CFOs to graduates: Don’t think big, start career at smaller firm

Today’s accounting graduates might have more success cutting their teeth at smaller companies than at public accounting firms or big corporations, according to recently surveyed financial executives.

Fifty-six percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said they would advise entry-level professionals to begin their careers at small to midsize companies. When asked what area of specialization they would recommend for newly minted graduates, approximately 60 percent of CFOs said general accounting. The results are in line with those from a similar survey conducted in 2005.
 
The survey was developed by Accountemps, a Menlo Park, CA-based specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals, and was conducted by an independent research firm. The survey includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
 
CFOs were asked, “In which one of the following employment environments would you recommend today’s accounting graduates begin their careers?” Their responses:
                  
 
2010
2005
Small to midsize company 
56% 
46%
Small to midsize public accounting firm
16% 
30%
Large corporation
14%
9%
Large public accounting firm
8% 
10%
Other/don’t know
6%
5% 
 
CFOs also were asked, “Which one of the following areas of specialization would you recommend to someone just beginning his or her career in accounting?” Their responses:
                              
 
2010
2005
General accounting
60%
49%
Internal audit  
12%
17%
Tax accounting 
10%
10%
Cost accounting
9%
13%
Credit and collections
8%
6%
Other/don't know
1%
5%
 
“At smaller companies, employees often must wear many hats because workloads are spread between fewer workers,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit for Dummies. “Having a wider range of duties enables new hires to quickly build skills, gain exposure to diverse areas of the business, and assume strategic roles earlier in their careers.”
 
Graduates are entering an extremely competitive job market, Messmer added. “Candidates must not only have solid technical abilities but also demonstrate communication skills and a strong work ethic.”
 
 Accountemps highlights five common job hunting mistakes and how to avoid them:
  1. Limiting your networking efforts: Spread the word about your job hunt to everyone you know. Also, work with a staffing firm that specializes in your field. These firms have networks in the local business community and often know of unadvertised opportunities.
  2. Posting inappropriate material online: A hiring manager may Google you, so make sure you keep your digital footprint professional. Look for positive ways to enhance your online image, such as commenting constructively on industry blogs. In addition, update your privacy settings.
  3. Failing to customize your application materials: Tailor your résumé and cover letter to each position for which you apply, and address your correspondence to the hiring manager by name, if possible.
  4. Not doing your homework: Before submitting a résumé and again prior to the interview, research the prospective employer, its industry and its competitors. You will be better prepared for the interview, and you’ll impress the hiring manager with your initiative and enthusiasm.
  5. Forgetting to say thank you: Promptly thank everyone who helps you in your job search. In particular, send thank-you notes to managers who interviewed you. E-mail is fine, but also follow up with a handwritten note to further stand out from the crowd.
About Accountemps:
Accountemps has more than 365 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com. Follow Accountemps for workplace news at twitter.com/accountemps and www.facebook.com/accountemps.
 
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