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Modern Recruiting Techniques - Early Hire Opportunities for Students

Darwin L. King
Jonathan F. Bertoline
Christopher B. Fehl
Jerrod J. Whelan

The Changing Face of the Recruiting Process

The recruiting process has changed significantly in the last few years. Big Five accounting firms, in particular, are recruiting top students earlier in their college years. Students who enroll in a five-year MBA/Accounting program are often approached during the summer following their senior year and are being offered a variety of options that allow the firms an opportunity to evaluate them. These options include full summer internships, one-week leadership conferences, and mentor programs. Each of these techniques are being used by accounting firms to locate and hire top graduates.

This article reviews the experiences of three five year accounting students who were offered a full time position with a Big Five accounting firm prior to their last year of study. In prior years, the fall semester of the student's final year was filled with interviews and related social events, which required a significant amount of time. These three students were able to concentrate on their MBA studies during this final year of coursework with the knowledge that they had a signed contract for future employment.

The purpose of this article is to alert students with a good academic background of accounting firms desire to "lock in" students at an earlier date by using a variety of new recruiting techniques. For students who are good at planning ahead, these opportunities may eliminate much of the stress associated with the normal fall semester interviewing season. They can begin their last fall semester with a relaxed attitude resulting from the knowledge that they have located a full time position.

Three Student Examples

In order to better understand these new recruiting techniques, three students graduating with their MBA degrees in the five year accounting program at St. Bonaventure University in May 1999 provided their story of how they found full time employment. Each of these stories is somewhat different but each student benefited from early planning in the recruitment process. Jon Bertoline, Chris Fehl, and Jerrod Whelan each found full time employment with a Big Five accounting firm prior to the fall semester of their fifth year. This fact provided each of them with an exceptionally positive mental attitude as their final year began in August 1998.

Jon Bertoline planned to utilize a summer internship for two reasons. First, in his words, the internship is a "sneak preview of a yet to be released movie". He hoped to discover first hand if he really liked public accounting and had chosen the right field of study. Also, he would be able to review the "personality" of the firm where he interned. Jon's summer internship with KPMG was exceptionally beneficial. He felt that he benefited from the experience in a number of ways.

First, Jon worked with a great variety of people ranging from staff accountants to partners. He paid special attention to "how people conducted themselves". He also paid special attention to how auditors interact with company management. The subtle relationships developed with clients were extremely interesting to Jon. He was also exposed to KPMG's computer system through the use of a laptop provided to him during the internship. He was fortunate enough to work on such large clients as Reader's Digest, Union Carbide, and Perrier. This allowed him to better understand the importance of dealing with company management on a daily basis. In Jon's words, "I came away from the internship with some valuable real life experiences that books could never teach me".

The summer internship provided Jon with a job offer prior to the conclusion of the internship period. He received a week of training similar to what a first year hire would experience prior to beginning his internship. His internship concluded with a trip to Walt Disney World with other interns from across the country. During this trip, the firm continued to "promote itself and encourage interns to sign their employment contracts". The internship experience, training session, and final recreational trip combined to convince Jon to accept the position with KPMG.

Chris Fehl, a roommate of Jon's, also benefited from the early recruitment process. Chris contacted the Deloitte & Touche headquarters in New York City with the hopes of getting an internship during the summer of 1998. He interviewed at the Parsippany, New Jersey office and was informed of a new type of internship. This program was termed the Student Leadership Conference. It involved an intensive four-day retreat to Scottsdale, Arizona at D&T's training facility.

This program was designed to allow the firm to "sell itself" to the students and vice versa. In Chris' words, "It allowed me to meet partners and recruiters and taught me the value of communication skills". He felt that D&T used a different approach to recruiting than many other firms. Chris felt that the firm catered to him which allowed him to be comfortable and bring out his best qualities. A month after the conference, Deloitte & Touche invited him to a participant reunion in New York City at the Windows on the World Restaurant located in the World Trade Center. Chris was presented with a job offer at the evening's program, which again showed each student how important they were to the firm.

The third student, Jerrod Whelan, had a somewhat similar experience as Chris. Jerrod was looking for an internship position with a Big 5 accounting firm for the summer following his senior year. He learned of an internship program offered by Deloitte & Touche in New York City during the Spring 1998 semester. Following an interview with the firm, Jerrod was offered a choice of three alternatives. These included a full eight-week internship, a four-day Leadership Conference, and a mentor program. He selected these options in the order presented above.

In early March 1998, Jerrod was extended an offer to attend the Leadership Conference. He attended a dinner party following the offer in New York City, which was a chance for the firm to "evaluate our social skills and graces". In June, he attended the four-day conference in Scottsdale. The attendees included 60 students and 30 D&T employees. Jerrod felt that the conference was designed to "test ones ability to think on their feet and to evaluate the student's presentation and social skills". The conference included watching presentations, giving presentations to partners, and even providing community service in decorating a local elementary school library.

The conference also included improving computer skills using software developed by the firm. The intensive conference was "packed with events and work". The student's day began at 5:30 a.m. and lasted until 10 p.m. The experience allowed the firm to evaluate the student's "ability to interact with others". In late July, Jerrod was requested to attend a dinner party in NYC with Chris and other recruits. Following the dinner, servers delivered black leather D&T portfolios complete with a bow on top to each invited student. In a truly "classy" move, the portfolios included job offers for each student.

A Trend That Will Continue?

It appears that the trend of accounting firms approaching students earlier in their educational program will continue and even increase in frequency. This process provides advantages to both the accounting firms and the students. It allows employers to locate top candidates for positions opening during the upcoming year. At the same time, students return to their final year of study knowing that the time consuming process of job seeking is completed. With many students currently opting for a five-year accounting program, it is critical for each graduate to investigate these new recruiting techniques no later than their senior year. Jon, Chris, and Jerrod serve as excellent examples of the benefits of proper planning. The trend toward earlier recruiting has certainly benefited each of them. They hope that their experiences will be of value to other students seeking employment in the near future.

Darwin King is Assistant Professor of Accounting at St. Bonaventure University

Jonathan F. Bertoline, Christopher B. Fehl, and Jerrod J. Whelan all graduated with their BBA/MBA's from St. Bonaventure University in May 1999



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