Meet the Firms is the annual event put on by institutions that allows candidates to meet recruiters as well as give recruiters a chance to sell their firm. This event is very important, and if taken seriously, can take away a lot of the post-graduation stress. But, this event has little to do with showing off your academic success and has everything to do with networking and communication skills.
Meet the firms is a great way to get your foot in the door and make an impactful impression. Attend this event as early as you can. The big four firms hire as early as two years before graduation and the mid-size firms generally hire one year prior to graduation. Even if you start attending networking events too early, it will give you great practice for when it matters and will make you recognizable to recruiters.
A good tip to remember is that accounting firms have no expectations for you when you start your career. Recruiters are not as interested in how high your grades are or what accounting courses you have taken because they know that 1.) those courses are not extremely relevant in the day to day profession, but 2.) anything you need to know they can teach you. What they are interested in, however, is if you communicate and hold yourself well. This will give them a glimpse into how you will fit in with the culture of the firm and how you will represent the firm in front of clients.
All of that being said, your top priority at this event is not to show off your academic successes. Yes, you should have many copies of a well-reviewed resume on hand, but your focus should be on how you present yourself. If you are going to practice anything before the event, practice shaking hands, making eye contact, and introducing yourself. Be genuine and interesting so that you can stand out alongside the hundreds of other students that have the same experiences and schooling as you do. Often times the recruiter will bring along other staff members that are probably not much older than you are. Interact and relate with them because those are your potential co-workers.
Although your goal at meet the firms should be to present yourself well, you also have to remember that this is your career and you are searching for a work environment that you can be happy at for many years. Accounting is a great profession to enter so if you play your cards right you can get more than one offer that gives you freedom to choose. Watch how the recruiters interact with each other and other candidates and listen to how they portray their firm. They will have personal questions for you, but you should try to ask each recruiter at least two questions that really mean something to you. It is absolutely okay, and urged, that you sit down and make a list of firms you did and didn’t like after the event. Collect business cards from the firms you did like and consider sending a “nice to meet you” email to those recruiters.
The key to success is to make a good impression and to make yourself relevant. Like I said earlier, recruiters will unfortunately be meeting people just like you all day long. Network often and reach out to the firms that interest you. By doing most of the leg work before graduation, you won’t have to stress about your future after graduation.