Sunday, April 5, 2009

Interviewing with the Big 4

Once selected to interview, the interview process typically follows a standard format.

For campus hires, there is usually an introductory session the night before the interviews. It is a somewhat swanky affair with food and lots of employees mingling with the candidates. Remember, you are not there to eat or talk to your friends, you are there to make a good impression. Chances are very good that you will talk to the employee who will be interviewing you the next day. You need to focus on making a good impression. Balance asking the employee questions with inserting information about yourself. Remember that this is part of the interview and many decisions about you will be made in this casual “relaxed” atmosphere.

The next day an initial interview is conducted one on one with a Manager, Senior Manager, or Partner at the school career office. Based on the results of the initial interview, successful candidates are invited to the office for a second round of interviews. The second round is usually with multiple employees at various levels and may include lunch or dinner. After the second round, all the interviewers communicate their impressions through a roundtable or other less formal process. In this way there is a sorting of candidates. Based on how many employees are needed and how many other interviews will be conducted, hiring decisions are made fairly quickly and offers are extended. Candidates who do not receive an offer will receive a written notice.

Experienced hires face a less formalized process.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why Certification is Important.

If you are serious about pursuing a career in accounting, auditing, process improvement, etc, getting certified is critical for your future growth. Certification is your gold-plated credentials. Citing certification on your resume makes you stand out and is a clear indication that you are a capable, smart person who is serious about this line of work.

Certification is important whether you plan to make career of public accounting or if you are just working in the field for a few years to gain valuable experience for whatever comes next. The big four relentlessly push their employees to obtain certification and it is a big factor in awarding promotions, especially at the senior level. Certification is usually required for promotion to Manager. Getting your certification as a staff will make you stand out and bring positive attention to yourself. The firms love certification because it is the sort of information that is shared with clients to show them that their "team" is well qualified.

What certification should you pursue? Well, it depends on your background and what direction you want to take your career. There are many choices:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) - The hardest to obtain and the most valuable. If you have the stamina, get this certification. It will take serious dedication, studying, and putting your social life on hold for a while. It is the best all around certification and will make you stand out like no other certificate. Required certification is you want to work in senior management in an accounting or finance role.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) - Great certification if you want to work in internal audit.

Certified Information Sercurity Auditor (CISA) - IT equivalent of the CIA. Required for those who want to work as IT Auditors.

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) - Good certification to make you stand out a bit if you want to work in a Risk Management role.

There are lots of other certifications, all worth considering depending on the career direction you want to take. A specialized certification will open doors in terms of employment opportunities and access to organizations. See the following web site for a nice list of certifications relevant to accountants:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Getting a Job in the Big 4

Most new hires are hired directly out of college. Experienced hires are used to plug gaps and are almost exclusively used to fill higher level positions (senior and above). There is a typical progression that is followed and most new hires join the firm as a Staff 1.

It is important at this point that I stress that it is difficult to get a job with the Big 4. They are very selective and end up hiring very few of the people who submit resumes. My experience has been that less than one in thirty students interviewed are hired. This varies wildly based on the job market and the local office resource needs.

There are a number of ways to dramatically increase your chances of getting a job offer. I will cover this in my upcoming posts.

Email Your Questions to Me

Please feel free to email your questions to me about your current or future career in public accounting. I will tell you like it is, no holds barred. Email at michaelkaizar @

Saturday, January 31, 2009

General Thoughts on a Career in Public Accounting

A career in public accounting offers some of the best opportunities for those just starting out, and those who are seeking a change. The job market has been consistently strong, with demand exceeding supply. The career paths possible are endless, as future industry and job position choices have very big impacts on your day to day responsibilities. A job choice today will not restrict your future opportunities. Public accounting firms quickly increase the responsibility of each employee, it is not uncommon for accountants just two years out of college to be leading audit teams and interacting frequently with client senior management. The starting pay rates are good, and quickly increase at a rate significantly more than inflation.

While every person has a different experience, there are generally a few common themes:
  • Most new hires are hired directly out of college. Experienced hires are used to plug gaps and are almost exclusively used to fill higher level positions (senior and above).
  • While a wide range of people are hired, it is easy to pick out a few common characteristics that will dramatically increase the chances of a job offer.
  • The level of responsibility, work load, and stress start at a moderate level. This quickly escalates and does not relent until retirement.
  • Very few people stay in public accounting for their full career. Less than 1% of new hires will become a partner. Common points of departure are right after promotion to Senior and right after promotion to Manager. The distribution of personnel looks like a pyramid, with many staff and few partners.
  • Staff who labor to develop good work habits early have a significantly better chance of succeeding with the firm. A reputation established early in your career will continue to help or hinder you.

Audit Newbie

The point of this blog is to give you some insights into the often opaque world of a career in public accounting. The focus is on the Big 4 (Ernst & Young. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, and KPMG), however much of the information will also apply to the regional and smaller firms. The information contained on this blog should enable you to make a better decision on whether this is a career path to follow and how to secure a job.