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.

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There are 50 comment(s) so far.

#1

Hi, my name is Stefano, and I launched a website to help university students in Canada who are interested in becoming CAs. One of the reasons I created the site was because I felt there were many misconceptions that caused undue difficulties for students.

In your last post, you made the comment that “the goal of the cover letter is to get you an interview”. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Read this message board post (LINK REMOVED BY THE ADMINISTRATOR) and the recruiting articles on the site and you will understand why.

I believe that it is very important for people to blog about the profession and share their perspective. However, when they do so, they assume a duty of care to provide them with the right information. As much as you want to help people, you should critically assess your own ability to do so, and take that into consideration when posting future articles.

I don’t mean to criticize your site, but it is just frustrating when I see the same misconceptions recycled year-after-year

Sincerely,

Stefano

Stefano wrote on October 8, 2009 - 3:28 PM
#2

@ Stefano: If the purpose of the cover letter is not to aid you in getting an interview, then what purpose does it serve?

Secondly, I reviewed the link you posted and came across this gem:

“There is no need worrying whether your resume is good enough to impress a firm. Even if you have excellent grades and community involvement, you have very little chance of receiving an interview without a referral.”

For the record, I went into the interview process knowing only two people, both of whom worked for the same firm, and I came out with offers from all of the Big 4 firms. So, you are wrong!

I understand that you wish to promote your website, but you chose the wrong tone, and then posted misleading information, and as such your link has been removed.

Thirdly, as to your comment about my ability to provide the right information goes, I will say this: the information provided on this blog is based on my experiences working for a Big 4 firm, as well as the experiences of several of my friends who have worked at the other three Big 4 firms. I do not pretend that the information presented here is the gospel.

I urge my readers to network with and talk to as many people as possible about their Big 4 experiences, and get as many different viewpoints as possible. The more information you have, the more empowered you will be.

And finally, I am not sure what your story is. According to your “About Me” section you have worked for a Big 4 firm and a mid-sized firm in audit. Either you couldn’t hack it at the Big 4 and had to switch to a smaller firm, or you couldn’t land a job with a Big 4 out of college and had to settle for a mid-sized firm and made the switch to the Big 4 at the senior associate or manager level. All I know is, you kind of look like the guy from Zombieland.

Accounting Genius wrote on October 10, 2009 - 10:27 PM
#3

At our office we do review all of the cover letters and resumes we receive from the colleges we recruit… as long as the student has the minimum GPA.

Big 4 Recruiter wrote on October 19, 2009 - 5:04 PM
#4

I am currently taking accounting classes for an Associate’s degree in Business Administration at a local community college and I stumbled upon your site.

While I have an interest, I don’t think I want to be an accountant because of all the insanely hard work that goes into it. I just don’t derive the same joy from it as I do from programming.

However, I like this article, because it’s always helpful to know what a specific place is looking for. That’s my #1 interview tip for friends that ask: find out what they want and then give it to them.

And Stefano? You’re wrong about a lot in very little space. Hush.

Michael Hoppal wrote on November 29, 2009 - 7:39 AM
#5

Michael, thanks for the comment.

It is always advisable to expose yourself to a wide array of subjects. A good grasp of accounting will come in very handy if you ever wish to perform any sort of investment analysis, or if you ever decide to run your own company. Accounting, like programming, is a subject that will pay dividends later in life.

Good luck with your studies!

Accounting Genius wrote on December 2, 2009 - 8:37 PM
#6

Dear Accounting Genius,

I came across your blog when searching for “how to get a job at Big 4″ and found a lot of useful information. No matter regarding Big 4 or using towards other jobs.I wonder if I can ask your opinion on my situation.

My question is, how hard is it for a person looking for career change able to get a job at BIG 4? Most of your posts are directed torwards college students and not professionals working for a career change.

I’ve been working at a private company and have about 5 years experience in accounting, and operations. Recently passed the CPA exam.

My GPA was low when I was in college. And above that, English is my second language.

If it’s impossible for me, I probably should use my energy torwards small accounting firms.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Kikichen wrote on July 1, 2010 - 1:06 PM
#7

Kikichen,

Just curious if you’ve had any success in your career change. I recently finished my masters in accounting to make a career change and now I’ve passed the CPA exam. But still no job for me. So many firms I’ve talked to say they only recruit undergrads from local colleges. So frustrating. Just thought I’d ask if you’ve had any luck and how you went about your job search. Thanks!

Yangeroo wrote on December 6, 2010 - 12:58 PM
#8

I don’t like the use of the word impossible. However, your chances are not good. Jumping from industry into the Big 4 can be challenging, especially if you didn’t have any prior Big 4 before jumping into the industry. I know some offices are hurting for staff, and I am not sure how desperate they may be. So, I would call up your local Big 4 recruiters and see what their take is.

Accounting Genius wrote on January 24, 2011 - 12:25 AM
#9

I really love the website and am trying to use some of the advice. I want to be able to say why I want to work for Big 4 A vs the other Big 4s. What are some reasons that Deloitte is the best, KMPG is the best, etc. etc.? Any advice?

David wrote on May 18, 2011 - 8:59 PM
#10

As the author mentioned, you want to say (insert big 4 here) is best because you connected with the people. You feel that you fit into the culture. You feel comfortable talking with the associates, and so on.

A Fellow big 4 Prospect wrote on May 24, 2011 - 10:49 PM
#11

Hello Accounting Genius, I just wanted to say that your site is actually very helpful and true. I just went through the whole recruiting process with the Big 4 and mid-market firms.

I disagree with Stefano. Having a impressive resume and GPA, cover letter etc IS important. I got interviews from all firms and I wasn’t referred to by anyone. However, I do go to UT and firms recruit heavily there, so I can see how it can be hard for some people to just get into an interview with big 4. Once you get the interview, that’s when they just want to see if you’re a good fit with them, and you can answer some behavioral pretty well. Practice! You’ll also hear over and over again from staff or management that the main reason why they chose that firm over another is the people, blah blah, which you can bs your way into talking about too.

No Name wrote on May 28, 2011 - 7:54 PM
#12

I like the information presented on this site, but I’m wondering who the cover letter gets addressed to? Dear Hiring Manager, seems too informal.

doug wrote on July 7, 2011 - 5:10 PM
#13

@David: “It’s the people.”

Accounting Genius wrote on August 9, 2011 - 1:33 PM
#14

@Doug: I’d skip the Dear and address it to the “Hiring Team”.

Accounting Genius wrote on August 9, 2011 - 5:01 PM
#15

I am just wondering- I always hear about the “minimum gpa” or the “cut-off gpa”.

would that be like an A-average? or B~B+ average?

Also, how do you make recruiters at networking events remember you out of hundreds of other students?

Evelyn wrote on August 26, 2011 - 9:19 AM
#16

I want to send out similar cover letters to each of the big 4. However, last year I heard a recruiter say at a BAP event, that she often talks between recruiter of other companies and finds out if the cover letters are the same or not.

Would you recommend sending out similar cover letters (copy paste)?

Peter wrote on August 26, 2011 - 1:51 PM
#17

I don’t really see whats wrong with sending out similar cover letters to different firms as long as you make the appropriate changes to the pronouns.

UNLESS, there are specific references or experiences that you list for X firm, then you wouldn’t want to put that for Y firm if it didn’t happen.

Big4Prospect wrote on September 7, 2011 - 11:06 AM
#18

@Evelyn, for my school- minimum GPA requirements differ between the big 4.
For us,
DT – 3.2
PwC – 3.4
KPMG – 3.2
EY – 3.2

Big4Prospect wrote on September 7, 2011 - 11:07 AM
#19

Hello Accounting Genius,
First of all, thank you for all the information that you provide on this website!
Since your blog is mostly for the Accounting majors I was wondering if you could help somebody with the Engineering background. I graduated with Bachelor in Computer Engineering and started working for a large graphics card company in May 2012. Even though I have a job I am very much interested in pursuing a different path and applying for a consultant position at Deloitte.
What are the chances for a Computer Engineering graduate to find a job at Deloitte as a consultant? Should I try to continue my education and maybe get a certificate in Accounting? What steps would it be appropriate to take to become a successful candidate aside from the ones you listed on your website (resume, cover letter, etc.)?

Thank you!

P.S. I also run my own non-profit organization.

Computer Engineer wrote on May 9, 2012 - 6:47 PM
#20

@ Computer Engineer: The chances of you getting a job at Deloitte are excellent. However, you will be working in a different capacity than an auditor or a tax associate. Deloitte has a massive consulting division, and you will have much better luck there applying your skills in one of those groups. There people work on things like system optimization and systems integration. Another route you could pursue is that of big data. The thing you need to realize about the Big 4 firms is that while their bread and butter is driven by accounting, consulting is a massive part of what they do. You certainly have a future there. Good luck!

Accounting Genius wrote on May 24, 2012 - 11:48 PM
#21

@Peter: That sounds like a bunch of BS. I can’t imagine why Big 4 recruiters would sit around discussing the candidates background with the competition. You need to realize that just as you are competing with the other candidates to land a job with the Big 4, the Big 4 are competing with each other to land the best candidates.

Big4Prospect’s advice is sound. Follow it.

Accounting Genius wrote on May 24, 2012 - 11:52 PM
#22

Hi,
Thank you for the article and the posts everyone. I wanted to get feedback on my situation-
I am an upcoming junior. I have a gpa in 3.6ish and work experience at different places on campus. I also work as an administrative assistant at my school’s food services’ office..so I have to look over payroll, A/R, A/P, statement reconciliation, cash etc..
I got a phone interview with deloitte but unfortunately wasn’t called back..I am also an international student at a liberal arts college in Iowa..
I will be taking my auditing classes next year…it seems, in my case its the communication skill thats not helping me a lot..also, i was in contact with one of the big4 partners..but haven’t been in touch with him lately..i appreciate your feedback on my situation..thanks

junior wrote on May 29, 2012 - 1:30 PM
#23

I do trust all of the ideas you’ve presented to your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for newbies. May you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

arabiand wrote on July 14, 2012 - 3:54 PM
#24

HI Accounting Genius,

I worked for Deloitte in 7 months and had internship at KPMG for 3 months, both in Vietnam. I had 4-year bachelor in accounting and auditing. I have just moved to US. I’m planning take CPA in Cali. Do I stand a chance of getting a job at Deloitte US?

Thanks very much!

Tram Nguyen wrote on July 18, 2012 - 1:04 PM
#25

Hi Accounting Genius,

First of all, I want to say thank you for all the tips on this website!

I am an incoming senior at UCSB with no job experience or internship related to accounting and I have roughly a 3.00 g.p.a. I know my chance is very slim. However, someone advice me to ask for an office visit and try to make connections with recruiters through that. Do you have any advice or suggestion on how to persuasively ask for an office visit through email?

Thank you!!

P.S. I am actually aiming more for midsize firms!

Just trying to get a job wrote on July 19, 2012 - 7:30 PM
#26

Hi Accounting Genius,

I am from Toronto and recently I have a chance to do an audit internship at KPMG in Thailand. They hired me because I am also fluent in Thai as well. My question is, are my chances of getting hired full-time by the Big4 be higher than other candidates after interning overseas? Thank you.

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