Now’s the Time! Job Search 101 for Entry-level Public Accounting

With the sun finally starting to grace us with its presence, cherry blossoms and tulips abound, and the end of your college sophomore year on the horizon, it’s time to get ready for securing that post-graduation job!

Wait. What??? Oh yes, you read that right!

Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but it is definitely time to lay the groundwork for Fall Recruiting. In case you’re out of the loop, or didn’t believe the rumors, please trust me on this. I’ve worked in four industries over the last 18 years, and public accounting definitely has the most interesting recruiting process I’ve encountered. Allow me to emphasize that public accounting firms recruit differently from other industries. The process happens early in your academic career and the hardest part (interviews) has the unfortunate tendency to coincide with mid-terms. Just as the fall 2016 term gets up and running, you’ll be knee-deep in the recruitment process for 2017 summer internships or staff accountant positions. Fall Recruiting is intense, but there are some steps you can take now—and throughout the summer—to make it easier and to help yourself stand out amongst your peers. First, let’s go over the series of events.

Recruiting Timeline (varies slightly by school and firm)

April – June: Last of the academic year’s on-campus networking and informational events (e.g., Mock Interviews, Meet the Students, Beta Alpha Psi (BAP)/Accounting Club meetings, etc.)

July – August: Jobs are posted on company career pages and/or school career portals. Every firm will have its own approach to summer events. Perkins & Co will host open houses, offer office tours and informational interviews, and participate in other networking events.

Sept – early Oct: Formal on-campus events such as Meet the Firms and larger formal events like Oregon Society of CPAs’ Career Showcase. Applications are due.

Mid-Oct – early Nov: On-campus and in-office interviews. Job offers are presented.

Mid-Nov: All is said and done. Students and recruiters alike lick their wounds, celebrate victory, and sleep for a few days to feel human again.

Now that the timeline is clear, you may have a better sense of the task that lies ahead. There’s a lot to accomplish!

Next steps

How are you going to figure out which firms to target and make sure you get an interview with them? You’re going to start the process right now, that’s how! Here are some helpful steps to get you started:

  • Find out the dates for your school’s Meet the Students or other on-campus networking events. Put these dates on your calendar and make sure you attend. Yes, I mean the ones this spring not just the ones in the fall. This includes participation in mock interviews (if you’re doubtful, just ask me for a story).
  • Utilize the resources in your school’s career center. The services are free and staff is extremely helpful.
  • Get your resume in order. 
  • Create a cover letter template and practice customizing it for various firms. 
  • Create/refine your LinkedIn profile. Please use a professional looking picture that clearly shows your face (it will help me remember you amongst the hundreds of people I’ll meet during the season).
  • After the spring events, you will have a stack of business cards. If it helps, as you meet people don’t be afraid to jot down some quick notes about the contact and what you learned about them and/or the company on their business card after your conversation. This information can be used later, when you connect with them on LinkedIn or follow up via email. The notes you write can range from a hobby you discovered you had in common, potential dates to grab coffee, or even things that turned you off about the company. Whatever helps you remember your conversation with that person, do it!
  • Speaking of connecting with people on LinkedIn, whenever possible, do NOT use LinkedIn’s generic “Connect” language. I think we can all agree a personal note goes a long way; however, I do realize the app doesn’t allow for a customized note, which is why I stated “whenever possible”. Those comments you wrote on the person’s business card? Now’s the time to utilize that information to send something that’s meaningful.
  • Always send the person an email to follow up on your conversation from the event. Ask if an informational interview or office tour is possible, and inquire about open houses or other events scheduled for the summer. Use the spring and summer to develop relationships and gather information. 
  • Practice interviewing (real or role-play, practice makes perfect). Let’s be honest: interviewing sucks. It just does. I don’t like interviewing, either, and I do it for a living! The more you do it, though, the easier it gets, I promise.

By following the above steps, you’ll be ready to market yourself effectively during Fall Recruiting events. There’s one big secret to winning at the recruiting game: relationships. I don’t mean the whole “it’s who you know” stuff. I mean getting to know people and letting them get to know you. Having good relationships with people at a firm can compensate for a few little blunders during the interview process, so it’s a worthwhile investment of your time.

If you have questions any questions, I’m only an email away:

Happy spring & good luck!

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern.