5 Biggest Mistakes I Personally Made As a Big 4 Recruit

5 Biggest Mistakes I Personally Made As a Big 4 Recruit
11 Comments

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.

Russell

About Russell


Hi, I'm Russell, author of The Big 4 Playbook and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Texas.

Before writing The Big 4 Playbook, I had the privilege of working as an auditor and tax consultant for several years for a Big 4 Accounting Firm. I am one of the few CPAs to serve as both an audit senior and a tax senior for a Big 4 Firm. During my time at the Big 4, the clients I served included Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, government organizations, hedge funds, and more.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Boston College and my Masters in Accounting from Vanderbilt University. I experienced the rigors of the Big 4 recruiting process at both levels of my college career, and I created The Big 4 Playbook to share the lessons I learned along the way with you.
5 Biggest Mistakes I Personally Made As a Big 4 Recruit

5 Biggest Mistakes I Personally Made As a Big 4 Recruit

11 Comments

  1. A Chang

    Hi, Russell! I am in the process of preparing for interviews for accounting firms both mid-tier and Big 4 firms. I am so happy that I found your site. Thank your for sharing your insights and wisdom with us.

    Reply

    • Russell

      Russell

      Glad you liked my site! Thanks!

      Reply

  2. AJ

    Hello Russell,
    Thank you very much for this post, it really helps. All the best!

    Reply

    • Russell

      Russell

      You’re welcome! Glad to help!

      Reply

  3. Ahmad

    Hi Russell,
    Thank you for the information.
    I came across the world to live in the USA. Before i came in 2001, i had a 4 years degree in accounting. In order to work in the US, i needed a sponsorship. I got sponsored by small companies here in the Dallas area.
    While working, i went back to school and got an MBA with 3.93 GPA from UT Arlington. After that I passed the CPA exam.
    My dream job is to work for one of the big 4. I applied several times but no luck.What do you think the reason is? is it the age?I’m39. what could it be? What can i do to get in? is it even possible?
    Any advice is really appreciated.

    Reply

  4. mari

    Between the big 4, where would you be able to gain the most experience doing your articles?

    Reply

  5. Dabb

    Hello, Russell !!
    Great post, I agree with every point. Recently, I came to realize that networking is truly a key player. I will be graduating in May 2015. I do not have any experiences in accounting field. I’ve only worked for a local restaurant for 3 years and 6 months. No extracurricular activities. (Actually I was in the accounting club but did not participate in almost every event) Current GPA is 3.2 major GPA is below 3. With the given fact, I’ve given up so many times without even trying. Seriously, I lack too many things on my resume. I know, shame on me. Now, I’m trying to get a real experience. I hope to work for either Deloitte or KPMG someday. Please give me any advice. Thanks!

    Reply

  6. Someguy

    Hi Dabb,
    When it comes to Big 4, although grades are essential they are not everything. In my situation I got Big 4 Internship and several final round interviews with F500 firms, my cumulative GPA is only 2.9 although a lot of it has to do with my freshman year and having some family hardships. Most of Big 4 firms look for combination of technical skills and personality, I would say it is close to 50 percent being grades and 50 percent being you and how you represent yourself, can they see you interacting with a client. I hope it helps, don’t give up your dream!

    Reply

  7. Shajtha Esther

    Hi Russell,

    This is Shajitha from Career Development Partners Inc and I work as an International Network Recruiter and I’ve been working towards recruiting Big-4 candidates as my niche. That’s when I found your excellent guide as I am making a major decision to recruit Big-4 candidates.
    Thank you for your noble thinking that you would put down your learning in this article that others like me can benefit.

    Please keep me posted on your articles and I would be glad to learn from you.
    Thanks and looking forward to a great partnership!

    Reply

  8. Ebun

    I wish I found out about your site when I was a junior in college. I could’ve saved myself years and years of Big 4 interviews. I graduate with my masters in a year and I believe I’ll give it one last try. I got a job with a regional firm in DFW and I start next busy season. Really nervous about it but hopefully all goes well and I love it there enough to give up on my big 4 dreams.
    Any tips for new hires?

    Reply

  9. Queena

    Hi Russell,
    Thank you for sharing us your personal experiences. I am now in the applying process. I found the same problem as you mentioned about the social events. There are so many different social events held by big 4. Though I tried to go to every event, I felt very uncomfortable and did not know what was the best way to interact with them. Do you have any concrete suggestion for me? Should I talk to the staffs more about the position or their personal experiences? Or I should take the chance to talk more about myself? What’s the thing that matters in these kinds of events?
    I would greatly appreciate if you could give me any advice. Thank you!

    Reply

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