Tips for Recruitment in Accounting
Jessica Yuen, BBA 2017
I understand that the hustle at Schulich never ends until we walk across that convocation stage. From high school, we’re working as hard as we can to achieve those grades to get into Schulich, and now that we’re in the program, there’s still no relief as we have to work twice as hard to maintain our grades and land that dream job. First, I want to congratulate you for making it this far! It is already an accomplishment for surviving that/those semester(s) at Schulich, so please don’t be discouraged if recruitment season doesn’t go according to plan. There are so many opportunities out there that you may not have even noticed, and I’m a firm believer in that as long as you remain persistent and determined, you will land your dream job! Anyhow, I know every recruitment season is one of the most stressful times of the year, so I have put together a couple of tips that I hope you will find useful.
- Know why you want to be a CPA and familiarize yourself with the process of becoming a CPA. I’ve been asked this at almost every accounting-related interview. You should already know why you want to become a CPA (if not, did you know there are travel opportunities? Did you know CPA is an internationally recognized designation? Now you do!), and you should also brush up on your knowledge of the CPA process (i.e. four modules, two capstones and one CFE).
- Know the answer to “Tell me about yourself”. I’ve gotten asked this question many times in interviews, and it is really your chance to give the interviewer an approximate 45 second elevator pitch about yourself. Quickly summarize your education, relevant working experience, and why you think you will be a good fit for the company (for accounting, also mention why you want to be a CPA and why you think the company will help you achieve your designation). As well, you should also know how to answer “Tell me one of your weaknesses”. This is the time to show the interviewer when you overcame your weakness. I recommend listing out one of your weaknesses and then supporting it with an experience where you overcame it and what you learned from it.
- Attend networking events and make business cards. When I was in first year, I did not believe that networking would be more important than getting good grades. I was wrong. Now as a fourth year, I can assure you that networking is very important in getting your name and brand out to the recruiters. As well, showing up and engaging in conversations at the events show that you are dedicated, committed and persistent, which are all qualities recruiters look for. As well, make business cards for recruiters to remember you. There are so many students at networking events and if you don’t leave recruiters with something to remember you with, unless you really had a meaningful conversation, chances are they may not remember you. I’ve ordered business cards from: http://www.vistaprint.ca/ and they were affordable. Before making a purchase, please check if there are coupon codes! Also, I think most networking events provided food (free of course), so that’s an incentive for you to attend!
- Prepare some general questions at your first networking event. I know it’s awkward at networking events when you have nothing to say. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask the recruiter, because I find that people generally like to talk about themselves and their experiences. You could ask questions like: What is your favourite part of your job? What was your experience in going through the CPA program? Just have a couple of general questions at the back of your head that you can quickly pull out if you are stuck in a stale conversation.
- Build your resume. If you don’t have accounting related experience on your resume, don’t worry. I find that accounting firms look for skills like: leadership, teamwork and communication. If you can find experience to demonstrate these skills, you are good to go. Also, many jobs already incorporate these skills – you just have to highlight it on your resume. For instance, if you have been a waiter, done retail jobs, or have provided customer service, you can check off teamwork and communication skills because you are constantly dealing with people and you obviously communicate effectively in order to deal with them! Leadership may be a little tricky; however, I have found that “taking initiative” is very closely related to leadership. If you took the initiative in your group project to assign roles or help others complete their part, that is, demonstrating leadership, so do not be afraid to highlight that in an interview.
- It’s not all about the “Big Four”. I feel like Schulich gets so much exposure from the Big Four accounting firms, and it is to the extent that accounting students may be unable to see any accounting opportunities apart from these firms. However, there is a HUGE world outside of the Big Four, which offer very competitive salaries and will also help you attain your CPA. For your reference, here is a list of some of the offices: http://www.cpaontario.ca/Admissions/ApprovedTrainingOffices/1008page1341.aspx
- Be persistent. Please don’t be discouraged if things do not go according to plan. Every time something doesn’t go as planned, you become stronger and you learn from your mistakes! Take every step of the recruitment process as a learning opportunity to get to know yourself better and determine your strengths and weaknesses. I’m a firm believer in that as long as you are putting in your best effort, you will land your dream job!