To pay homage to recruiting season, we're interviewing several recruiters from the top 35 firms across the nation to learn more about what makes their recruiting process unique, what their biggest challenges are, and what they believe are the main qualities candidates should possess to be successful in their accounting careers.
Executive Director of Campus Recruiting
Blane Ruschak has been recruiting for 20 years and loves spending time with students and faculty. He truly believes that our industry is something exciting to talk about and that KPMG is an exciting firm to work for. An interesting fact about Blane is he’s been through many different types of work. From spending time in audit, healthcare, training development, and finally recruiting, he wants young professionals to know that you don’t have to leave a company to change career paths.
What makes your firm unique in the recruiting process?
We focus on hiring a lot of our recruiters from within our practices. Over 50 members of my team came from audit tax or advisory within the firm. When they’re on campus talking to a student about what it means to go through busy season, an IPO, or anything related to the job, they’re speaking from experience. Therefore, the credibility factor goes up significantly when students are talking to someone who’s been where they want to go.
Additionally, our recruiters really put the students first in terms of trying to meet their needs and to help them figure out where the best place to start their career is. As an example, if they’re at a school that happens to be in Dallas, we will support a student’s desire to start with our Dallas office and give them the option to transfer later if they’d like to explore. But when students say that they’ve spent their whole life in Texas and want to get started in New York, we work just as hard to get them placed in our New York office. Whether it be location or line of service, we listen to students and put their interest first. We believe they should be passionate about where they start and don’t want them to just settle for an opportunity.
Lastly, we are very willing to talk to freshmen and spend time with them to help them understand the recruiting timeline and the preparation necessary to get themselves ready for a career in public accounting. While some firms may tell students to come back a year or two later when they are eligible to apply for programs, students have told me that KPMG was the only firm who talked to them and helped them understand the decisions they would have to make down the road related to joining the industry and a specific practice. Though young and unsure, KPMG is always willing and ready to talk to them.
How does your recruiting process reflect your firm's values and/or company culture?
Ethics and integrity. We always follow school rules, such as not giving offers before certain dates, or talking to students who are too young in certain programs. We also follow NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), which provides a set of guidelines detailing what’s fair for students and recruiters to do. For example, it’s considered unethical to offer an exploding bonus, which is a bonus given to students who must decide in the next 7 seven days whether or not to accept an offer by a firm in order to earn the bonus. That’s considered putting undue pressure on students who haven’t interviewed with other firms yet. We never want to violate these ethical guidelines.
Another value of our company culture that can be seen in our recruiting process is open and honest communication. That’s what we embed in all our folks who go to campuses. Be honest with the students, faculty, and with your own internal team. We don’t make promises to students that we can’t keep just to get the student to sign. For example, we won’t promise students that they’ll absolutely work on this specific client when they join us because so many things can change a year later when they officially become part of our staff. We also have a very popular global internship program. It would be easy to pick a student and promise them a spot in that program just to get them to sign, but our process is very straightforward and honest. We will never lead a student on just to get them to join our team; we get them by playing fair, and we hold each other accountable to these core values.
What would you say is the most challenging part about recruiting and how are you working to overcome this challenge?
This can change year by year, but right now, the competition and market demand for business majors—specifically accounting—is quite intense. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s a shortage of accounting majors relative to demand for them. You’re competing against investment banking, consulting firms, private industry, or government, and they’re all going after the same students.
So naturally, what we have to do is offer students something that’s going to make us stand out over the others. We do that by focusing on surveys and studies from interns and millennials, and it seems like what’s always at the top of the list is joining a firm or industry because of career development opportunities. We then ask ourselves, “What would be that program or feature that would get a student to say that ‘I want to go into public accounting and join KPMG?’ ”
Which led us our newest program. We just announced a few weeks ago that we’re collaborating with Villanova and The Ohio State University to put together The KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics Program. This program will pay for 50 students this year to receive their MA and specialize in Data Analytics while taking the winter semester off to work for us. This will put them on an accelerated career path to work with us on our large audit engagements and be a specialized resource regarding data analytics tools. We believe this program will help us stand out and get students to want to work for KPMG.
What are the most important factors when it comes to recruiting top talent at schools?
Seeing students really take charge of their own career path and witnessing them grow and accomplish big goals over time. At recruiting events on campus, we interact with many students who may not be ready to accept an offer yet and don’t have much experience. But it’s these students who come back year after year with a growing resume that really impress us.
For these students who very early on have great networking and communication skills, seeing how far they’ve come in terms of higher GPAs, leadership activities, and skill sets in accounting/technology is a great package that makes that student extremely desirable.
We also like to see how students become very proactive in furthering their career goals through our leadership programs. Students don’t just see these programs as fun networking events, but take them very seriously because they value their own development and are looking for ways to better themselves. That sends a great message to us because it reflects their level of ambition, which is a valuable asset to have should they join our firm.
How do you think the recruitment process will change 5 or 10 years from now?
Technology will have a big impact. While recruiting will still be very relationship driven with meeting students face-to-face to see if they’re a good fit with the culture of the firm, we see video conferencing being beneficial for students who go to smaller, more remote colleges in rural areas that firms can’t physically visit because they’re either too far or have too small a population of students. Technology will allow such students to have greater access to more firms and to get a chance to be considered whereas before, they had to go out of their way to get their resumes in front of recruiters in big cities that are hours away.
The economy will also dictate a lot of what happens. From 2008-2010 during the financial crash, you didn’t have to work as hard to get students to consider you. Now that the economy is doing very well and has become more competitive, people are now recruiting students at younger ages. I spoke with one student recently who already has an offer to intern with a company in spring of 2018. We’re seeing the economic environment drive some unusual things in the recruitment process such as these advanced offers or doing presentations for high school students to expose your brand to them earlier. The economy will dictate just how much of that acceleration happens.
Lastly, I think that more collaboration with firms and the academic world will occur to bring more of the accounting practice into the classroom. Universities want to be relevant by giving students access to firms and exposing them to practical application beyond conceptual information. This will help students be more prepared to enter the workforce and also be more appealing to recruiters.
What is your best advice for students going through recruiting?
The most important thing you should do is make sure you’re passionate about your job. Never stop and think that there’s nothing out there for you that involves something you love. It may take time and you may have to try a few different things, but you’ll eventually find it and you’ll know it when you do.
I went through a lot before I got into recruiting and training, but right when I started this area of work, I knew that this was what I was meant to do. The hours or salary didn’t matter; all that did matter was the fact that I woke up every day excited about my job. So don’t give up until you find the thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning, excited and ready for the day’s challenges that lie ahead.
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