Preparing for that Interview for an Entry-Level Position?  Here are some friendly tips from an HR person ….or tips from a friendly HR person!

Starting this week, we here at Freed Maxick CPAs will be interviewing one student every 30 to 45 minutes, five days a week for entry level and internship positions with us. We have opportunities in every office for Audit, Tax and EAS (Enterprise Advisory Services) staff.  Our Risk Management group is looking for candidates in Buffalo and Rochester, and ABL (Asset Based Lending) has opportunities in Buffalo for Field Auditors willing to travel 75 to 80 percent across the country on a regular basis.

For accounting students hoping to secure employment with a public accounting firm in 2014, this is an anxious time. Surprise, surprise – it’s anxious for recruiters and employers too. We have a set number of positions to fill – as do dozens of other Firms in and out of the area. We’re all circling – looking for the student with just the right fit, the right personality, the right grades, the right experience. How will we find a match?  How will we find the right match 25 times for 25 spots? Here are a few tips for you if you’re meeting with us.

Your Resume and Contact Information

Email Addresses – Please oh, please skip the cutesy email addresses.  “Lilcowgirl” or “Drinksonme00” make you look childish, overly familiar and insincere about your job search. This isn’t the goal here – you want to be taken seriously and find a job, don’t you?

The Outgoing Message on your Voicemail – If you’ve submitted a resume, let’s hope you’ll get a few phone calls to set up some interviews. If your outgoing message is musical (the worst), or you rap your name and message (also annoying), or you say something like “I’m not here – you know what to do” – UGH.  Count the missed calls you’ll get from recruiters who will make a judgment call (right or wrong) to steer clear based on that darn message. Instead, leave a professional greeting stating your name and that you will return the call as soon as possible.

Answering the phone – If you’re driving, shopping, running, exercising, sleeping, in the movie theater, etc. DON’T ANSWER the phone. Let it go to voicemail. If you’re engaged in one of these activities, you probably aren’t prepared to schedule an interview anyway or field questions about your resume. I once had a student whisper responses because he was sitting in class. Let the caller leave a message and return the call when you’re prepared to carry on a proper conversation.

Let’s say you’ve done all this and now you have a scheduled interview!

The Interview

Show up on time– That means about five to ten minutes before the interview. Research the location of the meeting ahead of time. Estimate your drive time, or train or bus time.  You don’t want to be too early and you certainly can’t be late. Showing up 30 minutes early doesn’t win you points. The interviewers are on a schedule too and you will just end up sitting there and waiting longer than you wanted to in the first place. Ten minutes before your scheduled time will give you an opportunity to catch your breath, review your resume, check for random dog hairs or fuzzies on your suit, etc. Which brings me to wardrobe…

Wardrobe and What to Wear

Yes – it’s suit time.  Even if the company’s dress code is business casual, we want to see you in a suit – especially in public accounting. You will need at least one suit to start if you get the job. There will be client meetings and board presentations and we want to be sure you look the part of a polished Staff Accountant with a Top 100 Firm. Trust me – we’re looking! Is it clean? Pressed? Does it match? Are the shoes in good shape? Did you remove the little thread that holds the pleat together on the back of the jacket? We will notice if you didn’t.

Guys – Don’t just iron the collar and cuffs of your shirt. The office may be 85 degrees that day – what if you need to take off your jacket? Busted!

Ladies – We may give you an office tour.  That means walking through our three floors.  Don’t break out the new stilettos this day. A face plant in the office won’t be the impression you want to make. You will forever be remembered as the one who took the header that day.

It goes without saying but I’ll mention it anyway – no visible piercings on guys.  Pierced ears only on ladies. No visible tattoos for girls and guys. Watch out for accessory or fragrance overload, clanging bracelets, shoulder dusting earrings. Guys should shave or if you have facial hair, it has to be trimmed and well-kept.

Common Sense

Turn the cell phones off (we can still hear it vibrate), remove the Bluetooth, no gum, no hair twirling, tapping pens or looking at your watch. Make eye contact!  Don’t look past us, or become engrossed in your own resume.  You can keep a copy in front of you for reference, but don’t study it like it’s the first time you’ve seen it.

Bring extra copies of your resume, transcript, etc. for us.  Especially if you’ve updated this information since you submitted it.

If a beverage is offered – take it. You may not be thirsty now but your mouth may become dry, you may get that annoying little throat tickle that throws you into eye-watering, coughing convulsions. You’ll have water to sip just in case. It will give you some peace of mind.

Ask questions. Have at least three prepared and ready to go. Look at our website beforehand and ask about things that draw your interest. Show us you’ve done your homework. Don’t just ask “What kind of training do you provide?” or “What can I expect my first day/year?” or “What are the office hours?” All very boring, standard questions.

The worst thing you can say is “no” when we ask you if you have questions. If you don’t, this signals to us that you know everything there is to know about our Firm. That’s not possible.

“How much PTO will I get” shows us you’re already thinking about taking time off without getting the job so skip that one too.

When it’s time to wrap up, shake hands. Do that at the beginning of the interview too. A nice firm, non-sweaty grip that’s assertive but not forceful. Thank the interviewers for their time and ask what the timeframe is for next steps.

If you have other offers, let us know. We want to be respectful of your timeline too and other pending opportunities.

Thank you notes to Interviewers that are hand written or emailed are still appropriate. They give you an opportunity to further expand on why you are qualified for the job and we need to hire you.

A good interviewer will get back to you in a week to ten days with an update. Now is not the time to stalk the HR Person. Hold off on any “How’s the search going” inquiries before that one week has passed. Your thank you note will put you in front of them again so they won’t forget you. They may be going through their own process and interviewing many candidates. Give them time to process. If it’s been two weeks, feel free to reach out with an email that says “I really enjoyed learning about XYZ Company and am hoping I am still a candidate for your open position. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information.” This friendly and succinct message reminds the recruiter you are still out there – interested and waiting to hear from them. Too many calls, emails, voicemail message, etc. smacks of desperation. And you aren’t desperate!

It’s a nerve-wracking time for all of us. Remember that we both have tasks in front of us: you want to find the right job to launch your career and we want to find the best and the brightest.

In the end, if the interview process doesn’t end with a job offer, remember that it was still a good experience and practice for you, and that you’ve made contact with people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. Maybe the timing is off, and there isn’t a position available right now – but who knows what the future will bring? We’ve definitely called back people we previously met because they made a good impression during that interview.

Review these tips, take some deep breaths, be yourself and good luck!  Hopefully we will meet across the interview table, and you can tell me how things are working out for you.