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An Anecdotal Career Fair Experience

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my very first accounting career fair in a very long time. I had every intent to make the most out of the event. While I was very well aware of some of the customary things that I needed to do in order to make a good impression on recruiters, I kept looking for some out of the box tips for effectively working a career fair. As such, I turned to Google Search to see if I could find a single tip that appeared to have the potential to help me stand out from other  job seekers.  As I kept digging through the search results, it came to my attention that using a 30 second job search elevator pitch when first meeting with recruiters is an excellent attention getter. Although I don’t like the idea of speaking from a script, I nevertheless went ahead and prepared an elevator pitch highlighting my background, my strengths, and my career aspirations.  The Web was not the only place I went to look for answers. I also sought the advice of one of the accounting professors at my school.

The professor explained to me that I ought to go to every encounter with a recruiter with the intent to make her/him feel like she/he can relate to me. This would make it easier for recruiters to match my name with my face when I reach out to them after the career fair. Thus, I was told by the professor in question that I needed to make every effort to ensure that I keep a conversational yet still professional tone when interacting with recruiters. According to the professor, the purpose of maintaining a conversational tone is to identify areas of common interest with each of the recruiters I would be coming in contact with. So there I was with two great tips to experiment with during the accounting job fair.

This was a fairly small sized career fair since there were maybe 12 companies and around 150 attendees that respectively showed up. Consequently, the traffic at every company’s booth turned out to be fairly fluid which was perfect because it created opportunities to have much lengthier conversations with recruiters than it would have been had a huge crowd came to the event. After experimenting with the 30 second elevator pitch a few times, I ended up dropping it because it didn’t seem to help break the ice with recruiters. I don’t know if it was due to bad execution on my part, however recruiters didn’t appear to be interested in my elevator pitch. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that using the elevator pitch created a vibe not really conducive to starting the kind of amicable conversation the professor and I spoke about.  With the elevator pitch eliminated from my routine, all I was doing to start a conversation was probing recruiters on what they hoped to achieve during the career  fair. That new approach definitely allowed me to better connect with the recruiters. In fact, in talking to one of the recruiters, I learned that we graduated from two out of state universities that belong to the same university system. So we got to talk about college football as well as the differences between each undergraduate accounting program offered by our respective universities. The recruiter in question is a practice manager at one of the Big 4 accounting firms and has offered to help me in anyway possible to achieve my career goals.

What I have learned from this job fair experience is to stick to my areas of strength. I knew that I was not very good at speaking from a script therefore I should have never experimented with a rehearsed elevator pitch in the first place.  Indeed, I am a more effective communicator when I am unscripted. I am however glad that I sought advice from one my professors since that’s how I got to learn about a clever way to meaningfully connect with recruiters during career fairs.


  1. Comment by Harriett:

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  2. Comment by Bill Meador:

    As someone who has interviewed, hired and fired tax staff as a tax manager in public accounting firms for more than a decade, let me give out a couple of basic tips. Lets start with the basics.

    There are usually three types of people who wind up working at the career fair:

    1. Recruiting coordinator (wants to be there) Do they get paid to turn people away? (heh,no) They want you to be acceptable do they get credit for finding you.
    2. Tax Partner or Manager (sometimes want to be there, but they would be just as happy if they skipped it) They are more interested in giving you a good image of the firm then trying to figure out how many people make the cut.
    3. Tax Staff (happy to skip being at the office while getting paid) Usually a couple of people who went to the college that might know some of the students.

    To be blunt, most firms would rather have you send in your resume and then evaluate you at the office. Going to the career fair is their attempt to get a few good people ahead of the other firms.

    Although some people will vary on this thought, my view is that it is hard to win the job at the career fair, but you can lose it. At this point, you cant change what is on your resume. We will decide from it if you have the basic academic credentials to make the cut. We want to see at the career fair if you can hold a basic conversation on any topic while looking professional while doing it. I dont care if we are talking about cars or knitting. I just want to see that you look like someone who be would be comfortable talking to clients and employees at my office.

    If you want to read more on advice that would help accounting majors and tax preparers in a public accounting firm then visit my blog at https://profiles.google.com/102226550371121801684.

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  4. Comment by Dick Clark:

    Hi, I read your blog regularly. Your writing style is witty, keep up the
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  5. Comment by Jude Saunders:

    When someone writes a piece of writing, he/she keeps the interests of the reader in his/her mind. You just did that with this blog post. So that’s why this article is great. Thanks!

  6. Comment by Steven:

    Thanks for sharing your career fair experience. I thought the advice your professor gave was very good, connecting with a recruiter (or anyone for that matter) in a natural way just seems like the right way to go. Congrats on following your instincts and ditching the elevator pitch. Sounds like a successful experience.

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