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Want to Find an Accounting Job at a Career Fair?

young accountants at a career fair

Every year career fairs happen around the country, and it could be a great opportunity for you to launch a promising career in accounting. If you want to find an accounting job, this is a great place to begin your journey. The only problem is, how can you distinguish yourself from all the other candidates at the event when nearly everyone looks the same? Of course, we aren’t talking about physical looks, but the fact that there are typically many students from the same school, with similar GPAs, and only minor work experience differences.

Introducing Yourself to Accounting Firm Recruiters at Career Fair

One of the first steps to find an accounting job is to attend a career fair, which is often the first face-to-face interaction that candidates have with the recruiting teams. The career fair is aptly named as it is often not much different than an overblown expensive science fair. Companies of all sizes and types will send one to three representatives to set up a table in some common area on campus, and students can stroll by the layouts of each and strike up conversations with ones that interest them.

The way it goes for most candidates is that they walk up and introduce themselves, get some flyers or pamphlets about the firm, and finish with a couple minutes of superficial small talk. The talk usually centers on the most basic information about the company, things that literally could have been learned beforehand through a two minute search on google. The candidate now has minimal information, will still need to do the slightly more in-depth research you’ve already done, and has made no lasting impression on the recruiting team. It is more likely than not that the recruiting team will not even remember the candidate’s name. At best, they will recognize the familiar face next time they come to campus.

This is not going to happen to you. If you do things right, you should have already spoken to one or more of the recruiters from each firm. They will remember your name and be happy to see an energetic and motivated candidate, as opposed to the guy who would rather be napping but showed up because his parents made him. Instead of introducing yourself for the first time, you will be reintroducing yourself as well as putting faces with the names of the lead recruiters you have already spoken with. You’ll then follow all of that up with (as explained below) some reasonable questions and continue to build on your relationship and reputation with the firm.

If You Want to Find an Accounting Job, It Will Involve More Than Picking Up a Brochure and Saying Hi

There is no wrong way to start things off. The goal here is straightforward: have a candid and interesting conversation with the recruiting team to continue establishing a personal connection with them. A personal connection means finding some common ground, regardless of whether it’s work-related or not (oftentimes stronger connections are made through non work-related topics), that makes the recruiting team see you as the person you are and not as just another job candidate.  

If you are able to hold a conversation like a normal person and ask a few probing questions, you will likely stumble upon a topic that forges a connection without much difficulty. When recruiters start associating you with things (e.g. interesting information you have shared with each other) in addition to being a well-qualified candidate, you are more likely to make a lasting impression.  

In addition, quite frankly, recruiters are much more likely to look favorably upon people they like or share a common bond with. 

Here are some suggestions for discussion points at a career fair:

  • If the recruiters are alumni, talk about your school. People love reminiscing about their alma mater; it doesn’t get much easier than this. Talk about how the campus has changed, professors you might have shared, even the football or basketball team is perfectly fine here.
  • Any popular topics such as major news events, sports, music, or even pop culture. If something big recently happened in the business world, ask how it’s affecting their firm. For some people, sports is an incredibly easy topic that could lead to hours of conversation. 
  • Did your school recently host a big concert or interesting speaker? If so, it might be a good topic to use to make a more personal connection. Please use normal social conventions when using these ideas. Do not walk up to the recruiting team, shake a few hands, and then blurt out the latest rumors about Miley Cyrus.  Let these topics flow naturally. You can bring them up after a few pleasantries have been exchanged and use them as a way to warm up the conversation and to avoid jumping straight into business (despite the fact that is the real reason you are there).  
  • Some recruiters at career fairs feel like people use them as machines that are solely there to spout off a few facts about the company so they may appreciate a softer opening. Conversely, if the conversation starts off focusing on the firm and potential jobs, you can use these topics as a good way to close out the conversation while showing your ability to talk about more than just the job openings.
  • Ask them about themselves! If all else has failed, people always enjoy talking about themselves (especially if you can get them bragging or complaining).  Maybe you can’t associate with the life of a recruiter, but you can always ask them how it’s treating them. Have they had success lately on key campuses?  What are their recruiting initiatives over the next year or so? Has it been a rough month being on the road constantly and answering the same question all the time? This is their life; they’re going to be passionate about it and want to talk about it. If all you do is get the ball rolling and then listen well, you’ve done a great job. Your conversation will be much more memorable than the lifeless chat where they list off a few facts about the company and conclude with a limp handshake.
Job fair questions

Accounting Job Related Questions to Ask at a Career Fair

Once you’ve made some meaningful small talk and warmed up the conversation a bit, you can move to your job-related questions, which is the real reason you are there. If you´ve been able to establish a strong personal connection with one or more of the recruiters, that’s fantastic. The job-related conversation will be much more natural and flowing and you can leave the career fair feeling good about how much progress you´ve made at such an early stage in the hiring process.

If the conversation was cordial but nothing special happened, there is nothing to worry about. This is how the vast majority of candidates will feel. Simply by having a candid and mature conversation with the team, you will have begun to establish good rapport and shown that you appear to have the makings of a strong candidate. The more conversations you have with the recruiting team, the more comfortable you will become with them. Taking a step in this direction well before interviews should be considered a win. Remember, to make your goal happen—to find an accounting job—every little success along the way counts! 

Make Sure to Cover These Two Points With Accounting Firm Recruiters

The job-related portion of the conversation only needs to cover two key items. If you can cover more that is great, but the format of the career fair often lends itself to brief interactions as large numbers of candidates are constantly coming and going from each company’s station. Don’t feel bad if these are the only two points you can manage, they are more than sufficient.

#1 Question that Shows Interest and/or Research in the Company

The first thing you need to do is to pose a few questions that demonstrate your interest in the company as well as the research you did in advance. We’re not talking about an in-depth discussion about the company’s plan to penetrate the Latin American markets.  It can be a fairly simple conversation.  

Ask a couple questions that show some thought and insight, even going one layer beneath the surface will separate you a good deal from the crowd. For example, this is a great time to ask a pointed question about one of the service lines of the firm. The entire point here is to show you did some research ahead of time and are thinking about how you would fit in at the firm. It doesn’t matter if you already know the exact job you want at the firm, just ask the question. It’s even all right to explicitly mention your research; take credit for your efforts.

I was reading through your website and noticed you have a Transactions group. Is this group focused on a certain kind of M&A activity? Could you please describe a little more about what they do?”

This example is in stark contrast to the candidate who just grabs a few fliers or asks a question that anyone with a modicum of interest in working at the firm would have already answered for themselves. One or two questions at this stage is sufficient to achieve our goal of demonstrating an above-average maturity level and interest in the company. You will have established a solid rapport with the recruiting team and set yourself up nicely for the next time you interact with them.

#2 Question that Confirms Next Recruiting Visit

The second job-related item you’ll want to cover is reconfirming the next date(s) the recruiting team will be on campus. It is almost impossible to fully appreciate why this matters from the candidate’s perspective, but having been on the other side of the hiring process, our team can guarantee you that this will leave a good impression on the recruiters. Consider the two options below:

Option 1: When will you be back on campus?

Translation: I haven’t done any upfront work of my own. Please do everything for me and hold my hand through the beginning of this hiring process. I’m not a horrible person, I’m just a typical candidate and therefore I have done nothing to distinguish myself here.

Option 2: When we spoke on the phone a few weeks ago, it sounded like you would be coming back to campus on September 15th for an info session and again on Oct. 2nd for interviews. Is that still the case?

Translation: I’m an adult, this job is important to me and I have taken control of this hiring process myself. I’m reliable and motivated, therefore I already exhibit qualities that are essential for anyone taking a job at your firm.

The little details make big differences. If you can have a decent conversation with the recruiting team (even just a couple minutes is ok) and accomplish these two work-related items, you will leave the career fair in a very good position. 

Remember this is just the beginning of the hiring process for many candidates. You should be leaving the career fair on a first name basis with the lead recruiter, as well as having given the recruiting team a clear picture of several strong attributes that will differentiate you from the crowd.

Get Started Finding a Future Accounting Job at a Career Fair

Below we have included some additional tips that are important to remember at the career fair:

  • Get there early! The recruiting team will be fresh and energetic at the beginning of the fair. They’ll be easier to talk to which can make a big difference in how your conversation goes. Furthermore, career fairs are least crowded right at the beginning. You’ll have a better chance of interacting with the recruiting team by yourself if you get there right when it starts.
  • Get a business card from everyone you meet! Doing so is a professional standard and will be expected. It will also provide valuable contact information for the members of the recruiting team you haven’t previously spoken with (which is essential for the next point).
  • Send thank you emails! To everyone on the team! A thank you email is an incredibly easy way to start communicating with recruiters. First, you send a thank you email, the recruiter replies that you are welcome and free to contact them with any additional questions and voila, you have yourself an open line of communication with a key member of the firm. Thank you emails may not necessarily be mandatory but it will reflect very poorly on you if you do not send them.

A Career in Accounting is a Great Path

We know it seems like a long road ahead in order to even get your foot in the door. The career fair is just the first step, but it’s an important step nevertheless. Remember, all great journeys, no matter how long, start with that first initial step. 

Learning about who the recruiters are, and reaching out to them to introduce yourself even before the career fair begins, is a great way to start off on the best footing possible. This way you can reintroduce yourself and strengthen the relationship while the other candidates are just aimlessly walking around grabbing a brochure. You are attending the career fair with the goal to find an accounting job, so take it seriously.  

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