Becoming a successful accountant involves more than just knowing how to plan an audit, or how to file a complex tax return. Recruiters and hiring managers in the accounting industry are looking for qualities that mark an individual as exceptional. Each new hire is an investment in the future, and, these days, companies are looking for greater returns on all of their investments. It's not good enough to be 'good enough' you've got to demonstrate your value and stand out from the crowd. You've got to turn yourself into recruiter-bait.
Here are our top 10 tips to help you become the best recruitment candidate you can be.
1. Join Accounting Club - become an officer
For an accounting student, there is simply no better way to gain exposure to the industry than by joining your school's Accounting Club. Interact with industry professionals while gaining valuable experiences and skills that will last a lifetime. Remember: All the benefits of membership in the Accounting Club are magnified when you're an active member or become an officer!
2. Learn Banquet Etiquette
Banquets are great places to demonstrate your personal and social skills. Make sure to learn the do's and don'ts of banquet or dining etiquette to avoid awkward moments and uncomfortable silences. Banquet etiquette is more than just knowing which fork to eat with, or whose water glass you're drinking from. A proper knowledge of banquet etiquette will mark you as a well-polished individual, worth getting to know.
3. Polish Your Networking Skills
Networking is arguably your most important professional skill. Every person you meet and interact with is a potential contact, colleague, or opportunity. Make the most out of every networking event by practicing your social skills as often as possible. Make sure to carry a professional business card everywhere you go. You never know when a chance to network will present itself.
It's impossible to understate the value of these events to any accounting student. Ranging in size from small affairs to conference hall filling extravaganzas, Meet the Firms (or Meet the Professionals) is designed to bring students together with professionals from a variety of public, private and governmental firms. Be sure to bring your resume and business cards, and be ready to learn about firms that you find interesting.
5. Learn How to Write a Killer Resume
Your resume needs to be more than just a piece of paper with your vital statistics printed on it. It must be a finely tuned advertisement of your skills, talents and experiences. It should be written with the employer in mind, and answer their most urgent questions about you. Tailor your resume to suit the position you're interested in, but, above all, be honest. And, don't forget the value of a well written and personable cover letter!
6. Know Your Industry
Discover the differences between public, private, and governmental accounting. Each of the three different areas will attract different personality types. Are you an aggressive, outgoing individual willing to work very hard early in your career? Public accounting may be for you. Or, are you interested in a more stable environment with great benefits and job security, but willing to accept a potentially adversarial relationship with clients? If so, governmental accounting is a great option. Perhaps you'd thrive in a smaller business environment, working as an in-house accountant for a company with a goal of eventually getting into upper management? Private accounting could be your best choice.
Try to learn as much as possible about all areas of the industry before you decide what path to travel.
7. Attend firm tours
Nothing prepares you to work for a firm like seeing what it's like behind the scenes. Many firms offer special tours to students, providing them with valuable information they can use to guide their decisions and goals. These tours are frequently offered in connection with the Accounting Club, or other student organizations, and may be difficult to find as an individual. If you hear that your Accounting Club is arranging a tour, make sure to sign up!
8. Demonstrate multi-tasking by maintaining a good GPA, being active in your Accounting Club, and participate in extra-curricular activities
Show recruiters that you're a well-rounded, active person capable of achievement despite a busy schedule. These are highly desirable qualities in any industry, and will help you stand out from a crowd of mediocre competitors. The key is balance. Don't burn yourself out by taking on more than you can handle. Know your limits, and push them without breaking them.
9. Do your own independent research about firms
As valuable as Meet the Firms events and behind the scenes tours can be, it's also important to remember that these events are when the firms are putting their best foot forward, and may not be exemplary of an average employee experience. Before you make a final decision to accept or reject an offer from a firm, make sure you do your own research. Look for honest reviews of the corporate culture by current and past employees, as well as client testimonials. Be on the lookout for opinions that are well formed and articulate, and avoid those who are overly critical, unprofessional, or insulting.
10. Dress for success
It's not always what you know, or who you know sometimes, it's what you WEAR that makes the difference. Learn how to make a great first impression by being well-groomed and professionally dressed.
Each of these tips will help you improve one or more the following attributes: your qualifications or job knowledge, your professionalism, and your social skills. By strengthening these traits, you'll become the type of candidate that's irresistible to recruiters, and on the fast-track to success as a professional accountant or CPA.
Another great way for students to stand out and be active is to become a Roger CPA Review Campus Rep. Interact with fellow students, improve your networking and presentation skills, and prepare to pass the CPA Exam-- all at the same time!