June 22, 2020
Looking To Land A Big Four Accounting Role After University?
There are many aspiring Accountants n the world who aim to be able to work for a Big 4 accounting firm. It is often viewed as an honour and huge accomplishment for Accounting students. For me, this was massively pushed by my University professors. Their view was that the Big 4 was the best, and aspiring for anything less was selling yourself short.
I don’t necessarily share their view in retrospect, after experiencing working at a Big Four Firm straight out of University. There are definitely Pros, but there are also certainly Cons to working there.
Despite the fact that the Big Four will hire more employees each year than most other professional finance companies, they are still incredibly selective – it really benefits you to know what they’re looking for, and make sure you shine in the best light possible.
Big Four Office Location
Where your office is located is going to be a huge contributing factor in terms of your likelyhood of landing a job.
There are people who can get offered a job in the PwC London office on the spot based on their interview skills and academic achievements. However, those types of people are in a small minority. I am going to assume you are an average University Student who has had limited interview experience in your life.
Location is incredibly important in this case. I, for example, went for a small Big 4 office in a location which was struggling to fill their quota for new-hires each year. This significantly increased my likelihood of getting a job, as it meant that as long as I was at least “good”, I was probably going to get the job. In fact, in retrospect, plenty of mediocre people made it through the pipeline in that office over the years.
Comparatively, if I had applied in London or New York, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job. So, consider moving somewhere a bit off the beaten path compared to your standard Big 4 offices. Nobody is going to care which Big Four office you worked in later in your career. This is no longer University. Nobody cares whether you passed your Accounting Exams in the top tier London office, or a small office in The Isle of Man.
Learn About The Exams
Surprisingly, one of the key pieces of information that many individuals fell flat on during their interviews with me was that they had no idea how the Accounting Exams worked. Sometimes, they didn’t even know what exams we would be offering within that office.
Find out this information as soon as possible, and then learn about the process of those exams in as much depth as possible. There is nothing more disappointing than someone who has clearly blindly applied for every Accounting role in the local area, and then not done any specific research. While I agree you should apply to as many firms and offices as possible, you should also do your specific research.
Perhaps decide before applying which exams you want to do, and then only apply to offices providing this. For example, I applied to ALL my roles through ICAS’ “Become a CA” website. This meant that any jobs being advertised there were offering ICAS as a learning route.
Make A Unique CV
Please don’t try and copy some generic CV from the internet. Tell us about YOU, and don’t use cliche lines which just make your CV look like half the other applicants.
If there’s ANYTHING unique you have ever done, try to include it within your CV, as it will really help you to stand out. For example, I used to run a business when I was younger, I included this in my CV which made me stand out amongst the crowd as someone they needed to interview.
Attend Career Fairs/Networking Events
A networking event was how I opened the door to getting my Big Four Accounting job. I attended an event where all the local finance companies were looking for accounting graduates. There was one man there representing the office I eventually joined. I gave him my CV, and he provided advice on the interview process, and what life was like within that specific office.
This not only gave me a great insight, but it also gave me a slight edge on the other individuals who had applied without this beneficial insight. I was already able to build rapport with people within an office I hadn’t even officially applied to yet.
Contact HR On LinkedIn
I’m somewhat hesitant to recommend this. I think, if you wish to find out more information, and you have some genuine questions, then please do try and find the HR representative from the relevant office you want to apply to. However, DO NOT under any circumstances spam them with pointless questions, or put yourself in any sort of negative light.
I once had someone send me an aggressive message asking me to rethink their application because it had been rejected. I wasn’t even involved in the process of deciding who did/didn’t get interviewed. Therefore, messaging me with an aggressive tone (I didn’t even work in HR) was just going to get you instantly blacklisted from any future applications.
My advice would be to be polite and direct with your question. They do not want to hear your life story. You can simply ask if there are any positions available for University Graduates, and if so, where you could submit your CV. Keep it short and sweet. They will likely reply saying yes (assuming you didn’t leave it too late) and an email to send your CV to.
Start searching for a job early. Most roles at Big 4 Firms are completely filled up almost 6-9 months before you would even start the job. I managed to get my position accepted in November, and I wasn’t starting until October the following year. Once I accepted, there were only two positions remaining.
I would recommend starting to look at the beginning of your final year of University.
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