Essential Tips to Prepare for an Interview

Student blogger: Khadija Moten

The first question that pops into a student’s mind once they get an interview is what do they do next?

Well, in my experience, if you have multiple interviews for an internship or a full-time job you should keep a journal to keep track of the dates, times and locations of the interviews so you don’t confused or end up double booking an interview for the same date or time. It is crucial that one is organized when it comes to recruiting because that can be a stressful and chaotic period.

The first thing I would recommend is to research the company you are interviewing with. This can be done by visiting their website, looking them up on LinkedIn, talking to people you know who have worked there or even exploring the company on Google for any articles that they were mentioned in. Through this step, you will be able to come up with several personalized questions that will make you seem like you did your homework, will make you look credible and will show your interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the certain position you applied for. A general example of a question may include:

Your firm (mention the name) was voted best place to work by Vault in 2017. In your opinion, what makes this a good place to work?

Moreover, if you know the person you are interviewing with beforehand, then you should gather some information about them through LinkedIn and ask questions according to their experience. This will not only help you establish a rapport with them, but it will also aid in making a connection with them. Some examples may include:

What is your favorite office tradition?

OR

You have been with the firm for over 10 years. What do you think are some opportunities the firm will face in the coming years?

OR

I see that you have a number of years of accounting experience (be it in the private or public industry). What attracted you to this firm (mention name)?

OR

What are some initiatives that you would like your firm (mention name) to take up for their community service aspect?

Your goal should be to steer the conversation away from a business facet so you can stand out and are easily remembered because this will indicate that you tried to talk to them about something that you and him/her clicked on. This could be a variety of things which will show that you are able to keep a conversation going smoothly and are personable. Additionally, you will be able to show them your personality and the things that are important to you.

You also have to focus on making your resume as perfect as possible and try to showcase your skills that will assist you in doing your job. Highlight your work and leadership experience and come up with examples that indicate how you will be an asset to the firm. It is also a good idea to come up with a short elevator pitch that you will use to introduce yourself when you meet your interviewer. This could include your name, major, and things that you want your interviewer to know. It can also be important details that you want your interviewer to have knowledge of and may comprise of either volunteer work or your future plans and what you wish to achieve.

One question that terrifies people is: “Tell me about yourself.” This is because people do not like talking or bragging about themselves. To really get the answer down, it is vital to first understand what point you want to convey. Do you want your interviewer to know your background, what exact event shaped you into the person you are today or simply why you chose your major and what you wish to accomplish? So, my advice would be to stay calm while answering this question and be true to yourself.

The night before an interview, I would have my clothes ready and ironed, a pad folio or folder with questions prepared and at least five resumes printed because you never know how many people will interview you and you want to be on the safe side.

Deciding what to wear to an interview can be a dilemma for women. For men, it is fairly easy because it is usually a suit with a tie. For women it can be numerous things.

First, all interviews require professional dress unless strictly specified so you could consider wearing a pant suit or a skirt suit. If you are wearing a skirt suit then you have to keep in mind that the length of the skirt is appropriate and conservative so when you sit down, you feel comfortable and are covered properly for a professional setting.

Furthermore, try to wear a blouse or a button-down shirt that does not have a low neck, is not sheer and is not ripped. Women also have to keep in mind to wear comfortable shoes that they can walk in which may include ballet flats or heels (pumps). Men have to keep in mind to polish their shoes. In addition, both men and women should make sure that their suits are neat, tidy and pressed to make them seem like they’re dressed for the part and determined to ace their interview.

Lastly, all you have to do is arrive at least five minutes before your interview, have a positive mindset and be determined to succeed and impress your interviewer. If you follow all these steps, then there is no stopping you from getting that offer and fulfilling your dreams.

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How to Survive (AND EXCEL) In Accounting

Student blogger: Iraj Ullah

Some people are terrified to start their accounting classes in college. They think of the tortuous debits and credits, the formulas, AND ALL THE MATH. However, I think with these seven tips anyone can fall in love with accounting!

  1. BE INTERESTED

I cannot begin to stress how important this point is. Not being interested in the various accounts, journal entries and taxes makes accounting seem even more petrifying and ends up becoming a miserable experience. Before studying a topic, I recommend you take an extra thirty minutes and try to find how this area is in the news today and how it can affect you. This will make the topic seem more relevant and you’ll naturally seem more interested. Trust me, it’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

  1. COLOR CODE

While taking notes, I think it’s necessary to annotate and color code. It has many perks. First, it looks neat. Second, annotating ensures you know what you’re reading and helps you summarize your main points. Research studies have shown that color can actually improve memory recall and cognition.

  1. PLAY FOCUS MUSIC

In my experience, I have realized that I cannot work in complete silence. It makes time go impossibly slow and my brain zones out every few minutes, so I recommend playing the focus genre on Spotify. They have various focus playlists like peaceful piano, atmospheric calm, study vibes, deep focus, etc. Each playlist has its own rhythm and mood geared toward a particular study technique. For writing journal entries, I usually listen to calming acoustic. The playlist is filled with chill instrumental covers of popular songs, and it really helps me get pumped about journal entries.

  1. DRINK COFFEE

Doctors may say caffeine is bad for you, but they obviously don’t remember how they survived college. Drinking coffee is just what your brain needs to focus on the task at hand and has really motivated me in the past to get organized and to start working. Any coffee is fine — just make sure it’s not bland or bitter — and it’s something you enjoy. You’re about to do A LOT of journal entries, so make sure there’s enough sugar and there’s extra whip to keep you motivated for the next three to four hours.

  1. PLAN AHEAD

Don’t wait until your final semester to look at what accounting jobs are out there. Plan about a year or two in advance in order to avoid the stress and panic of life after college. The Accounting field is HUGE, and having a few ideas about what fields you want to go in is a great way to become more informed and prepared in your career search. Bonus: it will also make you more interested in future accounting classes that relate to your interest!

  1. GO TO CLASS

I really can’t stress how important this one is – especially to freshmen. Yeah, college is great because attendance isn’t mandatory, but for a class like accounting, you need to go to class. Even missing one day in an accounting class can have a huge impact. The instructors are qualified accountants who have gotten their CPA certification or are Ph.D.’s in the area so they know what they’re teaching you and they know how to teach. They want to see you do well and convey the information in a way you can understand it. Simply put, to get an A you have to go to class.

  1. MANAGE YOUR TIME

I think time management is something college students struggle with the most. I like to keep a planner that tells me which weeks are Exam Hell and typically start studying a few weeks earlier. DO NOT push off studying for your accounting tests. You do NOT want to cram for these tests. Simply put, it cannot be done. And if it is done, it’s too painful. It’s extremely difficult to memorize all the formulas, journal entries, production cycles, etc. Save yourself the migraine and start studying a week before.

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One Student’s Proposal to the IRS on Cryptocurrency

Student blogger: David Ash

Evolving nature of accounting and cryptocurrency

Many people who aren’t accountants think that accounting has been the same boring thing for centuries – debits, credits, and journal entries. However, accounting is always evolving with the everlasting changing business landscape. Cryptocurrency is a good example and has changed the accounting landscape once again. Cryptocurrency was created to be used online as a currency. Cryptocurrency is designed to eliminate third party intermediaries in an online transaction such as a bank. Many individuals use cryptocurrencies to buy consumer discretionary products such as products or services.

Lately, cryptocurrencies have been treated as an investment vehicle. Many cryptocurrency investors buy, sell, or even mine cryptocurrency in hope of receiving a return on their original basis. Since cryptocurrency is such a new concept to the IRS, it raises many questions on how the IRS will tax investors on their proceeds from cryptocurrency trading.

IRS publications and tax effects

In April 2014, the IRS issued Bulletin: 2014-16. In the “IRS Virtual Currency Guide” section of Bulletin 2014-16, the IRS discusses the tax implications of transactions with cryptocurrencies. The IRS recognizes cryptocurrency can be used to pay for goods or services and can be held for investment purposes. Cryptocurrencies operate as a currency, however, the IRS does not recognize the currency to have any legal tender status.

Unlike legal tender status currency, cryptocurrency may result in a tax effect when used to pay for real world goods or services. Cryptocurrency is recognized as property or a capital asset and not seen as currency in the eyes of the IRS. Therefore, the federal income tax implications used for property or capital assets, such as long term/short-term capital gains or losses, will be applied to cryptocurrency when used to pay for goods or services.

According to the IRS, the tax implications of mining cryptocurrency are simple. When the taxpayer successfully mines cryptocurrency, they must recognize fair market value of the cryptocurrency at that time. This is included in that taxpayer’s gross income for that tax year.

My proposal for how accountants and agencies should handle cryptocurrency

I believe that it would be easier for everyone if the IRS and SEC soften up on their position of cryptocurrency. If the government would recognize cryptocurrency as legal tender in the United States it would make it easier to regulate.

The benefits of allowing cryptocurrency having legal tender status would allow consumers to buy goods and services with the currency without any tax implications. For example, the USD’s value is constantly changing every day, but we don’t have to pay tax on it. Another benefit would be that trading platforms would implement the cryptocurrency for forex trading. Trading platforms would issue 1099’s to the tax payer and IRS. Then there would be no ethical dilemma whether the taxpayer traded cryptocurrency in a tax year or not.

Sources

IRS. (2014, April 14). Internal Revenue Bulletin: 2014-16. Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov:

https://www.irs.gov/irb/2014-16_IRB#ANN-2014-14

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Not Getting Your CPA Immediately? Don’t Worry

Student Blogger: Tyler Keegan

When I first chose accounting as my major, I fully intended on following in my dad’s footsteps and getting my masters and then sitting for the CPA immediately upon graduation. Then, life got in the way. As a college baseball player, I transferred to four different colleges and my final college, UTD, ruled that 30 hours of my upper level business credits were non-transferrable. This put me over a year behind my graduation track and made me come to the difficult decision that getting my masters and CPA immediately was no longer an option. So how does an accounting student who isn’t planning on getting certified right off the bat find a job in today’s crowded job market?

Know Your Options

It took a while for me to realize that going to a large public accounting firm was probably not going to be a realistic option. Last fall, I interviewed at a national firm with a big base in Dallas. All three phases of the interview went very well. When I reached the end of the process and talked to the HR manager about the details of the job, I was devastated to learn that they only hire CPA candidates for full-time positions. Thus, even an internship with them was out of the question.

This isn’t something you learn in your accounting classes at school, and I was shocked to realize what the impact of me not getting my CPA would be. Almost all around the board, if you’re not getting your CPA license immediately, public firms have almost no interest in you. This eliminates a big portion of the accounting jobs out there, but it is not the end of the world. For me, it just meant looking at smaller companies that would offer a little more flexibility in when and how I get licensed.

The two places I have interned at this year are both very small companies that were looking solely for interns and not any full-time candidates. I was still able to get some valuable experience and even learn tax accounting under a CPA. I will be the first one to admit that ideally it would be nice to intern at the place you’re going to eventually work at full time but, just as with anything in life, it is important to make adjustments based on a person-by-person basis.

Have a Game Plan

To get licensed as a CPA in Texas, you have to meet a certain set of requirements. The basic guidelines of this are you need 150 hours of college credit and 30 upper level accounting hours (including classes such as Intermediate Accounting etc.) I have over 150 hours, however, I am short of the 30 upper level credits.

After being in college for nearly six years, I have decided that I want to wait before I return and get those extra hours to be able to sit for the CPA Exam. I still need to work after I graduate. Therefore, when I’ve been looking for jobs, I have applied for companies that I believe I would be a good fit at. These are usually smaller private companies who need help internally performing their accounting duties.

This is not necessarily a traditional route for college graduates to take, but it is something that fits me and I believe I am a fit for these companies. Also, knowing that I would not be on the same level as some of my peers, I worked especially hard to make sure I had a high GPA and could distinguish myself from other candidates in other ways. Thus, when I am going on job interviews now, I have other legs to stand on due to my diligence in the classroom.

I also made sure to attend as many job fairs as possible. It is easy to apply to hundreds of places online, but I have noticed it really does make a difference if you establish those face-to-face connections and really make an effort to connect with the company on a personal level.

Not Being a CPA Immediately Does Not Mean You Are Useless

Getting your CPA license is an important step for any accountant to take. It showcases your knowledge and provides many additional opportunities for promotions and expanded responsibility in the workplace. That being said, my career is just getting started and although I want to find success early on, it is not a race to get licensed or a race to try to get my MBA. These are steps that I shouldn’t feel obligated to take until I am absolutely ready.

In the meantime, there are many other useful certifications that can be obtained such as QuickBooks certification or getting a CMA license. These both show mastery of a subject. At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is to not feel forced to take the traditional path of an accounting grad. Each person has a different story and circumstances and should go along at their own pace.

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Accounting Students and CPE

Student Blogger: Sarah Kraman

As accounting students focused on getting our CPA license, we are expected to meet many standards. We must obtain our bachelor’s degree in accounting. Obtain an internship or enough work experience to satisfy the accounting experience hurdle to sit for the CPA Exam. Take graduate classes to satisfy the hour requirement to sit for the CPA Exam or obtain a master’s in accounting (which tends to be more common).  Finally, we must study and sit for the CPA Exam. In this time, we are also trying to maintain friendships and family life. So, I can see where and why some students say that’s enough. Most of us aren’t interested in taking on other extracurricular activities or hobbies. I would say, that is a mistake.

First of all, for those of us who chose accounting as a fall back for another career such as law, we need more than just studying accounting. I have taken up learning Arabic for example. These outside activities can keep us sane and give us something to look forward to. That is why I bring up CPE. CPE stands for continuing professional education. It is a requirement to maintain your CPA license, but you are not required to take CPE before. With that said, in my opinion it is a huge asset to understand how to access CPE courses and fit them into your busy schedule before you are a CPA, that way when you get your license, you are well prepared to factor in those trainings/classes into your even busier schedule!

I found out this valuable idea when I was working for a small accounting firm. My boss required that all employees, even the receptionist, take part in at least 20 hours of CPE annually so that we’re all exposed to accounting information. He let us choose which courses we wanted to take and paid for them. It was a win-win!

My experience with CPE

One day, I was scrolling through CPE options unenthusiastically on the AICPA website. I was thinking, “Okay, pick one and get it over with.” That’s when I discovered a cybersecurity course which offered 16 hours of credit in none other than… NEW YORK CITY! The best part was that I had already planned a vacation to Manhattan for the day after the CPE was going to be taught, so it was serendipitous that I stumbled upon the opportunity two weeks before I was set to go! I quickly researched how much it would cost to change my flight, additional nights at a hotel, and the cost of the course. I sent an email to my boss thinking it was a long shot, but it couldn’t hurt to ask with all the information I had. When he arrived at the office, he called me in his office and approved my trip! I was taking my first CPE course in Manhattan!

It was truly an amazing experience. I learned so much and enjoyed every second of that day. More importantly, I was able to network with the other people taking the course which included a number of CFOs and high-level executives in the tristate area. They all had so many questions what a college student from Dallas, Texas was doing taking a CPE course in New York City. Believe me – I was beyond thrilled to tell them every detail.

I say all this to encourage you to put yourself in a position to take a CPE course or two. Not only will you be able to find something that is actually interesting to you, but you could meet people who you wouldn’t be able to network with otherwise. It is worth your time!

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My Experience at AICPA’s Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop

Sienny Yuwono

Hello everyone! Let me introduce myself – my name is Sienny Yuwono and I’ll be a senior majoring in accounting at The University of Texas at San Antonio this fall. I’m originally from Indonesia and moved to the U.S. in 2015. I would like to share my recent experience with an AICPA program called the Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop (ASLW). It was such a pleasure to participate in this program.

This year, ASLW picked 105 students and professionals throughout the nation. During this program, I also met and connected with lots of professionals from Big Four companies, smaller public and industry companies, state CPA staff, and even professors!

ASLW is a three-day program sponsored by AICPA to help minority students like me who want to be a licensed CPA. The program helped me learn more about the world of accounting, especially the CPA certificate, through lots of incredible workshops and amazing speakers. For example, there were sessions on dinner etiquette, confidence mode, networking, how to study for the CPA Exam, DISC personality and more.

The application for ASLW is available through ThisWaytoCPA and it was easy to apply. An essay, three-minute video, and two letters of recommendations brought me to Atlanta at no cost, and I brought home more knowledge about becoming a CPA.

There were a lot of workshops that I liked, but the one that I enjoyed the the most was Confidence Mode. It talked about how to boost your confidence to help you in a work environment. Confidence is important, and before ASLW I felt like I didn’t really have confidence. But after attending the workshop, I feel like I have more confidence. I learned that you don’t need to be the main person talking to have confidence. You can participate in one-on-one conversation to show that you have confidence!

Through ASLW, I also learned more about myself through the DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance) Personality session. I learned about other people’s personality and how to connect it to the real world so we know how to handle people with all different personality traits.

ASLW also emphasized getting our CPA certificate. After the workshop I became more enthusiastic to get my CPA as soon as I can!

There were a lot of lessons that I learned through this three-day program, and I really feel like AICPA needs to make more time for this program because it provides so much good information in so little time. I would highly suggest students apply for ASLW! They packed some great information into the program, and it’s just worth it. I can’t express enough how grateful I feel that I was able to participate in ASLW 2018!

If you have any questions about the program or want more information, feel free to contact me at siennyyuwono@gmail.com.

Here are some pictures that I took at ASLW:

Group activity with fellow ASLW attendees

Diana Solash, Global and Americas Diversity & Inclusiveness Director at EY (right) and myself

From left: Florence Holland, Lead Manager of Pipeline Initatives at AICPA, and myself

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Get Past Presentation Anxiety by Reframing

Student Blogger: Rachel McKenna

Public speaking: a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of otherwise confident people is something that seems natural for some, and feels like punishment for others. Still, public speaking is something that we all need to get comfortable with in our profession of choice.

More and more, accountants are serving in an advisory role for companies, and that job responsibility is not likely going away any time soon. As a student who myself wondered when public speaking would ever become comfortable, I thought I would share some of the reframing tools I have used to help me survive (and maybe even enjoy) presentations.

The audience wants you to succeed

From my experience, people have interesting things to say; you just have to listen! For the audience, this is a chance to gain a new perspective on a topic they might not know much about. Since you are the presenter, you have put the time and effort in to become well-informed on the topic you are covering. As the subject-matter expert, the audience is not actively looking to point out your faults as much as they are seeking to understand where you are coming from as the presenter.

Use that idea to your advantage in developing your presentation and see if that makes the preparation process more enjoyable for you. Positive thinking allows you to claim the power to decide how you will approach the situation and shows that you are willing to make the best of the uncomfortable circumstances.

You can turn your anxiety into excitement

Nervousness is a natural physiological response to standing in front of a crowd. We are human after all! How anxiety affects you is entirely up to you, though! Feeling nervous typically makes people more alert and aware of their surroundings. This is something that can be used to your advantage when delivering a message to an audience.

Try asking yourself: “Why am I nervous?” Oftentimes, the reasons we feel nervous are fleeting and will not be relevant in the long-term. If you think about the bigger picture of your purpose in delivering your presentation, you can form an idea of why your message matters to you. Ultimately, uncovering your motivations behind public speaking allows you to take a step back and realize that your presentation is tied to meaningful goals that you set for a reason, and that can propel you to envision a positive outcome.

Think of the value you are adding

Rather than wishing your presentation to be over, consider why you have been asked to speak in front of an audience in the first place. Chances are, you have completed the time-consuming part of doing your research to prepare for a speech. You want your preparation and knowledge to shine. The best way to do that is to forget about how many people you are speaking to and to think about what are the main desired takeaways for them.

If you take your research further and consider who your audience is, you can gauge what their objectives are from sitting in on your presentation and cater the message to them. When you do this, you are ensuring that they feel they have gained something from the experience and you are adding value in the process.

This is a learning opportunity

Just as the audience wants to learn from you, you should keep an open mind about learning from the audience, too! Think about it – which classes have been the most enjoyable for you? Chances are, the most memorable classes are those that you actively participated in.

Whether your reason for participating in class discussions was to pass the time or because you were genuinely interested in the topics mentioned, this is the type of environment an effective presentation inspires. As a speaker, you should leave the door open for audience interaction and signal to them that you care and want to learn from them as much as they can learn from you.

Are you uncomfortable? That is great—that is a sign that you are growing as an individual and stretching your limits in a positive way! By reframing your thoughts and giving them a positive spin, you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective and confident public speaker. Like with anything else, believe that you can and you’re halfway there!

Do you have any other tips that have helped you overcome presentation anxiety? Leave a comment below!

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