Trends to Look for in Public Accounting’s Fall Recruiting Season

Just in time for the fall recruiting season, the CPA Journal has offered up essential recommendations for accounting firms’ recruiting efforts.

Are you involved in recruiting this season as a student, professor or firm representative? Get in touch with questions, comments, insights, stories and whatever else you've got this fall.
 
Just in time for the fall recruiting season, the CPA Journal has offered up essential recommendations for accounting firms' recruiting efforts.  The article is based on interviews with a slew of recruiters from the Big 4, a few national and regional firms, and even a couple Fortune 500 companies tossed in for good measure.  
 
Written by three PhDs and zero practitioners, the article has the revolutionary feel of an OWS drum circle. But hey, at least these accounting professors now have something published and will get a notch on their tenure bedpost, given a PhD in accounting is all about research.
 
So for your benefit, I cut to the chase and outlined a few helpful tips for the job seekers and recruiting managers from the article peppered them with my own insights. 
 
Using Assessment Measures to Direct Recruiting Efforts
Of course CPA firms would use metrics to track results.  What's newsworthy is what they are tracking: recruits’ certification timeliness, readiness for promotions, ability to adjust to change, and willingness to move to major markets.
 
All you job seekers out there, listen up: be willing to move to the big city and be sure you are poised to pass the exam as quickly as possible by earning the right education and knowing how to talk the talk.  In other words, speak in detail about your plans to become licensed. Don't be vague or kill your chances with some comment like “Uh, I think I will take FAR in September after my summer trip to Europe.”  When I heard stuff like while interviewing candidates, my bubble read: FML.  Who pre-selected this one?  
 
I can see how a firm would measure certification timeliness and it is fairly easy to screen out people who aren’t willing to move.  What I am not clear on is how they are evaluating a candidate’s ability to manage change.  Do they sit them down to interview with a pleasant HR coordinator and swap in an intimidating partner with terrible breath after the first question?  And how do they assess readiness for promotions when, as the article states, they are meeting candidates as early as the end of their freshman year?  “Tell me about the time when you were promoted from snack shack operator to lifeguard.  What did you do to position yourself for success?” 
 
Using Internship Programs to Feed Permanent Hires
The authors opine:  
Another resounding theme among all firms is an effort to get serious as early in the recruiting process as possible. 
I don't have a PhD and could have told you that firms have used internships to feed their talent pipeline since the advent of the computerized exam. What the authors missed is the latest trick to get those internship programs filled with the best and brightest talent: extend internship offers during your sophomore leadership programs before any other firm has a crack at them. Maybe the recruiters that were interviewed didn’t want to give away all their dirty secrets.  
 
The most valuable information in this area is what firms are paying attention to, such as students’ appearance and their ability to carry a conversation, and when the firms are paying attention which is always. If you are looking for a job, consider that every single exchange with a firm representative is an interview moment.  
 
The article also missed a nod to social media (sorry, Adrienne).  I have spoken with multiple partners who shared they always Google search a candidate’s name before interviewing them.   If you wouldn’t wear a toga to an interview, hide that profile pic stat. 
 
I have eaten my fair share of lukewarm, banquet chicken dinners over the course of ten years in public accounting, so I was surprised by one practice out there — firms have found a way to direct scholarship funds to pre-selected candidates.  
After nurturing this small pool of candidates, companies hire students during their sophomore year for administrative internships and during their junior year for technical and service internships.  
Is this the NCAA?  The next thing I am going to learn is an alumnus/partner is paying for 4.0 Johnny’s 3-series BMW. I give major props to those aspiring CPAs who found a way to get those scholarship funds directed to them if it is free and clear although my guess is there has to be some sort of contract to ensure the firm gets their ROI.  If they pay for three years of your school, they must want at least three years of your life. That seems like a pretty big decision to make for someone who has yet to suffer through their intermediate coursework.  
 
Building Long-Term Relationships with Universities
The value of this topic is meh for the job seekers.  Essentially, the authors give firms ideas on how to best schmooze with the faculty.  What job seekers should know is the firms do this because they “depend on faculty to make endorsements in the classroom and give advice behind the scenes.”  
 
Bravo to the authors for saying what is so.  Kids, exercise some professional skepticism when you ask your favorite accounting professor which offer you should accept.  If Dr. Debit had his conference sponsored by a firm and/or did a summer fellowship there, he might be biased in his response. Just sayin’. 
 
Increase Minimum Interview Standards and Apply Consistently  
Bad news for the plain ol’ accounting majors trying to get a j-o-b.  Since positions in commercial and investment banking have dried up, other majors (e.g. economics, finance) are beefing up on their accounting coursework and trying to take your spot.  Given the increased candidate pool in larger markets, minimum GPA requirements have risen from 3.0 to 3.3.  And if you are trying to land a gig in a competitive urban market, you really need to hit the books; GPA requirements there can run as high as a 3.5. 
 
All in all, the article does offer some helpful insights for firms that aren’t with the times.  The challenge, though, is the firms who aren’t doing these things may not have the resources to offer scholarships or fancy internships and case competitions.  If PhDs who teach accounting are going to research human resource practices, I’d like to see something more thought provoking, like what are the implications on the profession when firms hire people who have not yet completed a single upper division course.  Hell, maybe they should even consider bringing in a colleague who teaches organizational behavior to help.  
 
Hell, maybe they should even consider bringing in a colleague who teaches organizational behavior or an actual practitioner to help them with the writing.  Permanent hires is so 90s.  

 

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