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Study: Accounting Students Choose Employers for Career Opportunities

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December 4, 2008

Career opportunities is the No. 1 criteria for today's accounting students when choosing an employer, according to a survey by KPMG.

According to the survey of 2,026 accounting students nationwide, 43 percent said career opportunities would be their top criteria, followed by 20 percent who said an employer's reputation and culture topped the list. Salary and benefits trailed at 14 percent.

We may repeat a lot of common themes here, but we're doing it in hopes of driving the point into readers' heads. And in this case the point is that money is not the be all end all. Young accountants are not just looking for a fat paycheck. They don't want chump change, either, but career opportunities are more important.

As I mentioned in my Q&A with Gen Y expert Peter Sheahan earlier this week (see the Stories section of this site) , employees want to move up the ladder quickly and giving them opportunities to move up within the firm will make a difference.

The other point worth mentioning is that this is coming straight from the horse's mouth. This is a survey of students. This isn't some guessing game by a 75-year-old bean counter.

If the students who firms want to attract are saying they want career opportunities, those firms better be ready to offer up a plan on how they're going help them advance.

The survey also found that when it comes to entering the workforce, 48 percent of the accounting students expressed that work/life balance would be their primary concern, a significantly higher response than 20 percent who said job security and 20 percent who noted money matters (whether they would have enough money to pay their bills and support their lifestyle).

"In choosing an employer, millennials are focused on whether their future employer offers a challenging and engaging career proposition," Manny Fernandez, National Managing Partner – University Relations and Recruiting, said. "But once on board, they want the ability to balance their work obligations and personal commitments, and firms that have the right formula on flexibility have an edge."

Another reminder: Work/life balance means different things to different people. So if during an interview, a candidate says he or she wants work/life balance, ask what that means. Are there specific things that are important to them? Specific days or times they need off? If a firm needs to hire two people and one is willing to work late on Mondays but needs to leave early Fridays and another is all for working late on Fridays but plays in a softball league and must leave early on Mondays, it could be a good match.

Dig a little deeper.

The study also found that 67 percent of students said conversations with current employees will most influence their decision to accept a job offer. Firms might want to talk to their current employees to make sure they are happy and how to fix it if they aren't.

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