By Meg Killian, vice president – member relations
September is just around the corner. That means shorter days, cooling temperatures, and pumpkin spice in everything. It’s also a crucial time for many college accounting students: recruitment season!
In between the first day of classes and the Thanksgiving break, résumé writing, job fairs, networking events, firm visits, phone screens, and interviews consume a lot of time. The demand for accounting majors remains strong, but the battle for top talent means firms and companies are starting their search for the perfect candidates earlier and earlier.
For several years, the PICPA has been sponsoring the Accounting Consortium in Pittsburgh. It's a group of schools and recruiters from Western Pennsylvania who come together to facilitate a joint interview day for more than 100 students from 10 colleges and universities. To prepare for their 22nd event, recruiters and educators came together for an informational lunch this summer. It's an opportunity to talk about trends and issues in the profession, and for participants to network and learn more about each accounting program and the participating firms and companies.
This year there was a lot of discussion about what makes a candidate stand out. Recruiters from 19 firms shared what they like to see on a résumé or in an interview. Those things can be summed up by the following themes.
Students need to participate in job fairs and networking events. Take advantage of all the opportunities to meet potential employers in person. Employers receive so many résumés that they all start to look the same. When they can meet a candidate who took the initiative to come to their booth, have a thoughtful conversation with them, and show that they are outgoing, that candidate will stand out more than a list of achievements on a piece of paper.
When it comes to résumés, employers suggest that candidates not only list additional concentrations that they have, but also list specific coursework within each focus. They want to see that the student is not just taking “fluff” to fill their required number of credits, but rather took the time and opportunity to pursue meaningful courses that will help in their career.
They are also looking to hire people with more than just accounting backgrounds. Anything that shows knowledge or skill sets in IT, data analytics, business management, and so on can enhance a résumé by putting that candidate in the “consulting services” pool as well.
Recruiters want to get an idea of what candidates are like outside of work. This used to be a faux pas of sorts, but now they really want to see some individuality on a résumé or in an interview. At a time when corporate culture is so important, employers want to make sure they are finding candidates who are a good fit – not just technically, but also personally.
This may seem obvious, but in the texting age having strong writing and speaking skills for the business environment is even more critical. Students should seek out programs and classes that help them develop and hone communication skills. This is extremely important to firms that do audit work: they routinely send staff out to clients, and they need people who can easily communicate and show that they can shift their style between coworkers, clients, and firm leaders.
The accounting job market remains strong. However, standing out from the crowd in person and on paper is essential for accounting majors looking to land their best offer. Here are some additional tips from a national firm recruiter.
Good luck to all PICPA Student Affiliates and other accounting majors!