An Insight into the MPA Recruiting Process

By Riny Varghese
 For this week’s blog, I want to go back two months and share some unique experiences I had during the first few weeks into the MPA program. One of those things was definitely the “Open House” event, during which I had the opportunity to meet with partners and recruiters of three top-tier public accounting firms in New York. How? Well, this was an initiative spearheaded by the Director of the program, Jim Franklin, and the MPA recruiting office to assist students interested in working in cities outside of Austin. They organized “Open Houses” for key cities, both within and out of Texas. We had the freedom to choose the cities and companies that we were most interested in, from the list of participating firms. At this point, I think I may need to clarify this: it was our responsibility to pay for our traveling expenses. The cost of travel for a class of more than 100 would be too formidable for either the school or the companies to undertake at this point. Now I chose New York because my family eventually hopes to settle down there (That’s another plus of being part of this program – you actually have options as far as the cities you want to live in!). I met with two of the Big 4 and one of the top six public accounting firms. The experience was very informative, since I could ask questions specific to my location of preference. The recruiting process, specifically for New York, became clearer to me as well. But the best thing was being able to meet these folks without the pressure of having to interview with them. Because of that, the whole recruiting process became less intimidating.

The second event I really enjoyed was the recruiter panel session during orientation week. During this session, representatives from four sectors (government, consulting, Big 4 public accounting and regional public accounting) talked to us about the recruiting process. We asked all kinds of questions. I heard questions such as: “What are your top pet peeves about mistakes that students make during interviews?”; Can students apply to multiple cities for the same firm?”; “Do you need to see transcripts during the interviews?”, etc. The session was pretty informal and students were expected to ask just basic questions. By that I mean there is absolutely no pressure to impress! The main idea is to allow students to get a clear picture of what they really need to do to ace that interview.

Third – I also attended information sessions for all the firms I was interested in. They are an excellent way to network and get even more questions answered. Plus, these sessions helped me get a “feel” for the culture of the firms. For example, during the information session for a major bank, one of the presenters gave me a very interesting insight about the investment banking industry in Houston. He explained that two-thirds of the investment banking department had engineering undergraduate degrees in engineering (preferably in petroleum) because it helps their clients (majority of them being in Oil and Gas) relate to them. These employees mostly have a graduate degree in finance/accounting/business as well, and so their combined knowledge from business and the engineering program helped them develop a unique perspective, which their clients valued. Since I have an undergrad degree in engineering, I thought that was VERY interesting.

Fourth – I really appreciated my meetings with my career and program advisors, which took place before orientation. During the career advising appointment, my advisor discussed my goals (which were to relocate to New York, and to specialize in Tax) and then looked over my resume to make sure my goals were not contradicting in any way with the things I wrote there. The next thing was, he gave me some excellent tips on preparing for interviews. The one-on-one session really helped me prepare better for interviews. My graduate program advisor also discussed my goals with me, and then talked about eligibility requirements for the CPA exam.

Last – The career advising team for the MPA program is excellent. During orientation week, they went over tips for preparing for interviews (complete with memorable skits that really drove some points home). During orientation week, we had the fall MPA career fair as well. The expo had more than 25 employers, and we had the opportunity to make a great first impression.

Now I want to come back to the present, just to give prospective students a good idea of what happens during October as far as the recruiting process goes. By now, most students are done with the first rounds of interviews. The second rounds and midterms keep students pretty busy at this time. For students trying to relocate to other cities (like me) this means flying to an actual location of choice if you clear the first round. Expenses are usually taken care of by the employer.

So far, I am having a great experience as far as recruiting is concerned. As for school, I had to drop a class because the course load was a bit much for me too handle at 12 hours. My graduate advisor helped me plan out the next semester and really helped me make the right decision for ME. I am so grateful to her! She helped me arrange my classes so that I would not have to postpone my expected graduation date. I think I found myself struggling to keep up with my course load mainly because of recruiting, which I find, is taking up a sizeable chunk of my time. (Of course, this is something I am very grateful for!)

Now, things are pretty manageable. I am taking three classes–intro to accounting, tax research and law for MPAs. I love my classes and my professors are fantastic. Next semester, I will be taking 15 hours, but I think this will be fine because the recruiting season will finally be behind me!

I hope my insights help prospective students make their decisions. Any questions/feedback is welcome. I am going to try my best to keep you updated on my experiences. So stay tuned!

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