The accounting industry has experienced a significant increase in demand over the last five years and has even more openings amid the pandemic. But with so many accounting graduates competing for the same jobs, how do you differentiate yourself to effectively get an offer prior to graduation?
Here are five tips to help:
- Strategize and be adaptable. Job searching can be a laborious process. Strategy and adaptability can give you an edge. This process should start in your sophomore year in college. The AICPA 2019 Trends Analysis on supply of accounting graduates and the demand for public accounting recruits noted that between 2012 and 2018, on average, 80,000 students graduated yearly with an accounting degree. It also noted that, on average, 38,000 graduates were hired by accounting firms. With this hiring rate of only 50 percent of yearly graduates by accounting firms, what separates you from everyone else? Know your strengths and weaknesses. Familiarize yourself with typical candidate profiles. You'll gain a better understanding of what the accounting industry is looking for.
- Know the size of the company you would like to work for. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is, who do I want to work for? Choices can include following:
- The Big Four (EY, Deloitte, KPMG, and PWC)
- Large, regional firms
- Midsize firms
- Small firms and sole proprietorships
- Private companies
If you decide on a Big Four, large or midsize firm, identify their candidate profile. In general, most accounting recruiters in these firms consider a good candidate as one with:
- A strong GPA
- An internship or work experience
- Some volunteering
- Progress made toward completing the CPA Exam
It helps to do extensive research on companies and establish which corporate culture fits you best. But do know that once hired, you may work long hours. If you find that's not appealing, the last thing you want to do is to end up working for a company that does not suit you. There are many benefits to becoming an accountant, and being miserable certainly is not one of them.
Join a professional association. After creating your plan, equip yourself with the tools necessary to succeed. For example, joining a professional organization such as the NJCPA or AICPA is the first step. If you know accounting is what you love, get involved with the NJCPA or any other professional association. I personally reaped the benefits of attending events like the NJCPA’s Career Night where you can find internships and full-time entry-level positions. I started my career in public accounting because I attended this event. I was able to connect with prospective employers and schedule interviews. Other accounting graduates have had the same success.
Attend career fairs and reach out to your school's alumni network. Most universities host career fairs that can help you secure a job. You can also identify alumni who are currently working within the accounting profession. For example, my alma mater, Ramapo College, holds a roundtable every semester for students and alumni from different fields to meet, connect and network.
The career center, available at each university, can help you prepare your resume, cover letter, find an internship and obtain an entry-level position. I found both of my internships and interviewed with several accounting firms during my senior year, utilizing my school’s career center.
If, after all these steps, you still have difficulty securing a job, apply online through websites like Indeed, Monster and LinkedIn or directly through the respective companies’ website. Set goals for the number of applications that you want to send out daily or weekly. Five or 10 applications a week is standard.
Make use of LinkedIn. It has become a very important job search tool. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, I strongly urge you to create one. Recruiters use the website to locate prospective candidates. Keep your profile and resume current and your profile picture professional. Remember that your resume and profile is your first introduction/impression to prospective employers. Make sure it represents you well.
Don't underestimate the importance of social media. When used effectively, it has the potential to open doors. Many recruiters screen candidates by looking at their social media feeds. It is always imperative to demonstrate professionalism on these sites. One misstep could cost you a potential job offer.
The mindset that you have going through a situation often determines the outcome. Stay positive and treat each interview as a new opportunity, not a continuation of rejection. Even if you had 10 unsuccessful interviews, treat the eleventh as a new opportunity. Even if you do not get the job, remember that you are still getting great experience from the interview process. Like riding a bicycle, the more you ride the better you become. A job search is a marathon, not a sprint. Avoid unnecessary comparison with your peers while going trough the process. I am a firm believer that everyone has his own destiny. Run your race. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to.