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7 Tips to Make a Better Impression and Get More Call Backs at Your Next Meet the Firms Fair

by Monette Anderson | Aug 14, 2017
Students at Small Firm Career Fair

I attend so many accounting meet the firm fairs that my fall social calendar is already filled with these events at campuses across the state. Since I’m neither a recruiter nor a recruitee, I get an interesting front-row seat of the social interactions at these events. I have seen students sell themselves well and sell themselves short. To offer some assistance, I have curated some top tips to help you prepare for fall recruiting season so you can make a strong first impression.

Make sure your résumé has the date you will be eligible to take the CPA exam.

Please make your recruiters’ job easier, they need this information. They will follow up if they have to, but putting your eligibility date on your résumé earns easy extra-credit points from a recruiter standpoint. I could go into many other résumé concerns (like how 85% of résumés still contain typos) but since this article is about meeting the firms and not résumé-writing, I won’t.

Seriously though, please proofread your résumés.

Visit all the firm and company tables.

There are two reasons for this. First, by talking to the firms you are less interested in you’ll get into a rhythm and calm your nerves before talking to the firms you’re really interested in. The second reason is that firms not already on your radar might surprise you with strong benefits or uncommon perks you may not have considered or been aware of. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind at these events. Plus, never underestimate the opportunity to stock up on hand sanitizer, chap stick, keychains, water bottles and other branded swag. If you don’t visit every booth, you might be missing out.

Have a plan and be ready to articulate it.

A recruiter is very likely to ask you about your plans to get your CPA license. Avoid an indecisive or vague response. Be clear on what your plans are after graduating. They want to know that you plan to take the educational requirements necessary and sit for the exam as soon as you can.

Know when it is time to move on.

This is not an interview. Firms have many people waiting to talk to them at these events, and you have other firms to visit. Recognize that it is okay to walk away after a good conversation, so think about your exit strategy. It is entirely appropriate to move on by saying something like, “You’ve been so helpful answering my questions and I appreciate your time. I know you have other people to talk with. I have your business card and will follow up with you.”

Meet the recruiter halfway.

The firms are generally waiting for you to initiate the conversation. I have seen students walk up to a recruiter’s table and then do absolutely nothing. An intense staring contest ensues until someone breaks the ice. Recruiters know that these events can be intimidating for students and want to be helpful, but you need to meet them halfway. Research the firms in advance, have thoughtful questions ready, and prepare your introduction. You can talk about leadership roles you’ve held, summer leadership or intern experiences, or your career aspirations. If you have had any previous interaction with their firm, for instance attending a summer leadership event with them or competing in an accounting case competition they sponsored be sure to mention it.

Avoid reunion mentality.

Occasionally, firms will send alumni to meet the firm events to help recruit. Whether you bonded over late night study sessions back in the day, a fun weekend out of town at an accounting function, or served as BAP leaders at the same time—resist the urge to take a trip down memory lane. Keep it professional, and score bonus points by not holding up the line when others are waiting to introduce themselves to the firm.

Sign up for the WSCPA Small Firm Career Fair!

The WSCPA Small Firm Career Fair is on August 23rd. Recruitees will be speed dating with the firms in small groups so you’ll get lots of practice delivering your elevator pitch, asking thoughtful questions about the firm, and following up after the event. This is a great opportunity to weigh all your options and compare the small firm culture to some of the larger firms. Many small firms boast benefits like increased flexibility, collegial atmosphere, increased opportunities for ambitious staff, and grassroots ingenuity. In addition, many employees say they feel a strong sense of appreciation in these tight-knit work environments. Sign up today to learn what benefits you may be missing! This is a free benefit for members, so if you have not renewed your student membership yet, do that before registering.

Good luck with fall recruiting season. The WSCPA is rooting for you! If you see us at your meet the firm event, stop and chat with us! We’ll fill you in on scholarship opportunities, member benefits you might not be taking advantage of, and tell you about the networking events coming up that you do not want to miss.

Monette-Anderson-HeadshotMonette Anderson is the WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator. You can reach her at manderson@wscpa.org.

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