Student views toward the on-campus recruiting process. (Management of an Accounting Practice)by Krzystofik, Anthony T.
A major problem facing both public accounting firms and corporations is the hiring of qualified graduates for entry level accounting positions. The problem has been magnified in recent years due to a decrease in the number of accounting majors. Consequently, firms have intensified their on-campus recruiting efforts to hire entry level staff from the diminishing pool of candidates. This effort has included the establishment of recruiting departments comprised of professionally trained staff charged with the responsibility of hiring entry level accountants.
A number of studies have been conducted on the recruiting of accounting students. We sought to examine the effect of the current practices of recruiters on students, including the impact of the process on the final decision made by students in selecting employment. Some educators are concerned that current recruiting practices have become too aggressive and firms may be recruiting in a manner detrimental to both the student and the firm. The objective of this study was to find answers to the following questions:
1. What is the reaction of students to the current on-campus recruiting practices of public accounting firms and private corporations?
2. What effect do current on-campus recruiting practices have on students' academic and personal lives?
3. What factors influence a student in making the final employment decision?
To get a sense of the impact of the on-campus interviewing process we asked a number of questions, summarized in Exhibit 1. Students are likely to miss some classes in order to interview, according to 75% of the respondents. As indicated by 62%, some emotional energy will be devoted towards interviewing at the expense of academic work. However, this process did not harm students' grades or personal life. Eighty two percent did not feel that their grades suffered from the process, and 89% did not feel that their friendships were put under strain. According to 66% of the students, they were able to manage their time well during interviewing, and it was "no problem." In fact, 76% of the respondents indicated that they found the whole process "exciting."
As part of the on-campus recruiting process, most firms sponsor a reception or information session some time prior to the day of the interview. We defined a reception as an event where food is served, but there is no formal presentation. An information session is often held in a conference room or a classroom, food is incidental and there is a formal presentation by the firm. Some firms, as part of the recruiting process, will hold information sessions for any interested students.
We sought to examine this practice, as it may consume a considerable amount of student time.
The questionnaire asked respondents to indicate the number of such receptions or information sessions that they attended. The majority of the respondents indicated that they attended anywhere from four to eight public accounting sessions and one to five private corporation sessions. Typically, students spend from one to three hours at each session.
When asked if they found receptions/information sessions helpful in the actual interviewing process, 84% of the respondents attending receptions for public accounting found the sessions helpful, and 76% of the respondents attending information sessions for private corporations found them helpful. When asked if they felt they had to attend the reception/information sessions to prevent a negative impact on their chances of a job offer, 72% of the candidates for public accounting positions indicated they thought they did have to attend, compared to 58% of the candidates for private corporation positions.
Despite the time spent and pressure felt, when asked if the reception/information sessions should be abolished, 96% of the respondents seeking accounting positions (public and private) indicated they should not be abolished.
After the on-campus interviews are completed, the firms will invite candidates to the firm's office for a second interview, which generally lasts from three to six hours. Of the 56 respondents to the questionnaire, 47 received at least one invitation for a second interview, with two respondents receiving 10 invitations.
We proceeded to investigate the importance of the second interview to candidates and whether they were helpful towards making a decision about a firm. As indicated by the responses, it would appear that the overwhelming majority consider the second interview helpful in making a decision about a firm.
The respondents were also asked about their time preference for scheduling second interviews. In Exhibit 2, a summary is presented of students' responses to five different time preferences for scheduling second interviews. In order of preference, the respondents would prefer second interviews during the January vacation, during the fall semester on non-class days, or between the Christmas and New Year's Day break, in that order. A majority of respondents would not want to schedule second interviews during class periods or on Saturdays during the semester. Because of the location of the campus, students must often leave for the interview the day before the scheduled appointment.
Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicated they had sufficient choice for scheduling second interviews.
Interviewing Process as a Whole
We asked several questions in an attempt to determine the respondents' evaluations of the overall interviewing process. When asked if interviewers asked reasonable questions, the respondents indicated "yes" for 96% of the public accounting interviews and for 79% of the private accounting interviews. When asked if the interviewers gave an accurate picture of what working for the firm would actually be like, the respondents indicated "yes" for 70% of the public accounting interviews and "yes" for 64% of the private accounting interviews. When asked if they thought they were misled in any way by a recruiter during the interview process, the respondents indicated "no" for 91% of the public accounting interviews and "no" for 78% of the private accounting responses. (Remember that the number of private corporation interviews was less than for public accounting.)
It appears from the students' responses to the interviewing process as a whole that in a large majority of instances questions asked were reasonable and that information given was not misleading. This is true for both public and private accounting. However, many would like more non-public accounting opportunities and some would like the recruiting process to be spread over a longer period of time, e.g., not be so concentrated in the Fall semester.
Observations and Conclusions
Our data strongly suggest that factors at the back end of the recruiting process had more impact than those at the beginning. For example, 70% of respondents felt the office interview was "very important" versus 22% for the campus interview and 31% for the reception/information session. Considering what most students felt was "helpful" about office visits (i.e., "chance to speak with more people;" "chance to ask more questions;" "able to see firm's facilities;" "learn more about the job I would be doing") it seems that the substance of what was learned at the office visit was a major determinant.
At least two related suggestions arise from this conclusion. One is that pre-interviewing receptions might be a stronger tool for generating hires if some structured presentation about the firm were included. Topics might include training, the nature of assignments, what it takes to succeed, etc. The social part of the reception would then enable students to ask more questions early in the process.
Concomitant with the first point is the need to get students to accept invitations for office visits. Our data indicate that most of the students turn down one or more office visits, therefore deciding against a firm even prior to learning the most important things about it.
What is the influence of external opinions? The opinion of others does have an impact on a student's decision in a significant minority of cases. In this context, family is "important" or "very important" to 47%; friends 28%; placement office 11%; and faculty 9%. The general reputation of the firm is a key ingredient. This is confirmed by the fact that the "reputation of the firm was "important" or "very important" to 94% of the respondents. It seems that the perception of the firm held by a broad public will impact on the acceptance of job offers and that it would help if family members understood and supported the appropriateness of their son or /daughter entering a firm.
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