Factors Used by Accounting Students in Differentiating among Prospective Employers

Article excerpt

Past research has revealed a number of determinants that employers use in making selection decisions about college students. However, few studies have examined those factors students use in differentiating among prospective employers and to date no studies have examined Accounting student preferences. Increased scrutiny of corporate accounting practices highlights the importance of attracting qualified applicants for a wide range of accounting positions. This study reports accounting students' ratings of 23 factors potentially present in workplaces. The most and least important factors are discussed. Additionally, implications for organizational recruiting practices are presented.

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Past research has revealed a number of determinants of selection decisions for college students. For example, studies have found that applicants with high GPAs and academic status receive more favorable selection decisions than those with low GPAs and academic status (e.g., Campion, 1978; Oliphant and Alexander, 1982; Werbel, Phillips, and Carney, 1989). Student participation in extracurricular activities has also been shown to be a determinant of student selection (Campion, 1978; Werbel et al., 1989).

While research in this area has focused on variables that evaluators use to differentiate among student applicants, applicants in turn conduct evaluations of organizations. Therefore the dearth of research examining factors that students use to help them select among prospective employers is surprising. Knowing these factors, organizations can examine their workplace policies and determine needed changes. This in turn may allow them to posture themselves more favorably for attracting and keeping qualified personnel. Also, employees would likely be more satisfied with their jobs if employers provided them with things they value. This greater job satisfaction could benefit organizations through greater work productivity (e.g., Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985) and lower employee absenteeism (e.g., Scott & Taylor, 1985) and turnover (e.g., Porter & Steers, 1973). Given these potential benefits, there appears to be a real need to uncover factors that student applicants most want in a potential employer and employment relationship.

Previous studies (Phillips & Phillips, 1997; Phillips, Phillips, & Cappel, 1994) have examined job preferences of Management majors and M.B.A. students. However no research to date has investigated Accounting students' preferences. In the wake of recent accounting-related scandals in institutions such as Arthur Andersen and Enron, companies are under increased pressure to hire competent graduates in entry-level positions (Gullapalli, 2002).

Accounting employment is projected to increase 10 to 20 percent between now and 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2004). Students and employers alike are realizing the importance of accountants developing a broader range of vocational skills through their college curricula (Hassall, Joyce, Montano, & Anes, 2003). Moreover, a greater variety of career options and growth potential (BLS, 2004; "Options and Opportunities", 2004) are making the field attractive to those who might not have relished the stereotypical "number-cruncher" image. And although interest in accounting careers is once again increasing, the percentage of students graduating in accounting declined between 1990 and 2000 (Gores, 2004). Taken together, these factors point to a job market in which organizations may well be jockeying to appeal to qualified applicants. Accordingly, the present study was designed to help discover accounting majors' preferences for various aspects of job situations.

Participants in this study were 114 male and female students enrolled in undergraduate Business classes at a regional university in the southern United States. Only junior- and senior-level Accounting students took part in the study. …