“How do I get a foot in the door with companies that are hiring?” you may be wondering. Well, who better to give that advice than recruiters from such companies? We sat down with representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers, an assurance, tax and advisory firm with locations throughout the country, and Acquity Group, a branding, commerce and digital marketing agency based in Chicago that builds websites and mobile applications.

We know that finance and accounting are two of the most desired skill sets for recent college grads, and the hiring numbers from PwC bear that out. According to Holly Paul, the company’s U.S. recruiting leader, the company typically hires about 4,000 full-time employees per year and recruits about 2,500 interns.

“Internship programs are fantastic because they’re a direct pipeline for our full-time associate roles,” Paul said.

Paul added that interns usually comprise about 60 percent of PwC’s associate class. The majority of the company’s new hires are accountants, but for the consulting aspect, Paul seeks majors ranging from information technology to health sciences.

Even though the company has a lot of available positions, Paul says competition is stiff as the number of students with accounting degrees continues to climb.

“We compete really hard for students in that top tier, and it’s those students who will get the multiple internship or job offers,” she said. “The landscape in general is becoming more competitive, and students over time are becoming more career-oriented. If you don’t have that mindset, you’re going to lose out.”

Suppose you haven’t made a direct connection with the company during school. Paul recommended two avenues: reaching out to alumni and reaching out to recruiters. In many cases, she says, requesting a 30-minute meeting with an alumnus who works for the company can lead to an introduction with recruiters, or at least ensure that your resume gets a good look. Additionally, she said, the vast majority of alumni are willing to help out new graduates in such a manner.

If you’re reaching out to recruiters themselves without ever having met them, Paul recommended having a better story than, “Here’s my resume.” Recently, a student emailed to tell Paul she’d read one of her interviews the student found interesting, and that had ultimately influenced one of her school projects. Then she described why she thought PwC would be a good fit for her, based on what she had learned about the company.

“That’s the perfect type of proactive outreach you want to see from a student,” Paul said. “The student has to put the work in.”

The fact that computer science majors are also in extremely high demand indicates to Jim Newman, executive vice president of operations for Acquity Group, that everyone should find a way to weave technology into their expertise, no matter the industry.

“I tell my kids every day, get involved with technology in some way, shape or form,” he said. About 30-40 percent of new hires at Acquity are entry level; positions range from computer science, programming and engineering, to graphic design and information architecture. There’s also a place for business analysts, digital marketing experts and IT managers.

The company has moved far beyond its days as a startup, but it’s still growing rapidly, acquiring major clients such as United Airlines, J.P. Morgan and Saks Fifth Avenue.

“Our business is innovative,” Newman said. “We struggle to find people to fill the positions we need to hire for.”

Even so, there are essential attributes for Newman when he screens entry-level job candidates. One is a superior ability to communicate. As the company’s work is project-based, requiring a great many people to complete a single project; employees need to be able to work well with clients and their teammates.

“One of the main qualities we have in our industry is that people are really flexible and open to new challenges,” Newman said. “Even if they went on a project that wasn’t the best in the world to them, it’s just one project. People who have a long-term perspective on their career are impressive to me in an interview.”

Buy "Calling All Grads" Kindle eBook. Job tips for college gradsThis article was excerpted from the new eBook “Calling All Grads! Turn a Degree into a Job,” edited by careers writer and editor Marco Buscaglia and published by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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