November 30, 2020

How to Absolutely Kill It at Virtual Recruiting and Interviews

Becker CPA Review wants you to master virtual recruiting and interviews, here’s how you do it.

Recruiting season is anxiety-inducing enough in the most normal of times: making small talk, promoting yourself without coming off as self-absorbed, and let’s not even get into worrying about your lunch lingering in your teeth. As Covid drove the working world indoors and into their respective home offices, it also meant that in-person recruiting events were just one more thing instantly vaporized by the virus. For the time being, anyway.

Here’s the good news: it may be the strangest recruiting season in history (and might stay that way depending on how things shake out in the next year or so) but many of the same tips for mastering Meet the Firms that have been around for ages are still relevant. Whether you’re totally new to recruiting or back in the mix with a recruiting season under your belt, here’s how to make the most of this, the weirdest recruiting season ever.

Make Some Space

First thing’s first. It goes without saying but the first thing you want to do is ensure you have an appropriate space for virtual meetings. Ideally, this is a quiet, private, well-lit space free from clutter. As 2020 has taught us, we don’t always live in an ideal world. As you’re probably a college student, we’re just going to go ahead and assume you don’t have a private study in which to conduct your video conferences like those guys constantly doing interviews from in front of their expansive bookcases for news programs. Don’t worry, they hand those out when you make partner.

In the meantime, make the most of whatever space you have, even if it’s just a corner of your room. Your anime posters and Funko Pop collection may be a source of pride to you but try to keep your video conference space as uncluttered — and professional! — as possible. In a pinch, you can always throw a sheet up behind you (plain and washed, obvs) to create a blank canvas.

Just before your event, get everything set up so you’re not surprised by those obnoxious spontaneous Windows updates with the mandatory reboots that always seem to pop up at the most inconvenient of times. Test your video and microphone, close out any excess tabs and apps you may have open in the background, and turn off notifications so you aren’t dinging the entire time you’re trying to talk to recruiters.

Alright, so your space is all set. Now what? Let’s talk attire.

The Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)

From the dawn of time until now, recruiting events have always been conservative. Although most of us have been living in sweatpants and T-shirts for far too many months, you are still expected to don your best business attire for virtual recruiting. If you don’t know what counts as business attire, find your nearest adult and ask. And yes, you should wear pants even though no one is going to see your bottom half. Keep the accessories to a minimum, stick with muted colors, and do your best to not look like a person who has been locked inside without human contact since spring. That quarantine beard? Get rid of it, or at least give it a very neat trim. You’re going to get a little more leeway with grooming than you would under regular conditions but there’s still no reason to look like the wild-haired guy that hangs out downtown with a ‘The End is Nigh’ sign just because you haven’t been able to get a haircut in a few months.

Alright, so your video conference space is clean and you brushed your hair, what next?

Back to Basics

First, review these tips on networking for CPAs. Although some may not apply (you won’t be physically handing out business cards any time soon), still others like drafting and perfecting your elevator pitch will always be a good idea.

Many schools are using Handshake to help connect their students to employers, think of it like LinkedIn for students. The big benefit to you if your school is one of the many requiring Handshake registration prior to attending virtual events is that attending employers are all listed, giving you a chance to research before your event. This is important as you might be asked “why do you want to work for our firm?” and “I’m sick of living off ramen and I heard you guys give new hires the best phones” isn’t generally considered an appropriate answer. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the firms attending your recruiting event and once you’ve identified your top targets, go find out what you can about their clients, leadership, and other positive newsworthy things the firm is up to. No one is expecting you to be able to recite the firm’s entire history, but you should at least be able to make small talk about what sets that firm apart from others.

One bright side to virtual recruiting is that it may be easier to get one-on-one time as all campus virtual recruiting events we’ve seen are offering both group and 1:1 sessions. So no longer do you have to claw your way through a crowd of hungry classmates to get five minutes with your firm of choice, neat! And those of you with weak handshakes or perpetually sweaty palms are making out like bandits here too, no one will ever know about that limp wrist of yours. See, there had to be something good to come from all this.

Connecting with recruiters is an area many accounting students struggle with so don’t feel bad if the idea of small talk fills you with existential dread as you’re definitely not alone. Many of the people you’ll talk to at recruiting events were once in your shoes, so let them lead if you get tongue-tied and have questions in mind to ask.

If you’re having trouble coming up with questions on your own, here are some suggestions to get you started from Jared Bleiler, Sales Director, University at Becker CPA Review:

  • 1. What skills are you looking for in an intern/new hire?
  • 2. What are the expectations of an intern/new hire?
  • 3. What do you like about working at your company?
  • 4. What is the company culture like?
  • 5. What learning and development opportunities does your company provide?

Professional communication takes practice and very few people are naturally good at it, let the fact that your classmates are equally as nervous as you be a comfort. Don’t overthink it, you’d be surprised how far a genuine smile will get you. Being prepared ahead of time will help, of course.

At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that recruiting events are as much an audition for you as they are for the firm. Both sides are trying to figure out if it’s a good fit. While it may feel like all the pressure is on you to make a good impression, remember the firm wants to make a good impression on you as well. And why wouldn’t they, you’re awesome!

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