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Want an Accounting Internship? 4 Steps to Remember

Internship-interviewAs public accounting is a competitive industry, CPA firms have the luxury of being selective and only hiring the best and brightest. Many firms host early identification programs, which typically take place in the summer and are geared toward freshman, sophomore and junior accounting majors working toward 150 credits. Most firms call them “leadership programs.” These programs typically last one to three days and serve to build relationships early with the top students and hire as interns and then into full-time hires.

So, how can students participate? 

  1. Visit Your Career Center. When students return in the fall, their first priority should be visiting the Career Center and learning about all of the fall accounting events, career development sessions and posted opportunities. Each Career Center is unique but has a common goal – assisting students in career placement. Take advantage of it!
  2. Attend Annual Meet the Firms Night. The next step of the process is showing up. Colleges and universities across the country host a “Meet the Firms” or similar nights in the fall, focused on accounting firms. Students from freshman to senior should attend, especially freshman. This is an amazing opportunity to make that good first impression and start establishing a relationship, which could then lead to a summer program or internship experience.
  3. Come Prepared. When developing a relationship, the first impression is critical. Therefore, all students should come to campus events with an action plan. An action plan should consist of your top target firms and questions for each firm. The questions should be specific to each firm to demonstrate you are interested and did your research. In addition, remember to ask when the firm is coming back to campus so you can see them again and follow up. Demonstrating your focus will go a long way and will boost your confidence. In addition, dressing the part is essential. Be overdressed for the events. Also, bring a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile! (Shouldn’t be too challenging, right?)
  4. Follow Up and Demonstrate Your Enthusiasm. After making initial contact with all the firms, decide which one may be the best fit for you. There is no universal rule about which firm is the best for you. Everyone has different goals and work styles. Students should consider the big picture and their long-term potential with each firm in consideration. Reviews should consider whether the firm’s values and principles match your own, if their culture is comfortable and if long-term career goals appear achievable. Once you leave, follow up instantly with the professionals via email or a hand written thank you note. From there, students should make it their priority to attend additional firm-sponsored events. This will show that you are committed and interested in building a relationship with that firm and a long career in public accounting. 

Relationships matter, and if you build a strong foundation, your chances of being accepted into a summer leadership or internship program are greater than the student who did not show up.

April Papst, Manager Talent Acquisition, ParenteBeard. April led ParenteBeard in creating the Summer Spotlight program for accounting students to intern in their freshman and sophomore college years. She holds both master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

Internship interview via Shutterstock

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