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The new 2013 edition of my eBook is now out and I just wanted to make a post to briefly talk about some the shifts we’ve been seeing in the recruiting practices of the Big 4 accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, and EY). In 2009, some of the firms let go of a number of employees. Others held onto their employees and stuck by their people. However, no matter which firm you look at, recruiting and job offers were down in 2009. All of this downsizing meant that the same amount of work had to be done by fewer Big 4 employees. During 2009 and the first-half of 2010, Big 4 accounting employees were overworked. They worked long hours and didn’t see much in the way of raises. Because of this, there’s been an exodus of Big 4 employees leaving the industry. As the Big 4 came to the realization that their people strategies weren’t working and that their compensation was below market (as demonstrated by the high number of employees leaving), the firms have been increasing salaries and providing spot-bonuses. Some of the firms are offering 10% raises on salaries for experienced hires coming from other Big 4 firms.

So, you’re probably wondering… “What does this mean for me?” Well, it means that 2013 is going to be one of the most intense recruiting seasons we’ve have in a few years. During the 2009 to 2010 range there was a growing number of well-qualified applicants for a shrinking number of job openings. But that trend has definitely changed. All of the firms have growth goals FY2013.

Knowing that the Big 4 are going to be out there waiving more job offers around isn’t reason for you to get lazy. It’s as important as ever to be on top of your game. Not only will you need to be prepared academically, but you should be prepared for the interviews and meet & greets. You’ll need to nail each aspect of the recruiting process in order to get that job offer. I’ve just put the finishing touches on my 2013 Big 4 Recruiting Secrets guide and I gotta say, I’m excited about this one. I’ve learned a lot over the past few years and I’m excited to share with you.

Whether you decide to buy the guide or not, I wish you the best of luck in this upcoming recruiting seasons. It’s going to be an exciting one, I can tell you that.

I can’t even tell you how many people have emailed me asking to know the top Big 4 interview questions. As you can guess, the questions that you’ll be asked during your interview is very dependent on the person interviewing you. Often it’s a partner that does the first round interviews. Occasionally, a recruiter may handle your interview. Either way, different people have different questions that they typically asked. So, to help you guys out I spoke with three people at my firm who interviewed people for full-time positions and internships this past year. I told them that I was interested in being involved in the recruiting process some more and casually asked them what are some of the interview questions they like to ask.

It might surprise you to know that they often don’t ask a single accounting-related question during the first round. Below are a number of the questions that the partners told me they ask:

  • “Tell me about a time when you worked in a group, either at school or at a previous job, when things didn’t work as smoothly as you had hoped.” They will often then follow up with something such as: “And how did you handle this?” Follow up questions will depend a lot on your answer, but to prepare you should have at least one solid experience in mind.
  • Why do you want to work in auditing/tax/financial services? What do you know about it?
  • What was your most favorite class you took in college and why?
  • Which accounting classes have you taken?
  • What do you think makes you a better candidate than some of the others I have interviewed today?
  • How do you currently balance school and life commitments?
  • Have to been in any campus clubs or groups?
  • Have you applied and interviewed with any of the Big 4?

Remember, during the interview your interviewer is obviously going to ask you a number of questions and this isn’t a complete list by any means. However, you should also be prepared to ask them questions also. Take the time to learn more about the job and the firm. Good luck at your Big 4 accounting interview!

If you found this information helpful, you may want to check out the Big 4 Recruiting Secrets.

I’m sure you’ve heard that one of the best starts a college graduate can get is with one of the Big 4 accounting firms (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte). Because they are so coveted, these jobs are often difficult to obtain. Below is a small list of the leading characteristics that Big 4 recruiters look for.

Your education is one of the first things that a Big 4 recruiting is going to look at. There are strict academic requirements that must be fulfilled in order to become a CPA. You should aim the meet the minimum credit requirements needed (150 semester units). An educational background in accounting or business will help, but it isn’t necessary if you go to a top school. Recruiters will also look at your GPA. A high GPA won’t guarantee you the job, but a low GPA can absolutely keep you from consideration.

Communication Skills
After determining that you meet the firm’s education requirements, the recruiter will look for you to demonstrate adequate communication skills. Because accounting is a service industry, people skills are considered very important. As an employee you will be expected to communicate effectively with client personnel. Your responsibility is to maintain the professional appearance that the firm aims to deliver. If you’re lacking proper communication skills it is likely that you won’t receive your job, regardless of your education and other qualifications.

Quick Thinking
Big 4 recruiters are going to want to see how quick you are on your feet. During the recruiting process they are likely to attempt to throw a few curveballs at you to see how you field them. Chances are, you won’t be asked any accounting-specific questions. These questions are likely to come from your resume or other information you have told them. Sometimes clients will ask you questions that you don’t know the answer too. You’ll have to tell them: “I hadn’t considered that. Let me look at it further and get back to you.” This shows your ability to think quickly and field difficult questions, particularly when you don’t know the answer.

Diverse Experience
Accounting isn’t only about memorizing accounting rules and regulations. Accounting firms want you to have a deeper understanding about the business and its industry. If you’ve taken a diverse selection of classes and have had a number of unique life experiences, this will have a positive impact on your application.

If you embody all of these characteristics, you have a good chance of getting a job with the Big 4 account firms. If you’re missing one of these, you’re going to have a more difficult time obtaining that Big 4 job you want. If you’re currently lacking in some of these areas, you can make up for it with the Big 4 Insider Recruiting Secrets guide. It’s worth paying for in order to secure your position with the Big 4. The guide gives you the leg up you need in order to have a successful recruitment period. I wish you the best of luck!