College Graduates: Finding a “Good Fit”

Today’s new college graduates hit the job market with an average $30,000 in college debt, according to research, and face increasing competition to land well-paying jobs.

Young job seekers are looking for more than a hefty salary. A company’s culture, stewardship, mission and the very important belief that they “fit” all drive their decisions. For female graduates, the desire for a supportive team environment (58.4% vs 39.5% of men) and flexible hours (45.6% vs 40.1% of men) is key, according to recent data from employment-related search engine Professional services firms are taking note: placing importance on diversity and inclusion and team-building activities, to enhance their job offers for all new recruits. In addition, some firms are making it a core value to improve the growth and retention of women. This is all terrific news for the 800,000 female graduates in the class of 2017. With accounting programs hitting all-time highs in enrollment – and females continuing to outpace males annually in earning bachelor degrees – firms must do a great job communicating their value to women in the area of career development.

With women representing 49 percent of new accounting hires – according to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) 2015 Trends Report on Supply and Demand of Accounting Graduates and Recruits – professional services can be a good place for women to grow into positions of executive leadership. A recent AICPA study on firm gender showed the number of women at the partner level is increasing at the 47 participating firms – from 17 percent to 22 percent in the past six years.

However, women are still only 20 percent of all partners at firms with 100 or more professionals. Comprehensive diversity and inclusion programs help firms leverage new perspectives and approaches that fuel success. But for diversity and inclusion to be an authentic part of the fabric of any firm, much more than forming committees and approving resources is needed.

It can be tough for a graduate to determine if the company truly lives its culture during campus visits and interviews.

Areas to consider when interviewing:

• Ask if the firm has an inclusion program for women. This is a good signal it takes their commitment seriously.
• Look at the firm’s leadership and ask about its percentage of female partners and executive team members.
• Determine if the firm has an active, meaningful mentorship program.
• Ask about: flexibility in assignments, remote versus in-office work and whether there is an open office concept or is it a cubicle/closed door culture?

Employees place cultural fit high on the list of reasons for taking or staying with a job. In fact, a Gallup study found that half of employees quit due to bad bosses and/or cultural fit, so starting with culture helps ensure lasting job satisfaction. In addition, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) found women employed five years or less cited work-life balance as the most important factor for job change.

In this unprecedented – and increasingly competitive – talent environment, remember that pay and benefits can get great candidates in the door, but an authentic culture that is lived every day, will keep them engaged and growing personally and professionally.


About the Author

Karleen Mussman, Chief Human Resources Officer with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, has been with the firm since 2015. Karleen and her team are stewards of the firm’s career value proposition—delivering human resources, learning and development, and recruiting activities on behalf of all our partners and team members.

Author: Karleen Mussman

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