Monday, May 4, 2009

Is it worth it going to accounting networking events?

CB4 won me an interview. Too bad he can't win games.

I went to almost every accounting networking event offered at my University for the Big 4 firms, BDO and GT. I recommend going to every one, if you do not have something more important to do. When I say important, I mean studying for an exam, or doing an urgent assignment – not hanging out with friends.

You may have some smart people say that they got a big 4 job without going to any recruiting event. Either

A) They are top quality candidates. President of your accounting society, 90+ average, interpersonal skills that can make partners swoon, can pick up accounting chicks with “I’d like to audit your assets”.. or
B) They got hired during the Big 4 Massive Hiring Prosperity Period .. or
C) They got lucky

Times are changing now especially in our recession plagued economy world. I 100% recommend going to these events. You may think that it is boring, a bunch of ass-kissing, and all the same, but nevertheless, it is an integral part of the recruiting process.

You may hear friends saying, “It’s useless going. It doesn’t help. My friend got into KPMG without ever going to a recruiting event!” In that case, you should respond with “There is no way it can hurt in going. Since I have nothing better to do, I will go.”

There is no way it can hurt you in going to those recruiting events. Is it worth your time? Yes. Recruiters are advised to remember names of people who they feel have good “Big 4 potential.” This can give you an edge in the resume or interview selection process. I also believe it helps you develop your interpersonal skills if you are more of the anti-social type.

Part of being a multi-talented person is being able to keep up a conversation with anyone; whether it is a co-op working at Deloitte or a partner at PWC.

I only have two rules for big 4 networking events.

Rule number 1: Don’t’ bore and piss off recruiters.
Rule number 2: Never forget rule number 1.

How do you bore recruiters?

By continually talking and not letting other people talk. i.e. Hogging the recruiter.

Know when to enter a group clustered around a recruiter. Know when to exit a group. Do not stay with the same recruiter for extended periods of time no matter how well you think the conversation is going. Recruiters aren’t here just to meet you. They want to meet everyone. By not letting the recruiter go, this shows desperation and you are failing to let the recruiter do their job which will piss them off. I recommend staying with a recruiter only as long as there is no one else waiting to talk with them. If there are other people waiting, keep it short and simple.

If you are controlling the conversation and one of your friends wants to enter the conversation, be courteous and introduce the recruiter to your friend. This shows manners and how you would handle a professional setting.

Other common mistakes are asking boring questions. How do you like working at the firm? How long have you’ve been working at the firm? What’s the best part about working at the firm? What audits have you been on?

Impressing recruiters is just like impressing girls. =) Your success ratio is based on how you present yourself and NOT being nice and boring.

The problem with asking your typical boring questions is that hundreds of candidates ask those same questions to the recruiters every day. What exactly have you done to distinguish yourself as a candidate? It is ok to throw a typical “boring” question here and there, but your conversation should not be based on that alone. Have some substance. Talk about something interesting and you will learn about the firm at the same time.

Win a recruiters heart and you will win the interview.

The most successful accounting kids at my school were the ones who could talk about anything. They would talk about sports, cars, current events, past events, everything. They never hogged recruiters and showed professional courtesy. They could start conversations with "What do you think about Lindsay Lohan" and still win the recruiters heart. These were the people that recruiters wanted. Why?
They were interesting. They were memorable. They were not boring.

If you are not as good as them, talk about your passion, teach the recruiter something, or talk about something the recruiter has passion for. This will make you much more “distinguishable” from regular accounting kids.

I got a shot at my interview by talking raptors basketball with a senior manager. I quickly found out he played basketball. I asked what do you think about Chris Bosh? The conversation lasted 30 minutes ranging from everything from Vince Carter to draft picks. I also followed my rule number one, introducing people to the senior manager, and keeping the interesting conversation alive. There were only 3 people waiting to speak with him, and I incorporated them all into our basketball conversation. When I knew it was time to leave, I left graciously. I didn’t try to prolong the conversation beyond the “natural state” of the conversation. In my interview, I had another basketball fanatic. 1/3 of the interview was about basketball. I knew I got the job within the first 5 minutes.

Rule number one: Never bore and piss off recruiters.
Rule number two: Never forget rule number one.
Thanks DJ for a great question.

5 comments:

  1. I just got back from a PWC pre interview and networking event. It was so horribly boring I decided to use google and see if anyone else shared the same opinion. This article is spot on. If you want an interview/job with the big 4 follow this advice. Bullshitting and being courteous are two very good skills to have.

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  2. Thanks for your advice! By the way,how do you start the conversation? "Hi, I'm ________. What did you think of _________?" I'm not sure how to incorporate something completely random into a conversation with somebody I don't know, and especially a recruiter.

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