Preparing for Virtual Recruitment

Preparing for Virtual Recruitment

by Ashley L. Stampone, CPA | Mar 18, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual technologies by accounting firms for the recruiting process. Emerging CPAs should be aware of this trend and prepare themselves for the virtual recruiting experience. 

Cheryl Collarini, career relations manager at The University of Scranton, is an expert in firm recruiting. She coordinates recruiting and networking activities for accounting students to obtain internships and jobs, and has worked with over 50 accounting firms and thousands of students in her 40-year tenure. During our discussion presented below, Collarini offers advice and direction to emerging CPAs on how they can prepare for virtual recruitment. 

How has the recruiting landscape changed over the past few years?
Prior to COVID-19, the landscape was already starting to change. A few of the larger firms were using prerecorded and virtual interviews. Prerecorded, or one-sided interviews, are when applicants are sent a list of questions and a link to record their answers. Based on the video responses, qualified candidates would be invited to participate in live virtual or in-person interviews. Once the pandemic happened, though, all firms went virtual.

In my experience, smaller firms have been conducting an initial phone interview followed by a live, virtual interview. Midsize and large firms have been conducting prerecorded interviews and then live remote interviews. 

How can emerging CPAs best prepare for the virtual process?
Definitely test the technology you are going to use before the interview, whether the organization is using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or another program.

I often get questions regarding attire. Interviewees really need to dress in professional attire from the top down to ensure they feel confident in case they need to stand up or the interviewer can see a wider picture. Professional dress is recommended. 

Prepare in advance: emerging CPAs should carefully look at the job description and see what the relevant qualifications are so they can highlight key points off their résumé and provide good, specific examples. Researching the company also is important. Not only what is on the organization’s website, but also perform a Google search for up-to-date news. 

Finally, they will want to limit distractions. If the interviewee is in college or has roommates, find a room that is quiet. Then, after the interview, email the recruiter thanking them for their time. Say an employer interviews six potential new hires, and they all come through the process fairly even. The one who sent a thank-you will be hired. Doing this within 24 hours is best practice. 

For virtual interviews, what is the best practice as it relates to the background?
Accounting firms do show some flexibility, but interviewees should be aware of what is in their background – flags, political themes, alcohol-related items, etc. 

What are some important dates and deadlines? How far in advance should an emerging CPA look for an accounting opportunity?
Accounting students should be prepared at the beginning of each semester to start submitting résumés and applications for internships and jobs. 

For graduate or more experienced candidates, deadlines differ with each firm. One trend we are seeing is the start of rolling applications. If a candidate is qualified, he or she should still submit a résumé if they miss a deadline. Firms have become more open to accepting applications after a deadline if jobs are not filled. 

Overall, though, be proactive in knowing potential deadlines for firms of interest. Accounting students are in demand, so there is a bright outlook. 

What are some of the important competencies that should be demonstrated during the interviewing process?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers list the following as the top skills for 2022: problem-solving, analytical/quantitative, the ability to work on a team, effective communication, initiative, strong work ethic, technical ability, and flexibility.1 

Emerging CPAs need to be particularly tech-savvy and current on emerging technologies and the tools companies are using. 

Some firms have implemented flexible work models. Are they asking candidates to identify their preferred modality? Should emerging CPAs identify their preference during an interview?

They aren’t starting that at the college and university level just yet, but, right now, emerging CPAs may be able to shop around and find flexible positions. If it is really important to an emerging CPA to work in the office, virtually, or a combination of both, it is something they should ask about before they start the interview process. 

What advice would you give emerging CPAs navigating the workforce and how to be best prepared?
Stay current on industry and technology updates by reading, learning, and seeing what is in the news regarding accounting. Additionally, the AICPA, the American Accounting Association, and the PICPA have a lot of good resources for students and experienced accountants. 

There are so many different tutorials to help you acquire skills on your own, online, for free. Look to gain more familiarity or enhance your experience with programs such as QuickBooks, Hyperion, SAP, Oracle, advanced Microsoft Excel, and other business intelligence software. If you can learn some of these on your own, you can adapt while on the job to learn additional programs if needed. Start doing what you can at home and get it on your résumé as a skill.  

Job Outlook 2022, National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Ashley L. Stampone, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting at The University of Scranton in Scranton and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. She can be contacted at

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