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Dear Going Concern,
I am currently a sophomore in college and am interested in a Big 4 internship (Chicago) for the summer of 2012. This means that I will be
involved in the heavy recruiting season this coming fall. I have a 4.0 GPA, am on my way to becoming Executive VP of Beta Alpha Psi, am a member of the Accounting Club, and have done some volunteer work. Any tips on how to stand out from the sea of other students just like me? Should I do anything else before recruiting season besides networking? Any advice would be appreciated.
Big 4 lover
Big 4 Lover,
Glad to see that GC has some young people in the audience. Take what you read here with a grain of salt and shot of tequila – adulthood makes people cranky, not just public accounting.
Be cognizant of the fact that there are two versions of you that every recruiter sees: the version of you on paper and the version of you in real life. Either version can make or break your candidacy. Let’s break it down:
You on paper: At first read, the “résumé” you describe seems just fine – you’re maintaining strong grades while being involved in extracurricular activities outside of the classroom, even holding a leadership position. I wonder if your “volunteer experience” was only due to the Beta Alpha Psi volunteer requirement or if you do it on your own; either way, this is minor and I’m nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. Any Big 4 recruiter will have your résumé sitting in their “yes” pile going into the fall recruiting season.
However, your résumé is strong on the “I am just trying to land an internship at a Big 4 firm.” What are your interests outside the realm of debits and credits? Unless you are a living, breathing calculator, I’d like to think that you have hobbies other than what is described above (this is assuming you did not leave any experiences out when describing your background above). I encourage you to diversify your experiences in college – not just for the sake of your résumé but for the sanity as well. VP of the Wiffle Ball Club? Great. Part of the campus sewing circle? Fantastic. Genuine, non-accounting extracurriculars will not only enrich your life but they’ll be great conversation starters when you begin meeting with recruiters and Big 4 professionals on campus.
You in real life: As you mentioned, you’ll be in the thick of the recruiting process this fall. Being that you’re only a sophomore (and probably on the 5 year track due to Illinois requiring 150 credits for the CPA), you’ll be interviewing for the “leadership” programs at the Big 4. These lead to internships which lead to job offers which lead to high-fives and back slaps for everyone. Here’s what you need to do when you meet the firms:
Do not regurgitate your resume – let your strong résumé speak for itself. No one likes a bragger, not even your mother.
Do not be too transparent – 99.99997% of Beta Alpha Psi members join the society because it looks good on a résumé. DO NOT TELL THE RECRUITER THAT. Unless you want to come across as an internship-chasing fool, then by all means go ahead and say so.
Do not suck up – There is a subtle difference between saying, “I’m only a sophomore, but I have heard positive things about your firm from my professors and older classmates and I’m hoping to learn more,” and “OMFG your company is so cool!!!”
Be yourself – you are more than accounting. The best people you’ll ever work with in the industry will also be much, much more than debits and credits.