Vice President of Communications, Beta Alpha Psi, James Madison University
Editor's note: This is part of 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. If you have a question you'd like a Beta Alpha Psi member to cover, please email VSCPA Communications Specialist Chip Knighton.
Graduating college is scary. Not only are my friends and I about to finish their college career with
huge amounts of student loans, but half of them are unable to find a job to start earning income and paying it back. Luckily for us future CPAs, we often find ourselves deciding between job offers, instead of hoping to receive one. However, the recruiting process for accounting students still takes a lot of effort, and I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Many firms will host informational and casual meetings at a local restaurant the night before they come for interviews. It’s very important that candidates getting interviewed go to these. The most important thing at these is that you make an effort to meet both the recruiter, and the person who will be conducting the interview. If you are able to chat with them for a short while, they will usually have a positive impression of you before you even sit down for the interview. It will also separate you from other candidates who didn’t show up, by proving that you are dedicated to the application process and truly do want the position. Other key points for these events are to not overstay your welcome, don’t bring up controversial topics, and don’t just go with a friend and stick with them the whole time. This event is about meeting the office employees on a personal level, so keep the conversation casual, but keep in mind that this is still a very important part of the interview process, and you will be judged on how you handle yourself.
Externships were a real eye-opening experience for my recruiting process. These are short programs with firms that educate the candidate more about the firm they might be interested in. I got a much better feeling for the firms by doing these and seeing the working environment I would be in. The recruiter describing the firm to you only can do so until you see the actual office. Another benefit of these externships too is that you will often get interviewed for internships with the firms, before any other applicants do. The key on these externships is to really try and get a sense of the culture of the firm, talk to as many employees as you’re able to meet. Just like you had to picture yourself in the colleges you were applying for, you have to see yourself fitting into the culture of the office. Externships are the best place to do this.
If you’re lucky, your school might have mock interviews. These are where actual recruiters will come in and interview you as if you were applying for a job. The great benefit here though is they will critique you afterwards and tell you where you need improvements, and review and edit your resume that you bring in. Mock interview are great for sophomores to get out some of the first interview jitters, or juniors and seniors to perhaps knock some rust off. Professors and advisors can be great to get advice from, but the ability to be critiqued by a recruiter actually in the current field provides a whole different benefit.
As students, we are reinforced with the same tips constantly for recruiting; introduce yourself, make sure to smile, a firm handshake. However, there are a few pieces of original advice that I’ve learned along the way through the recruiting process:
- When wearing a name tag, make sure to wear it high on the right side of your chest. When you’re shaking somebody’s hand, it will be easier for them to maintain eye contact.
- If you choose to eat appetizers while meeting with firm personnel, always keep your shaking hand free. Keep a napkin under the plate you’re eating on to make cleaning your hands before shaking easier.
- Ask a few quality questions at the end of an interview. Some of my favorites are, why did you choose to work at this firm. What would be expected of me on my first year of working?
- The easiest and safest small talk conversations are usually over sports, family, hobbies, college experiences, and certainly the firm itself.
Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead. You chose a very employable major and just need to polish yourself up a bit before hitting the recruiting field. Follow these tips, get those A’s and you’ll be starting your internship before you know it.
Michael Gears is an accounting graduate student, concentrating in tax, at James Madison University. He is the Vice President of Communications of the Eta Delta chapter of Beta Alpha Psi and a student member of the VSCPA. He will be interning at Veris Consulting this summer in Reston, VA.