“Don’t be afraid to sneak into another University” – Andrew Argue
How to Dress at Accounting Career Fairs
Males Wear a suit and tie. Make sure the suit fits and my personal recommendation on the tie, is a Windsor knot (check out the video below). I’d also recommend not dressing like the next Gordon Gecko (if you don’t know the reference, Google it and watch the movie, not the one with Shia Lebouf). Basically, nothing too flashy. Also, don’t wear a backpack! It is tacky and makes you look like you are back in high school. [fve]http://youtu.be/ZQQr09Ja1zY[/fve]
Research Most career fairs at universities have a website where you can find the companies that are attending. This is a REQUIREMENT if you’re going to the career fair. You need to make sure you’re prioritizing the firms you want to see before you arrive. Many companies will have a 30-40-80 person line, and if that’s your top choice, you don’t want to show up in the last hour. You also need to check out the website of the company you’re looking for. Look for them in media publications such as goingconcern.com (above). Find out what charities they’re involved in, major clients they serve in your area, and what type of programs they offer for someone like you (training, tours in other countries, summer leadership programs, etc). This can make great conversation starters if there is something you’re curious about and will show you did your research.
Clothing Make sure your clothes are ironed and ready the day before. You can’t get dry cleaning done the same day as the career fair, most places close around 6:00 pm. If you’re worried about your look, ask a couple of friends or even send us a picture at Andrew@thebeancounter.org. You don’t want to walk in with something that doesn’t fit, is outdated, sloppy, and doesn’t match.
Be sure it’s polished before you show up. Try and print on some special paper to make it stand out a little bit. There should be no spelling errors and it should be consistent all the way through. Print 50 copies of your resume before you attend and make sure the paper is unique. See the amazon link to the right where you can buy weighted paper to give your resume that extra pop. There are so many things to consider on your resume and look out for future resume podcasts. If you’d like to check out our resume services, head to our Resume webpage.
Detailed Portfolio No need for the career fair as you won’t have enough time to go through it. Let’s save it for the interview!
Cover Letter Consider it if a specific company required it, however, that is very rare for a career fair. Save the cover letter for online resume submissions and just go for the one-page resume. If you would like more information regarding cover letter services, check out our Cover Letter web page.
Business Cards Business cards will only make you more of what you already are. If you’re disorganized, poorly dressed, poorly presented, and your picture is on the business card, that thing will be scanned and sent to the whole office before you get to bed. However, if you’re clean, polished, fresh, it can really help you stand out.
Elevator Speech You need to make sure that when you walk into the career fair, and you make eye contact with that first person, you’re ready to smile, and calmly and confidently walk up to them and start chatting: “Hi, how are you? I’m happy to meet you as I wanted to make sure I talk to as many people as I can from “X company”. I was checking out your website and saw that you are one of the companies that offers summer leadership adventures and want to talk to someone about what the experience is like, and what I need to do to apply?” If you’d like to check out our elevator speech coaching, Head to our Coaching webpage. Then, they may ask for your resume and you’ll exchange pleasantries. Maybe they are a school alumni and you lived in the same dorm, were part of the same fraternity, or had a common professor. Be calm, playful, make eye contact and as I always say, be Enthusiastic, Curious, and don’t be Weird!
The Day Of
Initial Approach It’s important that once you make eye contact with someone, as long as there is not a line, walk up to them and start the conversation. The last thing you want to do is be a lurker circling the room and people see you four times, and you haven’t stopped by. Be sure that you’re a making the most of your time at the career fair (i.e, there are a couple of key people you MUST talk to). While I know that Sally was your tutor in intermediate accounting and now she works for that company, the odds are that Sally does NOT make the decision. I can’t stress this enough. You may have had great communication with the people at the table but you probably won’t get hired if you don’t speak to the right players. Make sure you meet the people who have the authority or power, to get you in the door.
Meet the Partners/Upper management They call the shots at the end of the day. They are the ones who make the decisions on who is in and who is out for the final offers.
You MUST talk with them at the career fair. Typically, however not always, they are the oldest man or woman at the table. Hopefully, if you speak to someone who isn’t the partner or upper management, they give you an indication of who is. For example, “Oh I love working on ‘X’ client, Joanne over there is the partner and she is really fun to work with, lots of happy hours!”. BAM! You’ve got the cue. Continue the conversation with that person, and eventually speak to the person who calls the shots.
Meet the Recruiters While recruiters don’t have much authority at the firm, oh boy, do they have the power? They are the gatekeepers and funnel most of the information that get’s shown to the partners and upper management. Similarly to the secretary of the CEO, you want to be on her good side so you can get in and not be shut out. The recruiters also have a vested interested in finding the best candidates as their ability to do so is tied to their bonus, and pay raise. Ask them a ton of questions, be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the firm/company, and display to them how you would act if you were interviewing with management or hired full time.
They will start to see their bonus grow as they usher you over to talk to the manager or partner who, at the end of the day, makes the hire. While I did spend a lot of time speaking about the importance of meeting with the Partner/management and recruiter, I want to emphasize that you really should speak to the “low-level” staffers as well. They will be in the conversations about whom seemed like a great candidate, and can be a great booster if the partner or recruiter were on the edge. But even more importantly, this is the position you will be in shortly. Is that what you want? Does this person seem happy? If not, is it because they’re a miserable person, they don’t like their job or because the company treated them poorly. One of the greatest tips I ever received was “the KPMG office of San Antonio may be the same culture and fit for you as the E&Y office in Atlanta”. Make sure that you know the people that you’ll be working for in that city. Remember that the nameplate on the door means nothing because all these companies add up to, is the people that will sit in the room you for 10+ hours during busy season or month end close. Questions to ask at the career fair:
- How long have you been with the firm?
- Where did you go to university?
- What type of clients do you work on?
- Tell me about the culture of your firm
- What are the major clients in the office?
- Do you have international opportunities?
- Do you sponsor visa’s? (look out for future podcasts on this topic)
- What type of socials and events does the company have?
- What is one big initiative that your company is working on internally?
- What has kept you at “x” company for so long?
- What is your favorite part about your job?
- What is your favorite thing you have done since you started at “x” company?
- What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone in my position?
- How can I apply for “x” position?
- Can I have your business card?
After the Career Fair
The Email As you’re going through the career fair, you may meet 10, 20, or 100 people. You need to make sure that you receive a business card from each person. If someone is a “newbie” and forgot their business cards, take a moment and write down there email. After each conversation or after speaking with each company, take a second, and write down on the back of the business cards, or on the back of one of your resumes (one that you will keep) some of the things you spoke about.
This is KEY.
Have meaningful points to add in a follow up email such as: “It was so nice to speak to someone who is from Virginia, and I really appreciate your advice on taking the CPA exam before I start full time. As a result of our discussion, I applied to be a campus representative at Becker and am going to try and receive CPA study materials for free. Thank you so much for your advice!” It’s beneficial to note here that if you’re worried about a particular part of your experience, maybe your GPA is low, or you’re only a freshman, or maybe, you have no leadership experience on your resume, if you write clear and relevant emails to every single person you meet, you will receive responses. If you can reach enough people, 30, 50, 100 individuals, it’s the rule of numbers, eventually one will convert an interview!
The last note I’ll make on the email is to wait until the next morning to send it. As you’ll see below, connecting with them on LinkedIn is a great touch point to make that same day. However, draft the email that day when all of the experiences are fresh in your mind, and send your emails at 7:30am the next morning. Why 7:30? Well, if not right after the career fair, then the next morning, all of the employees whom attended the career fair, get together and share comments. They discuss who they think killed it, who is on the edge, and who is an absolute no. If you’ve hit them with the touch point of a LinkedIn request in the evening, and an email before they even get to work (or Monday morning for a Friday career fair), you’ll be on their mind and have the best chance of moving from the tipping point, to a solid YES!
Linkedin contacts Connect with the professionals you met on the evening after the career fair on LinkedIn. It’s the perfect time! Sometimes LinkedIn requires you enter the person’s email and what do you happen to have is their business card! I want to spend some time briefly discussing how to have a killer Linkedin page before you start connecting with these individuals. See the podcast coming out after the interview series, on Linkedin, here.
Looking for more?
Check out Get Hired By Big 4 Accounting Firms with a podcast and eBook for the career fair! We also have a 5 part interview series, interviews with recruiters who share exactly what you need to know, and 5 resume templates which you can use that I have handcrafted and are proven to work!