Campus Recruiting: The Faculty Perspective
(Harv) Busta, D’Arcy Becker, P. Jane Saly, Richard S. Sathe,
and Kate Mooney
JULY 2007 -
Current market forces such as the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley
Act (SOX) have increased demand for entry-level accountants. While
student enrollments in accounting programs have begun to rise in
response to this demand, competition to hire college accounting
majors remains intense. Both students and employers look to faculty
for help in navigating these challenges. Long-term relationships
between employers, faculty, and students are critical. Long-term
relationships help employers make efficient use of recruiting resources,
help faculty understand the needs of both employers and students,
and help students identify suitable employers. Without long-term
relationships, employers are less likely to attract students to
their job openings and faculty members are less likely to recommend
that students pursue those openings. The key factors in developing
long-term relationships are the same factors as for other relationships:
trust through respect, mutual benefit, and consistency.
Key Recruiting Campuses
should concentrate their efforts on a few key campuses. This reduces
the high cost of recruiting while maximizing results. The number
of campuses will depend on one’s recruiting needs, but at
least four is recommended. A diverse pool of schools, public and
private, large and small, is an important factor. Employers should
think of the schools as a portfolio and consider their ability
to meet the firm’s long-term need for a diverse set of employees
with varying backgrounds and interests.
on a small number of campuses forces employers to think about
the match between job opportunity and student before the recruiting
process begins. The selection of campuses should be based on several
factors, such as the location and profile of the firm and the
type of services the firm provides. For example, if a firm’s
clients are located in small communities, then choose some schools
from small communities or schools in that geographic area. Students
at those schools might be more eager than students from large
cities to work in small communities. If a firm has a large tax
service, recruiting at campuses with a strong tax faculty might
be more important.
mater of firm personnel is likely to be a factor in the selection
of schools. A personal connection between firm members and a school
has the advantage of providing goodwill with the faculty and good
understanding of the campus culture. It also demonstrates to students
(prospective employees) that they too can be successful at the
firm. Frequently, firms use recent graduates as part of their
recruiting efforts on campus. It is unwise to consider this factor,
however, over the criteria outlined above.
the Campus and Students
a relationship with a campus, the first contact should be the
department chair. Discuss the firm and its recruiting goals, along
with the firm’s desire to establish a long-term relationship,
and the firm’s reason for choosing the school.
If a firm
has not recruited at the school before, or if the chair is not
familiar with the firm, provide information about the firm, send
firm literature, and consider a personal meeting. The relationship
is important to the success of recruiting efforts.
that faculty members have a primary allegiance to their students,
which means that their goal is to provide a wide and diverse number
of opportunities for them. Don’t expect faculty to support
one firm over another. Help the faculty to see the opportunities
the firm offers, so they can inform students. Faculty members
must remain neutral, but can help a student find the right fit.
On-campus interviews are a good opportunity to meet with the faculty
and describe the firm. The career services office can arrange
lunches with faculty members.
goal is to obtain facts about the program that will be useful
in setting the recruiting strategy. For each school one should
know the following:
- The size
of accounting faculty and qualifications (e.g., PhDs, work experience,
- The number
of students graduating at each term (fall, spring, and summer).
- The types
of degrees: undergraduate, MBA, MS, or MAcc.
- The types
of careers sought by students (e.g., audit, tax, corporate,
- The accreditations
earned by the department and college (e.g., Association to Advance
College Schools of Business).
- If the
curriculum qualifies students to sit for the CPA exam.
- The potential
avenues for students to complete 150 credit hours.
- The curriculum,
both for accounting (e.g., not-for-profit, international accounting)
and other types of courses (e.g., ethics, communications).
- The diversity
of the student body (e.g., foreign, local, other U.S. regions).
- The contact
information (e.g., department chair, office administrator, internship
director, and career services).
- The contact
information for the presidents of the accounting club; the national
accounting-student fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi; and Beta Gamma
Sigma, an international honor society of business students and
- The dates
that campus recruiting begins and ends.
- The typical
timing of an internship and permanent offers.
- The dates
of annual banquets or other important social events.
- The dates
of midterm and final examinations.
will help in deciding whether the school should be a key school.
Each school will have its strengths and weaknesses, but as a group,
the strengths should offset the weaknesses. If not, the pool of
schools should be adjusted.
Relationships with Campuses
many ways to build a relationship with a campus, and the chair
can help in suggesting activities. The following are some possibilities:
guest speakers for classes.
events with the accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi.
mock interviews, especially in years when not interviewing for
full-time or internship positions.
a website designed specifically for recruiting.
or sponsor seminars for students (e.g., professional dress and
a special-topics course in certain areas as needed by the school
(e.g., SOX compliance, information technology auditing).
subscriptions for students (e.g., The New Accountant, The
Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, BusinessWeek) in
accounting labs or other areas where accounting students congregate.
the campus career fair, even when the firm is not going to be
hiring, so that its name becomes known by the faculty and students.
shadowing programs (these are especially popular in the summer).
in campus fundraising (having a classroom or computer lab named
after a firm provides high name recognition).
All of the
above require resource commitment and coordination between the
school and firm. These relationship-building activities are mutually
beneficial. They can help a school educate accounting professionals
and help a firm recruit effectively.
that keep a firm’s name recognizable over time should be
undertaken at all schools in the recruiting pool. Some of these
are relatively low cost and include providing small scholarships
($1,000), conducting mock interviews, attending the career fair,
and job shadowing. More expensive endeavors may be undertaken
at selected schools, but on a less frequent basis. Perhaps a firm
can commit to teaching one course every other term, or teach an
etiquette seminar every two years, or raise money from alumni
to upgrade a classroom or computer lab every five years. These
larger commitments can have a big impact on students.
important factor in the success of any of these relationship-building
activities is consistency. Be consistent with what is done, and
to the extent possible, be consistent with the firm personnel
involved. These activities should be done even when a firm is
not hiring; students should perceive a firm’s consistent
allows a school’s career services department, student leaders,
and faculty to understand a firm’s “personality.”
When career services knows a firm contact well, the office will
notice changes in the recruiting pattern (interview schedules
not filling quickly, students not speaking favorably about a firm,
or campus recruiters missing deadlines or being disorganized during
the recruiting season) and help a firm correct the problems. When
the student club president knows the firm contact, it is easier
to set up events. When faculty members know the contact person
well, they are more likely to ask about classroom visits or to
discuss other issues. This familiarity will help a firm fill late
openings or deal with delicate recruiting issues.
relationship can help a firm through lean times on campus, such
as when a firm holds interviews in which students do not show
interest or when a firm has many offers rejected. Oftentimes,
a firm’s success in recruiting students will come in waves.
This most commonly occurs when a firm recruits one or two popular
or influential students who, in turn, may be responsible for peers
joining them at the firm. This ripple effect is good for the hiring
firm and prompts other firms to ask how they can emulate that
success. If a firm has built a long-term relationship it can recover
faster. Take the example of a firm that failed to recruit any
new hires and approached a department chair for help. The
department chair convened a focus group of students who mentioned
that the campus recruiter did not return calls. The students had
other offers and chose the firms that paid more attention to them.
Students spread the word about this firm and other students avoided
it. The firm restructured its on-campus recruiting and concentrated
on timely feedback and a quick turnaround on questions. It took
three years, but the firm found greater success than it had prior
to the episode.
visits to campuses should be done by a consistent team from year
to year. The recruiting effort should be directed by an experienced
central contact who knows the firm’s history with the campus.
The contact should get to know faculty members and career services
personnel to facilitate relationship building. This person should
also be responsible for keeping track of each school’s procedures
for scheduling on-campus interviews, placing the notices of firm
openings, arranging for space at recruiting fairs, and other activities.
use new staff as greeters for campus interviews, which is especially
effective when done by alumni. New hires should facilitate recruiting,
however, not lead it. Firms that do not send more-senior people
to conduct interviews are viewed unfavorably by students. Also,
a recent hire may not understand the importance of the recruiting
effort and how to capitalize on relationships.
suggest a recruiting model as shown in the Exhibit.
Various versions of this model have been used with great success.
The concept is that partner-level individuals provide continuity,
a manager-level individual oversees the consistent execution of
the details, and new staff provide the energy and enthusiasm for
the numerous campus visits.
When a transition
occurs within this model, the chair can contact either the human
resources partner or the partner-in-charge for the chair’s
campus. This prevents loss of continuity and impairment of the
long-term relationship. This model does not base recruiting efforts
on a single person. This is especially important if the recruiting
contact (campus recruiter) is at the staff or managerial level
or works exclusively in human resources. Another feature is that
the chair of the department and career services will always know
whom to call. If the staff or manager-level contact changes, recruiting
efforts will not break down.
should be consistent on job specifics, how the firm will proceed
after the interview, and the requirements necessary from each
candidate. For example, if some students are told grades are not
important and others are told that they are, word will spread
quickly that the firm does not treat everyone equally.
recruiting efforts across the portfolio of key schools. The overall
recruiting plan should feature the dates of key events (e.g.,
peak interviewing times, banquets, midterms, and final exams)
on each campus. Knowing the schedule of events on each campus
in advance will help a firm strategically make offers and modify
recruiting efforts as offers are accepted and rejected on various
student interest, firms should think creatively by offering flexible
internships. Summer internships can be an excellent way to develop
a competitive recruiting edge over other firms. Firms have evaluated
the timing of their staffing needs and offer internships at nontraditional
times. For example, one firm had unusual staffing needs and offered
an internship starting on April 16. This was an opportunity to
recruit students who interned at a different firm during tax season
and did not start classes again until June. Another firm used
1 Qs -year internships as an effective recruiting tool; students
worked 10 to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time
in the summer. This type of internship is quite popular, especially
if it includes a well-defined job rotation schedule.
about staffing needs to prospective interns. For some firms, internships
typically result in permanent job offers. In other firms, internships
are strictly short-term employment or training experiences and
a permanent job offer is unlikely. It is critical to communicate
as clearly as possible to the intern the long-term job prospects.
It is not necessarily negative that an internship is unlikely
to result in a permanent job offer. Some students want to experiment
with an unfamiliar work setting (i.e., governmental accounting,
internal audit) where they are uncertain if they will enjoy the
work, or just want experience in a specific area or company without
the pressure of a job offer. Additionally, some students are not
in a position to accept a permanent position for personal reasons
and, consequently, an internship that is short-term is attractive.
After a student
accepts an internship offer, there are three critical efforts
that a firm must make to ensure the student’s experience
will be positive:
regular and quick feedback. Without timely feedback on their
work performance, interns can repeat errors, only to learn about
them at the end.
a formal training program covering not only technical issues,
but also simple tasks such as operation of the phone system,
technology (e.g., computers, printers, and photocopiers), and
organizational structure. A mentor can be especially helpful
for nontechnical issues.
the intern or new hire busy with meaningful tasks. “Make-work”
activities or unbillable time give a poor impression of the
firm and dramatically lower the quality of the internship experience.
who have positive internship experiences are more likely to speak
favorably about the firm to other students, improving prospects
for future recruiting.
At the end
of the internship, tell students about the firm’s hiring
plans. If it is uncertain whether there will be a permanent opening,
inform the student of the timeline for determining whether there
are openings. If there is an opening but it is not offered to
a particular intern, outline the reasons. This helps students
improve their performance and reduces the negative impact this
decision may have on other students. If students believe they
were rejected for “no reason,” other students may
be less interested in the firm’s future opportunities.
also anticipate that some students will be unable to accept a
permanent offer immediately. If a student completes an internship
and still has two years of school remaining, the student may not
want to lock himself into a job far in advance. Keep this in mind
when determining the characteristics of interns who are hired.
If a firm wants to hire all of its interns into permanent jobs,
it may not want to recruit juniors who are working on 150-credit
situation for any recruitment program is the departure of a campus
recruiter. A firm’s long-term contacts must step in and
manage the transition. Always remember that consistency is crucial
A firm cannot
rely solely on its image as a top firm or its history with a campus
to reach the top talent. Successful recruiting requires persistent
effort. Attend and sponsor campus events even in years the firm
is not hiring. Keeping a firm’s name fresh in students’
minds is important to maintain interest.
about pressuring top students to make a commitment early in their
college careers. At this stage, they are vulnerable and there
is a responsibility to keep their best long-term career interests
in mind. Early job offers may mean that a student forgoes a master’s
degree or does not prepare fully for the CPA exam.
Do not hold
major recruiting events, such as barbecues or parties off campus,
and require students interested in the firm to attend. Students
with jobs and other commitments will immediately lose interest.
It is important
to distinguish between recruiting opportunities and working internships.
While it is tempting to label job shadowing or baseball games
as part of an internship experience to increase participation,
students will be confused and angry when the distinction becomes
of the student grapevine. A misstep with one student can have
disastrous consequences for current and future recruiting efforts.
Students share information and are likely to remember problems
with individual firms. A firm’s reputation with students
is similar to a firm’s reputation with clients: easy to
lose and hard to regain.
long-term relationships are the most effective way to prevent
a recruiting pitfall—or to recover from one. Students, firms,
and faculty all can rebuild and create new bridges when a trusting,
mutually beneficial, and consistent relationship is in place.
new CPAs can be a costly and challenging process for any accounting
firm. From the authors’ perspectives as accounting faculty,
a successful firm must have a strategic plan and establish long-term
relationships with several key campuses. Firms should treat recruiting
as an ongoing effort over a long period of time, rather than as
a one-month-per-year effort. At first glance, this approach may
appear costly, but ineffective recruiting or the recruitment of
mismatched employees imposes a much higher cost on a firm over
the long term.
(Harv) Busta, PhD, CPA (inactive), CISA, is a professor
of accounting and the chairperson at St. Cloud State University,
St. Cloud, Minn.
D’Arcy Becker, PhD, CPA, is a professor of
accounting and the chairperson at the University of Wisconsin–Eau
Claire, Eau Claire, Wisc.
P. Jane Saly, PhD, is an associate professor of
accounting and the chairperson at the Opus College of Business at
the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, Minn.
Richard S. Sathe, EdD, CPA, is an associate professor
of accounting and former chairperson, also at the University of
Kate Mooney, PhD, CPA, is a professor of accounting
and the former chairperson at St. Cloud State University and a member
of the Minnesota Board of Accountancy.