Many accounting firms recruit on-campus at a number of universities -- check with your career services department to determine which firms recruit at your school. If a firm recruits on your campus, make sure that you make contacts at the firm whenever possible.
The recruiting process for undergraduate public accounting hiring begins earlier than for most professions. Usually, students in their final year of college will have their offers in hand by Thanksgiving. The largest firms like to anticipate and fill their personnel needs earlier than many other organizations. This means that accounting students have to be fully prepared for interview season before most of their classmates.
The firms may have a reception prior to the interview date to meet people and form their interview list. If there is a reception, you should attend. Go to the reception dressed appropriately and make at least one or two contacts. Get their business cards and send them a thank-you letter expressing your interest in their firm.
A test of social skills
With an accounting degree from a good school, you have the skills necessary to work in an accounting firm or as an accountant in a corporation. What you have to prove to the interviewer and the firm is that you have the social skills necessary to be successful and relate to their clients. You need to prove that you have good ethical standards and that you're able to make good decisions. The interview process will be discussed in detail later in this chapter.
Recruiters work for regional offices and thus recruit for offices in their region. For example, at Virginia Tech, the Big Four firms recruit mostly for the Washington, DC or Virginia offices. If you want to work in an office that is not recruited for directly on your campus, you can request an offer at another office. The recruiters will make a recommendation to the recruiters for the region you desire, but your chances of getting a job will be significantly reduced. It might be a better idea to take an internship at one of the offices a firm is recruiting on your campus for, and trying to secure a transfer after you get your full-time offer.
The Interview Process
There are several steps to the interview process for both internships and full-time positions. The interview process for each school will vary, so make sure to check with your career services department early in the year. If you're really serious about a career in accounting, you want to make sure you don't miss any opportunities to network with existing employees.
The recruiting process for internships and full-time positions is fairly similar. The timing will be a bit different. Internship interviews are conducted in the beginning of spring semester, while full-time interviews occur during the fall. Either way, the recruiting process will begin with a company presentation in the fall. These presentations will give you the opportunity to learn about the various positions available within a company and the locations that they are recruiting for. It is important to attend these presentations to show your interest and to begin networking with the recruiting team. After the presentation, you should try to make at least one or two contacts with the interviewers or the recruiters. In the months that follow, you should contact them with a thank-you letter and with any additional questions you may have. One word of caution: during these presentations, be sure to have your story straight. Anything you say to the recruiters during these presentations may or may not be remembered. Just to be safe, make sure that your later comments remain consistent with those that you initially made at the presentation.