As we reach the halfway point of summer, colleges and universities are beginning to prepare for Meet the Firms events for their students. Traditionally, these are held in-person, giving students the chance to learn more about career or internship opportunities with accounting firms and organizations (including Big 4, Mid-Tier, Regional and Local Accounting firms), and to connect with recruiters and representatives at those firms. Likewise, firms use these occasions as a primary source to hire students and recent graduates for internships or part/full-time positions.
However, in light of the current pandemic, many universities and colleges have decided to opt for virtual Meet the Firms events in the Fall.
UWorld Roger CPA had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Battista, Manager of Employer Development at the University of Tampa, to discuss what students and firms can expect from these virtual events, and how firms can stand out amongst others.
UWRCPAR: Good morning! Thank you so much for sitting down to chat. If you’re ready, we’ll go ahead and jump right in! Can you describe what the structure of the virtual event will look like?
Matt Battista: Sure. So at UT [the University of Tampa], we use Handshake [a career networking service]. For the Fall, Handshake has come up with a virtual platform that’s free for career centers to use. Students will log in and see a list of companies, and they can schedule a time for a 20-minute or 15-minute face-to-face meeting. At the beginning of the event, employers will also have the opportunity to do an information session. So if a firm wants to do an information session, a group of 20 or 30 students can jump in, listen to the presentation, gather information, then later schedule that one-on-one with whoever they identify will be at the event.
UWRCPAR: Based on what you’re saying, it sounds like the virtual Meet the Firms event could actually be a better opportunity for students to get more meaningful one-on-ones with these firms that maybe they wouldn’t have gotten at a traditional event.
MB: Possibly! I would defend that, because of the size of our institution, about a third of the firms who would attend the Meet the Firms event has already been on campus and have done class-talks or presented professional development workshops to the students. So that’s really smart on their part. That kind of pre-marketing and rebranding is going to be so valuable [for the firms]. But for those bigger state institutions and universities that are larger in size, yes, I think the employer is going to get more one-on-one time with those students if they have the bandwidth to support that.
UWRCPAR: How do you suggest firms prepare for the event? What can they do to maintain student interest virtually?
MB: Definitely premarketing with the university’s career centers and asking if they offer any kind of advertisements, announcements, social media takeovers, or virtual information sessions. Firms can send us content that we can circulate on information boards all around campus buildings, and we have weekly newsletters that we can spotlight companies in.
We can also do targeted messaging through Handshake. I can pull all of my seniors that are in the College of Business who major in management, finance, accounting, cybersecurity, or whatever other programs the firm is looking for, and we can send the students a specifically targeted email about that firm and call it a spotlight. Like, “Hey check out this great company — oh, by the way, they’ll be attending the virtual Meet the Firms event in two weeks.” We can do those types of pre-branding things in advance, and I think organizations looking to get that extra push need to ask the university career centers if they’re offering any other ways to make announcements.
UWRCPAR: Do you have any advice on how firms (specifically local, smaller, or medium-sized firms) can stand out during this event, amongst larger, more well-known firms?
MB: For the smaller firms, if they talk with the career centers or talk with someone in employer relations, a lot of us can sit down with them and help them create a recruiting strategy. The smaller firms just need to be really transparent with their goals as they look at the size of events or return on investments. For example, “Is this event going to give us the ROI that we’re looking for? : By the end of this semester, we really want to have connected with X number of students.” By having these types of conversations with us, we e can help determine what they need and how to reach those goals.
I have a couple of firms that I’m working with right now that don’t even have open positions because they’ve been able to retain everyone they recruited last semester But they don’t want their brand to go cold, so they’ve said: “Hey, we don’t have any hiring goals but we have a branding goal.” So I can plug them into certain events throughout the semester that will support that goal. It’s important for smaller firms to identify their goals for the semester and reach out to us to help put together a strategy –especially between September and October. Those are the eight primary weeks that firms have to really get in front of those students.
UWRCPAR: Lastly, are there any obstacles or roadblocks that firms should be aware of as they prepare for these events?
MB: I think that as much as we want to claim that we’re Zoom experts right now, there is still disruption with technology. Like I said earlier, UT is a Handshake school, but a firm that is planning on attending 10 different Meet the Firms events could be using three different virtual career platforms. And usually, that kind of responsibility is on the University, but hopefully, employers don’t see too much disruption. Technology (and video fatigue) are just something that employers have to be mindful of.
A big thank you to Matt Battista for sharing his tips with us! We hope you find some of these tips useful when preparing for future virtual Meet the Firms events. Good luck!