post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 12:57 PM — post Comments (95)

The Pre-Interview Banquet/Meet the Firms is arguably one of the best opportunities to make sure you get a job with the Big 4. If you have been following my advice, and have been networking with the Big 4 recruiters and employees on a regular basis, you will probably be ahead of the curve. If you haven’t been networking, all is not lost. Just know that you will have to work a lot harder now for an interview than your peers.

The Pre-Interview Banquets or Meet the Firms are usually bi-annual events. One takes place in the fall to recruit for full-time employees, and another one takes place in the winter or early spring to recruit for summer interns.

Usually your college’s accounting club or fraternity will organize this event, and may take place at a swanky resort (as was the case with my school) or it may be held in a school facility. Regardless of the venue, this is probably the most important event if you want to get recruited by a Big 4. If there are drinks and snacks at the event, then great! If not, then make sure you take some water with you and leave it in the car. Since you will be doing a lot of talking, and you will definitely get the worst dry-mouth of your life. Additionally, your attire should be business professional and you should look your best.

Buy yourself a nice portfolio to hold copies of your resume (which better be printed on resume paper), and give your resume to every single person with whom you speak. Your resume is the student-equivalent of your business card. You need to have more than enough copies to go around.

There could be as many as 25-50 firms recruiting at these events. Your job is not to talk to every single firm. Research ahead of time, and pick four to six firms that interest you the most. Spend most of your time talking to the partners and employees of these firms.

A lot of the candidates going to these events are nervous, and rightfully so. A slip-up now could mean that you never get an invitation for an interview. So, my advice to you, if you get nervous, would be to talk to at least one or two firms that you don’t want a job with as soon as you walk in the door. Talking to the employees and partners of these firms will have a calming effect on your nerves. Once your nerves are calm enough, you can proceed to the firms that you do want to talk with.

The more “competitive” students will try to screw you. They will try to hijack a conversation into their favor. Some are even bigger assholes. I have seen candidates effectively shut another approaching candidate down by tightening the circle in which the conversation is taking place. They will pull other tricks too. These tactics can be very frustrating to other candidates, and I personally hate it when anyone does something like that. However, as a candidate when this happens to you, do not show your frustration or aggression. Just pretend that you are oblivious to their cock-blocking moves. You are going to this event to secure an interview position, so forget the assholes and work on getting that interview.

As a general rule, most of candidates tend to gravitate towards the senior management present at the Big 4. I think the mindset is that “This person is important, he must have a bigger say in things, I need to impress him.” Fair enough.

However, if I were you, I would start from the bottom up. I would engage the lower-level associates first. They are easier to access because a lot of the candidates are busy focusing on the managers and the partners. They are also more likely to be pretty close in age to you. I would talk to them about their experiences, challenges, and rewards at the Big 4. I would get as much knowledge out of them as possible. It’s very important that you do. To end the conversation, ask them permission to contact them in the future for any questions, get their business cards, thank them for their time, and politely ask them if they could introduce you to a senior manager or partner.

Congratulations, you have effectively by-passed the twenty or so people waiting to talk to the partner or manager. The psychological effect of being introduced by someone who is already working for the firm is big, and is not lost on the partners. In a way, you have been pre-screened and you carry a subliminal stamp of approval from the associates.

At this point, talk to the partners and managers, about why you want to work for the Big 4. Talk about everything you discussed with the associates you were speaking with earlier. Tell them how helpful the associates were at addressing the specific questions you had regarding the Big 4. Ask the partners and managers for advice. Once again, when you wrap up the conversation, keep a door open for future questions, get their contact information, thank them, and walk away.

Rinse and repeat!

Once you are done talking to the people of one particular firm, don’t move on to the next one immediately. Takes notes about the conversations that you had with the various people from that firm. An effective way is to do this is to jot down some main points of the conversation on the back of the business cards that you just picked up. This will come in very handy, when writing your thank-you notes.

Also, when you are speaking with the recruiters and employees, you would be well-advised to drop names of people in other firms. For example you could say something along these lines when talking to someone from Deloitte:

I am quite interested in international business and John (use only the first name) from EY, said that their firm has one of the best work abroad programs – they allow you to work in another country of your choosing for a year after three years of service. Does your firm offer something similar?

The name-dropping usually makes it look like you are on first-name basis with the other firm, which means they definitely want you. And one thing that Big 4 recruiters like doing best is poaching candidates leaning towards the other Big 4 firms.

As the event starts winding down, do one quick round and thank everyone you spoke with. This allows them an opportunity to invite you to the post-event dinner or drinks. If you don’t get an invite to such an event, don’t fret too much about it. We only invite students out rarely, mostly because then we have to behave ourselves and can’t really let loose.

Once you get home, your first urge will be to hit the liquor. Hard. I would advise you to not do that, but instead start writing thank-you emails. Thank-you emails are best written when the conversations are the fresh in your head. Personalize each email and include bits of conversations you had with the said recruiter or employee. This shouldn’t be too painful, if you kept notes with the business cards like I told you to do. Once this task is taken care of, you’re done. Congratulations. Treat yourself to some sub-standard college alcohol. You deserve it.

post Category: Blog — Accounting Genius @ 3:36 AM — post Comments (4)

Sorry about the recent lack of posts! I’ve been swamped with a few side-projects and I haven’t really had much time to write or reply to your wonderful emails. I apologize about that. I promise to get something up by next Wednesday!

post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 9:45 PM — post Comments (15)

The purpose of the article is to arm you with the knowledge on the why, how, and what of “Dress for Success.”

Most employees at the Big 4 are not “fashionistas.” It’s hard to be one when they have blood-shot eyes from the lack of sleep and that constant frown because the clients still haven’t provided their fucking PBCs. They don’t need to look good. They don’t need to make good first impressions. They already have a job. You don’t.

If you wish to be recruited by a Big 4 firm, you need to invest in at least one to two pairs of professional outfits, two to three business casual outfits, and a couple of casual outfits. This may seem like a lot of money, especially given that you are a broke-ass college student. However, notice the strategic use of the word “invest” and that’s exactly how you should look at it. You are investing in your future. And that’s exactly how you should present the situation to your parents when begging them for the money. The bottom line is you need to look good during your interaction with the Big 4.

“Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” – Mark Twain

In an ideal world, how you look shouldn’t impact the whether you get an offer or not, the reality is that it does. A full discussion about the psychological impact of physical attraction of one person on another is beyond the scope of this article. I will say this: on multiple occasions I have seen and heard of less qualified candidates get the job because of their appearance and demeanor. If you know you look good, it will instill confidence in you, which will come across in your personality when you interact with the Big 4 people. This is a huge psychological advantage that you should have in your court going into the interview process.

Here are some general rules that both men and women should follow, for most of you this should be common sense stuff:

  1. Dress Conservatively. Always dress like you’re at a Country Club with your uppity grandparents, not like you’re in college.
  2. Dress Sharply. Make sure that your clothes are clean and ironed. If your laundry and ironing skills are questionable, you would be well advised to have this task done professionally.
  3. Dress Appropriately. Depending on the type of event, the dress code could be business professional, business casual, or casual. Dress accordingly. If you don’t know the dress code, email the recruiter and find out. You don’t want to be an idiot who shows up in jeans to a business professional event, or the idiot who shows up to a casual event in business professional attire. It doesn’t matter how many times you emphasize “attention to detail” in your resume, actions speak louder than words.

Now, I am going to break down what your Big 4 wardrobe should consist of.

The Male Wardrobe

Compared to women, men have it easier. There are fewer things to mess up. However, the downside of that is that there is less of a chance for you to stand out. Almost all applicants look the same. You need to take what you have, and make yourself look as sharp as possible with it.

Business Professional: You need to have at least one (preferably two) business suits. These suits should be dark and fitted to your current build and weight. I have seen far too many candidates fit themselves into pants from high school that were held up by a belt screaming for dear life. The simple truth is that unless you have been taking very good care of yourself, you probably have put on some extra weight because of the beer and the nightly visits to Taco Bell. Your ties should be conservative, meaning they should be a solid color or a striped. Leave your “fun tie” with pineapples and palm trees at home. Better still, burn it. Your shirt should be a button-up oxford. You may see partners rocking dress shirts with cuff-links and monogrammed cuffs. Don’t copy them. You’re not rich. You’re broke. You’re looking for a job. Also, most of associates and managers will think of you as a douche bag if you show up to an interview wearing cuff-links. Black socks for black shoes, and brown or beige socks for brown shoes. Your belt should match your shoes. Also, make sure you have a belt before you leave your house. I have seen a ton of candidates show up to an interview without a belt. Don’t be one of those idiots.

Business Casual: Business casual is essentially the same outfit as business professional, minus the tie. You could choose to leave the coat behind as well. You won’t get any points deducted for that.

Casual: Casual should consist of a collared shirt or a polo (extra points Lacoste, Burberry, Penguin, Ralph Lauren) and a good pair of jeans. Do not wear a t-shirt. You will seem to be under-dressed. And avoid jeans with rips, tears, patches. Yes, I realize that you may have paid as much $250 for those pair of fashionable jeans. And I agree, they are fashionable and will inexplicably increase of your chances of getting laid at a bar or a club. However, they still don’t belong at a Big 4 event. That’s just the way things are. You could wear sneakers to such an event, but I would probably wear dressy shoes.

That should pretty much cover it for guys. Girls and guys interested in dressing as girls continue reading.

The Female Wardrobe

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on this subject. The information presented here is the result of my conversation with other female Big 4 recruiters and employees.

A good guiding principal for female candidates should be conservatism. You should look good in whatever you choose to wear but you should not look slutty (and please save your outrage over the use of the word slutty for someone who cares). The interviewer should not be able to see your cleavage or under-garments. This may seem like common-sense but I have seen it happen one too many times – the candidate bends over to pick up a resume she dropped, only to have her thong on display in front of the entire Big 4 recruiting team. Don’t be that idiot. You should dress ultra-conservative, especially if you know you are being interviewed by a female partner or manager. I am not sure what it is, but female partners and managers are usually the ones that harp the most on the way a particular female candidate dressed for the interview. Now let’s get to the nitty gritty:

Business Professional: Your attire should consist of a pant-suit or a skirt-suit. I would advise that the suit be fitted to your build, and should be a dark color. I have seen candidates pull off brighter colors like orange and pink. That’s really up to you. Your blouse should be relatively simple and should match your suit. Accessorize but don’t go overboard. Keep your jewelry simple. Avoid overly gigantic earrings. Skip the giant Prada bag. If you are wearing a skirt, wear panty-hose. Your shoes should be business appropriate, meaning your CFM-pumps are out.

Business Casual: Take your business professional outfit, and lose the jacket. You have business-casual.

Casual: Your casual attire should consist of either polo or a dressy top combined with a pair of jeans or a knee-length skirt. As with guys, avoid any tops with writing or messages. You should rock dressy shoes over sneakers. That’s all I have for you girls.

post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 12:56 PM — post Comments (50)

Your resume should provides a snapshot of your qualifications to the recruiter, your cover letter should present an argument as to why you are a superior candidate for the position compared to everyone else applying.

The basics covered in my post about writing a good resume apply to cover letters as well. So, don’t use a template and make sure that your writing is free of any spelling or grammatical mistakes. It would serve you well to have your friends (preferably a business writing professor) proof read it and comment on it.

Now let’s get to the meat of this article. You need to realize that campus recruiters are little more than corporate cheerleaders with brains to match. Most of them wouldn’t be able to tell their debits from their credits, or their heads from their asses. So, your cover letter needs to connect the dots for them, in a very literal way. You need to make them think of you as a great candidate, worthy of an interview.

There are three major personality traits that recruiters look for in candidates. Your job is to prove to them that you have these traits. These traits are:

You are likeable and a crowd-pleaser. Discuss your people-skills extensively. Recruiters will probably give you extra-points for exaggerated but believable tales. Talk about how when several of your friends were struggling with a particular accounting class, you started tutoring them, and they ended up doing pretty well. Talk about how your co-workers always come to you for advice, and how your managers recognized and appreciated your efforts. Talk about how you’ve been nominated for and been awarded “employee of the month” several times during your short tenure because of your excellent customer service skills. Talk about your involvement in your community, and how you’ve enriched the lives of blind/deaf/cancer kids. Try not to seem zealous about any one particular cause. You would be well-advised to appear well-rounded with multiple sources supporting the fact that you are likeable and a crowd-pleaser.

You are a hard-worker and a smart-worker. This is one of the more difficult arguments to make in your cover letter. It your job to convince the recruiter that you will be able to transition into the very demanding corporate environment of the Big 4. The best way to do that is to show that you have great time-management skills and you are able to accomplish way more than your peers in 24 hours. If you have a part-time job, talk about how you are financing your own education. Talk about how you haven’t let your grades slip even though you are working. Talk about how you’ve managed to have an active social-life given the lack of free time. Talk about how effective time management allowed you to take an optional course on Excel and how you’ve mastered Pivot Tables and V-Lookups. And remember, exaggerated accounts are more likely to receive attention.

You have done your research, and you want this job. Finally discuss the specifics of the position, and why it interests you. When you do this, try to drop as many names as possible – especially names of partners that attend recruiting events for your particular college or university. This will get the recruiter’s attention. Now, pile on the bullshit. Talk about how inspired you were with the said partner’s career track, and how amazed you were by the opportunities presented by the firm. Talk about how you would be interested in an international rotation once you get your feet firmly planted.

End with why you are interested specifically in EY/Deloitte/KPMG/PWC over the other three Big 4 firms –it’s the people. Discuss how you really connected with the people of the firm you are applying to when you met at the various recruiting events. Mention how the corporate culture of the firm seems most compatible with your personality, and how you are looking forward to an opportunity to discuss this position further. This final buttering-up should seal the deal. Do this for all four firms. They are all the same.

Remember, the goal of the cover letter is to get you an interview. Make sure your cover letter does that for you.

post Category: Fun — Accounting Genius @ 11:52 PM — post Comments (34)

1. You work very odd hours.

2. You are paid a lot of money to keep your client happy.

3. You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money.

4. You spend a majority of your time in a location of your client’s choosing.

5. You charge by the hour but your time can be extended.

6. You are not proud of what you do.

7. Creating fantasies for your clients is rewarded.

8. It’s difficult to have a family.

9. You have no job satisfaction.

10. If a client beats you up, the pimp just sends you to another client.

11. You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living.

12. People ask you, “What do you do?” and you can’t explain it.

13. Your client pays for your hotel room plus your hourly rate.

14. Your client always wants to know how much you charge and what they get for the money.

15. Your pimp drives a nice car.

16. Your pimp encourages drinking and you become addicted to ease the pain of it all.

17. You know the pimp is charging more than you are worth but if the  client is foolish enough to pay it’s not your problem.

18. When you leave to go see a client, you look great, but return looking like hell.

19. You are rated on your “performance” in an excruciating ordeal.

20. Even though you get paid the big bucks, it’s the client who walks away smiling.

21. The client always thinks your “cut” of your billing rate is higher than it actually is, and in turn, expects miracles from you.

22. When you deduct your “take” from your billing rate, you constantly wonder if you could get a better deal with another pimp.

23. Your pimp seems to often abuse you, forgetting that without you, he would not have a business.

24. You do all the real work, but the pimp has a higher status and more money, and really just has to “coordinate” the work for you. Sometimes, you wonder if you could just make more money pimping out yourself.

25. You get so brainwashed into the lifestyle, that you don’t realize that life can be better, until it is too late.

26. Personal time, or a work/life balance, is meaningless to your pimp, all he cares about is satisfying the clients, despite how many times he tells you he loves you.

27. After a few years, you find that all your non-prostitute friends are no longer your friends, because you lost touch and your schedule and lifestyle was difficult to manage. Now you find that you associate primarily with other prostitutes.

28. The turnover rate is ridiculously high. Everyone thinks they can do it for a few years, no problem, but after just a few clients railing you, many break under the pressure, or quit for a better life.

29. Most of the time, your job could be performed by a well-trained monkey.

30. You do what you’re told, and pass further inquiry.

post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 5:03 AM — post Comments (45)

Very few kids in college have done anything truly impressive in their professional lives. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as a result, most resumes submitted to the Big 4 recruiters look more or less the same. It’s easy to not get that interview because you didn’t stand out from the crowd. If you want to get hired by a Big 4, you need to have a good resume, period. Over the next few paragraphs, I am going to teach you exactly what goes into creating a good resume. Follow these instructions closely.

First, let’s cover some basics. If you want a job with a Big 4, DO NOT use one of the Word templates to create your resume. Using a template may seem like an easy solution, especially for those of you who have trouble writing lofty sentences about yourself. However, to the person reviewing your resume it says, “I was too lazy to create my resume from scratch” or “I have no writing skills.” There are hundreds of other candidates doing the same thing. As a result, their formatting and style is exactly like yours. A recruiter, who may have spent the last four hours reading resumes, may end up missing some of the great skills listed on your resume, simply because your resume looked just like the last resume she read, which looked just like the last fifteen resumes she read before that. Don’t intentionally sabotage your competitive edge by using a generic template.

Secondly, when you do decide to create your resume, set aside a good block of time for it. Your resume represents you to the firm. It needs to be perfect. Any accidental mistake will become a reason for why you are an unfit candidate and should not get an interview. People conducting the interviews know nothing about you. All they have to go by is your resume. You could be an excellent writer, however, if you make one tiny mistake on your resume, you will be written off as somebody who lacks business writing skills, and you may never be invited for an interview. Is judging a person by one single typo fair? No, it isn’t. However, that’s just how things are. The reality is that the number of resumes received by the Big 4 firms vastly outnumbers the number of interview slots that they are able to accommodate. As a result, the recruiters are ruthless when it comes to weeding out candidates.

Think of it this way, you have spent hundreds of hours on education in the hopes that it will land you an attractive job. Now that you are in a position to get that attractive job, the least you can do is spend a few more hours to ensure that the job doesn’t slip away because of a stupid mistake.

Now, with all of that out of the way, let’s answer this simple question: What is a resume? It’s not a listing of all the jobs you’ve held and their respective descriptions. A lot of students see it this way, and end up wasting valuable space with pointless sentences describing their day to day activities. Why would your ability to fold clothes at Abercrombie and Fitch be of any interest to the recruiter? So do yourself a favor, and save that particular space on your resume where you discuss your ability to fold clothes for something better.

Your resume is your snapshot. It should present you as somebody who is will thrive in a Big 4 environment. And the space to prove that is limited to one page. So, if any sentence on that resume doesn’t hint at some of the skills you are trying to market, you need to get rid of it.

For example, somebody who DOES NOT want to work for the Big 4 would write the following about their retail sales experience:

XYZ Store, Sales Associate

- Helped customers find the products that they needed and also performed cashier duties.

- Provided good customer service.

- Reported on time to the job and helped keep the store neat for an excellent customer experience

Now compare what was said above with the job description of somebody who DOES want a job with a Big 4:

XYZ Store, Sales Associate

- Successfully improved store/department sales by 10% through an aggressive sales strategy.

- Solidified a loyal customer base of 50 repeat customers through superior customer service by providing each customer with personal attention, ensuring a great shopping experience.

- Eased transition of incoming associates by providing on-the-job training for 10 employees and helping others reach their respective sales goals.

Both of these individuals had the same job; however, the second person differentiated himself through his powerful writing and comes out looking like a winner. Let’s look at what this person did differently:

  1. Every sentence starts off with him mentioning his accomplishments in different areas, followed by the techniques and strategies he used to get there. On a sub-conscious level, he is hammering in the fact that he is a winner and is willing to put in the work necessary to achieve his goals.
  2. Each accomplishment mentioned covers a unique aspect of the job. First he talks about how he is of service to his employer, then he talks about how he is of service to his clients, and finally he talks about how he is of service to his fellow employees. By doing this he is making sure that the recruiter sees him as someone who is versatile in many different roles.
  3. He used numbers to backup his claims. Quantifiable data always makes things more believable. Use numbers when talking about your accomplishments. If you don’t or can’t get the exact numbers that relate to your position, don’t sweat it. Use your best estimate. Recruiters won’t care if you are off by a few percentage points. Most employers don’t give away this kind of information which makes it pretty hard for the recruiter to confirm it, and most won’t even bother. The only number on your resume that the Big 4 will care to confirm is your GPA, and that will only happen once you have your offer in hand. So, go ahead and use numbers when talking about your accomplishments.

Use this formula for every role you discuss on your resume. It will work wonders.

One thing that you don’t need to focus on is your smarts. You don’t have to prove your intellectual or academic aptitude to the recruiters. Your GPA does that for you. If a Big 4 firm is recruiting at your school, it means that your accounting program is good enough. You don’t need to list every accounting class and the respective grades in those classes. You just need to make sure that your average GPA is higher than the minimum standards set by the firm. For decent schools the minimum GPA hovers around 3.0 to 3.2, but can be as high as 3.5 for others. The sad reality is that very little is expected of an incoming associate, education wise. You are expected to know the basics, debits and credits, but anything beyond that is mostly an exercise in academic masturbation. You won’t remember most of what you learned in college by the time you start work in the fall. That’s just fine, and most of the teams expect that. They will teach you what you need to know.

So you would be well advised in discussing your soft-skills on your resume instead of academic performance. Recruiters are specifically looking for the following skills: communication, conflict resolution, organization, and attention to details. The reason that these skills are highly valued is because the most successful employees at Big 4 firms are the ones that are complacent, easy to work with, and able to grasp the concepts quickly and accurately. They are not looking for leaders, they are looking for followers. So, tailor your resume so that you seem like someone who is able to pickup directions given to him or her quickly, someone who is friendly, and can take the manager or partner’s shit.

A certain amount of merit is also place on extra-curricular activities. Involvement in leadership positions in your school’s accounting club, business associate, or business fraternities is great filler. The leadership roles require very minimal effort once you’re elected. However, if you are too lazy to run for a leadership position, just pay your dues to the club or fraternity. Just being able to put that you’re a member of a business/accounting club helps your cause.

Volunteer positions are also advantageous on the resume. The Big 4 like to market themselves as having a deep community involvement, and as a result volunteer experience carries some weight. Some volunteer roles such as teaching underprivileged kids, organizing walks to fight diseases, or raising money to save the forests are more popular and will look better on your resume than other roles such as volunteering at senior centers or hospitals. However, if all you have around is senior centers or hospitals, then go work at the said location for a few hours in the year you are supposed to be recruiting. A few hours are all you really need to mention the volunteer work on your resume. Anything more, would be out of the goodness of your own heart.

A quick word of caution: if you volunteered for a political party or political campaign, try to keep that experience out of your resume. Most college campuses are hotbeds of political activity. That’s great from a political efficacy stand-point. I know that working on political campaigns in college can be vastly rewarding and educational experience. However, by mentioning it on your resume, you run the risk of upsetting the political sensibilities of your recruiter should he or she happen to hold viewpoints different than those of the party you campaigned for. In turn, they may end up finding a reason to not invite you to the interview. Again, this is something that wouldn’t happen in an ideal world. However, it does happen from time to time. So it would be advisable to avoid the subject completely. Your goal is to get an interview, politics be damned.

In conclusion, I would like to remind you again that the whole point of a resume is to get you an interview. You need to stand out, and you can do so by following the advice in the resume. Most importantly, take your time. Your resume is not something that you should procrastinate on. You should create your first draft. Let it sit for a while, and then edit it for grammatical mistakes. Take it to your career center, if you have one, and ask them to review it for errors. Most colleges offer such services for free. A couple of days later, sit down again in front of the computer, and ask yourself the following questions: Is there a better way of explaining something? Are there any spelling errors? Would I throw this resume in a pile of other resumes if I was a recruiter?

Until you are able to answer all of these questions with a resounding no, you need to keep working on it. Perfection takes time and energy, and your resume needs to be perfect.

post Category: Blog — Webmaster @ 12:08 PM — post Comments (0)

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post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 3:47 PM — post Comments (14)

Approximately 60% of people who find jobs find them via networking. The hundreds and thousands of articles written on networking each year all reach the same conclusion: networking is one of the strongest skills you can develop in the corporate world, and if used successfully can get you almost anything you want out of your career, short of milkshakes and blowjobs. I would contend that ultra-successful networkers are able to finagle those riches of life through networking as well.

So, what is networking? Networking is the simply art of building relationships with people. In other words: it’s making friends. Yes, friends. There are many authors who are somewhat hesitant to use the word “friends” while talking about networking, and rightfully so. Many people do not have any boundaries when it comes to their friends. They say and do whatever comes to their mind without any internal filters. These people are idiots. Do not be an idiot. With that being said, here are the skills you need to develop to be a good networker.

Stand out from the crowd:
Your mom lied to you. You are not a unique snowflake. God did not make you any special. And your teeth are kind of stained. Why should I care about you?

We live in an information age, and there is all sorts of random information coming our way. And our brains can handle only so much information before discarding whatever it thinks is unimportant. The problem is what I perceive as important, and what you perceive as important could be very different. However, this fact is lost on many people.

If fifty people come up to me, tell me their name, shake my hand, hand me their resume, comment about the weather, and then walk away, I may remember three names – the first person I met, the last person, and the girl with the really cute ass. Sadly many candidates do exactly that, and inadvertently end up shooting themselves in the foot.

The way to stand out from the crowd is to actually engage the person in a meaningful conversation. Talking about the weather does not constitute a meaningful conversation. There is a reason you want to network with this person, what is it? What information does this person have that could be of value to you? Candidates miss out on a plethora of really useful tips from Big 4 professionals simply because they are too scared to ask for it.

Be genuine:
The way to make sure that you are memorable is by actually engaging the other person in a meaningful conversation. There is a reason you wish to network with the said person – ask yourself, what is the common ground? What information does this person have that could help me? It’s ok to ask questions, as long as these questions are something you actually care about.

I have seen many candidates who in their attempts to impress the Big 4 people, actually end up looking like know-it-alls who don’t know shit. My colleagues and I always rolled our eyes when we heard questions like:

“How do you feel about IFRS?”

Yes, we get it; you know what IFRS is. Every accounting student should know that. But I also know that you don’t give two shits about how I feel about IFRS. Jackass.

However, there are legitimate questions that a candidate may be concerned about and deserve an appropriate response. Ask THOSE questions. For example, I would be quite impressed with a candidate if he or she were to ask me a question that goes something like this:

“A lot of companies will be switching over to IFRS soon. What sort of training does your firm provide in this area? How often do such trainings take place?”

Is the quantity and quality of training from a future employer something that every candidate should be concerned with? Absolutely. The goal is to ask questions that you would be interested in knowing. Sometime before the networking event, set an hour or so aside, and think of everything you want to know. Make a list of things that you are unsure about (accounting homework doesn’t count), and then make it your sole mission to get these questions answered. It’s ok to ask the same question to different people, this will expose you to different viewpoints and bring you the closest to an unbiased opinion.

Respect other people’s time:
I never took offense to candidates emailing me with their questions or concerns. I did mind when candidates asked me things like, “When is resume submission deadline?” There are stupid questions, and there are stupid people. Both are quite fond of each other. Always do your homework when it comes to answering questions. If the question can be easily answered using Bing or Wikipedia, then don’t email a Big 4 professional asking for answers. Also, try to consolidate your questions in one email if possible. It greatly increases your chances of a reply. And always, always, always, thank the person taking the time to answer your questions! That person doesn’t need to do any of this, he or she is doing it for you. So show your ample gratitude, and the fact that you solicit their advice is because you respect them.

Disagree using diplomacy:
The most successful networkers are able to get others to see value in them. It should be fairly obvious that offending the person you are trying to network with is not productive at all. However, this should not translate to you agreeing with each and every little thing the person states; if you disagree with something, go ahead and voice your disagreement, but do so in an agreeable manner. Establish yourself as somebody who stays true to his or her convictions, while being capable of great diplomacy.

That’s great, but what the fuck does that mean?

Well, let me illustrate via an example: A very senior manager I met while working for the Big 4, loved to talk shit about the school I went to. Why? She went to the rival school. Since she was a senior manager, most associates just accepted the abuse and then secretly talked about how they hated her guts and her stupid state school. Eventually, I got around to working with her. Sure enough, she started her rant. Instead of just taking her abuse, I decided to stand-up for my school. I said the following in a jovial tone and with a smile on my face: “I think it’s awesome that you are still totally keeping the rivalry going. Are you sure you’re not secretly in love with my school? You sure seem to think a lot about it.” She laughed and walked away. What I said wasn’t particularly witty, but more to the point: it was not mean. I stood up for my school without putting her school down. We built a pretty strong working-relationship after that. She was actually a great person and really fun to work with. However my co-workers, who never stood up to her, always saw her in a different light. And she continued to pick on them.

In summary, successful networking depends on the same factors that a successful friendship depends on: you need to prove your worth, you need to be genuine, you need to respect your friends, and you shouldn’t be a raging asshole. It’s that simple. You can do it.

post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 6:55 AM — post Comments (254)

The Big 4 hire only the best and the brightest. This is only a partial truth at best. I know this because I have met some really dumb people working for the Big 4. So no, to get hired by a Big 4 you don’t need to have a 4.0 GPA with a double major in Business Administration and I-Couldn’t-Get-Laid-In-College-Because-My-Second-Major-Was-Way-Too-Hard.

In fact, I received offers from all of the Big 4 firms with a slightly-above-average GPA, while some of my friends who were definitely were more intelligent and had a 4.0 GPA could not even land an interview.

What was the secret behind my success? Simple, I was coached.

I had inside information from my friends and family already working at the various Big 4 firms. I talked to them extensively, and found out exactly what the Big 4 want in a candidate. I then used this information to scrupulously morph myself into an ideal candidate.

However, I realize that many students out there may not necessarily have access to this information. Relax. I’ve got you covered. Over the coming two to three weeks, I will lay down a pretty simple path that will maximize your chances of getting hired by the Big 4.

This series will cover the most important areas that a candidate needs to work on to land an offer. These areas are:

  1. Networking.
  2. Resume Building.
  3. Successful Interviewing.

If you can master these three areas, you will definitely have an upper hand over your peers. I know this because in addition to landing offers from all of the Big 4 firms, I was also deeply involved in the recruiting efforts of the firm I joined. As such, I have been to on-campus interviews, and taken candidates to lunches and dinners.

However, before we go about doing any of that, you need to know the hiring process. Each year, every Big 4 office predicts the number of associates it will need in the coming year. This is based on several factors including the economy, retention rate, business prospects, etc. It’s the job of the recruiters to meet this number with as many high-quality candidates as possible. They try to put a massive dent in this number through summer internships. The difference is made up during campus hiring.

Internships are for juniors (3rd year students) in college, while campus hiring is for seniors (4th year students). Internship candidates are interviewed during the winter/spring months for summer internships, while full-time candidates are interviewed during the fall of their senior year for full-time positions.

The Big 4 are more selective when it comes to internships than campus hiring as the number of internships offered is typically smaller than the number of full-time positions offered by the firm. That being said, all juniors in college interested in working for the Big 4 should try to get an internship. At the very least, you are networking with the recruiters, something that you can use to your advantage during campus hiring (in case you don’t get the internship). However, if you do land the internship, chances are very high that you will get a full-time offer.

Internships are a great way to spend your summer. First and foremost, you are paid $20-$25 an hour, excluding over time, and that is great pay for a college student. It is assumed that you are a functional retard, and as such, associates will hand-hold you through most tasks of any value. You may end up doing menial work like picking up food or getting coffee, but when you are being paid $25 an hour to get coffee, it won’t seem too bad. A plethora of corporate events will be organized to give you a great experience – these include baseball games, golfing, dinners, etc. If you don’t royally screw up, at the end of the internship you will get an offer for a full-time position after you graduate.

Other than the interviewing window, the selection process is remarkably similar for both of these paths.

Candidates are typically requested to submit their resumes and fill out candidate profiles online. As the deadline date approaches, there will be a large “Meet and Greet” event held, where you will have a chance to meet representatives from all of the firms recruiting at your school. Two to three weeks later, on-campus interviews will be held. These interviews are somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour. If you get through these, you will be invited for an in-office interview two to three weeks later. This will be an all day affair. Approximately a week later, you will get a call from either an interviewer or a recruiter informing you that an offer has been extended to you.


post Category: Recruiting — Accounting Genius @ 4:25 AM — post Comments (65)

Big 4 offers you neither good money nor a good work-life balance. I have already covered that. However, I still maintain that a job with a Big 4 firm is an ideal start to a corporate career.

The biggest reason you should be considering a career with the Big 4 is the education. The experience you gain with a Big 4 firm is the best functional business education a person can get. Yes, theoretical knowledge has its place, but if you want to really learn about how Fortune 500 companies do business, go audit them. As an auditor, you will have exposure to almost all aspects of your clients business and this is invaluable experience.

For example, as part of your audit of a diesel engines manufacturer, you will probably end up answering some of the following questions: How does this company make the engines? How does it determine what sort of a warranty the engines should carry, and what amount should they accrue for claims? Is the inventory going to become obsolete due to some new legislation? How and when are the sales reps paid? Can the company reasonably expect payment for their products from customers? I think you get the point.

After days of grueling, back-numbing work, when (if) you come out of the audit alive, you will know how a diesel manufacturing company works, and in a larger sense how many mechanical manufacturing companies work. You will have learned about the problems that these companies face and the strategies they employ to overcome such problems. Three months of auditing a company can teach you substantially more about how businesses work than four years at a university. Now imagine the amount of knowledge you will gain auditing several different companies, with different product lines in different industries.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that auditing alone will provide you with the necessary skill set to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, however, you definitely will know hell of a lot more than most people who graduated with you with a business/accounting related degree and decide to “work their way up.”

The second big reason you want to go work for a Big 4 is surprisingly the same reason you don’t want to go work for a Big 4: it’s a terrible working environment.

Spartans had agoge, a harsh military indoctrination into the military life, where young boys were put into a hostile environment, forcing them to become survivalists. Accountants have the Big 4 experience. Both cases result in seasoned warrior, who is unnerved by nothing, and can take on basically anything. The work ethic you develop while working for a Big 4 firm is possibly one of the best in the corporate world. You will become a corporate machine. You will learn to laugh at your friends complaining about working late because they had to stay till 6:30PM, well that is assuming you have any friends left outside of the workplace. Unlike many office workers, you will learn to take a task-oriented approach instead of a time-oriented approach. You will not sit there and count the number of hours until you go home, instead you will try to accomplish as much as possible before you have to go home.

The value of this conditioning is not lost on companies looking to hire accounting professionals. If you take the time to careen through a few job boards, you will see that many higher level accounting positions require the applicants to have prior Big 4 experience. People working in mid-size or small public accounting firms may very well have the technical knowledge needed for the position, however, the recruiters want to know with some level of certainty that the applicant can perform under pressure. A Big 4 stamp on your resume says exactly that – this person has been stress tested by the Big 4, hire him or her!

And the third big reason you want to go work for a Big 4 is networking. The beauty of working for a Big 4 is that you can get pretty chummy with your clients, who just happen to be large corporations with giant accounting departments. As such, you will get to know and befriend some key accounting executives. You will show them how hard working you are via the 2:00 AM PBC requests and that you know their operations inside and out, given that you are auditing them (allegedly). It’s your job to impress the pants off (figuratively) of your client’s top management.

These guys can prove to be your key allies in helping you land a key job, when you decide that you are done shoveling shit for the Big 4 and want to get out. If they have a position available in their company, they may hire you directly. However, if the particular company they are working for is not hiring, they will probably forward your resume to some of their friends at other companies who are in need of good people. A recommendation from an Accounting Director or VP of Finance of a Fortune 500 company will give your resume an almost nuclear power. All of a sudden resumes of people who were probably more qualified than you are being overlooked because you were named the prodigal son. No recruiter or headhunter can provide this sort of firepower to your resume. Oh, and expect at least a 10%-50% increase in salary.

That’s the power of the Big 4.