From how to prepare prior to the event to what to do after Meet the Firms, here’s how you can stay relaxed and show off your best self.
1. Do not treat Meet the Firms like an interview.
Not treating Meet the Firms like an interview seems counterintuitive, but there is a method to the madness. Interviews are dependent on the first impressions you make with key decision makers at the firm you are interested in. For many of you spring candidates, first impressions are vital if you are planning to land an interview with the recruiter. That said, how do you make a good first impression at Meet the Firms?
The secret to making a good first impression at Meet the Firms is not making it the first impression. If you have not done so already, you should seriously get started on building relationships with the firm that interests you prior to Meet the Firms. You can do this by going to the firm’s office tour, company sponsored events, tech meetings on campus, or any other type of social event where professionals of the firm that interests you might be present. Building a relationship with the firm early on in the semester gives you the upper hand when Meet the Firms approaches. You will have the advantage of having talking points from previous events held on campus or an event that you helped coordinate. Additionally, if you have already taken the step to build a relationship with the firm, remember not to focus on any one person at the firm. Although an individual at the firm may have the power to bring you on board, they are not the only ones in the decision-making process. With that said, if you have started to build the relationship prior to Meet the Firms, you will have better chances of making a good first impression and hopefully landing an interview.
2. Bring resumes that are tailored to the firm(s) you are interested in.
At Meet the Firms, there is not a more important piece of paper than your resume. But bringing 20 copies of the resume you drafted the night before because your professors all decided to have midterms the same day as Meet the Firms is not a situation you want to be in.
The key to a successful resume depends on the firm you are interested in. If you are printing out the same 20 resumes on plain printer paper to different firms, you have just committed an accounting sin. Next time you stop by the bookstore, get some cotton resume paper. However, what you really need to do to make your resume stand out is to have it tailored to the firm or firms of your interest. The best way to tailor a resume to fit the firm’s values is to find a mentor within the firm of your interest and have him or her review your resume. Having a mentor on the inside of the firm review your resume is the best way to get your resume picked out from a stack of resumes at Meet the Firms. Not only is your resume going to stand out and align with what the firm values most, but your resume will also find its way to others within the firm if your mentor likes you and will vouch for you. Overall, having a mentor is a huge benefit, not only for Meet the Firms, but for your career.
Last point about your resume: Unless asked by a professional, do not spend too much time talking about your qualifications at Meet the Firms. Your resume has all your qualifications—there is no need to regurgitate information you have printed. Instead, you should talk to the professionals about things they cannot get from a resume, such as your hobbies, interests, goals, or anything appropriate for the professional setting.
3. Make some friends before the event.
By now, hopefully, you have a clear idea of the firms you want to talk to the day of Meet the Firms. The key to a successful day at the event is to pick a limited amount of firms you want to talk to because let’s face it, you won’t be the only one at Meet the Firms trying to get your name out. There will be hordes of students and candidates crowding the recruiters. The best way to beat the crowd is to 1) plan which firms you would like to talk to and find out where they are located within the event center, 2) skip the delicious food that is laid out before you in the middle of the building, and 3) walk over to the recruiter with your friend who just so happens to be signed with the firm you are interested in. This might seem cliché, but at Meet the Firms it is not about what you know—it is about who you know. Most of the candidates at the event have the same qualifications as you, have the same amount of job experience as you, attend the same classes as you, and get the same grades as you. So who do you have to know?
If you know a classmate, an Accounting Society member, a Beta Alpha Psi member, or any other business club member that is involved with professional events and might have connections with the firm you are interested in, you should definitely talk to them. Talk to him or her about their experiences with the firm and the company culture. Ask him or her questions about things that you might face the first year of working with the firm since they are going through it right now. Talking to a new hire, intern, or someone with connections to the inside of the firm not only gives you a better understanding of the firm’s culture and values, but you also can eventually develop a relationship and hopefully work together in the same office.
At Meet the Firms, ask this friend of yours if they can introduce you to the hiring manager or recruiter if you have not met them already. You will have the perk of skipping the huge lines and hordes of students trying to talk to the hiring manager like you are some kind of VIP at the hottest nightclub. One final note: Use professional judgment and be patient when you are with a friend on the inside of the firm. You do not want to interrupt a conversation a professional is having with another candidate.
4. Show your soft skills by relaxing and hanging out afterward.
Usually after Meet the Firms, some firms and professionals go to the CalCPA sponsored event at Fountains or another bar in the area to relax in a more social environment without being bombarded by tons of students. When you are at the bar with professionals, remember that they probably had a long day at work or at Meet the Firms and probably do not want to go over your resume.
This will likely also be the type of setting you will be exposed to when you are on an audit if that is going to be your career route. Not necessarily a bar, but you will be working with colleagues, seniors, and managers long after the clock hits five when you are out of town for a client.
What this means is when you are at the bar after Meet the Firms, professionals are testing your soft skills and gauging how you are as a person outside the office setting in an open environment where drinks are flowing. If anything, relaxing and hanging out after Meet the Firms with professionals can help influence the professional’s decision to hire you. After all, if you get hired by the firm, you will be working with them not only inside the office but also outside the office.
5. Email the professional or send a letter.
It is a good idea to email the professional or send a letter to the professional the day after the Meet the Firms event. You can send an email or letter about the topics you discussed at Meet the Firms and how you enjoyed getting to know the professionals at the firm.