CPA Firm Forum connects accounting students with companies of all sizes
A wide range of Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms were on hand for the annual CPA Firm Forum on Oct. 2 at the University of Northern Iowa, held by the UNI Accounting Club, to meet with students.
In addition to the Big Four firms (PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Ernst and Young and Deloitte) — the largest accounting companies in the world — the forum gave a unique opportunity to mid-market CPA firms searching for potential employees. These regional companies can oftentimes be a great place for students to start their careers.
The format is set up like speed networking. Groups of about nine students move around the venue, visiting and networking with each firm for eight minutes at a time. Firms are free to present however they’d like. Some bring four representatives and talk to students in teams of two. Others address all students at once.
The forum lasts about 60 to 70 minutes, and afterward, recruiters can meet with students informally over refreshments. After the event, companies can then schedule more formal interviews with specific students. Isaac Lafleur, president of the UNI Accounting Club, said the forum actually led to one of the two internships he secured.
“The way the forum is conducted is very student-friendly,” Lafleur said. “Small groups go around to each table for a few minutes and get a short presentation from the firm as well as ask any questions they have. I remember this being a big plus for me during the event. You weren't going around individually, so you didn't have to worry about nerves. You also weren't going around in a huge group, so you could easily stand out to firms that you were interested in.”
The CPA Firm Forum was started about 15 years ago. At first, it was organized like a traditional career fair, but students found it hard to extract the most value.
“I found that the confident students rushed to meet the recruiters and left while the more timid students held back and spoke with one another, but not recruiters,” said Tim Lindquist, professor of accounting and adviser to the UNI Accounting Club. “That’s when I decided we had to do something to change things up.”
About five or six years ago, students met with recruiters in the current speed networking format, allowing them to meet with more companies in a shorter amount of time. That also provided more time at the end for casual and informal meet-ups, which can be a critical part of making connections.
“This semi-formal and casual contact is of immeasurable benefit to students leading to the next steps of an on-campus or on-site interview,” Lindquist said. “And ultimately an internship and full-time position.”