College Recruiting: Out with the Bland Job Fairs and in with the ‘Wow’

In light of a new AICPA trends report that noted a drop in accounting graduates, a Wall Street Journal article on new tactics to woo students grabbed our attention here at INSIDE Public Accounting.

CPA firms are desperate for talent, with too much work and too few people to do it. Enrollment across all colleges and universities dropped nearly 8% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, and firms have turned to non-accounting graduates more frequently – the increase was 10% in 2020. The majority of firms, 74%, are looking to hire more accounting graduates this year compared with 2021, the AICPA study says.

How to reach those students? Perhaps a look at new recruitment methods in other professions may be instructive:

Exclusivity with a Wow Factor – Academy Sports + Outdoors invited 53 Baylor University students to an invitation-only speed-networking event in the presidential suite of the campus football stadium with its impressive views of the field below. Bill Ennis, Academy’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer, told the Journal that career fairs are impersonal compared with a private event. “This environment, this wow factor, probably drew out a few more kids,” he said.

Competitions and Scholarships – University of Southern California’s business school held a Boeing-sponsored case competition for undergrads while Boeing executives mentored students, judged the competitions and paid scholarship money to the winners.

Knowledge Sharing and Small Groups – Arrive Logistics, a freight-transportation company, sent executives to the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for a lecture and coffee chats with juniors and seniors. “Gone are the days of the regular info sessions,” said Nicole Furnia, director of university relations for Arrive Logistics.

Videos with Personality – North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., asked employers to record short, stripped-down videos that play on a loop in some academic buildings or at the beginning of some classes, said Cierra Wilson, the university’s assistant director of employer relations. Videos that are too slick are seen as fake. “They’re inundated with so many employers wanting to connect with them,” she said of the students at the historically Black university. “They’re finding the employers they connect with the most are authentic.”


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