Meet the Firms is an event that’s typically held at major colleges and universities in the fall, at the beginning of the school year. It’s basically a career fair for students who are pursuing an accounting major. The goal of Meet the Firms is two-sided:
The typical Meet the Firms event takes place over a period of one to three days. There’s usually some sort of introductory meeting where everyone learns about the event, who is represented, and how everything will work.
The rest of the time is spent mingling, visiting booths, and striking up conversations with representatives from the various firms. In some cases, there might even be impromptu interviews, breakout groups, and other opportunities for networking.
Every Meet the Firms event will have its own feel. But for the most part, they’re fairly similar in structure and opportunities. If you’re an accounting student hoping to get a head start in the field, here are six helpful tips for mastering this critical event.
1. Know Which Firms to Speak With
It’s helpful to do your homework before Meet the Firms: Make a list of companies you want to speak with, as well as the ones you do not wish to spend time meeting.
While you might assume you would want to focus only on the firms you want to speak with, this isn’t necessarily the case. We actually recommend starting with the companies on the other list.
Why would you want to begin with firms you wouldn’t care to work for? The short answer is “practice.” It allows you to practice your pitch, field a few questions, and get a feel for how these conversations may go without feeling the pressure to perform at your best. (Plus, you might even discover that you like one of these other firms after you’re met their team in person.)
Once you have a few “practice” sessions under your belt, you can move on to the big stage and meet with the representatives of the outfits that interest you the most.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Everyone wants to focus on the “elevator pitch” at Meet the Firms. (This is the quick 30-to-60-second pitch you toss at recruiters when you step up to their booth.)
But most recruiters are going to look past the pitch. They know you’ve spent a lot of time polishing it, so they aren’t going to give it nearly as much weight as most students believe.
How do you stand out? Try asking good questions… really good questions.
Questions show curiosity, inquisitiveness, and intelligence. The more thorough and particular your questions are, the more you’ll impress people. Ask questions that are specific to the firm and show interest in their responses. These are the kind of details that firms remember.
3. Prepare Ahead of Time
Do as much homework as you can on the companies you expect to talk to, prior to the day of the event. If you try to “wing it” and pretend you know what you’re talking about, firm reps and recruiters will see through you. Master the essential information ahead of time and your conversations will be much more fruitful.
4. Nail the First Impression
Let’s talk about the first impression. Though your elevator pitch might not be as crucial as some make it out to be, your overall first impression is.
Within the first 10 to 15 seconds, a recruiter will have already formed judgments on your background, work ethic, trustworthiness, and, potentially, on your hireability. You can positively influence these factors by:
It’s important to be professional, but you shouldn’t do so at the expense of coming off like a robot. You want to strike a balance between professionalism and personality. Firms should get the impression that you’re competent, but that you also possess the ability to integrate seamlessly into their culture.
5. Listen and Apply
Failure to listen is perhaps the number-one mistake that accounting students make at Meet the Firms. It’s easy to get so focused on what you want to say that you forget that networking is a two-way street.
One of the top tips for success at these events is to listen and apply. In other words, listen to the responses, language, and nuggets of wisdom that you encounter at each interaction and apply them right away to improve your conversation at the next booth or table.
6. Take Notes Immediately
It’s easy to hear something and think to yourself, “I need to remember that when I get home.” But mental notes have notoriously low recall.
If you want to remember something important–such as a name, website, or essential step to take–write it down in your notebook immediately after meeting with a firm. This frees up your mind to focus on the next exchange, and lessens the chance that you’ll forget a critical piece of information.
Most students focus on the actual Meet the Firms event, but the key to success is the preparation ahead of time. The more you have prepared in advance for the event, the more freedom you’ll feel to relax and be yourself at the event.
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