Big 4 Recruiting Season: Career Fair Tips

Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Good afternoon, GC’ers. I’m going to be devoting posts to general campus recruiting advice this week. College students – listen up. Already-employed cohorts – chime in with your own advice. Today I’m going to cover Career Fairs, everyone’s favorite meat market.


Questions you should be ready for – “Did you submit your resume through Career Services? Did you submit our firm’s additional paperwork? When do you graduate? What office are you interested in? Will you be CPA eligible up graduation? What practice are you interested in?” If you know what practiced you’ sure to have your paperwork submitted through the necessary online means. Don’t know what you’re applying for? Read below…

Know what you’re applying for – Nothing worse than talking to a student who is, “Uhhhhhhh, you know, I’m open to anything.” To me, that means you are unfamiliar with my firm’s services and you’re standing in line like a lemming because you know it’s good for you. Do you homework ahead of time about what practice groups are being targeted on your campus. Here’s a hint – focus on the job posts that are on your Career Services site; this is what each firm is focused on and actively recruiting for from your particular school. Don’t see Transaction Advisory Services listed? Probably ain’t gonna happen.

Suit up – Take a piece of advice from Barney Stinson and rock a suit to the Fair. It doesn’t need to be an expensive suit; heck, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Personally, I’m not a fan of the trend of suits becoming the norm at career fairs but it is better to match your competition than to assume “different is better.” Accounting firms are not Google; they breed a conservative culture. Play along, at least until you have an offer.

In an effort to avoid this becoming an Esquire-like blog post, I’ll keep my suit advice simple.

Ladies: Make sure your blouse is comfortably but securely buttoned, and take the potential of taller recruiters (aka wandering eyes) into consideration. Also, avoid hot magenta or any other color that would be included in a pack of highlighters.

Gents: That Calvin Klein tag on the outside of your jacket’s left sleeve? Yeah, that’s supposed to come off. Also, be sure to open your pockets and jacket vents before going to the Fair. It’s always awkward to see a guy trying to stuff a business card into a sewn up pocket.

Relax. Don’t sweat it. – Really, I mean that. Few things are more repulsive than shaking the moist hand of an anxious student. It can get hot at career fairs, I know. You can do a couple of things to chill out if you have a sweating problem: 1) Hold you résumé folder in your left hand and keep your right hand out of your pocket. This will let your hand breathe. 2) Small talk the person next you – it will help both of you relax. 3) A good swipe of your right hand on the back of your leg when you know your turn is coming up is totally fair game.

Always mints, never gum – There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the Big 4 booths. As you’re waiting in the mass herd of people, pop a few Tic Tacs or mints (avoid Altoids – too strong). They’ll help you relax and will be gone before you start speaking to the recruiter.

Business cards = cheat sheets – Ask for business cards when you meet with the professionals at the career fair (note – if they don’t have any, just remember to get their name so you can take notes later). Generally speaking, they are alums from your school and are excited to be back on campus and they can be a great resource going forward. They will also be at other events, even as early as the same week as the career fair. In between visiting booths, take two minutes to scribble notes on the back of the business card to help you remember who they were. “Black hair.” “Red glasses.” “Talked about baking.” “Mentioned she was an Eagles fan.” Reviewing these cards prior to next week’s firm-sponsored social event on campus will help you remember the connections much better.

Find out when they’ll be back – The five minutes you spend with the recruiters and professionals at the career fairs are not enough to earn yourself an interview. It is imperative you make personal connections with members of each firm. Beta Alpha Psi presentations. Cheesy happy hour mixers. Whatever. Go, shake hands, and laugh at their jokes. Earn yourself an interview.

Remember your manners – Thank everyone for their time. As happy to be on campus as they may be, many of the professionals will put in hours for work back at their hotels later that night. It is not always easy for them to take time off from work to make the trips back, so have a little respect for their time and their neglected inboxes.

Have anything to add? Email us or leave your comments below.

Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com.

Good afternoon, GC’ers. I’m going to be devoting posts to general campus recruiting advice this week. College students – listen up. Already-employed cohorts – chime in with your own advice. Today I’m going to cover Career Fairs, everyone’s favorite meat market.


Questions you should be ready for – “Did you submit your resume through Career Services? Did you submit our firm’s additional paperwork? When do you graduate? What office are you interested in? Will you be CPA eligible up graduation? What practice are you interested in?” If you know what practiced you’re interested in, be sure to have your paperwork submitted through the necessary online means. Don’t know what you’re applying for? Read below…

Know what you’re applying for – Nothing worse than talking to a student who is, “Uhhhhhhh, you know, I’m open to anything.” To me, that means you are unfamiliar with my firm’s services and you’re standing in line like a lemming because you know it’s good for you. Do you homework ahead of time about what practice groups are being targeted on your campus. Here’s a hint – focus on the job posts that are on your Career Services site; this is what each firm is focused on and actively recruiting for from your particular school. Don’t see Transaction Advisory Services listed? Probably ain’t gonna happen.

Suit up – Take a piece of advice from Barney Stinson and rock a suit to the Fair. It doesn’t need to be an expensive suit; heck, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Personally, I’m not a fan of the trend of suits becoming the norm at career fairs but it is better to match your competition than to assume “different is better.” Accounting firms are not Google; they breed a conservative culture. Play along, at least until you have an offer.

In an effort to avoid this becoming an Esquire-like blog post, I’ll keep my suit advice simple.

Ladies: Make sure your blouse is comfortably but securely buttoned, and take the potential of taller recruiters (aka wandering eyes) into consideration. Also, avoid hot magenta or any other color that would be included in a pack of highlighters.

Gents: That Calvin Klein tag on the outside of your jacket’s left sleeve? Yeah, that’s supposed to come off. Also, be sure to open your pockets and jacket vents before going to the Fair. It’s always awkward to see a guy trying to stuff a business card into a sewn up pocket.

Relax. Don’t sweat it. – Really, I mean that. Few things are more repulsive than shaking the moist hand of an anxious student. It can get hot at career fairs, I know. You can do a couple of things to chill out if you have a sweating problem: 1) Hold you résumé folder in your left hand and keep your right hand out of your pocket. This will let your hand breathe. 2) Small talk the person next you – it will help both of you relax. 3) A good swipe of your right hand on the back of your leg when you know your turn is coming up is totally fair game.

Always mints, never gum – There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the Big 4 booths. As you’re waiting in the mass herd of people, pop a few Tic Tacs or mints (avoid Altoids – too strong). They’ll help you relax and will be gone before you start speaking to the recruiter.

Business cards = cheat sheets – Ask for business cards when you meet with the professionals at the career fair (note – if they don’t have any, just remember to get their name so you can take notes later). Generally speaking, they are alums from your school and are excited to be back on campus and they can be a great resource going forward. They will also be at other events, even as early as the same week as the career fair. In between visiting booths, take two minutes to scribble notes on the back of the business card to help you remember who they were. “Black hair.” “Red glasses.” “Talked about baking.” “Mentioned she was an Eagles fan.” Reviewing these cards prior to next week’s firm-sponsored social event on campus will help you remember the connections much better.

Find out when they’ll be back – The five minutes you spend with the recruiters and professionals at the career fairs are not enough to earn yourself an interview. It is imperative you make personal connections with members of each firm. Beta Alpha Psi presentations. Cheesy happy hour mixers. Whatever. Go, shake hands, and laugh at their jokes. Earn yourself an interview.

Remember your manners – Thank everyone for their time. As happy to be on campus as they may be, many of the professionals will put in hours for work back at their hotels later that night. It is not always easy for them to take time off from work to make the trips back, so have a little respect for their time and their neglected inboxes.

Have anything to add? Email us or leave your comments below.

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Related articles