important if the firm conducts office visits at locations
far away from campus. Giving the students a heads up about the process can also
take some of the anxiety away which allows the interviewer to get a better
assessment of the interviewee.
Finally, in my opinion, the most critical question
that a recruiter can answer is, “why did you choose to work there?” The answer
to this question reveals more than you can imagine because it puts the
recruiter on the spot and often forces them to give a genuine, sincere answer.
Many recruiters will say they chose their firm because of the people. While
this is a good answer, a better answer would be to go into detail as to why the
people at your firm are different from others.
All in all, it is important to be thorough while
still keeping the audience engaged. The recruiters should act in a professional
manner but be approachable at the same time. Putting all these elements
together fits the description of a perfect visit to campus.
Michael Thiele is a senior accounting major at James Madison University and president of the Eta Delta chapter of Beta Alpha Psi. He is a student member of the VSCPA and the New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJSCPA). He has interned at Fannie Mae and KPMG.