Tips for the pre-interview dinner and initial interview

  Blogger:  Tim Ellis 

Before writing this blog post, I would like to give a far-reaching disclaimer about its content!  I will be writing about my personal experiences with the pre-interview dinners and the initial campus interviews that take place during the college recruiting season.  Some of what I talk about may not jive with your college career center, and there are plenty of websites with advice, but this is what worked for me and other students.

During the recruiting season, it goes without saying (although I’m saying it!), that you must present yourself exceptionally well around prospective firms.  Usually, your first chance to do this will occur at the pre-interview dinner (or some sort of similar get-together).   The next day will be your first (and hopefully not last) official interview with the firm.  The following are my tips for both:

  • For the pre-interview dinner, be social and friendly, and be prepared to talk to a lot of different people and personalities:   This get-together is designed to let you “be yourself” in a relatively unthreatening environment.  However, you are being evaluated while you are there.  Remember that this is designed to be a social event, not a referendum on your accounting knowledge.  Be ready to talk about the weather (seriously), pop-culture, sports, etc.  In most cases, several of the senior leadership of the firm will be at this event, so you will have the chance to meet some important people.  Of course, if they ask you questions about your career choices or your thoughts on accounting, be happy to oblige, but do not beat them down by asking their thoughts on a new FASB pronouncement.  For the most part, everyone at the firm just wants to start to get to know you as a person, and see how your personality would fit in with their office culture.  Of course, be dressed appropriately, and be courteous with everyone you talk to.  The key is to start to display a well-rounded personality.


  • Campus interview:  While the pre-interview dinner is a relaxed social event, do not let your guard down for the interview.  You must be extremely professional and mindful of etiquette, especially at the beginning of the interview.  Arrive early, but not too early, 10-15 minutes should be acceptable.  Your dress and hygiene must be impeccable.  Do not show up looking like you picked your suit up out of the clothes hamper (Some people really do this).  Guys must shave, unless you have a neat beard which is part of your normal appearance.  Once the interview begins, you may be surprised by how much it is not like your career center mock interview.  Often the interviewer will ask you about yourself and why you are interested in working for their firm.  I did not have a single firm ask me a “hypothetical” interview question or ask me to describe how I led a team in a difficult situation.  You will most likely never be asked any technical accounting questions.  Similar to the pre-interview dinner, the firm wants to get to know your personality, only this time in a more formal setting.  Try your best to not be too nervous, they are evaluating you on this as well.  Finally, at the end of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions.  You MUST ask some.  It is perfectly appropriate to even have them written down.  This shows that you have done your due diligence and research on the firm, and that you are serious about getting the job.  Also, always follow up with a thank you email or letter to the interviewer.

The pre-interview dinner and initial interview can be very nerve-wracking.  However, knowing what to expect and what the firms are looking for can really help you out and make you successful during the entire process.

About txcpa2b

The Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional organization representing Texas CPAs. TSCPA has 20 local chapters statewide and has 27,000 members. The Society is committed to serving the public interest with programs that advance the highest standards of ethics and practice within the CPA profession. TXCPA2B is a blog written by Texas students in pursuit of the CPA certificate. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily held by TSCPA or our members.
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