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Improving the recruiting process.


Competition for accounting graduates is so strong that some college seniors are involved in job-hunting activities almost daily during the fall recruiting season. Unfortunately, these recruiting activities often result in poor academic performance and senior burnout. This article discusses the problems students, recruiters and colleges face and describes our school's solution.


Recruiters have developed a number of techniques to attract graduating accounting students. In addition to encouraging students to participate in campus interviews and visit firm offices, they also may

* Hold receptions on the evening before campus interviews.

* Invite students to dinner after interviews.

* Sponsor campus programs and ask prospects to attend firm functions or meals afterward.

* Invite seniors to a midweek sporting event.

* Ask students to return to firm offices after the initial visit and interviews.

Recruiters may use membership rosters of honor organizations to choose the most attractive candidates for these offers. While perhaps flattering and exciting for the students, these additional recruiting activities can cause problems. Having learned of competitors' techniques, each recruiter may feel compelled to organize similar programs. Such activities, however, are expensive in terms of both employee time and cash outlay.

Small accounting firms, in particular, may be frustrated by the intense competition. Even though they may offer compensation, benefits and working conditions comparable to those of bigger firms, they may not have large recruiting budgets. Even for firms that can afford expensive recruiting activities, the incremental return may be marginal. Seniors may be unimpressed and even put off by intense recruiting efforts.


As firms jockey for their attention, students, believing they should participate in as many recruiting functions as possible, may have difficulty balancing academics and job-hunting activities. Consequently, accounting seniors may spend a disproportionate amount of time in the job-hunting process, at the expense of their studies. These activities frequently contribute to student burnout that continues into the final semester.

Recruiting efforts certainly are not the only cause of problems for accounting students in their senior year--coursework alone can cause stress. Even in the best of circumstances, the recruiting season can complicate schedules already filled with classes, assignments and exams. Although developing time management skills is part of the academic process, some students are not yet adept at setting priorities.


Unfortunately, these recruiting practices can adversely affect some students even after graduation. First, the social atmosphere at recruiting functions may unduly influence a student's employment decision. While communication and social skills are important, some students may give more weight to these factors than to the firm's technical competence and reputation.

Second, students may develop false impressions of the day-to-day work in public accounting. Recruits believe their relationship with a firm will be unchanged after employment begins. Consequently, they may overestimate their relative value to their future employers. They may experience a phenomenon sometimes referred to as "reality shock" as a result. It can cause dissatisfaction and may partially explain the high turnover rates experienced by some firms.


Because of these concerns, faculty members at some universities have worked with accounting firms to develop recruiting guidelines. They typically are designed to ensure that students' academic performances are not impeded and that firms of all sizes compete on a level playing field. Such guidelines, however, must not be so restrictive that they hinder the student's and firm's ability to evaluate each other. Recruiting policies must be a joint effort by the faculty and firms.

At Wake Forest University, the faculty met with representatives of a number of firms and the two groups jointly developed a set of mutually beneficial policies and guidelines. Faculty members wanted to reduce the social interaction between firms and students during the academic week but did not want to limit students' employment opportunities. The firms wanted every chance to evaluate seniors and attract the best candidates.

The two groups developed the following guidelines, which they agreed to reevaluate annually. Although not universally applicable, the guidelines can be adapted to suit the needs of other universities.

* An introduction to the firms. Before campus interviews begin each year, the university sponsors an introduction between the firms and the senior accounting students. Each firm is given a separate table and students are divided into small groups that move to different tables at timed intervals. A refreshment period afterward allows students and recruiters to continue discussions.

* Limited midweek functions. Firms don't invite students to any functions--other than campus interviews and office visits--between Sunday and Friday afternoons while school is in session.

* Limited tests or major projects. Faculty members give fewer examinations and projects during the recruiting period.

* On-campus programs. Firms send a limited number of representatives for on-campus programs, which are followed by short refreshment periods.

* Annual events. Sponsorship of annual events, such as picnics and field trips, is rotated among the firms willing to participate. Firms also rotate responsibility for mock interviews, which take place in the spring of students' junior years and include critiques of their performance.


Firms' reactions to the recruiting policies generally have been favorable. Most are glad that all firms are now playing by the same rules, although a few feel restricted.

Students also are pleased with the guidelines, based on a survey of seniors conducted after the fall recruiting period. While approximately 10% believed the guidelines had reduced their chances of getting a job, 85% said they afforded them more time for personal activities and studying. Several students said they felt much less pressure to accept recruiters' invitations to firm activities.

While nothing can solve all the problems experienced by college seniors, the guidelines have reduced the number of time-consuming recruiting activities. We hope that by limiting distractions from course-work we have given students the chance for better educations and more realistic attitudes and expectations. The guidelines also may help decrease firms' recruiting expenditures and thus allow small firms to compete for graduates. The policies' most significant benefit, however, may be an improvement in the quality of new employees.

S. Douglas Beets, CPA, PhD, assistant professor of accounting, Dale R. Martin, DBA, associate professor of accounting, and Ralph B. Tower, CPA, PhD, associate professor of accounting, School of Business and Accountancy, Wake Forest University, 7285 Reynolda Station, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27109, describe how and why their school developed guidelines to improve the recruiting process.
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Article Details
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Author:Tower, Ralph B.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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