By the time they graduate, most accounting students will have had at least one internship experience. As a result of these internships, many accounting students graduate with a full-time employment offer in hand. It is reassuring to graduate knowing you will have a job right out of college. However, recruiting with top accounting firms while juggling classes can be stressful. Here are a few tips from students who successfully went through the recruiting and internship process with public accounting firms.
The entire recruiting process is an interview. Throughout the recruiting process, you will be invited to participate in info sessions, fun activities, and networking dinners. During these events, recruiters evaluate you just as much as they do during formal interviews. They will observe your ability to carry on a conversation and act in a professional manner. You must stand out from other candidates, but for good reasons. It is important that you mingle with other recruits, staff, and those who will be interviewing you. To start a conversation, try to find something in common with the person who you are talking to. When in doubt, ask open ended questions, and let the person give you information about their interests. Be positive! It is crucial that you make a good first impression.
Be prepared for conversational interviews. Most public accounting interviews will seem very conversational. However, you will also have to answer more traditional interview questions like “tell me about yourself” or “why did you choose to attend this college?” When interviewers ask such questions, they want to know about what is not on your resume. They will try to gauge your personality traits, attitude, and ability to build a rapport in order to assess your ability to build trusted relationships with clients. Try to stay away from stereotypical answers, and focus on things that make you stand out. Talk about hobbies, interests, and extracurricular activities. In your answers, demonstrate how participating in such activities has improved specific skills and played to your strengths.
Be prepared to provide situational examples of your strengths and weaknesses. Situational questions, those that start by “tell me about a time when…” are also frequently used by top accounting firms. Such questions are used to assess candidates’ problem-solving abilities and people skills. Situational questions can be hard to answer. The best strategy to handle such questions is to reflect upon past experiences ahead of time and come prepared with stories that demonstrate your strengths even in challenging situations.
Research the firm before the interview or event. Regardless of the position you are interviewing for, you must be prepared to answer why you chose to apply for that position, line of service, or firm. It is important to do some homework before the interview to learn about the company and the people you will be interviewing with. You can use a search engine, LinkedIn, or the company’s website. Come to your interview prepared with questions to ask your interviewer. To make a lasting impression, ask questions that are not likely to have been asked before. Research recent news involving the industry or the company. You can also ask the interviewer about their career path and what made them choose that over other opportunities.
Last but not least, be enjoyable! Team work is an important part of company culture in public accounting. Firms are looking for candidates that will fit well within their team and represent firm values.