In this edition of Generational Viewpoints, we asked Generation Y audit senior Natalie Miller, born in 1987, and Generation X audit partner Jerry O'Doherty, born in 1970, from Seim Johnson LLP, an Omaha, Neb.-based firm with over 80 employees, to answer the following question: "What do you think is most important, and what do you think should change, about the on-campus recruiting experience?"

 

MILLER'S GENERATION Y VIEWPOINT

Sometimes it seems like on-campus recruiting has become a competition for which firm has the most impressive signage and giveaways. I remember as a student being excited about all of the free highlighters, CD cases, duffel bags, flash drives, and even a sunglasses clip I accumulated. Now, being on the other side of on-campus recruiting at a local firm, I understand that the purpose for those giveaways is to gain some name and brand recognition. However, these "things" are not most important when it comes to choosing your place of employment. When other students asked why I chose Seim Johnson over some of the other firms I had interviewed with, my answer was simple: "Culture."

The most challenging and important thing about on-campus recruiting is giving students a taste of the firm's culture in the short amount of time available, while still getting to know them well enough to see if they would be a good fit for our culture. At a "Meet the Firms" event, I often find myself running through a script of firm statistics with prospective recruits: the size, services, people, etc. Before long, it's time for the student to move on to another booth and pass out another resume. The key is to take opportunities like this, along with opportunities in other settings, such as accounting clubs and fraternities, guest lectures, informal gatherings, etc., and make it a two-way conversation.

The change I would like to see in on-campus recruiting is more firms recruiting for positions that offer experience in both audit and tax during the first year or two of employment. Firms in general need to offer flexibility and movement. As a generation, I think we like to "try things out" before we really commit. After talking to students throughout the recruiting process, most don't seem to know which path within accounting they want to take. I was fortunate to have had experience in audit, tax and consulting during my first few years on the job. I know that what you learn in college classes is very different from doing the actual work, and I am extremely thankful for the ability to experience it all before choosing a path.

 

O'DOHERTY'S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT

From an employer's perspective, the most important part about on-campus recruiting is getting an opportunity to interact, in a one-on-one situation, with the student in an environment where they feel most comfortable -- their "home turf." If the student is not able to communicate effectively, which includes making eye contact, exhibiting non-verbal gestures that demonstrate that they are listening, showing confidence, etc., when they are in a comfortable environment, then I know they will most likely have trouble communicating successfully with clients or potential clients (which are typically not "comfortable" situations).

We often see students who have very high grade point averages and academic accomplishments, but at the end of the day we need people who demonstrate confidence and can effectively communicate internally with other team members and with clients and prospects. While we innately try to "sell" our firm during the recruiting process to everyone, we try to design interviews in a way that can determine whether those interpersonal skills are present so we can choose the best fit for our firm.

It often seems like students limit their options for future employment and pull themselves from the interview process prematurely because they have already accepted a job without exploring different types of firms, don't consider interviews with particular firms because they are perceived to be too small or too large, or are influenced by professors who may mistakenly think there are only a few firms that are "worthy" to work for (typically based on their size).

With all of the "personality matching Web sites" out there for dating, it would be nice if there was a questionnaire that students and accounting firms could fill out to indicate which firms would be a best match for each student. There is definitely a difference in culture and the types of personalities that are successful from firm to firm. The type of person who fits best in one firm may not fit into or succeed in another. Having worked in two different firms and been in the business a while, I've seen this personally time and again.

 

This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at krista@convergencecoaching.com.

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