Job Search Best Practices
Students often find the process of interviewing with companies for internships or permanent employment frustrating and confusing. In an effort to provide students guidance, the Fisher School of Accounting (FSOA) faculty, the FSOA Advisory Board, and employers developed the following set of best practices. Students who are interested in interviewing with these firms should familiarize themselves with the Best Practices.
Firms Following the Best Practices Guidelines:
- Averett Warmus Durkee
- BDO Seidman, LLP
- Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC
- Crowe Horwath LLP
- Grant Thornton
- James Moore & Co.
- Mauldin & Jenkins
- Purvis, Gray & Company, LLP
- Thomas Howell Ferguson PA
- Vestal & Wiler
- WTAS (Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc.)
Guidance for Employers Extending Offers to FSOA Students:
|Offer4 Type||When to Recruit||Minimum Academic Requirements||Earliest Offer4 Can be Extended||Earliest Offer4 Can Expire|
|Summer Leadership Programs||Spring semester||Completion of ACG3101 and ACG3401 prior to the start of the Spring SLP recruiting process||The day after Spring Career Showcase ends||April 15|
|Internships without SLP||Fall semester||Completion of TAX5005 and ACG56371||The day after Career Showcase ends2||December 12|
|Internships after an SLP offer||Fall semester||Completion of TAX5005 and ACG56371||The Friday before Labor Day||December 12|
|Permanent Employment after completing an internship3||Immediately after the end of the internship3||Employer discretion|
|Permanent Employment without an internship||One year prior to graduation||Employer discretion|
|Multi-year non-accounting internships for minority students||Spring semester||Completion of ACG2021||The day after Career Showcase ends||April 15|
1Courses in process during fall recruiting but are complete prior to the start of the internship.
2For the limited number of students who recruit for an internship during Spring Career Showcase (e.g., completed tax and audit fall but did not receive an internship offer), offers for internships may not be extended until the day after Spring Career Showcase ends, and the offer should not expire before April 15.
3An internship that is in compliance with the Best Practices guidelines.
4The word offer is broadly defined and includes verbal, written, or other implied offers of temporary or permanent employment.
Best Practice 1: Establish early relationships with employers.
Students should begin to build relationships with members of the profession, and prospective employers, well before graduation.
Employer sponsored Summer Leadership Programs (SLPs) are an excellent way to build relationships with accounting firms. The programs are typically two to three day retreats where students focus on learning about the culture of the profession including: team building, networking, professionalism, etiquette, and client service.
Recruiting for SLPs takes place during the spring Career Showcase and typically involves a full campus interview. SLPs are available to students who have completed Financial Accounting and Reporting 1 (ACG3101) and Business Processes and Accounting Information Systems (ACG3401) prior to the spring semester in which they are recruiting for an SLP. Students currently enrolled in ACG 3101 and / or ACG 3401 during the spring SLP recruiting period are not eligible for SLPs. Offers to attend SLPs may not be extended until the day after spring Career Showcase ends, and the offer should not expire before April 15. Because those who attend SLPs have established a relationship with a firm, the interview process for a future internship with that firm may be shortened. For more information, see Best Practice 5.
To foster ethnic inclusiveness, some firms offer non-accounting minority internships. These multiyear internships allow lower division students to observe a variety of aspects of an accounting firm without actually engaging in client service. Students interested in these internships should attend Career Showcase during the spring semester of their sophomore year (after the completion of ACG 2021 Introduction to Financial Accounting). Offers may not be extended until the day after spring Career Showcase ends, and the offer should not expire before April 15. Participation in non-accounting internships will not result in the offer of an accounting internship or permanent employment. However, because those who participate in these have established a relationship with a firm, the interview process for a future internship or permanent employment with that firm may be shortened or eliminated.
Best Practice 2: Complete an accounting internship.
Students should be encouraged to complete an accounting internship.
The internship experience provides a student with the opportunity to apply the accounting concepts he/she has studied in the classroom. It develops practical skills that will be required of entry-level professionals that are not academic in nature and would otherwise consume valuable class time (e.g., what is the appropriate tax form to use? How are audit work papers prepared?). Finally, an internship exposes the student to the culture of the profession and reinforces the importance of communication and interpersonal skills.
Best Practice 3: Complete a single accounting internship.
Students should complete a single accounting internship.
As a state-supported and taxpayer-subsidized school, we are encouraged to graduate students in a timely fashion. Due to limited course availability, multiple accounting internships can delay a student's graduation. Internships are short and the tasks assigned to interns are basic. Therefore, multiple accounting internships do little to enhance the student's skills beyond those skills developed during the student's first internship experience. As a result, there is no noticeable increase in overall performance in the classroom for those students who complete multiple internships.
Best Practice 4: Complete the internship after taking tax and auditing.
Students should not complete an accounting internship prior to having completed the first tax and auditing courses (TAX5005 and ACG5637).
The academic value derived from an accounting internship is a function of applying existing knowledge during his/her accounting internship. The most meaningful internship experience occurs after the student has completed his/her first tax and first auditing courses (generally during the Fall semester of the senior year). At that point, the student has the requisite knowledge to be a productive member of the firm. Therefore, the second semester of the senior year (spring semester) becomes the optimal time to complete an internship. Due to a high level of work during the first quarter of the calendar year, spring internships in public accounting and industry give the student a true representation of the typical workload experienced in the accounting profession. Summer internships are also an option. Accounting internships before this point typically relegate students to clerical roles that do little to add value upon the student's return to the classroom setting and may cause frustration because the student is ill suited to complete the tasks he/she is assigned.
Best Practice 5: Search for an internship the fall of your senior year.
The best time for a student to actively recruit for an accounting internship is during the fall of the student's senior year.
For either spring or summer internships, recruiting efforts should be concentrated during the fall semester while the student is enrolled in tax and auditing. For Students who have not completed an SLP, offers for internships may not be extended until the end of fall Career Showcase, and the offer may not expire before December 1. For Students who have been offered an SLP, a firm may choose to extend an offer prior to the end of Career Showcase providing the offer is not made earlier than the Friday preceding Labor Day. The offer may not expire before December 1.
The emphasis of Spring Career Showcase is to recruit for Summer Leadership programs and offers of full-time employment. A limited amount of recruiting for summer internships is possible (e.g., to recruit a student who completed tax and audit in the fall and did not receive an internship offer for the following spring and is seeking a summer internship). For students who recruit for a summer internship during spring Career Showcase, offers for internships may not be extended until the day after Spring Career Showcase ends, and the offer should not expire before April 15.
It would not be consistent with the Best Practices to use Spring Career Showcase to recruit for internships for the following academic year (in the previous example it would not be appropriate to use the Spring Career Showcase to recruit for the next year’s Spring or Summer internships).
Because recruiting efforts on campus take place during school hours, students may need to miss some classes, but prospective employers should provide alternative accommodations for interviews or visits that conflict with exams. It is in the student's best interest that the amount of class time missed because of recruiting be minimized.
Best Practice 6: When to expect an offer of permanent employment.
When offers of permanent employment should be extended by employers, or expected by the student, depends upon the student's goals and whether or not he/she has completed an accounting internship.
- For the student who has completed an accounting internship during the spring or summer semester of his/her senior year, an offer of permanent employment is best made immediately upon the completion of the internship.
- For the student who will not be completing an accounting internship, an offer of permanent employment is best made no earlier than one year prior to the student's expected graduation date.
Following this practice sends a clear signal to the student about his/her prospects for permanent employment, and allows those not receiving offers ample time to continue their search. Because of the historic high student attrition rates of top-tier accounting programs, extending offers of permanent employment prior to the recommended dates run a significant risk by investing firm resources in a student who may not successfully complete the accounting program. These timelines provide reasonable assurance that employers have made an offer to a student who has completed sufficient academic coursework to be able to successfully complete the duties required of an entry-level staff accountant.
Best Practice 7: Encourage students to complete their education at UF.
Firms recruiting accounting students in our accounting program should encourage them to complete their fifth-year of accounting education on the University of Florida campus.
Most students on internship are enrolled in our combined 3/2 program. Students in this program receive concurrently a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and a Master of Accounting degree upon successful completion of the 150 hour program of study. With most jurisdictions now requiring 150 credit hours to be eligible to practice as a CPA, this program is a very efficient way to meet all requirements.
Firms under pressure to staff vacant positions sometimes suggest exiting from the 3/2 program at the point of having earned the Bachelor of Science degree. The student is then encouraged to take their remaining 30 credit hours needed to sit for the CPA examination in the evening while working on a full-time basis. This plan delays the student's time frame to sit for the CPA examination. In addition, the undergraduate component of the Fisher School's degree program is integrated with the graduate plan of study and tends to be conceptual. Students who follow this path often find that other academic programs (typically without the same national reputation and academic stature) will require the student to retake undergraduate accounting courses already completed at the Fisher School of Accounting in order to be eligible for admission to their fifth year program. Such decisions typically extend the time and resources that need to be expended in order to be eligible to sit for the CPA examination.
Best Practice 8: Encourage diversity.
Firms recruiting accounting students should staff their recruiting activities with representatives who come from diverse backgrounds.
The University of Florida and the Fisher School of Accounting are committed to diversity in its faculty, staff, and student population. Firms recruiting accounting students should make every effort to ensure its representatives include ethnic and cultural diversity.
Wherever possible, students should be encouraged by employers to add breadth and diversity to their academic experience by engaging in study abroad programs, completing academic minors in languages, and completing other culturally-rich courses offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Best Practice 9: Recruiters will follow the Best Practices guidelines.
Firms recruiting accounting students should staff their recruiting activities with representatives who are familiar with the School's best practices guidelines.
Because of the national recruiting effort that is focused on the accounting students in our program, large firms typically staff their recruiting events with representatives from human resources, partners, managers, staff, and possibly students who have completed an accounting internship with the firm. By its very nature such a group will have a vastly different degree of recruiting experience. Compounding the problem is that the representatives usually come from a variety of locations, and they may not be familiar with their own firm's recruiting practices, let alone the School's recommended best practices. This tends to be particularly true for lower-level staff and student interns who do not have sufficient experience to provide sound career advice yet may be perceived by the student being recruited as speaking "for the firm" rather than merely conveying their personal experience.
Best Practice 10: Encourage students to develop professionalism.
Firms recruiting accounting students should encourage students to be involved in activities that develop: professionalism, communications skills, and interpersonal skills.
Firms that sell services depend upon effective communications and group-related activities for their success. Participation in student organizations such as Beta Alpha Psi, the Fisher School of Accounting Council, and other university and community organizations help develop these skills and demonstrate a commitment to service. Without input from the firms, students frequently do not realize the importance of engaging in these activities.