Welp, it’s about that time of year to dust off your big brother’s hand-me-down blazer and practice your handshake for Meet the Firms. As you’re polishing up your personal elevator pitch, now is a good time to go over some basics, lest you make an absolute fool of yourself.
What Is Meet the Firms?
As the name so obviously implies, Meet the Firms is an event for accounting students to, well, meet with firms and other companies looking to hire accounting majors. It’s essentially a career fair for students to get to know potential employers and firms to scout out potential interns/hires.
Because Meet the Firms is generally held at the beginning of the fall semester, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to firms without the immediate pressure of interviewing because you’re still in school. It’s also an excellent way to set yourself apart (ahead?) of your peers by making a good impression on the people who matter, which is why we’re putting together this guide.
The elevator pitch
If this is your first Meet the Firms, have your personal elevator pitch ready. I understand that for many people who aren’t raging narcissists like myself, talking about yourself to strangers can be a bit awkward, but you can do this.
The key to giving a good personal elevator pitch is drafting it ahead of time. So take the time to ask yourself who you are and what makes you different from the 7 billion other two-legged bags of meat in the world. Once you’ve meditated on that a bit, you’re ready to answer the question “tell me about yourself.” Remember, this isn’t the time to mention your Fortnite addiction or your coveted legacy Shadow Claw Gengar. Stick to the professional stuff.
Start by writing down your thoughts, then refine them into a 60-second pitch. From there, refine down further until you have around 30 seconds of pitch. Include your graduation year and any goals that might be meaningful in the context of your career (e.g., “plan to pass the CPA exam by 2020”). Check out The Bean Counter for suggestions on actual pitches to help you draft your own.
Once you have your pitch written down, it’s time to practice it. It’s important that it feels genuine, as whoever you’re talking to is more interested in your communication skills than the content of your pitch. Practice in a mirror and/or with a friend if needed, watch your body language, and make sure you aren’t unintentionally giving off bad vibes.
Remember, the worse your GPA, the more important it is to have a personality to make up for it. You can get an offer over someone with a higher GPA if you can demonstrate exceptional communication skills, as that makes you a valuable asset. Let’s be honest, an engaging personality is probably a rarity among most of your peers, so use it to your advantage if you’re one of the lucky ones.
Do’s and don’ts
Alright, let’s talk about some quick do’s and don’ts.
DO: Shower beforehand.
DON’T: Take a whore shower with wet naps and Axe body spray.
DO: A quick breath check in the car, and use mints/breath strips if needed.
DON’T: Chew obnoxiously on a giant wad of gum.
DO: Wear a professional outfit appropriate for a business setting, tailored if possible.
DON’T: Wear a Canadian tuxedo.
DO: Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to.
DON’T: Make eye contact with your shoes.
Start with firms you don’t want to work for
You may be compelled to go straight to the firm you want to work for. Don’t. Start with smaller or less desirable firms, as this gives you a chance to practice your pitch and get a feel for the event. Obviously, don’t tell them you have absolutely no intention of working for them. You aren’t guaranteed an offer from your top desired firm, you know, so it could come in handy that you diversified your connections. But mostly, it’s good practice for the big dogs and might help loosen you up if you’re super nervous.
Don’t bother with recruiters
You’d think recruiters are the most important people in the room at Meet the Firms, and you would be wrong. The people you really want to talk to, if available, are staff. Remember that recruiters are in recruiting; if you’re hired, they won’t have to stare at your ugly face all day. But staff are the ones on whom a good impression may mean the difference between your resume ending up in the NO pile and getting an interview, as they’re asking themselves “would I want to share a cube with this clown for the next two years of my life?” Your words and your actions when interacting with them should serve as an enthusiastic YES.
Of course we’re not suggesting you avoid recruiters completely; they might be the only ones available to talk to. But make sure not to miss out on great potential conversations to be had with staff and even partners if they’re hanging around eager to tell you about their work. Not only is it important to make a good impression on these people, but they’re far more likely to give you more honest impressions about the job and the firm.
Even if you don’t have questions, ask them. Keep the conversation going by asking questions such as “why did you choose [service line]?” Try to keep it natural or else you’re going to come off as an awkward clam. If you need advice on maintaining a brief conversation with a stranger … well … I’m sorry but that level of instruction is above my pay grade.
During the event, you should have asked for business cards from each person you connected with, and follow up with an email thanking them for their time no later than 48 hours after the event. Keep it short, sweet, and personal. Do not blast everyone you met with a mass email, as tempting as that may be to save yourself some time.
If you’re hungry for more tips on recruiting season, check out the Public Accounting Recruiting Guide [Google doc] from /r/accounting.
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