Useful Campus Recruiting Metrics For Mid-Size Accounting Firms To Help Win Top Talent

Campus recruiting is such a “feelings” industry sometimes


Recruiters doing what they “feel” is right, or what they were told to do, almost always without a lot of data points


They’ll say “this campus is better.


That’s why we go here”, without the data


They’ll say “oh, we created an event”, without the data


They’ll say “oh, we spoke to accounting students” without the data


I’m all for gut instinct, but at a certain point, you have to measure and assess the impact of your activities


Look, I’ll always be an advocate for campus recruiters because frankly, you all do A LOT It’s not an easy job


But if every fall feels like Groundhog Day and a stressful nightmare, then something must change


Appreciate Kristin (Talent Acquisition Manager) for breaking this down for us and getting tactical about the things we need to measure so that we can all… Know. Our. Numbers.


Rishav Khanal 0:02

Cool. All right. Well, she just chimed in the big dreaded zoom announcement that it is recording. Welcome back with nervous everybody here. And I think every time we start the show people get really excited. I'll tell you why. Because we love, love, love starting these shows with irrelevant Dumb fun facts. So I heard. Yes, you heard so other people I know a little bit of a whiz with these things. And I don't Google them 30 minutes prior to recording, just like the tabloids say, but I'm not sure if you knew this, Alexis and Kristen, but clearly people are not traveling as much they may not be as relevant. But when you have visited sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, hotels.com, hotwire trivago, cheap tickets, ebookers. All of them is actually owned by Expedia. Really,

(Source: https://www.condorferries.co.uk/online-travel-booking-statistics)

Kristin Ethridge 0:59

I did not know that?


Rishav Khanal 1:03

That was the reaction I was hoping for. My jaw dropping I do want when I saw that, I was like, really? Because I thought, Oh, interesting. Competing.


Kristin Ethridge 1:15

I wonder what this strategy is behind that.


Rishav Khanal 1:18

Gobble up all the people using it as much as possible and make make money problem.


Kristin Ethridge 1:24

anybody's strategy, right?


Rishav Khanal 1:26

Yeah, there's


Alexis Cheatham 1:27

so so Kristin. So I guess I'm curious. What's the fun facts that maybe your colleagues don't know about you?


Kristin Ethridge 1:35

yet? So um, I always have to think about this because I'm not good at fun facts. And so I think one thing that my colleagues don't know about me is that so I got both of my degrees are in business, but I actually started my college career out studying music education. So it was going to be like a chorus teachers, I studied voice and decided that I didn't want to teach for a living and I didn't want to perform for living, which are the only things you can do with a music education degree. So I ended up doing a total 180 and switching to business but a lot of people don't know that about me, because I don't I don't share that very often.


Rishav Khanal 2:15

Wow. Okay, so it's a company that there is a karaoke machine there. And the person behind the booth is Kristin Etheridge. Upon the last you barely game, what's your go to karaoke song as you approach that individual who's gonna pop it on?


Kristin Ethridge 2:39

Oh, gosh, I don't know what my go to karaoke song. I feel like it would be something from like Greece, the movie, I love anything. Um, Greece, hopelessly devoted, I feel like is a really good song. It's not like a you know, you get the crowd going. But it's a good it's a good ballad. I feel like that would be probably my go to. I would also probably avoid the karaoke machine. So it's a it's a low chance that I'd be up there anyway. That's all


Rishav Khanal 3:06

right. In this hypothetical scenario is everyone is doing That's right. their comfort zone?


Kristin Ethridge 3:11

That's right.


Rishav Khanal 3:12

You know, we are not singers. Trust me, I think. Soon as people start to hear my vocals, they will end this episode. So the meat potatoes of this episode, right and playing out this hypothetical scenario, which right now is relevant more than ever. And I'm going to now put on my fictitious HR executive hat, where I'm that HR executive at my midsize accounting firm. And right now, it really seems like we're losing top talent to bigger firms during the campus recruiting season. And my recruiters tell me that it's always difficult to get partners who are full time staff who aren't recruiters to engage with students in a meaningful way. And besides the info sessions that we do with Beta Alpha Psi, I'm wondering what should I be doing in order to attract students to my firm? Where do I?


Kristin Ethridge 4:07

Yeah, well, I think this is a really it's a very relevant question. And I think as the market for talent within public accounting has gotten more and more competitive, it's really important. And, you know, we as regional firms don't have the brand recognition nationally that the big four or some of the larger firms do. And so it is a really important question to figure out how you can maintain a good brand presence and engage with talented students in a meaningful way. And also have your people invested in doing that because what we at Bennett Thrasher have determined is that is our most successful pipeline are the students that we recruit on campus, and then end up staying with us for a large amount of time. And so I think there's a couple of different things. things that are important when you're asking yourself this question if you are a recruiter or director of talent, and whatever your title is, at a regional firm, there's a couple of different things that you'll want to do when you're asking yourself this question. The first, the first thing that I would suggest is, understand your market, right? So understand which schools are working for you and why they're working for you, and then understand which schools aren't, and why they aren't working for you. And, and the latter may be a little bit more difficult, right, I think it's easier to understand why something is working than than why it isn't working. And so figure out kind of which schools do best for you and why that may be. And, for example, with Bennett Thrasher, we're located in the Atlanta vinings area, and one of our most successful schools for us in terms of pipeline is less than 15 miles away. And a lot of that is because they know who we are, they're very close to our firm. And so we're immediately recognized when we step on campus, whereas another school that may be farther away, may not be as successful for us. And so we have to understand that and until we understand that we really can't develop strategies at those schools that we don't do as well at because we have no idea why we're not doing well at those schools. So that's one of the first things that I would say, is important to take a step back and do some sort of high level analysis of what schools work for your firm and what schools don't at this time. Um, the next thing that I would say is understand that the recruiting market right now is year round. So it used to be when I started in this field a little over six years ago, it used to be that the fall was everything, you went to the fall recruiting fairs, and then you got your interns for the next year. And you were done until next fall. And that was and you may go on campus a couple times more than that, but it really wasn't part of the strategy. And about three to four years ago, I would say there was a big shift in regional and smaller firms understanding kind of what I call the Big Four model, which is talk to the students early, recruit them all year long, and then NAB them for the following years internships. And so understanding that your strategy can't just be for the fall, it has to be year round, and you have to plan for the fall. But you also have to plan for spring recruiting, you have to plan for summer leadership conferences, and then really take advantage of the summer leadership conference so that when you get to the fall, you've already made offers for the following year, and you can start to focus more on the next year's conference in the fall, if you have to kind of be like a year in advance on this, which is a little bit crazy, honestly. Um, and so that's one other thing that I would say is important. Once you've understood kind of what works for you on campus and what doesn't work for you on campus.


Rishav Khanal 8:05

I'm so real glad to dive into that right, going back to understanding your market. So you talked about identify, hey, which schools work for you and why. And the second thing is which schools don't work, and why are there any common metrics that you look at to assess, hey, these, these should be my driving forces, this truenorth besides just a number of hires, that told me a good health check on whether or not campus is working?


Kristin Ethridge 8:31

Yeah. So I would say don't even look at number of hires, I would say look at number of offers, because that's the metric that we use to determine whether or not a school is worth it. Because when we make an offer, that means each student, we think that you would be a good fit for bt, and we think that you would be successful, whether or not they accept is completely out of our hands. In fact, a lot of times it's factors that we have no control over like they're from a different state, and they end up moving back there, and we don't have an office location, or they end up going into a service line that we don't offer. And so there's only so much we can do to get them to accept. And so what I would encourage for firms to do, which is what we have done, is take the last three years and look at break it out into school, and then how many students at each school you gave an offer to. And then the other piece that we looked at is how much we spend financially at each each school, and then how much we spend in time, which can always be a little bit iffy, but it's at least a good kind of foundational measurement, which we use billable rate as that kind of metric. And then we break it out into cost, quote, unquote, per offer. And what we found is at some schools, our cost per offer is like $20,000, because we've only offered three or four students in the past three or four years. And then we have schools that cut the cost per offers $1,000, which we're willing to invest that in students that are do really well. And so I think that'll help firms kind of just get a high level view of where am I investing my time? And how am I determining that these students are worth our, our offers. And if we're getting a lot of offers out of a certain school, that cost per offer is going to go down. And it's likely that that'll help you figure out why you're successful at certain schools, and maybe not successful at other schools. It kind of helps you it jumpstarts that that question?


Source: https://yello.co/blog/recruitment-operations-statistics/

Rishav Khanal 10:34

Yeah. Because I mean, you're right, the number of hires that can be so deceiving almost, and it takes a long time to actually get the data, first of all, right, and then have that data tell you a story versus the offers that's more in line with your timeline, and then you're not waiting on the candidate. And you can sort of kind of play with the metrics there. I love that. I think we got a little bit of a soundbite, just as like, okay, don't do this, do that instead.


Kristin Ethridge 11:00

Right. Right. And


Rishav Khanal 11:01

the idea of recruiting like sort of this market is year round now. And you talked about a talking to the students early. And it's this idea where you're nurturing the candidates, right? For partners that I bring down, unnecessarily aren't 24, seven recruiters are, you know, they're given this task of I need juniors going into their senior year who are CPA eligible, five year program, what and they'll go to the checklist, so they're meeting the freshman sophomore, that's like, all right. Talk to me later next year.


Kristin Ethridge 11:35

Great. Great.


Rishav Khanal 11:36

What would be your advice there? And as far as if you are dealing with a full time, you know, colleague that was like that? How would you coach them? Well, yeah, to students that may not be eligible right then and there about the opportunities that your firm has.


Kristin Ethridge 11:50

Right. And I think that's, I think that's very, very common. Because it is our job as the talent acquisition team to know that stuff, just like it's the partner's job to understand tax and audit, people don't come to me for taxes, they come to them. And people come to me for recruiting stuff. And so I think it is important to do a couple of things. One is identify people in your firm who are actually interested in recruiting, I think it's really tempting to just pull alumni into events. And those alumni may be great in terms of talking to the students about their experience. But they honestly might not be interested in the talent acquisition process as a whole, right? They, they're good for one happy hour, but ask them to interview and they're like, Oh, no, I'm not going to do that. And so identify who is actually interested in participating on recruiting events, and secondly, meet with those people ahead of time. So don't get to the career fair and say, All right, guys, we have five minutes before the fair starts. Here's everything you need to know about the recruiting process, the interns what we're looking for some early, that's too much. There's way, way, way too much. And so I understand that you probably need to meet with them beforehand. And then we also make a one page, cheat sheets, about just important things to know not only about what we're looking for, but also facts about the firm. And the number one question I get from our people, because we're growing so much is how many people do we actually have at our firm? Because and you think like, oh, wow, what how could you not know that. But if they're in a 150 person, tax department, and you're asking them to speak about the entire firm, that's just something that they don't know, day to day. And so it's important to not assume that they know everything about the firm, but also about the recruiting process, and informing them beforehand is really important. And the last thing I'll say to that is, we actually have what we call a campus champion program. And we started this, I believe, three years ago. And that is where we established partners for each of the 12 schools that we go to, who are our campus champions, and most of them are alumni of those schools, but some of them are not some of them have kids there, or they just have a tie to the school outside of that. And their job as the campus champion is to help us maintain a good presence on campus, maintain a consistent presence on campus, so they kind of know what's going on, and also help us staff those events. So they, they partner with the recruiting team to help own the campus recruiting process. And so it's not just an HR driven initiative,


Rishav Khanal 14:36

that I hope the individuals listening I mean, even for me, I'm in this hypothetical role, but I almost was an HR executive. So I can bring that initiative to my firm, because I'm just thinking about somebody who has kids at that university and the investment features that they have to get excited when you send an email now and I'm a full time worker, but I see Hey, Rishav, we're going down to Virginia Tech again. And I'm perked up, I'm ready to go, I'm talking to you, I'm giving you my time, you have to get that as my campus, I own that there's like, a part of my DNA is attached to that literally, but also within the firm, I'm championing that. So that's incredible. I'm sure you all have seen great returns from that. And I know you're about to kind of go through your list I did before I sort of dove in here. But anything else as far as understanding your market and identify and the recruiting market is year round, and identifying the people who are interested in recruiting anything else that we may have kind of missed on or glossed over?


Kristin Ethridge 15:36

No, I don't think so. I mean, I think the only thing I would say to that is that this is a continuous analysis. So you may do that this year, but don't throw it to the wayside in the next year. And this is something that will continue to allow firms to get ahead, because we don't have the staffing options that some of the larger firms do. I mean, some of these larger firms have one person that's solely dedicated to one school, and we don't have the luxury of that. And at bt, it's myself, and then I have a talent acquisition coordinator who helps me as well. But we're spread across 12 to 14 schools at any given year. And so it's important to keep that high level analysis at the forefront, because otherwise, you don't know why you're not successful at certain schools, or why one year was bad. And the next year was really good.


Rishav Khanal 16:26

I think you're spot on. And actually, I wanted to revisit one point. And, you know, we're going to be sad, unfortunately, when Alexis eventually has to go back to Virginia Tech and live out her senior year. But, Alexis, I'm curious, right, as a rising senior, you're engaging with a lot of employers and probably will be doing so when you go back to school. And in that mix, you'll probably be talking to full time executives, people that aren't recruiters. How did you feel whenever you come into a scenario, and they just don't really know their numbers? They don't really know how many people work at the firm. They don't like when you ask like, Hey, can you tell me a day in the life of what you do? Like, oh, I've got my team, and it's not dense, like, how does that make you as a student when hearing that message?


Kristin Ethridge 17:15

Yeah no, that's a good question. Because I think, as students, we prep so much for these like fairs, or for certain, like sessions of questions. And when we show all three of those questions, and they're like, Oh, they can't give in detail that kind of it does kind of like, Okay, well, and then just kind of like asking for more asking for more. And so that's where it gets a little confusing for the students like, well, we were prepared. So yes, I can definitely see where coming prepared with the facts and prepping partners or prepping whoever the recruiters to come in for the students. how important that is. Because I think, yeah, it's putting up that prepared, and just ready, ready face ready to go to talk to students with the prepared information. So yeah, definitely important.


Rishav Khanal 18:01

I love it. And I think, you know, at recruiting you we'd like to keep things really short, sweet, straight to the point. And because, frankly, if you're a firm that's feeling this, you have a lot of work to do. But there's a good game plan out there right now. And Kristin, I'll quickly summarize it all, but you let me know if I missed anything really quickly. So the first step I've got, it's really understanding your market. And I think there's a two prong approach here. What I heard from you is identify which schools work and why, but also which schools didn't work, and why they did. And some of the metrics that drive that isn't necessarily the number of hires. But looking at the number of offers that were given how much money you spent at that school, also the time so that way, you're able to get a metric known as cost per offer, not for hire. Then the second part is understanding that recruiting, especially now with this war for talent, it's a year round, right? You have to really nurture the freshmen and the sophomores, people that may not be eligible yet. When they are, they're ready to go. They know who you are. And then the third thing is when bringing on other colleagues or full time executives to talk to students. It's as simple as identifying people first who are interested in doing that, right? Do they want to do that? And making sure that I'm meeting with them ahead of time is what I've got. I give them a one page cheat sheet. So that way, we're not assuming that they know it all. And Alexa said, I think you brought up a great point, Alexis, you're spending so much time prepping and you have a list of 20 questions to make that conversation really fruitful. And if they can't even answer the first few, then it's just a bad candidate experience. Mm hmm. And then the third bucket Kristin This was pretty awesome. And we haven't heard this is the campus champion program is identifying individuals that may not have even gone to that school but have some other vested interest to be that boots on the ground type of liaison for you, when you have opportunities to recruit from that campus. And then that fourth thing is, all these things don't happen overnight, in order to really refine and make this process as perfect as we can be, it's a continuous analysis to get ahead. So really, I would say a four part approach, you laid it out, it's dense, it's a lot of work, but it's needed because you're really helping students make one of the biggest decisions of their lives, at least at the stage that they're at anything else that I might have glossed over or missed. Anything I might have missed in the summary from your end?


Kristin Ethridge 20:35

No, I don't think so. And you know, the only thing I would add to that is, you know, this is, it's really important, because within public accounting firms, we have a term that's called billable or non billable. And in the recruiting team, we are non billable. And I think it's really important for us to be able to have these type of analyses that we can look at and say, all right, managing partner, or CEO or partner group, this is why we're valuable. And for people who are part of firms who are struggling to get partners on board, this is the way to get partners on board, because you're able to present costs and numbers and data, which is the language that they speak. And so, to your point, I love that you said this is not going to happen overnight. These type of analyses took us about a year and a half to really do. And so, you know, give yourself some grace. And that, you know, you can't turn around tomorrow and do it all. But my guess is a lot of firms already have this data. And so it will be relatively easy to kind of kick it off.

Rishav Khanal 21:39

Yeah, especially I think even looking at cost per offers. And going back three years or so that's probably something whether it's somebody that manages your systems, or if you're tweaking around your ATS, you should probably have that data readily available. Right? Yeah, but either way, I mean, I'm looking at a page worth of notes if you're on me because of the background. Just though in my hypothetical midsize accounting firm, they're getting an earful. And we're gonna hit the round ground running when it comes to recruiting. Thank you so much for coming on board. I think this was hands down, you know, one of the more tactical like, here's the 123 step. I'm a procedural learner. I think a lot of individuals are and we just need to kind of take it one step at a time. And so Kristin, thank you again.


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