Even though the end of my journey as a Big 4 recruit was a success, there were huge mistakes I made along the way that made my road to a Big 4 job much more difficult. I hope by sharing my experiences that you will be able to avoid the same mistakes I made so that the journey is much easier for you.
So here you go.
These are the five biggest mistakes I made during my time as a Big 4 recruit.
1) Not Joining the Accounting Club
During my undergrad career, I did not participate in many extracurricular activities since I viewed most of them as networking and social interaction events, which are not something I enjoy considering my reserved personality. As a result, I failed to join a club that is vital to success as a Big 4 recruit, the accounting club.
The accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi chapter can be a huge benefit for anyone hoping to work for Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, or PwC.
Members are privy to private Big 4 events and presentations not available to other business majors. Further, the network of people you meet within the club is valuable for you during the recruiting process and also once you enter into your career.
As such, I urge every accounting major to join their university’s version of an accounting club.
2) Not Knowing the Industry I Wanted to Specialize In
My first ever interview with a Big 4 firm occurred during the summer after my sophomore year of college. I had earned an office visit through a family friend connection. I was very excited about the opportunity and tried to prepare for the interview as best as I could.
But when it came time for my interviews, one thing I had overlooked in my preparation kept coming up over and over again.
When I was asked what industry I wanted to specialize in, I had nothing for the interviewer. I could not tell them whether I wanted to work in financial services, oil and gas, manufacturing, etc. I surely was not able to give a reason why I wanted to work in any of these industries.
Ultimately, I did not earn the internship I was looking for with the firm and I largely blame my inability to answer the simple question of what industry I wanted to work in as the reason why.
When it comes time for your interviews, I highly recommend coming prepared with an industry you want to work in and why. Now, the answer you give is not set in stone and you will not always be held to this.
It is ok to change your mind. I know I changed my mind a few times in my career.
What is important is to have an answer. Having an answer proves to them that you have put thought and effort into the interview and your future career. It shows you care.
When it came time for my next round of Big 4 interviews, I had a strong answer prepared for this question. I even knew what specific clients the local office had in that particular industry.
3) Weak Connection With Firm Partners
During the Big 4 recruiting process, one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself is to connect with at least one partner from each of the four firms.
Having a partner on your side greatly increases your chances of earning a job offer.
Unfortunately, this was an item I overlooked during my recruiting process with a couple of firms. Even though I had numerous chances to communicate with the firm’s partners, whether via email or face-to-face conversation, I failed to make any sort of impression on them.
You can avoid this same mistake by having strong and thoughtful questions prepared to ask the partner when you have a chance to talk with them. Also emailing them with an insightful observation about a topic you have previously discussed or with a question that you have long been pondering makes for a strong impression.
4) Lack of Preparation for Big 4 Social Events
I did not know what to expect when I attended my first Big 4 social event. I had done little preparation prior to it except for completing my resume, which I soon realized was of little consequence.
I had no questions prepared for Big 4 employees I would meet, I knew no specific facts about the firm, and I had done no research on how to network at these types of events.
When you combine this with the fact that I do not enjoy social event settings, it was a recipe for disaster. I ultimately walked out of the event without a single business card or connection.
I highlight this experience of mine to stress the importance of the Big 4 social events. Every recruit has to endure them and the firms use them as indicators for whether or not you have the social skills to survive in the job.
In order to earn my dream job, I had to overcome my fear of the social events, and ultimately, through diligent preparation and coaching, I was finally able to make a strong impression with the firms at these events.
5) Not Choosing to Work at an Office Close to My School
Choosing to work at a Big 4 office close to your school greatly increases your chances of earning a Big 4 job in my opinion. I chose to try and work at a Big 4 office that was far away from my school, and this made the process much more difficult for me.
If you try to work at an office far away from your school, you will in essence have to interview twice with the Big 4 firm, once with the local office near your school and again with the office where you want to work.
However, those wishing to work in the office near their school only have one round of interviews to endure before the firm office visit.
If I had to do it over again, I would choose to work in the local office close to my school.
Ultimately, I write this list to point out that mistakes can be made during your quest to earn a Big 4 job, and you can still achieve your dream job. The important thing is to learn from them and to overcome them like I did.
Do you have any mistakes or struggles you are currently experiencing or have experienced in your journey to a Big 4 accounting job? If so, I would love to hear them.