Category Archives for Big 4 Hiring

Big 4 Hire Only Attractive People? Myths and Facts

big 4 hire only attractive people

Rumor has it that Big 4 hire only attractive people. How true is this?

Research Indicates a Bias

According to research from the University of Michigan, beautiful people make more money. This “beauty premium” is comparable to the gap between genders and ethnicity. Another research from Australian National University reveals that taller people earn more, because they are perceived to be more intelligent and powerful.

People like to be around attractive individuals because they appear to be more “sociable, dominant, mentally healthy, intelligent and socially skilled” than their less appealing peers. These people have benefited from this bias for years, giving them higher levels of confidence.

Attractive People Perform Better at Interviews

Attractive individuals tend to be more confident and likely to perform better in interviews.

Also, people are naturally drawn to beauty and average-looking candidates may be overlooked. Let’s say a recruiter met 100 students at a college fair. If everyone is equally smart, she is more likely to remember the tall, cute guy.

This is human nature and we have to accept this to some degree, not only in Big 4 but in every company in every industry.

What Exactly does it Mean by Attractive?

Let’s define the word “attractive”. It could mean hot-looking, charismatic or presentable.

Big 4 are business service firms. Interacting and soliciting business from clients is an important part of the job. Candidates who are smart, and at the same time good with people, are naturally their top choice. I don’t think Big 4 are looking for hotties. Instead, they prefer presentable candidates.

How to Look Presentable at Interviews

Are there ways to make ourselves more presentable? I think so.

1. Always Take Care of Your Appearance

This applies to the entire recruiting process, from attending the college fair to your final interview. No one expects you to look like an airbrushed model, but it helps to put some time into your appearance. Fair or not, right or wrong, it changes the way you are treated in many ways.

2. Work on Your People Skills

Firms look for people they can be comfortable putting in front of their clients. Think of yourself as the client. Who do you want to see? Likely a well-groomed, cheerful and outgoing individual who is comfortable talking to different types of people. Does this person need to be physically attractive? It helps, but not a must.


Big 4 aren’t necessarily going for good looks, but for those who are good with people.

Attractive individuals have the advantage of attracting people’s attention, but they also need to develop their social and communication skills to become top candidates for Big 4.

Therefore, if your face looks like a brick, you may have an uphill battle but bear in mind that Big 4 aren’t picking up hotties. If you overcome that with solid experience, professionalism, confidence, and a great attitude, you can get hired with no problem.

What do you think? Any stories to share? Drop a note below.

5 Personality Traits that Clash with Big 4

I know. It’s long hours and stress. Every single blog says that.

Everybody hates late nights and stressful workplaces, but some people do stay and thrive in Big 4 under this environment. Long hours and stress cannot be the reason, at least the only reason.

Having thought about this for a while I conclude that there are personality traits that clash with what’s required for a long-term career in Big 4.

1. Type B Personality

According to Wikipedia:

Type A personality is generally more competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient and/or aggressive are labeled Type A, while more relaxed personalities are labeled Type B.

This is quite obvious. An outgoing personality helps in a client-facing business, as well as a workplace that thrives in teamwork. At the same time, Big 4 is by itself competitive to get into, so naturally, the peers are more status-conscious and proactive in nature. Big 4 people tend to be more aggressive as well, because otherwise, they cannot justify the long hours and stress they have to ensure climbing up the corporate ladder. The fact that they love to multi-task, push themselves with deadlines and hate delays fit the requirements of the Big 4 perfectly.

If you have Type B personality, you are the opposite of what’s described above.

Type B people may be smarter than their colleagues, but since they are not competitive, they don’t seem to take initiatives. This would affect their performance review. Type B people tend to disregard stress when they can’t achieve — imagine that when facing a hard deadline from clients!

2. Creative Minds

Big 4 (and public accounting in general) don’t have much room for creativity. It’s more for people who love black and white. Those who like to take the time to explore ideas won’t have time to do so, and even find the work extremely boring. Once the interest is lost, long hours and stress become the last straw.

Accounting majors with creative minds would be much happier working in academia. As professors, you will enjoy exploring the fundamentals of accounting concepts and be creative in developing the accounting profession.

3. Entrepreneurial Spirit

Similar to creative people, these individuals may find the corporate culture suffocating. There are layers upon layers of supervisors above you. If assigned to a big team, you may work on tasks so specialized that you may never be able to see the big picture until reaching senior.

If this is you, you might be better off working in a smaller firm, where you can take part in the entire audit. The clients are smaller and work is less complex, but this also means that you can take on a higher responsibility earlier in your career.

Another career path you can take is to stay in Big 4 until reaching senior manager and then set up your own CPA firm. It takes time, but see that as a worthy investment for the ultimate dream job.

4. All-Out Extrovert

Surprised? First, let’s explore what exactly we mean by an extrovert vs introvert: it doesn’t simply mean outgoing vs shy.

Extroverts love to be in the limelight. They achieve that by being the first to raise their hands, the one to express an opinion, and the man to lead. They also have the urge to chat with everyone on anything.

This sounds somewhat like Type A personality. I do believe that there are quite a lot of them at the associate level, but they tend to drop out as they reach seniors and managers. Why is that?

Public accounting is a client-facing business. An outgoing personality helps, but we also need to be good listeners. A respected auditor observes and analyzes before making an opinion; a seasoned consultant listens and reflects on a client’s issues before offering a solution. These are classic traits of an introvert.

It doesn’t mean that extroverts are doomed and introverts zoom straight to the corner office. My point is that all-out extroverts survive Big 4 longer if they practice a bit of introversion in their daily lives.

5. “Ivy League” Mentality

It isn’t strictly a personality trait, but I notice that Ivy Leaguers don’t stay long in Big 4. Take a look at the partners’ list and you’ll find out.

Those who graduated from Harvard and the like have more doors opening for them. If they don’t mind the intensity, investment banks offer the same thing, with more money and glamour. Also, with a great brand name on the resume and more importantly a good network developed during the college days, they tend to have more opportunities that lure them away from tedious task a junior accountant is responsible for. Be it cool start-ups or a high-profile position in a family’s business, they don’t stay long.


The main takeaway is that we shouldn’t focus on long hours and stress as the primary reason of not taking the Big 4 route. If you want to reach for the star within big four, harsh environment will only make you stronger.

The reason people quit early is that they are disillusioned, or lose interest in the job. Creative people could get incredibly bored, all-out extroverts may get into trouble, entrepreneurs can’t stand the hierarchy, and ivy leaguers may have other interesting opportunities waiting for them.

Having said that, it’s totally fine that you plan only to stay in Big 4 for a few years. The firms expect a lot of exits anyway as there aren’t enough positions at the top. As long as you get the most out of it as much as you can, it can still be an invaluable experience and the network you’ve built will benefit you for the rest of your career.

For Your Further Reading

Big 4 Accounting Firms: What Exactly Do They Do?

I am sure you’ve heard about the Big 4 accounting firms and (sort of) know what they do. But how do people earn a living there?

Big 4 Audit

Also known as Assurance, this is the core service line of Big 4 accounting firms. You can learn more about what audit does here; but in general, the audit team reviews the financial statements of their clients and determines whether their financials are presented fairly and accurately.

What sets Big 4 apart from other public accounting firms? Publicly listed companies tend to only engage one of the Big 4 as their auditors. This is because the Big 4 audit team is perceived to have the experience to deal with the complexity in relation to listed companies, and therefore, able to protect a larger group of stakeholders (shareholders, investors and creditors). Many banks lend only if they see the Big 4 name on the audited reports.

This is how the Big 4 call their respective audit department:

  • Deloitte: Audit
  • PwC: Audit and Assurance
  • EY: Assurance
  • KPMG: Audit

Big 4 Tax

We usually think of tax services as filing annual tax return. Big 4 tax provides such service for companies with global presence and complex structures.

Big 4 tax professionals develop their expertise as they deal with tax laws in different countries, and how they may affect each other. Also, they advice their clients on tax advantageous structures and strategies, and assist their colleagues in audit team on tax information in annual reports.

Everyone calls this department as Tax.

Big 4 Consulting

Consulting is a vague term, so what do they do? Client faces a challenge and the team tries to solve it.

It could be a big marco look at the company’s structure and suggest ways to steamline operations (e.g. improve supply chain management); or it could be restructuring a division, or setting up a new ERP system from scratch. When compared to traditional management consulting firms, Big 4 consulting’s strength is on risk management, compliance and IT.

A big theme that people interested in Big 4 should know is independence. 10 plus years ago, Big 4 consulting was such a profitable business that Big 4 (back then, Big 5) were willing to undercut their audit fees to gain consulting business. This impaired their judgement in the audit work, leading to the Enron and Worldcom scandals.

After that, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was enacted to separate consulting business from these audit firms. Specially, the firm has to remain independent as an auditor and cannot have financial interest (such as consulting work) with that particular client. This doesn’t lead to the end of Big 4 consulting — nowadays one of the Big 4 takes the audit while the other three can get the consulting business.

You may also want to know that Accenture (which used to be part of Arthur Anderson) is now the biggest player in the consulting industry.

This is how the Big 4 call their respective consulting department:

  • Deloitte: Consulting
  • PwC: Consulting (under Advisory)
  • EY: Advisory
  • KPMG: Advisory (for big business) and Enterprise (for small business)

Big 4 Advisory

Better known as the “transaction” group, this team advises clients on corporate finance activities, such as mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs and other changes in company structure.

Big 4 make great advisors because they are among the best people to identify accounting and tax implications from the transactions.

To provide a more holistic service, the advisory team often provides full service such as identifying acquisition targets, performing analysis with complex financial models and due diligence. This put them in direct competition with investment bankers.

This is how the Big 4 call their respective transaction / advisory department:

  • Deloitte: Financial Advisory
  • PwC: Deals (under Advisory)
  • EY: Transaction
  • KPMG: Advisory

Other Services

The Big 4 accounting firms are constantly evolving to meet new needs in the business community. For example, PwC and EY have a Climate Change and Sustainability service; Deloitte has a Human Capital group serving clients’ HR on talent retention and development; and KPMG has a group called Enterprise to provide a combination of consulting and transaction service to small and family business owners.

Even if you aren’t keen on audit, tax and consulting, there are lots of other opportunities within Big 4 that may match your interest.

Yes! Show Me How to Break into Big 4

We have a series on Big 4 hiring, starting with this post on Big 4 info session.

For Your Further Reading

Service Line description from official websites:

Why Big 4 Experience: My 3 Justifications

Why Big 4 experienceBig 4 neither pays the best nor offers great work-life balance. So why work for the Big 4? Here is my take.

1. The Prestige

Let’s face it. Most 22 year olds want to get into Big 4 because of the wow factor. But the prestige you get from Big 4 is more than vanity — the brand name accelerates your path to build a powerful professional network.

Within Your Social Circle

The respect you get from peers, family, friends and business contacts make networking much easier right from the start. Anyone in your circle working in accounting and finance gives you more attention simply because of the firm you are now associated with.

Within the Big 4

Big 4 hires smart, hardworking people with good social skills. After a few years, your peers will move on to different companies and industries. Because of firm’s reputation and their own likeable personalities, Big 4 graduates tend to get good jobs and lead successful careers. The friendship and contact developed “back in the old days” at the Big 4 will help immensely in your long term career.

With Clients

You will be working closely with the client’s team on a daily basis. As a junior auditor, you stay longer and work harder than the clients, and people respect that. If you have a good attitude and stay in touch with the team, chances are that, when there are openings in their department and you are ready to leave the Big 4, the job is yours.

Even if they aren’t hiring, the senior guys in the client’s team would be happy to forward your resume to their contacts in other companies. This is probably the best referrals you can get for corporate jobs.

2. Invaluable Exposure

You may have learned about business operations and marketing at school, but it’s nothing when compared to seeing it first-hand on how actual businesses are run.

Investment bankers get to see how CEOs decide on big matters; but auditors are the ones knowing the tangible, operational side of the business — how each business unit functions, how they relate to each other, problems that these companies face and the strategies they employ to overcome such problems.

Now imagine the amount of knowledge you will gain auditing several different companies, with different product lines in different industries. These are very applicable skills and exposure to have if you aspire to become a CEO or a business owner someday.

3. Military Training

People leave the Big 4 mostly because of brutal hours and intense pressure; I am sure you are well aware of that. However, if you determine to fly high in this profession, you should see this as a great opportunity.

Training for Knowledge

Some of us may think the national training is an oversell, but the ongoing in-house training and seminars are one of the best ways to get updated and upgraded.

Training to Work Long and Hard

Working 80 hours and pulling late nights may sound insane, but we did that in college — for fun and parties of course, but we have the stamina to do it. So, first of all, tell yourself that this is doable. Then, make it acceptable by taking on this challenge to build a successful career.

Training to Deliver Under Pressure

Because you work with big and important clients, the audit /tax work is more complex, and expectation is high. Therefore, you are trained to face tough issues with hard deadlines on a daily basis. You are also trained to check your work meticulously because errors and typos are less tolerant in front of big clients.

Both John and I used to work in global financial firms (He at PwC; I at Morgan Stanley). We still somewhat retain our ability to deliver high quality product, because we are so used to triple check our work and spot our own mistakes, no matter how small they are. We used to complain how anal the whole industry is; but then, after 10+ years of seeing how the real world functions, we are grateful for the opportunity we had.

So, are you up for the challenge?

For Your further Reading

Big 4 Information Session: Is It as Useless as People Said?

Big 4 information session

Big 4 information sessions are the first events for those interested in a public accounting career. Most attending students are juniors and seniors, but it is never too early to go as a sophomore, or even a freshman.

Information Session vs Career Fair

Before we begin, I’d like to clarify a common misconception, that information sessions and career fairs are the same. What’s the difference?

A career fair is a recruiting event where you can meet tens if not hundreds of potential employers at one place.

An information session is a detailed presentation of one firm (or a small group of related firms) organized by your school. Students get a more in-depth look at the firm from different perspectives; firms get to publicize the best aspects of their organizations.

In a nutshell, a career fair is a mile wide and an inch deep; an information session is the other way round.

What do Big 4 Information Sessions Cover?

1. Overview

The firm starts with an overview of market size, geographic reach, service lines and industries they cover. Honestly the Big 4 sound pretty much the same and you can get this info on the Internet. This introduction isn’t particularly value-add.

2. Local Presence and Industry Focus

It gets more relevant when they talk about local presence. For example, if your school is in the Bay area, the representatives are likely from San Francisco or San Jose. You will then learn about the industry niches and top clients in their offices. This is all valuable information to impress people when you have interviews in their offices.

Also, if you have an industry preference, you will be able to decide whether this office is your top choice. For example, if the San Francisco office’s niche is technology, and you’ve set your goal in financial services, you might want to look at opportunities in other places.

3. Unique Programs

The info session also highlights programs designed for students and young employees, such as internships for sophomores and juniors, and international assignments for senior associates and above.

4. The Hiring Process

Last but not least, the firms go through their hiring process, including the schedule of resume submission and campus interviews.

5. Q&A

You are welcome to raise your hand to ask questions or show your face with recruiters and representatives afterwards.

What to Expect at Big 4 Information Session

Info sessions vary from one place to the other. In top-target schools near a big office, the firm sends lots of associates and seniors to attend and therefore the staff: student ratio is pretty good. Also, there are many alumni which makes the conversation more meaningful.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are info sessions with only a few reps. Those are mostly for gathering info rather than making connections.

Many students find info sessions marginally useful (if not totally useless), because:

  • They are generally promotion events and not the easiest place to impress recruiters.
  • There are so many students. Too difficult to have a one-on-one conversation with any Big 4 people.
  • They are held right before the resume drop — a bit too late in the recruiting process.

Having said that, if you fall into these two categories, info sessions could be very helpful:

  • If you are a sophomore or junior, and your main purpose is to collect business cards.
  • If you come from a non-target school and are somehow able to attend this info session at a target school. Because otherwise, it’s pretty hard for you to break into campus recruiting.

How to Make the Best Use of Big 4 Information Sessions

1. Target the Associates, not Recruiters

The main purpose is to develop firm contacts as a source for advice, interview and case prep, and potential reference in the future. If you attend a big info session with lots of associates and seniors, it is the most efficient way to collect business cards.

Recruiters are helpful but you can get to know them in other events.

2. Don’t Mess Up

You don’t want to leave a negative impression. Dress sharp and don’t ask stupid questions.

3. Don’t Hang out with People You Know

It’s comfortable to mingle with your friends and catch up with the alumni you know. But back to point 1, your main purpose is to meet and collect as many Big 4 contacts as you can.

Follow this advice and you’ll never regret attending any info sessions.

But then, you will have an even better chance to shine at the campus fair…

Step 2: Campus Fair

Accounting Career Fair: 8 Steps to Leave Great Impression

accounting career fairFor undergraduates, accounting career fair is likely the first time you meet with official representatives from these firms. Career fairs range in size: it can be as small as a handful of reps in a function room, or it can be held in a resort with hundreds of local, regional and national companies across many industries.

General Career Fairs

These are big recruiting events organized by your college, or jointly with other nearby colleges to attractive more employers to attend. You will be able to meet not only Big 4 and other accounting firms, but also Fortune 500, regional and local companies.

Meet the Firms

Meet the Firms are smaller career fairs for the accounting and finance profession. Organized by your college’s accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi, they are usually bi-annual events: one during fall for full-time recruitment; another in winter to early spring for summer internships.

Dinner Social

Typically an invitation-only event, the format varies from BBQ to a rather formal dinner. The firm rep to student ratio is higher and you can consider this a pre-interview event. BBQs are more casual, but at dinners you make polite small talk, partners and managers pimp their firms, while associates attend for free food, and you get to talk about why you are interested in that particular accounting firm.

Why are You Attending the Career Fair?

People go to these fairs for different reasons. For those who are starting out, this is a good place for initial research. You can talk to recruiters and employee representatives from many firms and industries, and ask honest questions you might otherwise avoid in formal interviews. You can even ask some of them to review your resume and seek for their advice. From there you can narrow down your preference when it’s time for interviews.

For others who know which firms they are interested in, it’s a pre-interview process and a chance to leave a good impression.

What You Should Bring and Wear at Accounting Career Fair

Most organizers specify the dress code, but it is most likely business formal. Whatever people say, I would go for conservative business formal because this is what the recruiters and attending professionals expect to see.

I would also bring a nice leather resume holder with at least 10 copies of your resume; blank paper, pen as well as a place to hold all the business cards you will be collecting. For guys this means the suit pockets but ladies may need to think about where to put them.

What If My College isn’t a Target School?

If big accounting firms don’t attend your school’s campus fair, you might want to contact nearby schools and see if you can participate their fair. If you manage to get in (or sneak in), be honest to recruiters and tell them why you are there.

Your Steps to Success at the Career Fair

Most students are inexperienced in attending career fairs. You have a great advantage if you follow these steps and mentally go through what you will see and whom you will meet on the day.

1. Research Ahead

You don’t have time and energy to visit all attending firms. You must prioritize, and research helps narrow down your choices. I would pick 4-6 companies to allow sufficient time for you to chat with the representatives and leave a good impression.

2. Be Likeable

You have two goals in this fair:

  • Get your target firms to like you
  • Show them that you are serious

The first goal is more important than the second in my opinion. Accounting firms host these recruiting events to scout candidates that are a good fit for their firm. If they like you, it’s good fit.

Part of your job as a public accountant is to talk to people on a daily basis, may it be your client, team or interns. Therefore, CPA firms look for candidates who can hold a decent conversation. I have suggestions below on questions for the associates and managers. If you run out of questions, you can also talk about your hobbies, sports, or whatever that click with that person. Just don’t get too carried away or else you’ll miss goal #2 (show them that you are serious).

3. Start with Your Least Favorite Firms

It is pretty normal to get nervous, and this affects your ability to converse naturally and be likable. To calm yourself down and boost your confidence, start chatting with people in the firms that you don’t really want to join. It could be the last choice among your 4-6 firms in mind, or it could be any company with friendly looking representatives. Once you are settled and excited to meet people, move on to your target firms.

4. Target the Associates, not the Partner

Your peers would naturally want to talk to partner or senior manager, since these guys are more important and have more say in the recruiting process.

While this is true, I don’t prefer this strategy.

I suggest that you talk to the junior accountants first. First, you don’t need to queue up and talk to them, and they are usually eager to talk to you because they want to appear to work hard.

Second, they are closer to your age, and are more helpful in answering your “real” questions (by that I mean questions you really want to get answers for, not those to impress).

Good questions include:

  • How is your transition from school to working full-time?
  • What type of training you received at the firm starting out to prepare you for work?
  • Any advice on what to accomplish before starting?
  • What should I focus on in school during my last semesters?

Don’t ask these bad questions:

  • Technical questions, especially those above your own experience — don’t pretend like you know more than you do
  • Specific questions about the firm — wouldn’t it be embarrassing if they don’t know
  • Recent scandals of the firm — always stay positive

Another important reason is that many attending associates and seniors are alumni of your school. That’s why they are at this career fair and not elsewhere. There are so many things in common that you can bring up and start an interesting conversation. Back to point #2, being able to carry a good conversation is the key to impress.

Once you think they like you enough, you can ask for their business cards, and even ask them to introduce you to their manager or above. It’s much better (and faster) to approach the partner this way.

5. Get Introduced to the Manager+

Being introduced by the associates is equivalent to a stamp of approval, and yes, the manager/SM/partner should pay more attention to you. To take advantage of this opportunity, don’t chit chat about random things with the partner. He is busy and easily distracted by the 20 students around him each trying to ask a question.

Begin by saying how helpful the associates have been telling you about the everyday life as a first year. Ride on that and ask similar question related to the senior guy. For example, if you have been discussing the various industry groups, ask about how the partner got into his group, or how life was like back then when he was a first year. Something that stirs his fond memory and hopefully connect his old self with you.

6. Wrap Up the Conversation

Be considerate and don’t talk to the partner for an hour. Besides, you have other firms to meet.  Wrap up the conversation gracefully as soon as you think you’ve left a good impression. Get their contacts for follow up, thank them and leave.

7. Take Notes before Your Forget

Lots of things are going on at the career fair. It would be such as waste (or disaster) if you forget or mix up the details of whom you have talked to. John used to jot down tiny notes on the back of people’s business cards. I used to laugh at him but this is actually a quick and effective way to get organized.

8. Shoot Our Your Thank you Emails

While memory still fresh, write thank you emails to the people you had 3-5 minutes of good chat with. Customize each email with the sparks and highlight of the conversation. Express yourself as someone who is interested not just about a job, but the people who are representing the firm.

Some readers suggest to connect them using Linkedin. I haven’t tried sending thank you notes via Linkedin, but it’s a great idea to explore.

Final Thoughts

Campus recruiting is the easiest way to break into Big 4 and big accounting firms. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd with so many students there, but if implement the above strategies, you give yourself a great start. Good luck!

Check out Roger CPA Review’s Tips on Meet the Firms

For Your Further Reading

Big 4 Offer Rescinded: 4 Scenarios for Your Reference

Big 4 offer rescinded

Some of you may be worrying your Big 4 offer being rescinded for different reasons. Here are the most common concerns from my readers, and how I think you should react:

1. Big 4 Offer Rescinded after Negotiation

The firms will not revoke the offer simply because you try to negotiate. Don’t worry, you have the right to do it.

Whether there is room for negotiation is another story. For first year, the pay is pretty much standard depending on location and your education. For experienced hires, you may have some leeway based on how urgent the Big 4 needs you (mostly because of your industry expertise).

2. Offer Rescinded after Background Check

Some of you might be worrying about offer withdrawal due to unfavorable background check.

If it is a relatively minor offense such as DUI (driving under influence) and that it is not related to finance and integrity, it should be fine. You might still get a call from HR requesting an explanation. I would say be honest about it, and try your best to explain why it happened back then, and why it will never happen again.

3. Offer Rescinded due to Grades

Your GPA should have been clearly stated on your resume. If not, one of the interviewers should have asked you. If you believe your grades are low but somehow they extend an offer — congratulations, they must have liked you enough.

However, if you have been lying about your GPA, you are in bigger trouble. HR usually requests that you send in the transcripts upon graduation and therefore your grades would be clearly shown. At this point, there isn’t much you can do.

4. Offer Rescinded due to Incorrect Salary Information

I have seen lateral hires inflating their salary numbers hoping to shoot for more in the Big 4. They might not be lying exactly, but they estimate their bonus and quantify benefits that weren’t actually paid. Not a good idea.

Lying about your salary is grounds for withdrawing an offer. Once you give a salary number that is recorded and depending on the company they may or may not verify your salary. So it’s a risky game, you can’t change your answer once you have given it and if they request that your salary be verified you are pretty much done.

From what I know, the Big 4 as well as most Fortune 500 companies participate in and use a company called The Work Number which provides employment verification and salary verification. There is another similar service known as HireRight. If your current company participates in either of these two services, the Big 4 can pull your salary history.

The Work Number and HireRight verification reports are very detailed. They list all the companies, positions held, annual salary numbers, bonuses paid, bi weekly gross pay figures, and vacation balances.


Your offer will most likely not be revoked due to negotiation, minor offenses and low grades. The killer is dishonesty. Let’s stay truthful and honest as public accountants. Ethics is highly valued in our profession.

For Your Further Reading

I Got a Big 4 Offer… What’s Next?

Big 4 job offerCongratulations! 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?

1. Decide Whether to Accept the Offer

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.

2. Accept Offer via Online System

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.

3. Send Thank You Notes

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.

4. Get Prepared a Few Months before Start Date

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.

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Big 4 Hiring Process

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 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.

Second Round Hires

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 Offer

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.

Big 4 Hiring Season

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.

Big 4 Hiring Through Campus Recruiting

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.

Starting Dates

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.

Opportunities Outside of Campus Recruiting

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