The six most common recruiting mistakes.
Mark Satterfield, director of career services, Emmy University Graduate School of Business Administration, Atlanta, and a college recruiting consultant, explains why firms' on-campus efforts don't always succeed.
A successful recruiting program is critical today because of shrinking accounting graduating classes and firms' greater efforts to raise productivity and cut costs by recruiting only "the best and the brightest. " Yet many CPA firms aren't satisfied with their recruiting efforts because they don't include all of the components necessary in a college relations effort. Here are some of the reasons firms don't get maximum results from their campus trips.
THE WRONG SCHOOLS WERE RECRUITED
A variety of factors should be considered when selecting where to recruit. Geography, alumni who work for the firm and a strong accounting department are all valid criteria. One mistake that should be avoided, especially if college recruiting is a new activity for a firm, is going only to campuses that are known nationally for their accounting programs. The competition is already well established at these schools and a newcomer's efforts usually will not yield immediate results. To achieve short and long-term success, supplement recruiting at the well-known schools with a concerted effort to identify the "hidden jewels." These are schools that may have an emerging reputation for excellence but are not yet being heavily recruited. They are often smaller schools or those not located in large cities and may have been overlooked by the recruiting competition. Select schools the same way a fisherman decides where to fish: Pick a pond that is well stocked, but count on getting the best results at places that aren't surrounded by crowds of other fishermen.
INTERVIEWS AND NOTHING ELSE
Too often, accounting firms parachute onto a campus, conduct interviews, leave-and then wonder why they didn't achieve the anticipated results. The success of a college relations program hinges on what precedes the on-campus interviews. This preinterview activity may include one-on-one visits with influential accounting faculty and university staff, company presentations describing opportunities at the firm, summer internships, financial contributions, appearances by firm members on panels or teaching an accounting class.
An important first step is to visit with the placement director at any school being considered. He or she can provide you with a great deal of information about the make-up of the student body, the recruitment efforts of other firms and which firms recruit at the school. The placement officer often can make recommendations on activities that will increase the firm's visibility. The more creative a firm is in developing and maintaining visibility on campus, the greater the likelihood it win achieve tangible success.
A BAD PMESENTATION
A highly respected, nationally known firm recently made a presentation to a group of accounting students. For 45 minutes, the presenter proudly talked about the size of the firm. This was followed by an exhaustive overview of how the firm's list of clients had increased consistently over the past three years. Interesting stuff perhaps, but not what the audience wanted to hear. At no point did the presentation touch on what the firm was like to work for or the day-to-day responsibilities of the job or the criteria for performance. Students most want to know about the challenges and opportunities the firm offers and the training they will receive. They are also very interested in how one career opportunity differs from others they may be considering.
WHAT'S THE FIRM'S IMAGE ON CAMPUS?
Too often, firms seeking to recruit accountants execute a generic recruiting program without taking into consideration differences in the way they are perceived on campus. It's important that the firm be familiar with students' understanding of what a career at the firm will mean so that employment issues can be addressed during the on-campus presentation or through other means. However, it is difficult for a firm to determine accurately what its image is, using internal resources. One way to identify perceptions-and misperceptions-about a firm is to use an outside consulting service to conduct interviews with faculty, administrators and students who turned down previous offers of employment. THE WRONG RECRUITERS Probably no one factor has hurt recruiting programs more than having a poorly trained or uninterested interviewer show up on campus. Doing so will yield disappointing results no matter how much hard work the firm does beforehand.
There are advantages and disadvantages to sending a line accounting manager instead of a human resource recruiter. The line manager offers a depth of knowledge about the accounting field that the human resources recruiter does not have. Additionally, students often prefer to speak with someone actually working in accounting. Unfortunately, because accountants aren't involved in interviews as often as human resources personnel, they may not be proficient at it. The result can be an incomplete interview and a bad hiring decision. Bad hiring decisions can create a variety of problems, including excessive turnover.
If accountants interview on campus it is important that they receive training in selecting candidates for further consideration. A typical oncampus interview schedule consists of 13 half-hour interviews. Not only is the pace grueling, but the interviewer must obtain necessary information in an abbreviated period of time. Managers should be trained in the mechanics of interviewing and should have a solid grasp of selection criteria. Getting information is not the goal of the interview-getting the right type of information is. Unless managers understand selection criteria, they will have great difficulty evaluating candidates.
POOR FOLLOW UP
It's a shame when a firm works hard at identifying its image on campus, makes a strong presentation that covers issues important to students, trains and sends to campus a topnotch recruiter and then drops the ball in the critical follow-up stage. Firms that tell students they'll be back in touch in two weeks should do everything they can to honor that commitment. Even telling the student that it will take a while to make a decision is better than not communicating at all. I've always found it curious that organizations will communicate quickly with students in whom they have no further interest. However, they are agonizingly slow to get in touch with students with whom they're initially impressed. Logically, the opposite should occur, but time after time well-meaning organizations have made this mistake.
When students come for the office visit, make sure each person the student will meet has a clear role in the selection process. Ask each interviewer to focus on a certain component of the selection criteria. Place senior managers or partners last on the schedule, primarily to sell students on the benefits of joining the firm. With out-of-town students, a nice touch is to invite them to arrive the night before and arrange for them to have dinner with someone from the finn. Ideally this would be an individual recently recruited from the same school. Since students are on a tight budget, prepaying airline tickets, direct billing hotel rooms and promptly reimbursing them for their out-of-pocket expenses makes a favorable impression. Additionally, students appreciate receiving an interview schedule with the names and titles of the people they'll meet.
THE STUDENT'S DECISION
This article doesn't cover everything firms should know about recruiting -or even all of the things that can go wrong in a college relations effort. However, in planning and reviewing recruiting efforts, an important first step is to recognize that the most desirable students usually are being recruited by other accounting firms. How a company follows all of the components of its college relations strategy carries significant weight in the student's ultimate decision. N
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|Publication:||Journal of Accountancy|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1991|
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