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Pitch Competition Helps Accounting Students Market Their Skills

October 9, 2020

This month, accounting students in Dr. Omar Watt’s Intermediate Accounting course set aside their spreadsheets and financial statements to develop the skills needed to successfully interview for an internship during the first-ever Accounting Perfect Pitch competition.

An illustration of a person at a laptop working on the job search process.

Watts was inspired by his colleague, Dr. Monica Hodis, who has been holding pitch competitions in the marketing classes she teaches for many years. She provided the blueprint and tools and Watts customized it for an authentic accounting experience. His students were challenged with making a pitch to obtain an interview for an internal audit internship in the technology track at JPMorgan Chase. This position was chosen in part due to the increasing relevance and importance of business analytics and information security. The job description highlighted the need for students to become more knowledgeable in these areas and pointed out that a “willingness to learn” is a key asset. 

While students did not technically compete against each other, Watts said the word “competition” helped to emphasize the need for students to do their best and they rose to the occasion.

“It is important to prepare accounting and finance students to know more than debits and credits. Our goal is to develop complete professionals who will go on to be leaders in their field. It is therefore important that our students know how to confidently deliver persuasive arguments that are clear, succinct, and supported by evidence,” shared Watts. “The Perfect Pitch was a fun (students would say nerve wracking) and practical way to give students practice in developing these skills and provide them with constructive feedback from highly qualified professions.”

The students presented their pitches to experienced professionals in the field of accounting, business development, sales, human resources, and recruiting. Judges for the competition included Mark Phillips, Ernst & Young; Nadege Oluikpe, JP Morgan Chase; Laura Mills, Cognizant; Tim Marion ’09, Lewis Tree; and Kim McDonald, University of Virginia. Fisher career experts Julia Overton-Healy, director of career services, and Jamie Canfield, employer relations and internship coordinator, also served as judges.

For Emily Passmore, the competition was an opportunity to gain experience and build confidence in pitching herself to industry professionals.

“I learned how to relate the skills I have gained from unique experiences to a specific position and articulate how this would make me a good fit for the position as well as the company,” she said.

Samantha Haines agreed.

“I could distinguish myself through my achievements, skills, and strengths, which I then incorporated into my pitch. The process of giving the pitch did not feel scripted as it was my story. I felt comfortable and learned what I can do to further develop my pitches in the future,” she said.

Adrianna Carfagna said the experience helped her practice public speaking skills and encouraged her to break out of her comfort zone.

“I have been to interview type settings in the past, but this was my first time experiencing one virtually,” she said. “I enjoyed the learning experience and I plan to use the feedback to better my speaking skills for the future.”