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MAC Recruiting Goes Viral

Early in the fall 2020 semester, the Jenkins MAC Program successfully launched its main recruiting event virtually without sacrificing the personal connections vital for student success.

In a normal year for Jenkins Master of Accounting (MAC) students, fall recruiting kicks off with a four-day Meet the Firms event that offers extensive engagement with several dozen public accounting firms. This year, of course, is far from normal. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent events from taking place in person, Meet the Firms went virtual for the first time.

According to Kelly Hardy, the associate director of student programs and career services for the Jenkins MAC program, Meet the Firms plays a vital role in placing MAC students in internships and full-time positions. “When we converted this event to a virtual format, the greatest challenge for my office was to create an environment in which students have enough time to make authentic connections with recruiters,” she reflects.

Hardy collaborated with recruiters who had participated in Meet the Firms for years to create a virtual event that served the needs of students and accounting firms alike. With their input, she created a series of Zoom-hosted events that allowed firms to deliver presentations before inviting students into breakout rooms based on their particular service line interest. “The MAC team tried to manage the process for recruiters as much as possible,” says Hardy.

“Initially, our concern was that we would miss out on small group interaction with the students, but NC State took the burden off recruiters and organized everything,” says Ella Ryan, a campus recruiter for Ernst & Young. Anita Galiano, a recruiter for CohnReznick, praises Hardy and her team for “making sure that no one missed a beat.”

As she coached students in advance of the event, Hardy emphasized the importance of making an extra effort to engage with recruiters. “It’s not enough just to listen,” she told them. “Especially in a virtual space, it’s crucial to speak up, ask questions, and clearly articulate their strengths and areas of interest.” Jonah Hatley, a MAC student who will graduate in 2021, followed her advice. “It’s not as easy to express one’s personality across a computer screen, so I definitely had to talk more to convey my thoughts,” he shares.

Jonah Hatley, Jenkins MAC On Campus Program

Hardy also encouraged students to keep an open mind while meeting firm representatives instead of focusing solely on the ones they assume they want to join. Like a number of students, Hatley attended the event with several career directions in mind. “By having the opportunity to compare and contrast different firms by industry, size and culture, I left with a clearer direction for the future,” he says. Through talking with representatives who shared his interest in investing and finance, Hatley decided to pursue Charlotte-based firms that serve the financial services industry. “Meet the Firms definitely helped set me up for success as interviews are underway,” he affirms.

“Overall, I was impressed with the students’ resilience,” says Galiano. “They showed up, engaged and followed up with us in a highly professional way.” Like Galiano, Ryan participates in a number of Meet the Firms events every fall. “When I think about what makes some events more successful than others, it always comes down to the quality of the students,” she says. “NC State students have demonstrated the ability to adapt and handle themselves well, which made for a positive experience.”

From a full-time hiring perspective going into next year, we expect to hire about the same number of NC State students as in previous years.

In the end, 20 different public accounting firms participated in the first virtual Meet the Firms—the same number that would normally attend in a non-COVID year. Despite the challenge of connecting students and recruiters without any in-person interaction, Hardy points to at least one silver lining. “Because employers could participate without traveling, we had more geographical diversity represented in our event,” she shares. “It’s typical for students to interact most with Raleigh-based teams, who can easily attend our events, but the virtual format allowed them to connect more easily with teams in other cities and states, as well as with higher level managers who would have been unable to participate in person.”

Whether Meet the Firms takes place in person, virtually or in a hybrid format next year, Hardy is confident that MAC students will continue to leave a positive impression on recruiters. “The MAC program produces students who are prepared to make a significant contribution, which is why employers make NC State a priority even in tough times,” she believes. “We’re very proud to help the best and the brightest achieve career success.”

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