How to Market Your Firm to College Students

By Alexandra DeFelice
 
When it comes to recruiting the best and the brightest college students, firms are deploying a plethora of methods to reach America's future accountants.
 
During a recent panel discussion sponsored by the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM), marketing and recruiting professionals shared some of their proven methods of marketing to college students. Following are some key themes that emerged.
 
Meet Face-to-Face
While the Internet opens firms up to borderless recruiting possibilities, the panelists stressed the importance of being on campus as often as possible. 
 
"Face-to-face meetings help align interpersonal skills and expose [students] to firm culture," according to Fonda Lang, practice development manager at Keiter. "Partner with a lot of [college] organizations. Visibility is key."
 
Maria Barrett, director of marketing at San Antonio firm Padgett Stratemann & Co. (PS&Co.), agreed.
 
"We see the most traction with one-on-one interactions with potential recruits," Barrett said. "We can listen to their passions and desires and share with them what our firm is all about, because we realize not everyone will be a fit."
 
Career centers serve as useful resources to connect with candidates' student bodies and to get valuable information on how to connect with them, she added. 
 
In addition, get to know campus influencers, such as professors, who can recommend your firm to students who ask for their opinions.
 
Find "Young Champions"
The panelists also suggested inviting future hires and current/former interns who are still in college to firm recruiting events, because students may feel more comfortable speaking with people their own age if they have questions regarding the firm.
 
Padgett's interns suggested to the firm that interns serve as the firm's "campus champions" and share with other students on campus what's happening at the firm. As a result, the firm invites those interns who are still on campus to all firm events, sends them holiday cards, and stays connected continually. 
 
"If they enjoyed their experience with your organization, they're your biggest fans," Barrett said.
 
Use Social Media
Remember that different social media mediums are best utilized for different purposes. While many potential candidates use LinkedIn to search for job opportunities, Facebook can be a better place to share the more personal side of an organization.
 
Use Facebook to "tell your firm's story so people can envision themselves at your organization and get excited about it," Barrett said. "You want them to be excited they found someplace they can not only develop their career, but build a home."
 
Include fun photos and videos. Highlight the perks and benefits that make your firm stand out from the competition. Start a blog where former interns can share the fun experiences they had.
 
Freed Maxick uses social media differently during recruiting season than the rest of year, according to Emily Burns Perryman, the firm's integrated media and digital strategy supervisor. 
 
"Make sure the content is focused on recruiting and speak to that audience," she said. "Communicate information about events on campuses or current job opportunities."
 
Summer Brooks, campus recruiter at Dixon Hughes Goodman, learned that some professors are advising their students not to link to a recruiter. As a result, the firm's social media presence is more one-way communication of the firm sending information to prospective candidates. 
 
"We rotate employees, so every week, a different person has the responsibility to post on social media avenues," Brooks said.
 
Customize Your Website
Dixon Hughs Goodman created a microsite (one with a specific, independent URL and links) that Brooks described as "hip and fun and relatable to our target audience of students." The home page has videos, featuring interns and new associates, that are authentic and unscripted and include the presenters' names, office locations, and schools.
 
PS&Co. designed an entire section on its website devoted to careers. "We knew we were going to set up an online application process on the site," Barrett explained. "We wanted to ensure there were also lots of links, with sections on community involvement and articles we've written or things we're doing to train our employees."
 
Keep in mind that different people in different types of schools in different geographies may respond to the same messages in very different ways. Figure out what suits the needs of the kinds of candidates your firm is looking to employ and embrace something new each year.
 
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About the author:
Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America, and a regional member of Moore Stephens International Limited, a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at adefelice@msnainc.org.

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