How to get into accounting after graduation — that is, without the help of a career office and on-campus interviews. Is it possible? Certainly, and let’s see how you can do it.
Monster.com , indeed.com and linkedin.com are good places to start. Be sure you call up local recruiters as well.
Given the main pipeline for entry-level accounting jobs is university campuses, you have to take extra steps and start cold-calling recruiters.
If you graduated recently or if you do not attend the target schools (i.e. firms don’t hold interviews at your campus), call up HR and explore the possibility of a phone interview, or attending an interview at a neighboring school. You need to be persistent and follow up diligently to get the time slots.
Outside of cold calling and applying for jobs, there isn’t much you can do beyond good ol’ networking.
I heard from a reader who enrolled in a 1-year master’s program with the main goal of attending the school’s recruiting fair. This strategy can get quite costly, but it is one of the best ways to put yourself in front of many firms.
Please drop a note below if you have other ideas!
It is 3 am. You don’t know what the heck you are doing. All they told you is to look at last year’s papers and follow what they did last year. That makes you feel like you are just pushing papers. On top of that, you have been working late every night and have no idea why.
The “they”, of course, are your seniors.
You want to quit so bad. But should you? Could you? Here are your options.
You can always choose to leave the firm, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.
First, you have worked hard at school and at the recruiting process to get this job. Why give up everything because of this person you despise? You owe it to yourself to create opportunities for you. Besides, 5 different seniors will senior you 5 different ways. Don’t let one bad apple ruin the orchard.
Ask peers you trust about their experience. Don’t complain or spill your guts. Just throw out questions on how they receive feedback from their seniors. At the very least it gives you a realistic expectation of a typical audit senior.
If you don’t really trust anyone in the firm, see if you can talk to ex-colleagues or friends outside the firm. Then ask for their honest opinion.
Now, analyze the situation and identify the root of the problem. Is it due to one particular senior? If so, speak up to your counselor and HR contact. Unless you say something, people don’t know that you are unhappy and struggling.
You may say that client doesn’t fit your interest and you want to move into a different industry. In my opinion, it is best to tell the truth – that you feel like you are not getting enough training. I understand that it could be an awkward conversation, but as long as you present it professionally and matter-of-factly, it is fine.
If the issue is lack of job satisfaction, try looking at the overall audit and its purpose. Spend some time in understanding your client, their operations, and their challenges. This will make you a much better auditor down the road.
If the issue is that you dislike everyone in the firm, or that your learning style doesn’t fit in with the team’s, then maybe it’s time to move on…
Assuming that one particular audit senior is the issue, I suggest that you wait after the busy season. Your senior is probably on his way out after that. His apparent lack of interest in you (and possibly in his job) indicates that he may be looking for opportunities elsewhere.
In the meantime, if you are still angry, vent it out to people you trust, or do this anonymously at forums, or in the comment section below 🙂
At the same time, start building a good relationship with your client. It echoes the third point on understanding your client: people appreciate your effort, and practically, it makes your life as an auditor much easier. For example, you could ask them for all sorts of supporting schedules late at night and they wouldn’t get upset.
In the long run, you earn yourself an option to work for this client, and do a great job because you understand their operations so well.
Where do you want to end up in your career? This is an important question because it determines how long you need to stay.
If you don’t even know what you want to do yet, staying in public accounting isn’t going to hurt anything. It will end up helping you in the long run.
Specifically, try and stick it out for 2-3 years (and YOU become senior), then leave if you are still unhappy. You will then realize the name on the resume is invaluable and very helpful when you leave.
Yes, but think carefully before proceeding. Here are the reasons:
First, you might end up with another crappy senior. Another request for change might be met with eye rolls at a minimum or a rep for being flaky and demanding.
Second, even if the above isn’t true, you still have limited options to change. Once you take steps to change team, expect to stay there for a while. You can only request changes a limited amount of times before people assume there is an issue with you.
If you work in Big 4 long enough, you’d see seniors come and go. Hang in there!
Auditing is by no means a glorious job, and what you are experiencing happens on every team, in every office, in every state. But you need to just take things in stride and give it your best.
You’ve got an offer, and won’t start until next September. Is there anything you can do to get prepared for the first job? Honing your Excel skills is one idea.
First of all, if you mentioned that you are “pretty good” in Excel at the interview, and want to live up to your team’s standard, make sure you are familiar with the following functions before starting:
You probably won’t have to create them right off the start, but you should know how they work and how to modify existing ones.
It is best to learn Excel with practical examples. For example, do you have a spreadsheet where you track your bank account, maybe with budgetary categories? If so, try to find ways to extract and use data.
Here are some exercise to work on:
After playing around with different functions in your personal spreadsheet, you can move on to more challenging work. Try looking for an excel project to do, then figure out how to do it. There are lots of projects on the Internet, such as monthly budget and variance analysis templates.
If you get stuck, there are tons of Youtube tutorials on Excel for accounting. The following video is comprehensive but very long. You can easily google for shorter versions.
If you spend a couple of weeks working on Step 1 and 2, you are better than 95% of your class. Keep up with the great work by learning on the job.
Some seniors are helpful and friendly but others may not, so you can’t rely on them 100%. You can instead study the prior year work papers, with all the formula and data for your easy reference.
Another tip: If you feel like something is taking too long, there is definitely a faster way. Ask your bull-pen mate, or do a quick Google search and you will find something golden.
For current accountants and auditors, what advice can you give to first-years? Would love to hear from you.
I attempted to list below the most frequently asked questions related to accounting jobs as well as career advancement and alternatives. What questions do you have about accounting careers?
Some basics fall into the Frequently Asked Questions categories when it comes to accounting careers. Below, you will find some helpful information whether you plan to work for a small office or a large company.
Congratulations! You are excited, nervous, and somewhat worried… what’s the next step? Is there anything you can get prepared to wow your new employee? How do you show gratitude and keep in touch with your interviewers?
Few would say no, after all it is The Big 4 Offer. But if you are switching from another job and Big 4 is paying less than what you are getting right now, or that you don’t really like the office location, you might be thinking about some sort of negotiation.
If you are joining as a first year associate, either as a fresh graduate or experienced hire, there is little room to negotiate. This is because the salary level is pretty much the same for all first year, subject to your starting location, educational level and progress of the CPA exam.
Specifically, starting at big and expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco will justify a higher base salary, likely around $58K per year. Those who passed the CPA exam have a one-off $5,000 bonus. For service line other than audit (e.g. in Financial Services), Master’s degree holders may get a few thousands more.
In other cities, you can expect a salary in low to mid 50K depending on location.
Knowing this is what you are going to get, it won’t take too long to decide.
If the answer is yes, then you can sign the offer letter and return the original to the recruiter.
If your firm is using an online system, you will be asked to accept the offer electronically. I know it feels weird without actually signing anything, but this action is considered final. You will receive an automated confirmation email for reference. Some of you may feel uncomfortable not hearing back from a real human. Don’t worry, you will be contacted a few months later.
A short and nicely-written thank you email is enough and appropriate after you accept the offer. Other than that, unless you have something extremely value-add, don’t bother. They are busy people.
HR will contact you with information on your first day and expectations of your first week. Depending on your office, you may also receive invitations to happy hours and networking events in the office or your school (if you are still attending).
In terms of the timing, it varies greatly in different offices even in the same firm. Some gives you a schedule as early as 6 months in advance, while others won’t contact you until 2 weeks before your start date. If you get worried, you can always contact your recruiter for updates
You will also get emails around this time on booking your flight. Hotel is already booked for you and you will have a roommate.
Please drop a note in the comment section.
You are almost there in getting the offer. Now the tricky part: would they ask about salary expectations? What should you say, or not to say?
The good thing is that accounting internship salary is rarely discussed in the interview especially in Big 4 or other companies with a standard internship program.
You don’t really have the ability to negotiate until at least after your first year as an associate, and only if you are some sort of “super” employee.
What You Should Do
Stop worrying about it! Focus on how you are going to wow your interviewers and land an offer first.
What You Should NOT Do
Bring up the salary discussion during the interview. It could be awkward because the interviewer is not prepared to talk about it. Or worse, if they thought you were trying to negotiate a higher salary, they might just change their minds and move on to the next 100 candidates who hope to get the position.
If It Does Come up…
There is still a chance that you will be asked to suggest a salary level. This is especially the case if the partners/owners in a small firm are interviewing you and they have no idea which level they should pay.
I’d probably be vague and say something about how you are more interested in the experience than getting a specific dollar amount.
Just to give you a perspective, I’ve asked my readers and the accounting internship per hour rate ranges from $12 to $28.
It varies due to the nature of the work, for example, non-profits tend to pay lower. The location and the cost of living is another important factor. It also depends on your educational background and how respectable your accounting program is.
At the end of the day, the priority should always be getting the experience, and hopefully an extension of an offer for any accounting internship. Good luck!
Big 4 accounting firms recruit most of their first-year staff through campus recruiting. Most candidates receive their offers through either first round or second round hires.
First round candidates usually intern in the summer before graduation. At the end of the summer internship, they are given an official “start date” which is usually 12-18 months later, that is, anytime from September of next year to January in the year after.
The second round of new hires are usually given offers in the months leading up to their start dates. Start dates usually coincide with the start of academic semesters. Big 4 tend to hire “way out”, i.e. hiring people many months in advance of the intended start dates.
The above Big 4 hiring process applies only for “new hires”, i.e. those without full-time experience. Professional hires are made at any point during the year when there is a need.
The firm typically mails out, via FedEx/UPS, a formal offer packet which includes the terms of the offer. HR will follow-up that packet with a phone call to ensure the new hires received it and ensure they don’t have any unanswered questions.
Like many big financial institutions, Big 4 accounting firms start a year early to fill up their first-year class.
Fall is the biggest hiring season as recruiters look for candidates who will be starting in summer, winter and fall of next year. Most first-year staffs prefer to start in September as they would like to enjoy their “last” summer holidays before work.
A typical candidate goes through the Big 4 hiring process via campus recruiting. The information session and signing up for interviews start in fall, shortly after the beginning of school year. Students receive first and second round interviews in the month of November. Successful ones are notified within a week. If they decline the offer, recruiters will call the ones on the waiting list.
Having said that, the hiring process is technically year round due to staff shortages in certain offices.
Some firms have one starting date when everyone attend the training. Others may have several start dates nationally, because they have to stagger them somewhat in order to accommodate everyone (both new and experienced hires) as well as meeting local office staffing needs.
If you don’t attend one of the target schools, you will need to work harder to get a slot in the interview. Call up a recruiter and ask whether they are willing to see you when there is a campus interview in a neighboring school.
Flexibility helps as well. If you want to join Big 4 as a lateral hire, you might want to indicate early that you can be available off-season. Specifically, you can ask whether there are offices that need staff immediately.
For Your Further Reading