Have a question for GC's exclusive team of underachievers? Get in touch and we'll do our best to do the research for you. Hey GC Team (Adrienne/Caleb/MIA freelancer), I'm a CPA candidate starting with the Big 4 this fall. I'm potentially in line to get the EWS award (FAR-94, AUD-96, REG-98, BEC on 8/14) […]
Perhaps these Urban Dictionary entries pre-date Going Concern – or, as some might call it, "the before time" – when disgruntled public accountants had few forums outside of Facebook or IM to vent about depressing working conditions, billable hours and treatment bordering on slavery. Notice each of the Big 4 have a similar theme going […]
We have a reader question from a self-identified public accounting newbie: What is the best advice that experienced Big 4 employees can offer to new hires starting in the next couple of months? Thanks! Instead of long, rambling rants about not drinking the Kool-aid, I'd be curious to hear just one concise piece of advice […]
Everyone should be familiar with the weird Google/Microsoft interview questions like "why are manhole covers round?" and "how many golf balls can fit in a school bus?" but how many times have you heard about the difficult interview questions asked at Big 4? Go ahead, take your time answering that. When Vault was busy putting […]
So says an analysis of PCAOB inspection report data: The Survey of Fair Value Audit Deficiencies was released Wednesday by Acuitas, Inc., an Atlanta CPA firm that practices litigation and business valuation services. The analysis found that fair value measurement and impairment deficiencies accounted for 52 percent of all the audit deficiencies cited in the […]
Have a question on anything from career limiting moves to plausible excuses for blowing off a random Tuesday to identifying that odor in the audit room? Email the Going Concern Brain Trust with your queries. And remember, there's no such thing as a dumb question; just dumb people who ask questions. So here's the deal. I […]
As you may have heard, the Chinese government has told the Big 4 that they only want homers running their audit firms that are located within the Big C. While you might think that this might be problematic – what with all the troubles over there – the Big 4 obviously saw this coming because not […]
Yesterday we learned that Third Point boss Dan Loeb wasn't all that impressed with Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson's credentials. It wasn't that he was all "meh" about Thompson's accounting degree, but rather that Scottie's computer science degree was not what one would consider "real." This has a lot of people pointing, laughing, judging, and Yahoo's […]
It's the last day of April, which means that hopefully you've tied up all the loose ends that were left over from Busy Season 2012 (aka the best one yet). The month of May brings flowers, drunken afternoons at the baseball diamond in your fair city, and speculation about your compensation adjustments. Of course, some […]
Generally, we prefer that our tip box be used for actual tips (as previously stated, "eat shit" is not a tip) but every now and then, some non-tip makes its way through that we can't help but act on. I suppose the following "tip" is one such non-tip that I'm compelled to repost here. It's […]
You may remember that last Wednesday I put my grown-up clothes on and attended the PCAOB's open meeting on auditor rotation. It was a good discussion (relatively speaking) and I got chat with some pretty smart people. I can't work a room of old white men like Adrienne (few can), but Chairman James Doty seemed […]
As you are most certainly aware, many of your Big 4 colleagues spend their days dreaming of a life far more fabulous than their own cube-dwelling, spreadsheet-drowning existence. I realize it's hard to imagine a life better than one that spends the occasional long evening in a JIT, but some of your colleagues can't simply […]
Barry Salzberg demonstrates the art of the dodge: Are the Big Four audit firms too big to fail? There is no evidence that would indicate that there is a lack of choice by business to pick up a firm to work with, so I don't agree with the premise of that question. Good lord. […]
Ed. note: Troubled this busy season? Email us your predicament at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the most part, the emails we receive seeking advice are genuine. We have struggling GPA’ers and struggling interviewers. Managers tempted by the partner carrot and the curious public-to-public hopper. And generally, you all turn out solid, noteworthy advice. This is not one […]
Yesterday, Monday Morning Auditor that everyone loves to hate, the PCAOB, announced that they would be having an open meeting on March 21-22 that will focus on auditor independence and rotation. Sorry! I meant auditor term limits. Anyway, there are going to be several big names on various panels including Paul Volcker, Harvey Pitt, Arthur Levitt, […]
Tara Siegel Bernard of the New York Times has been keeping a progress report of gay employee health benefits and just tweeted a short time ago that PwC is the latest Big 4 accounting firm to equalize the cost for LGBT employees. — Tara Siegel Bernard (@tarasbernard) February 29, 2012 PwC's announcement follows KPMG and Ernst […]
Today's blog post is brought to you by a worrisome soon-to-be-grad. Hi GC, I already accepted an offer from one of the Big 4 firms. When I did, my GPA was very solid. However, I took a class last semester with a professor that has the highest drop rates and the lowest grade average given […]
Allegedly, this stunt was pulled earlier this morning in a Big 4 audit room somewhere in the Boston area. If you'd like to claim responsibility for this stroke of genius or have other samples to share, email us.
This is our second intern-themed post this week, which gets me thinking that some of you are neck-deep in coffee jockeys. This can be a trying time for those of you that are A) impatient B) dicks C) control freaks D) all of the above. As such, the following has probably crossed your mind at […]
Happy Moanday, everyone. Let's pass the time with some feel-good internship preparation, shall we? Hey GC, I've been a big fan, followed advice, and am now starting my Big 4 audit internship. I know that we are not expected to know anything because they know that we don't. I've heard it way too many times […]
Earlier this week we shared some data that was gifted to us by an accountant who had nothing better to do during his AUD study break than create a spreadsheet charting your compensation for the first 15 years of your illustrious Big 4 career. Everyone seemed pretty grateful for it though, as it got people […]
Big4.com released its 2011 performance analysis for the…er…Big 4 this week and there were a few items of note. PwC is the big enchilada again. KPMG surprised everyone with the largest growth in revenues (albeit barely), closing in on 3rd place E&Y. OH! And the $103 billion in revenue is the most ever earned by […]
It’s mid-January, which means that at some point in the next four to six weeks or so, you’ll say to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough to do this shit.” And you might be right! But the good news is starting salaries for accountants keep going up. If you’re simply annoyed with your current boss/lunch/life […]
Here it is, the final week of 2011 and that means lists! Top 10. Freaky 50. Worst 100. If there's a list to be made, the Internet will provide. And since we're not immune to the power of media clichés, we'll present you with our list of the most popular posts on this here website. […]
Ed. note: Back with a second edition of the advice column today. Thanks to D Dubs. for stepping up today.
I graduated in December 2010 with a degree in accounting from a well-known university. Because of my grades (2.9 Accounting GPA, 3.0 accumulative GPA), I was shunned by nearly all of the accounting firms. This has led me to working in the accounting department at a fortune 500 company.
While in school, I was able to network and make several connections at both Big 4 and regional firms. I was told repeatedly by recruiters to “pass the exam and get some experience, then come talk to me.” I have passed the CPA exam and have almost a year of experience under my belt at this point.
In early November I signed with a small regional accounting firm set to begin in January. I know that it’s bad business to immediately bail on a company, but is it too early to get in touch with my contacts at the bigger firms? While I’m very grateful for the local firm, I have my sight set on a much bigger firm, and I want to make it to the big leagues sooner rather than later. Should I gain a year or two of experience at the local firm in order to move to the Big 4 as an experienced associate or possibly a senior associate? Or would it be better to reach out to my network now and attempt to make a transition?
I admire your tenacity to make it to the Big
Four Leagues. Staying in touch with your contacts will hopefully prove to be beneficial. I suggest reaching out to them now, as it’s prime-time hiring season for public firms leading into busy season. Provide them with an update of your progress on the CPA exam and that a local firm has expressed interest in hiring you. In turn, express your interest in working at XYZ instead, and you were hoping to inquire about any openings they may have. If they have openings, be flexible to whatever level they want you to start at, as it’s more important to get your foot in the door. Leveraging off of your recent success with the local firm would not be the worst thing you could do; you’d hardly be the first or the last person to do so.
GC’ers – what do you think? Have any of you made the quick transition like described above?
Ed. note: Feeling torn between two job offers? Questioning your career choices? Maxed out your credit cards and can no longer afford Miss Cleo’s $2.99 a minute advice? Tap the career advice brain trust for insight and we won’t even charge you for it.
I have recently received full-time offers from two Big 4 firms. One offer is for external audit, and the other is for internal audit. Which career opportunity would be more advantageous for a young professional in terms of salary, hours worked/busy season, and opportunities both within and outside the firms?
Also, the internal audit position would be for federal clients only. Would this impact the above criteria in any notable ways?
Dear Jimmy Dean,
This is a like a buck-shot of questions that you should have asked during the interview process. You never asked about what the hours are like? What the salary growth is like? What the long term career track would be in each practice line? What the hell did you talk about in your interviews!?! No really, I would like to know. The questions you’re asking here make it seem like you did zero homework on this and instead pounded out a quick email to GC because it’s easier to ask for the RIGHT-UNDER-YOUR-NOSE answers than find them for yourself. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.
My personal frustration aside, I’m sure members of the GC crew here will chime in and provide you some personal feedback. I suggest you start with career websites for the Big 4 firms. They offer a substantial amount of [HR polished] insight on career tracks. A few years ago KPMG released an external version of their Employee Career Architecture tool. It spells out the marketable skills earned throughout a career in different practices. Tip: if you’re using the tool to assess an internal audit career, KPMG lists it as IARCS under the Advisory practice line. The most useful information is under the “Explore” section of the ECA tool. As for a career in external audit? Oh I don’t know – try another Big4’s extensive website. Thanks, Uncle Ernie.
As for the government-heavy client base – it’s not going to necessarily restrict your external career options should you choose to leave, however it can be a natural transition. Again, you need to assess the skillsets each career track provides.
Do you guys ever get an insidious sense of deja vu when reading some of these advice posts? I know I do. Anyway, here’s another lost little sheep looking for a sense of direction in this big scary world. If you’re feeling lost, hopeless, confused or otherwise unsure, hit us up with your issue and we’ll do our best not to make fun of you in front of everyone.
I have a situation that may be just a little bit different than most college undergraduates but can’t be the only one in this situation. I attend a small private business sch I am a Marine Corps veteran of 4 years and currently using the G.I. Bill as an undergraduate accounting student with a 3.62 GPA. I am in my second year; however, this is my 4th semester and because I do summer semesters as well and I got 21 credits from military experience, I am right along with the Juniors in terms of graduation date. In fact I will have more credits than them when they graduate needing only 15 more to get the 150. The problem arises in me being ahead, yet behind. I am far ahead of the the sophomores, yet a little behind the juniors in regards to accounting courses completed. I am taking Intermediate I and AIS this semester and Intermediate II and Tax in the Spring. I thought because I didn’t have that many accounting courses completed going into this semester that I should wait to apply for internships, especially Big 4. Then I found out that the most accounting firms around here do all of their recruiting in September. Even though Deloitte and PwC are the only big 4 firms recruiting at my school. So I started applying for internships in October to smaller firms and filling out talent profiles on the Big 4 websites. I do plan on attending University of Pittsburgh’s MAcc 1 year program after graduation so I would in a sense have another summer opportunity to get an internship. My question is, should I in the meantime try and get an internship doing individual tax returns or private accounting at a chain retail company? (I have offers for both) Ideally I want something in Public, and eventually that is what I want to; however, would either of those internships help me at all in the long run towards getting an internship with the Big 4 next year? Also like I said only those 2 seem to recruit at my school. Is there anyway to really have a chance at E&Y or KPMG? Thank you in advance.
First off, thank you for your service to this country. My grandfather was a Marine (enlisted just before the end of WW II and missed the action), so out of respect to you for your service, I’m not going to make an excessive number of comments about how much editing I had to do to make your letter readable. But I will make a humble suggestion (in case you weren’t just being sloppy given who you were emailing), please tighten up your writing a bit before you go out there sniffing for Big 4 gigs. Granted, most recruiters can’t spell recruiter but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be putting your best foot forward here.
Now that we got that out of the way, can I ask you something? Why are you so dead set on the Big 4? You’re not actually planning on spending your entire career there, are you? It is unclear from your email why you want to be in the Big 4 so bad, so we’re going to assume here that either you drank the Kool-aid or don’t realize that there are a myriad of other opportunities for someone with your background.
Coming from a small school with low recruitment and boasting a 3.62 GPA probably won’t make you stand out on any HR desks anytime soon but the tide could definitely turn when you get in to the University of Pittsburgh MAcc program, assuming you do well and are able to attend recruiting events that are likely more active than the ones at your current school. As you noted, this is good. Also good: your military service (they eat that stuff up, it shows an ability to take orders and not revolt) and the fact that you will definitely be CPA eligible from the moment they bring you on.
What’s the rush in the meantime? Are you looking for the experience? Trying to get your foot in the door in public? Have bills to pay? Just want to get out of the house? You have plenty on your plate (not to mention the CPA exam ahead of you), if I were you I’d just focus on school for now instead of considering doing tax returns in your spare time. Unless that’s what you want to do with the rest of your career.
Since many accounting students participate in VITA anyway, telling recruiters you interned on tax returns probably isn’t going to earn you many points. And unless the “private accounting” gig involves work under a licensed CPA that you can use toward your experience requirement for CPA licensure, I wouldn’t bother.
Comment section is open for the Peanut Gallery’s (much appreciated) two cents.
Ed. note: Need advice on your career, the CPA exam or how to best enforce your firm’s dress code? Email the career advice brain trust at email@example.com for answers.
This past summer I worked as an intern with a Big 4 firm. Learned a lot, some decent people, long hours. Still felt relatively miserable considering most of the people I worked with were wound pretty tight. Fast forward to now, and I am considering “taking my talents to south beach” by switching to a different Big 4 firm. Yes, there is an immaterial amount of additional money on the table, so my decision comes down to (1) a more interesting client base and (2) a more exciting and open culture among the happier employees at the new firm.
To me “the Decision” has been made. How do I tell the firm I interned with (and accepted an offer with) that I won’t be coming to the party next year? Am I at risk of being “that guy?” Can you put me in contact with a cable network willing to run a one-hour special so I don’t have to tell them directly?
First, congratulations on one-upping your entry level status in such a dire market. It sounds as though your decision is a done deal so cutting the cord with your personal version of Cleveland shouldn’t be hard to do.
Being that it’s already November, you need to reach out to the firm you’re breaking away from immediately. They’re in the middle of interview season anyway, and knowing that they have an additional spot in their budget now rather than later is important (and fair to their process). Reach out to the recruiter that was your point of contact within the firm (and probably the one that presented you with the original offer). Leave them a voicemail at work stressing the need to speak about a “time sensitive issue” and follow up with an email stating the same. Should you not hear back from them in 48 hours, follow up with another call. If it’s another empty voicemail, follow up with another email (forward the original) and state then that you will not be starting with them after graduation. Explain the situation (using the “it’s not you, it’s me” angle usually works), and thank them for the positive intern experience.
In fairness to them you should try to speak to them live on the phone; however you’re not obligated to make a dozen attempts to reach them. Everyone has email in their pocket these days and it’s reasonable to expect a response in two business days.
And why are you worried about being ‘that guy?’ If by that you mean ‘the guy who left for better money, clients, and culture,’ I’d bet it’s safe to say many of us wouldn’t mind being that guy (or lady) too.
Hello Going Concern,
I’m currently finishing my last semester at the University of Kentucky, I’m a fifth year student that will be graduating in December with a dual degree in accounting and economics. The recruitment period for the big 4, regional and local firms are all over and done. I applied to basically all of the positions/internships and was not asked to interview for any of them. At first, I naively thought they just weren’t hiring from my school, but the voice of reason deep inside my head finally convinced me that it was ind y own doing. My GPA was simply too low (about a 3.1).
Granted, accounting is a challenging course of study, also majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting that very good GPA. My problem now, is where to go from here. I can’t change the past and must move forward, from all indications I will graduate in December with no job prospects. Should I continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms, or should I just try and get a position somewhere….anywhere, accounting related to develop some valuable experience? I didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books. I’m not a social pariah by any means, however I know that this shyness of mine will not cut it and has hindered me tremendously at this point. I feel overwhelmed and a little disheartened at the makings of the future. If I don’t land a firm job will I be stuck in a perpetual rut in a dead end job? Is it important to avoid the private industry right out of college to get a taste of what you like in the public industry? How would you go about networking out of college, cold calling? I know I’ve asked a bunch of questions here, and maybe have not provided enough background information. To be outstanding you must stand out, now I’m at the crossroads of trying to do just that, but am a little unsure of how to start.
Playing the “I’m holding out for a job in public” doesn’t pay the rent or student loan bills. Not only are you up against stiff competition due to your lower-than-most-interns GPA, and self-decribed “shyness”, you’re fighting the timelines of every firm’s recruiting schedule. Meaning, the firms are done with their hiring needs by this point in time, especially if you are in a smaller market. You ask in your email to GC if you should “continue to push and attempt to network with the larger firms” only to admit in the next sentence that you “didn’t do a good job at all of networking through college, just put my head down and hit the books.” What the hell happened? Your email leaves me wondering if you simply dropped the ball on putting any effort into your job search, leaning too heavily on the notion that all you need is an accounting degree to receive free job handouts.
If going into public accounting was always the goal, your economics degree was not necessary. As “majoring in econ certainly steals valuable time and energy towards getting a very good GPA,” why didn’t you cut your losses after a few classes and drop the major? If your answer is “because I was interested in the subject,” I’m going to call bullshit. If you were so interested in the topic, one would safely assume you would, you know, do well in those classes.
But enough about the past – given that you are about six weeks from graduating, you need to be aggressive with your job search.
Contact Career Services – Your school’s career services should have resources available to help you overcome some of the interview/social anxiety you might have that has held you back in your efforts to network with employers up to this point. They can set you up with meetings, discussions groups, mock interviews, etc. Take advantage of these free resources now; in six weeks it’ll cost you.
Stop being so damn picky – Your questions above gave me the impression that you’re being too picky (dead end jobs worries, hesitation about entering private industry instead of seeking public accounting experience, etc.). The economy – if you haven’t noticed – sucks. You’re entering a job market that is sputtering around nine percent unemployment and approximately 103 percent underemployment. Your competition is more experienced and potentially has better grades and soft skills than you.
The job market – even for accountants – is a simple numbers game – You apply to 30 jobs. You receive interviews at five. You receive second rounds at three. You hope for one offer. You should be applying to accounting roles in every industry in every sized firm. If they’re seeking an accounting degree, your résumé should be there. Search Indeed, LinkedIn, and the Monsters of the world on your own. Look into your college’s resources for alumni. Get in touch with recruiters in your area to see if they have any entry level or temp to perm positions. Play the numbers and see what hits. Good luck, and keep your head up.
The dynamics at both the PCAOB and the Big Four are horrible. The incentive at the Big Four is to keep prices down to the point at which it’s impossible for a new entrant to break into their charmed group; after all, if it means they end up cutting corners, the worst that happens is that they get gummed by the toothless PCAOB. [Felix Salmon/Reuters]
Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am an associate working for KPMG. During the past 13 months of my career here, I’m just tired of using their outdated office technology, audit tools (an electronic audit system that was made in 2010 when all other big 4s started at least 5 years ago), unfriendly people culture (politics and white-eyes), and stingy meal reimbursement ($14 for dinner). I often work really late hours (utilization rate more than 180%), at the year-end review, I am really unhappy for the rating and raise they gave me.
But still, I want to work in public accounting for the next 2 to 3 years. My question is, do Big 4 recruiters share their employee’s review? Does a recruiter at DTT/EY/PwC know what the employee’s performance is at KPMG (maybe a call to his/her close-friend in KPMG to find-out)? Also, while I’m choosing my next target, which Big 4 has better people-culture so that I will be motivated to work hard for the 2 or 3 years?
An Escaping Klynvedian
Oh, the woes of a being a first year associate: you think the hours/pay/bennies can be substantially better at another firm in your area, but really where you’re at now is oftentimes par for the course. Yes, the audit tools at KPMG are antiquated compared to the others (to their credit: they’re desperately playing catch up now), but with the other areas of complaint I doubt the GC crew has much sympathy for you. Your $14 Per Diem rate is not a KPMG decision but rather based on rates set by IRS. As someone who has traveled extensively for my firm (and uses the IRS rates), I’ve never had a problem ordering in or dining out within the rates set for any given city. Hellz, you could live on $14 a night in NYC if you had to (street meat, anyone?). On to your other concerns:
1. Hours – going to be bad wherever you are. 180% chargeability bad? I don’t know. Talk to anyone you know at the local offices of your competitors and ask about their busy seasons. Also ask if they’re hiring.
2. Unfriendly culture – I think we can all agree that this is different for every office, for every firm, for every city. Best way to find a better one is to look around.
3. Sharing employee reviews – it’s unlikely that one HR professional will call up his/her counterpart at your firm and inquire directly about your reviews. However, they will most likely ask that you provide copies of past reviews before making you an offer. This is a legitimate request and you should be prepared to cooperate. Based on your expressed concern, I’m going to guess that your reviews are not that…great. If this is the case, be prepared to explain any average/less than review points made by your manager(s).
GC’ers – who has some advice for our fleeing first year? Hit up the comments below.
Britain’s top accountants are to have their own books scrutinised after the consumer watchdog referred the business of checking companies’ figures for a full-scale competition inquiry. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it had been concerned for some time that the audit market is highly concentrated with low levels of switching and substantial barriers to entry. The watchdog estimates that in 2010 the “big four” firms, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, earned 99% of audit fees paid by FTSE 100 companies, while between 2002 and 2010 only 2.3% of FTSE 100 firms changed their auditor. [UKPA]
The request, sources said, is seen as a direct response to the move by the U.S. regulators in the case of scandal-hit Longtop Financial Technologies Ltd, and to ensure that firms do not succumb to pressure to hand over documents to regulators outside of China. Last month the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked an American court to enforce a subpoena it sent to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s China practice for documents from its audit of Longtop.Two sources from the audit industry told Reuters that the Ministry of Finance and China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) met last week with the so-called ‘Big Four’ audit firms — KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitte — along with two smaller firms. The firms were requested by the government to conduct an urgent review of all audits they had done on U.S.-listed Chinese firms in 2010 along with work on U.S. initial public offerings by Chinese companies. [Reuters]
As we all know, the Big 4 are more than happy to market themselves as the melting pots of the professional services world. First in your family to go to college? Great! Not an Ivy League graduate? No problem! Completely devoid of WASPyness? Even better! With the relative success of the firms to market this inclusive culture, however, Reuters reports that the biggest challenge is convincing the parents of first-generation recruits that accounting is just as worthy of a career path as medicine or law:
Accounting has long provided a path for first-generation Americans into the professional classes. Good pay and a focus on numbers makes it an attractive career choice. Still, recruiting the children of immigrants is complex, say some Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Parents’ opinions are influential and they often don’t know the field, a problem that alternatives like medicine or the law don’t face. Once on the job, first-generation CPAs can face new challenges like decoding the relationship-driven, sometimes self-promotional American business culture.
Makes sense to me. Medicine is easy because doctors are in the life-saving business. Law is attractive because parents hope that they might become Jack McCoy or the protagonist in a John Grisham novel. But accounting? Jesus, numbers are boring, it’s not even a real profession:
When Maria Castanon Moats, PwC’s chief diversity officer, told her family that she planned to be a CPA, she remembers her parents asked “Why not be a lawyer?”
“They did not understand this accounting thing … To them, a professional was an attorney or a doctor,” said Moats, 43. Moats, who emigrated from Mexico at the age of one with her father, a migrant farmworker, said the profession appealed to her because it brought stability. High ethical standards and integrity, strong values in her family, were also important. Now, as part of the firm’s 14-member leadership team, she welcomes young recruits with a similar background. “The first generation really wants to be successful to make their parents proud. They are committed and loyal,” she said.
We’ve had the accounting vs. law debate before and we don’t to call Elie Mystal in here to explain why pursuing a career in a law is a risky proposition. The Reuters article doesn’t come out and say it but it really amounts to candidates educating their parents about the advantages to pursuing a career in accounting. Recruiters at the Big 4 can’t really say, “Clue your parents in,” so they put on aggressive marketing campaigns to tout diversity and inclusion. The students take this message back to mom and dad (along with salary ranges) and they start warming up to the idea. This way, everyone is happy. The kids get a decent job; the parents can beam about the CPA in the family. Sure, accounting isn’t justice but it beats being unemployed and doing this:
As you probably heard, the PCAOB officially put out a proposal earlier this week for audit partners to be named in the annual reports of public companies. It would also require “registered firms to disclose the name of the engagement partner for each audit report already require the form” and “disclosure in the audit report of other accounting firms and certain other participants that took part in the audit.”
While most Big 4 audit partners are probably feeling a little chapped by this whole proposal, there is at least one person going on record (by way of PCAOB comment letter) that feels that it doesn’t go far enough. That would be Carson Block, the CEO and founder of research firm Muddy Waters. In Block’s letter (in full on page 2) to the Board he writes that not only should the engagement partner be identified but that he or she should be putting their name on the audit opinion because “[it] will decrease investors’ future losses to fraud and gimmicky accounting by billions of dollars.”
That on it’s own is enough to get more than a few people riled up. But as we indicated, there are some conspiracy and fraud accusations as well:
Even the most reputable auditors in China seem to be in a race to the bottom. We believe that there are particularly egregious situations in which some Big Four partners in China offices have actually conspired with their clients to defraud investors. Further, it is a reasonable proposition that the conflict of interest inherent in the Chinese auditors’ business model also affects the quality of US company audits.
Now before your knickers in a twist, don’t forget that this is the guy who called Sino-Forest a “Ponzi Scheme for the 23rd Century” which more or less looks to be accurate. Further, if you consider all the trouble Big 4 firms have had with Chinese companies listed in the U.S. and elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a stretch that some partners would just say fuck it and work with their clients to keep a lid on the shenanigans than go through the pain of actually doing their jobs.
Regardless, with these accusations the PCAOB may try to make another run at getting the Chinese to play ball.
Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at email@example.com.
I have a senior-level job with a regulator that has jurisdiction over accounting firms. (Don’t want to say much more, because it would be self-identifying.)
I think my credentials may be good enough to land a partner-level job with a Big Four to help with compliance and whatnot. I’d like to pursue this some time over the next several years.
But how should I make the approach? Should I contact the firms directly at the appropriate time? Or go through a headhunter? If a headhunter, which ones have the best contacts for senior positions?
Thanks for your help.
–Fence-crosser (sorry, I couldn’t come up with a witty name)
Give yourself some credit – your nickname is wittier than most (and by most, I mean people usually sign their first and last names and add their Social Security number for good measure).
After a quick (and confidential) search for your background on LinkedIn, I have a much better understanding of your seniority and depth of experience in the regulatory space. Very impressive. Considering your educational background (for those of you playing at home – very strong undergrad and advanced degree programs), I have no doubt that you’ve made your mark within the inner circles of both your industry and your city (major US market).
Before we talk about how to go about pursuing opportunities within the Big 4, let’s talk about this so-called “partner-like” level where you’d like to land. Without a CPA you cannot be a partner, however principals are a non-certified equivalent and directors are nothing to slouch at, either. You’d most easily transition into either 1) a firm’s internal professional practice, helping decipher government regulation and how said firm’s practices are affected by changing laws or 2) a firm’s advisory group, aiding clients with the same issues. The upsides – both monetarily and network-wise – would be in advisory. But do not overlook being an internal expert; they are paid handsomely for their work.
When it comes to seeking out the Big 4’s interest in your particular skillset, I suggest starting with their in-house Experienced Hire recruiters. All of the firms are hot to hire people with your experience. Look into their publicly posted opportunities first; either you will find something in line with your background or at the very least find a name to contact. Check out last week’s post for links to each firm’s experienced hire pages. Your skillset would be an exceptional value added to a firm’s compliance/regulatory departments. Best of luck in transitioning.
Readers – are you familiar with this kind of transition? Have you made the move yourself? Email Caleb and he’ll connect you with Fence-crosser should you be able to help. Are you a recruiter at one of the Big 4? Do the same – contact Caleb and make this happen.
How’s that going by the way? Are you on the partner track or do you have partner tracks on your back? Haven’t given it much thought lately but hey, this is what you’re doing and sure, making partner seems like a sweet gig, amiright?
Well an interesting statement from the Grumpy Old Accountants today got me to thinking about all of you hoping for a seat at the big table:
In fact, in the Big Four accounting firms today, if you don’t make partner, you often are considered a loser.
Now this little snippet comes out of a much larger discussion about why some many accountants are cheaters (it’s because everyone wants to be perceived as a “winner”). That’s a fine discussion as well, and the GOA post is worth a read, but we’ll focus on the notion that “no parter = loser.”
I certainly had my own partner aspirations for a brief point in time and many of you out there in Big 4 land have them right now. For me, my attitude changed when I observed a few partners, saw what their workload and lives were like and thought, “JESUS H. CHRIST, BEING A PARTNER SUCKS.”
The problem is, if you’re appear to be making a career for yourself at a Big 4 firm (I was quite the nomad which doesn’t really work), what is the ultimate goal? No one says to themselves, “I’d be fine with making Senior Manager in 8-10 years and then spending THE NEXT 30 in that same position.” As such, partner is a goal for many of you. However, we all know that Senior Manager is a parking lot in most service lines, so it may not be 30 years at SM but it’ll sure seem like 30. Having said that, if you like your firm, are reasonably good to FUCKING AWESOME at your job, then why wouldn’t you want to make partner? Not all Big 4 partners are created equal but if you’re on the fast track at PwC, would doing anything less than being admitted to the partnership satisfy your professional ambitions? And if you give up on career goals because…well, just because…does that not make you a L-O-S-E-R?
The answer is no. Personally, I’ve seen plenty of people with partner-level talent, hot on the partner track give it up because 1) something better comes along; 2) They want their life back; 3) SOMETHING BETTER COMES ALONG. In fact, many new partners are working harder than ever (i.e. “like a 2nd Year Senior Associate” has been overheard). Does that sound like a “winner” to you? GOA might have it exactly bassackwards. The last thing most Big 4 alums will tell you is that they feel like losers because they didn’t make partner. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s probably more accurate to say you’re a loser if you think you’ve got a shot at making partner at a Big 4 firm.
Professor Ketz clarifies below (seen via Twitter) that they the GOAs were talking about the culture within the Big 4 firms rather than you individual losers:
As we said, “… IN THE BIG FOUR ACCOUNTING FIRMS TODAY, if you don’t make partner, you often are considered a loser” (emphasis added). We were discussing the culture of the large accounting firms–we were not discussing our evaluations of those who are not partners. After all, we aren’t partners and we hope we aren’t losers!!
I’ll continue my contrary narrative here and argue that this not the case either. As we know, Big 4 firms sell themselves as great places to start careers but they don’t regularly make the case that this is where you want to spend 15-20 years of your professional life. The culture inside has evolved to accept attrition as part of the formula and that younger professionals are anxious when it comes to getting ahead. In fact, things have changed so much that convincing the talented professionals to stay is part of the culture. Hearing “You’ve got a bright future here,” from a pair of partners over lunch is standard these days because they know the “winners” will leave and the “losers” don’t know when to get out.
Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s an issue I rarely see. I joined PwC management consulting right out of my Ivy League school, and have my undergrad degree in Economics. I loved it, worked hard, made manager in five years and worked for some huge clients. I did all of the extras, methodology writing, promotion committees, coaching, proposals, etc. Managed some huge high profile projects too. Was offered a slot at PwC’s new executive MBA program, and was in the alpha class, graduating with a concentration in Marketing (picked by the firm). But then we had huge post 9/11 layoffs, were spun off and bought by IBM. I left soon after to start a family. I was there nearly ten years.
I went back to school and got my MSAT, and now am halfway through my CPA exam, acing it thanks to my teaching and experience. I’ve been teaching accounting and tax at a major university for the past four years as an adjunct, and doing a little private consulting.
Can I get back in to Big 4? Do I do it as an experienced hire? I know I’ve never been a practicing auditor but I know the methodology and how to manage large engagements. What’s the best way for me to work my way back in? My former colleagues are all at IBM or have left. I am not eligible for on campus since I graduated with my latest masters in 2009.
DISCLAIMER: not every circumstance in the history of circumstances has been taken into consideration when making this statement:
Public accounting – you can always come back.
The flow of people out of public accounting is much more intense and consistent than the experienced hire onboards, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. I did a little searching on LinkedIn and realized that you live in the greater New York City area, which is to your advantage. Many of the Big 4’s support staffs are located in NYC, so there might be options in those areas of the firms if a return to client servicing is not possible. so your odds of finding an opportunity and a new home with one of the Big4 improve slightly. Start with searching their Experienced Hire websites for open opportunities. Links are below:
Scour LinkedIn for experienced hire recruiters within each firm and reach out to them directly; have them hear your story. Most importantly, be persistent. The experienced hiring model within the Big 4 is can be touch and go, especially considering the recent uncertainty in the economy.
Earlier this week, we learned that Grant Thornton was the new numero uno on Vault’s Accounting 50. The VA50 is determined by a number metrics that are weighted to come up with an overall score as to which firm is the best of the best. According to Vault, Grant Thornton was able to leverage their better work-life balance for employees to overcome their lack of prestige to pull this off.
For many people in the accounting world, however, this is meaningless. Reputation is everything and if you’re not working for one of the firms that are of highest regard, you’re simply a chump. Accordingly, Vault still presents a prestige ranking and while there aren’t many surprises, for many, this is the list. And the top firm on the list? P. Dubs.
1 (1) PwC
2 (3) Deloitte
3 (2) Ernst & Young
4 (4) KPMG
5 (5) Grant Thornton
6 (7) McGladrey
7 (6) BDO
8 (8) Moss Adams
9 (10) J.H. Cohn
10 (9) Plante & Moran
11 (13) Crowe Horwath
12 (12) Clifton Gunderson
13 (11) EisnerAmper
14 (22) LarsonAllen
15 (14) Rothstein Kass
16 (15) BKD
17 (18) Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
18 (16) Reznick Group
19 (21) Dixon Hughes Goodman
20 (19) Cherry Bekaert & Holland
21 (24) Anchin, Block & Anchin
22 (17) WeiserMazars
23 (23) CBIZ/Mayer Hoffman McCann
24 (29) ParenteBeard
25 (28) Wipfli
26 (31) Friedman
27 (27) Marcum
28 (34) Berdon
29 (35) Citrin Cooperman & Co.
30 (36) Eide Bailly
31 (26) UHY Advisors
32 (37) WithumSmith + Brown
33 (32) Elliot Davis
34 (38) Margolin, Winer & Evens
35 (33) Marks Paneth & Shron
36 (40) Blackman Kallick
37 (25) Novogradac & Company
38 (49) RubinBrown
39 (NR) Schonbraun McCann Group
40 (50) Kaufman, Rossin & Co.
41 (NR) Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain
42 (45) Frank Rimerman & Co.
42 (48) Habif, Arogeti & Wynne
43 (NR) Buff Pilger Mayer, Inc.
44 (NR) Horne
45 (NR) Rehmann
46 (NR) Schenck SC
46 (NR) Suby, Von Haden & Associates
46 (NR) Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman
47 (41) Aronson & Company
48 (NR) SingerLewak
49 (47) SS&G Financial Services
50 (NR) Katz, Sapper & Miller
Oh! and probably most importantly, the prestige ranking is what we use to seed the brackets for the Coolest Accounting Firm in the spring, so it’s doubly important. Commence bickering.
I am interviewing with multiple big four firms but I am a little worried that if I receive an offer it may be revoked later on. I graduate in December with my masters and due to recruiting season and studying for the CPA exam I have not focused much on school. My current GPA is 3.5 and I feel that after this semester it will be in the 3.3-3.4 range. Have you ever heard of a CPA firm revoking a new graduate offer due to their grades slipping? I am getting a little worried. Thanks.
Welcome to the trials and tribulations of recruiting season. Unfounded rumors. Random interview selection. Lost sleep over imploding GPAs. Epic amounts of money wasted on free schwag*.
Rest assured, the drop in your GPA should not affect your eligibility. Consider this: your candidacy for a spot at a Big 4 firm consists A) your undergraduate GPA/degree B) any relative internships you’ve landed C) your first semester of grad work (the 3.5 GPA) and D) your CPA eligibility. I say “should not” without making a promise because the world could end tomorrow (Greece! UBS! HPV shots!) and recruiting could dry up but it’s not likely. Okay, UBS could be toast…
I’m not suggesting that you let things slide, either; you will need to provide a final transcript upon graduation. Assuming you took an equal amount of credits across two semesters for your Masters program, your first semester of a 3.5 GPA will be match up with a second semester of 3.2/3.3. Not the end of the world.
Keep interviewing, keep studying, and keep us informed of how things play out. Good luck on campus this fall.
*GC contributors will gladly accept schwag.
Contributor note: if you have a question for the Going Concern audience at large (including the useless dbags) or our team of accounting drop outs and degenerates, please get in touch.
Here’s a tip if you guys are thinking about submitting a question: it helps to know your motivation if you are asking for our advice. It’s difficult to tell you what you should do without knowing why you’re trying to do it, unless you’re asking us an obvious question like “should I take X position to make way more money?” because in that situation we obviously assume you’re in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with that.
That said, this indentured serv So let’s commence to helping.
I’m currently working for a large mid-size firm as a Staff II and will become a Senior I next year on a relatively large public client. However, I’ve been debating whether or not I should follow up on opportunities to work at a Big 4 firm if it means I have to wait an additional 2 years to become a Senior I?
I know from my friends currently working in the Big 4 firm that new hires work for 3 years at the staff level before being promoted to Senior I. In addition, I may also slip one level from Staff II back to Staff I when I change firms. I’d essentially be 2 years behind my peers as a result of going to the Big 4 so I don’t know if making this switch would help or hurt my career. Is it really worth losing that much time in order to get the Big 4 name on my resume? Should I wait until next year in hopes that I could be recruited as a Staff III instead?
Surely I’m not the only one struggling with this decision, does anyone else have experience with this problem?
Thanks and Best Regards,
-Staff II(?) Auditor
Well, Would-Be Staff II, as you are probably already aware, the Big 4 item on your résumé is going to blow any of that mid-tier nonsense you’ve got going now out of the water (don’t get butthurt, mid-tier-ers. It’s not personal). The actual practical application of what you’re learning at a mid-tier firm versus what you might learn at the Big 4 is irrelevant here; it’s all about marketing yourself, and you’re better equipped to do that with bragging rights slapped all over your work experience. You’re pretty much only going to get those rights from the Big 4.
That isn’t to say you can’t gain valuable experience from your current employer, so it comes down to what you want to do career-wise and in what time frame you would like to accomplish it. Have you passed the CPA exam already? Are you itching to get out of public altogether? It’s pretty hard to try and push you in the right direction without knowing what that direction is. What do you want out of your career? Money? Prestige? Experience?
Why did you start mid-tier in the first place? Are you happy where you are? Do you enjoy the work and feel fulfilled? What is it you think Big 4 can offer that you aren’t getting at your current firm?
If I were you, I would wait it out, gain additional experience, keep those Big 4 contacts and try to make the jump when you have a little more leverage. The more secure you get in your skill set, the better equipped you’ll be to leverage that experience into a more ideal gig with a Big 4 instead of starting at bottom a level above the clueless interns.
I would also have a candid conversation with whomever you’ve been speaking to at the Big 4 about your concerns. Don’t come off as a money-grubbing, work-averse dick but definitely express an interest in being involved with work on par with what you’ve been doing with your firm, not taking a step back. Feel free to embellish whatever paperwork you’ve been assembling up until this point into a full-blown PCAOB-compliant masterpiece.
I’m sure any number of mid-tier grunts who read this site religiously can talk you out of making the jump, and for good reason, while others will tell you to jump now and worry about how quick you ascend the Big 4 ladder later. A smaller firm allows you a better chance at truly learning your trade instead of simply going through the motions and checking boxes; think of mid-tier as stripping at the pole as opposed to mopping up the floors. You probably won’t put stripping at the pole on your resume but you’ll be gaining practical experience you can segue into a better opportunity.
I’m not clear on the opportunity you’re after here. Can you clarify?
Back with another edition of “Decide My Life for Me – Public Accounting Edition.” Today, an antsy Big 4 employee in a large city wants to know if moving to second-tier firm in small city will mean a demotion or cut in salary.
Do you have trouble matching your socks? Need help making sense of your cryptic performance review? Are you worried that someone with a bun in the oven is also capable of doing their job? Email us at email@example.com and someone will try to straighten you out.
Back to our “Should I Stay or Should I Go” du jour:
I was curious if you had any information on employees jumping from Big 4 firms (auditing) to upper-mid-tier (i.e. McGladrey). Do you find that they are often promoted? I am currently in a large city and am uninterested in staying in the city long-term. I was thinking of moving to a 300,000 person city with some firms like McGladrey, Grant Thornton, etc. If I am jumping ship as a senior or manager, where should I expect to come in at? Same level? Same salary?
Had it with Big 4 life, eh? Let me guess, the groupies got to you, didn’t they? Every damn time.
As to your inquiry, here’s the deal – you won’t be promoted if you decide to accept a position with McGladrey or Grant Thornton. Why? There are a few reasons: 1) You don’t have the experience; 2) You don’t have the experience; 3) You don’t have the experience. We all know that Big 4 auditors think they’re pretty special and that anyone who doesn’t soil themselves after looking at their stellar résumés followed by an immediate job offer is simply stupid. So it comes as a shock to many when this scenario doesn’t play out. As far as second-tier firms go, they definitely want Big 4 talent when they can get it but they’re aren’t about to throw you a bone because you worked at E&Y Chicago or PwC New York.
What you can expect – if you’re senior associate or a manager at a Big 4 firm, you can reasonably expect to be offered (not a guarantee, obv) a similar position at GT or Mickey G’s that you currently have. If you’re moving to a smaller city, you could see a similar salary but you should not expect a raise. You’ll receive the market rate for your position in your new city. The firm may put you at the high range of pay for your group but be prepared to be reminded of that fact come merit increase time.
Anyone made a similar move with different results? Share below.
Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good afternoon, GC’ers. I’m going to be devoting posts to general campus recruiting advice this week. College students – listen up. Already-employed cohorts – chime in with your own advice. Today I’m going to cover Career Fairs, everyone’s favorite meat market.
Questions you should be ready for – “Did you submit your resume through Career Services? Did you submit our firm’s additional paperwork? When do you graduate? What office are you interested in? Will you be CPA eligible up graduation? What practice are you interested in?” If you know what practiced you’ sure to have your paperwork submitted through the necessary online means. Don’t know what you’re applying for? Read below…
Know what you’re applying for – Nothing worse than talking to a student who is, “Uhhhhhhh, you know, I’m open to anything.” To me, that means you are unfamiliar with my firm’s services and you’re standing in line like a lemming because you know it’s good for you. Do you homework ahead of time about what practice groups are being targeted on your campus. Here’s a hint – focus on the job posts that are on your Career Services site; this is what each firm is focused on and actively recruiting for from your particular school. Don’t see Transaction Advisory Services listed? Probably ain’t gonna happen.
Suit up – Take a piece of advice from Barney Stinson and rock a suit to the Fair. It doesn’t need to be an expensive suit; heck, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Personally, I’m not a fan of the trend of suits becoming the norm at career fairs but it is better to match your competition than to assume “different is better.” Accounting firms are not Google; they breed a conservative culture. Play along, at least until you have an offer.
In an effort to avoid this becoming an Esquire-like blog post, I’ll keep my suit advice simple.
Ladies: Make sure your blouse is comfortably but securely buttoned, and take the potential of taller recruiters (aka wandering eyes) into consideration. Also, avoid hot magenta or any other color that would be included in a pack of highlighters.
Gents: That Calvin Klein tag on the outside of your jacket’s left sleeve? Yeah, that’s supposed to come off. Also, be sure to open your pockets and jacket vents before going to the Fair. It’s always awkward to see a guy trying to stuff a business card into a sewn up pocket.
Relax. Don’t sweat it. – Really, I mean that. Few things are more repulsive than shaking the moist hand of an anxious student. It can get hot at career fairs, I know. You can do a couple of things to chill out if you have a sweating problem: 1) Hold you résumé folder in your left hand and keep your right hand out of your pocket. This will let your hand breathe. 2) Small talk the person next you – it will help both of you relax. 3) A good swipe of your right hand on the back of your leg when you know your turn is coming up is totally fair game.
Always mints, never gum – There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line at the Big 4 booths. As you’re waiting in the mass herd of people, pop a few Tic Tacs or mints (avoid Altoids – too strong). They’ll help you relax and will be gone before you start speaking to the recruiter.
Business cards = cheat sheets – Ask for business cards when you meet with the professionals at the career fair (note – if they don’t have any, just remember to get their name so you can take notes later). Generally speaking, they are alums from your school and are excited to be back on campus and they can be a great resource going forward. They will also be at other events, even as early as the same week as the career fair. In between visiting booths, take two minutes to scribble notes on the back of the business card to help you remember who they were. “Black hair.” “Red glasses.” “Talked about baking.” “Mentioned she was an Eagles fan.” Reviewing these cards prior to next week’s firm-sponsored social event on campus will help you remember the connections much better.
Find out when they’ll be back – The five minutes you spend with the recruiters and professionals at the career fairs are not enough to earn yourself an interview. It is imperative you make personal connections with members of each firm. Beta Alpha Psi presentations. Cheesy happy hour mixers. Whatever. Go, shake hands, and laugh at their jokes. Earn yourself an interview.
Remember your manners – Thank everyone for their time. As happy to be on campus as they may be, many of the professionals will put in hours for work back at their hotels later that night. It is not always easy for them to take time off from work to make the trips back, so have a little respect for their time and their neglected inboxes.
Have anything to add? Email us or leave your comments below.
Ed. note: Got a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at email@example.com.
I am a longtime reader of this website and it has never failed me so here I go once more – some Big Four positions just got posted to our school’s résumé submission website here at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. PwC internship and full time positions have a minimum required GPA of 3.4 while EY is 3.2 and KPMG is 3.0. Deloitte’s have not been posted. I know our school isn’t the greatest in accounting [Ed. note: huh?]and the public accounting profession pales in comparison to investment banking and management consulting but a 3.4 MINIMUM GPA to apply??
Last year’s minimum GPA was 3.0 to apply which was understandable but this new recruiting team from PwC increased the GPA by 0.4. Do they feel like someone is throwing out GPA points like Bernanke is throwing out dollars? Would it be kosher to change my 3.37 GPA to 3.4/4.0 on my resume to qualify for on campus interviews?
Drinking Beer in Champaign
I’m always glad to throw a loyal reader some freebie advice. Thanks for checkin’ in with us.
First of all, forget that last year’s GPA requirement was 0.4 points lower; last year is irrelevant. Put your game face on and rise to the challenge.
Yes, absolutely round your 3.37 up to a 3.4. That’s fair game. In fact, this is a non-issue.
Also, take two minutes of your time to figure out what your major-specific GPA is. Should that be higher than the 3.4 cumulative GPA, add it to your résumé as well. There’s no reason that Intro to Woodcarving should hurt your chances of interning with one of the Big 4.
Why are the GPA requirements rising? To weed out résumés, obviously. Why look through 500 when you can whittle things down to 400 by cutting out the bottom? If you fall into this range, beg, borrow, and NETWORK your way to an interview. Circumstances are individual – if you have a story or reason as to why you’re on the cusp, track down the recruiter (not a audit/tax professional) at the career fair and state your case. Hard work can be rewarded in cases like this.
Ed. note: Are you in the middle of a career conundrum that could use some third-rate advice? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we just surprise you with some sensibility.
I work in audit at a Big Four firm in Europe. I’m starting my second senior year and I’ve received good evaluations so far (B+ on my first year,
and then A’s on my second and third years). I love the job, but I know I won’t stay forever (too many long nights, plus I just don’t think
I’d like to be manager). I’m 25, I’ve been married for 2 years and I want kids. I want to start trying, keep working through pregnancy, take the usual time off after birth (paid by government), and return to work part-time. Then after some time I’d probably look for a job elsewhere to work full time (but not Big Four hours).
I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when
I tell him I’m pregnant? Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?
Greetings from across the pond. I’ll do my best to help with your questions, but seeing that I am neither a) pregnant nor b) part of the busy season cycle, I hope the GC.com community can pitch in their own advice. My advice is based on a combination of what I’ve seen here in New York, my general knowledge of Big 4 firms, and what I think (or hope) is common sense.
EU: I haven’t heard of anyone being pregnant during their senior years. How crazy is my plan? Will my senior manager have a heart attack when I tell him I’m pregnant?
DWB: The timing of your pregnancy and pending childbirth will determine how your senior manager takes the news. Generally speaking (again, from what I see here in the States), it’s better from a career move perspective to be pregnant during busy season than to give birth and be out of the office during final reviews, sign-off’s, etc. So, conceiving in the next few months shouldn’t pose too much of an issue.
Let’s say your nine month clock kicks off in October; you’re looking at a July baby. Like the rest of your life, working through busy season will require an adjustment on your part and open communication with your team will be essential. Summer babies are a very common and oftentimes planned with busy season in mind.
EU: Should I wait to try to get pregnant and look for another job with more normal hours?
This question contradicts with what you said earlier in your email, so I’m going to say stay where you are for now. You’re doing well at your firm, and your job there might even act as a rock as you transition into parenthood. I suggest taking advantage of the support groups your firm has in place, and seek out the advice of senior employees who balance work and parenting already.
Good luck with starting your family! GC’ers – what kind of advice can you provide to our hopeful accountant-and-mother-to-be?
On Wednesday when all anyone could talk about was a little earthquake, we shared with you Vault’s Consulting 50. All of the Big 4 managed to make this year’s list after last year’s only featured Deloitte and P. Dubs, so everyone’s happy.
One list that the Big 4 always seem to do well is the ranking of prestigious firms. Granted, this is the consulting list and the likes of McKinsey, Bain, and Boston, per usual, dominate the top spots but the usual accounting suspects held their own. This list is far less interesting than the Vault 50, which saw a lot of jumping around by various firms but this is all about the prestige and closer your firm is to the top, apparently the less your shit stinks. Here’s the top with previous year’s ranking in parenthesis:
1 (1) McKinsey & Co.
2 (2) Boston Consulting
3 (3) Bain & Co.
4 (4) Booz & Co.
5 (5) Deloitte Consulting
6 (8) PwC
7 (7) Monitor Group
8 (9) Ernst & Young
9 (6) Mercer LLC
10 (12) Accenture
And some notables:
14 (13) KPMG
16 (22) Capgemini
18 (19) Navigant Consulting
21 (26) Roland Berger
25 (27) Huron Consulting
26 (28) Grant Thornton
28 (23) FTI Consulting
33 (30) PRTM
45 (48) BDO
The gang at Vault let us know that we can expect the accounting rankings in a couple-ish weeks, so stay tuned.
Back with more lists that include your favorite accounting firm. Today’s edition is the Vault Consulting 50. Mostly this list consists of firms that you wish you could work for but you can’t because you either have no pedigree or are dumber than a sack of hammers. That said, all the Big 4 are represented with Deloitte Consulting breaking into the top 5 (2011 ranking in parenthesis):
1 (1) Bain & Co.
2 (3) McKinsey
3 (2) Boston Consulting Group
4 (6) Deloitte Consulting
5 (25) Monitor Group
6 (8) A.T. Kearney
7 (7) Oliver Wyman
8 (5) The Cambridge Group
9 (4) Analysis Group, Inc.
10 (16) Booz & Company
This is a pretty fun list mostly because there was a lot of jumping around by the firms (*ahem* Monitor Group, where did you come from?). Other notables that you’re probably curious about include:
11 (32) Accenture
12 (13) PwC
21 (19) PRTM (who PwC just purchased)
36 (44) Navigant Consulting
42 (45) Capgemini
45 (42) FTI Consulting
47 (NR) Ernst & Young
50 (NR) KPMG
Vault Consulting 50 [Vault]
Last year’s coverage:
Big 4 Have Big Presence on Vault’s Prestige List, Less So in Top 50
Ed. note: If you’re desperate for career advice from a couple of Big 4 refugees or someone who won’t bother sitting for the CPA Exam, shoot us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for your support of Going Concern.
A reader asks on behalf of a “friend”… right:
A friend of mine was accepted as one of the FASB interns right out of his master’s program, and was wondering what he can expect regarding salary/perks when he is done with the internship. They choose 12 total people per year. His email would give away his name, so I had to send it.
We are not looking for specific numbers, rather, with your past experience, would you expect firms to offer higher salary and perks osed “elite” position? He merely wants a 2nd year salary and to get his CPA bonus and materials paid for (since he lost these benefits by declining his current offer from one of the Big 4.
Young and Naive.
First off, Y&N, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out here that we don’t make a habit of publishing email addresses under any circumstances, so in the future, your “friend” is welcome to get in touch directly and we will not blab to everyone about “his” business. Then again, with 12 folks entering this “elite” position, it’s not that hard to narrow down the choices and figure out who is who. But who cares?
You mentioned that your “friend” turned down a Big 4 offer (presumably to take this FASB internship) so what are you, er, he thinking is going to happen when the internship is over? All Big 4 firms pay for CPA review, most of the larger firms offer some sort of CPA bonus so he’d be wise to get as much done as he can during the internship so he can knock out that last part just after the ink has dried on his offer letter and get the larger bonus offered.
That said, not sure if you’ve heard but FASB isn’t exactly the elite accounting standard setting body it once was back in the days before mark-to-market. It’s hard to tell you – er, your “friend” – how valuable this internship will be without knowing more about what it entails. If it’s some legitimately elite program that only a handful of accounting students qualify for every year that will teach your “friend” the ins and outs of accounting standard setting under the watchful guise of seasoned pros, perhaps your “friend” will have a little leverage when it comes to negotiating a better payout in public accounting after leaving FASB but I wouldn’t expect to be pulling 6 figures or anything. In fact, I wouldn’t expect much at all beyond the usual salary bump one gets for being a high performing MAcc student with skills beyond binge drinking.
Could this be the Postgraduate Technical Assistant Program, by chance? You don’t have to tell us, lest your “friend” get put on blast, just asking.
Obviously this valuable experience will put your “friend” a step above slackers, and will teach your “friend” all sorts of marketable skills such as time management, prioritization and critical thinking in the scope of accounting, not to mention offer all sorts of networking opportunities should your “friend” decide to stay or return to the realm of policy over public drudge work. In the long run, these skills will probably be worth more (figuratively, not literally in the sense of buckets of cash delivered to this person’s front door just for being such a talented human being) than any imagined huge salary perk your “friend” is expecting for coming into public with this experience.
This experience will get your “friend” into the Big 4 if that is the route “he” wants to take, and “he” may even be able to play “make the firms fight over who gets to have me” but “he” will likely have to put in blood, sweat, tears and – most importantly – time just like the rest of the grunts to make the big money.
Will “he” have a competitive advantage? Yes. Is that worth more money in the big picture of things? Yes. Is your “friend” going to be offered $30k more than his “average” MAcc classmate just because he went through this program? Doubtful. Is his lifetime earning potential slightly more due to the experience, knowledge and connections he will gain through this program? Totally.
Why did you write us to ask this? Just to have people congratulate you – er, your “friend” – for nailing such a “supposed ‘elite’ position?”
Ed. note: Willing to take some advice from three strangers and peanut gallery full of overworked, underpaid paper pushers (aka spreadsheet jockeys)? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your problems.
First I just want to say that this website made all the down time during my Big 4 internship bearable!! Seriously, there are no words to express my gratitude!
I’ve learned a lot from your site, and I’m kinda hoping you can give me some advice…
Right now I have a full time job offer in Tax, but lately I’ve been questioning if this is the right move for me.
Honestly, I don’t think I can handle more than 3 years of public accounting, so I was wondering what job opportunities there are in the private sector for tax professionals with only two to three years of public accounting experience? (I feel like the focus is usually on audit, so I’m finding I don’t really know a lot about the tax world outside of the Big 4).
Also, I would eventually love to work for a nonprofit…would I have better luck at finding a job in this sector with an audit or advisory background, as opposed to tax?
Thanks a million!!!!
Thanks for stopping by GC this summer and squeezing us into your “busy” internship days. (Shameless plug – remember to talk about this site when you return to campus this fall. We’ll be talking about recruiting on a regular basis).
Let’s assume that you are going to accept the offer for Big 4 tax. Maybe you have an MS in tax. Maybe there are not any audit positions available for campus hires. Maybe you have a crush on the lead engagement partner. Not my biz. Whatever your situation, you should be focusing on making yourself as merlo-rounded as marketable as possible. A few ideas:
1) CPA – Not even a question. Get it done immediately.
2) Request an audit rotation – As you experienced this summer, there are times when things get a bit slow for tax professionals. Request short term rotations into audit where you can receive additional exposure. This will be marginally easier to do if your CPA is already completed.
3) Seek out non-profit clients – It does not matter if your experience is on the audit or tax side; the goal here is to receive client exposure for a look at the culture/business model/workplace environment at some of your local NFP’s.
4) Volunteer – If NFP clients are not an option, try to find time in your schedule to volunteer. Like any new job possibility, you should research what life is like at a non-profit before jumping into the career move.
As for private sector jobs, with 2-3 years tax experience you’ll have little trouble, as many businesses are trying to do more tax work in-house as opposed to contracting it out to their CPAs. I’d encourage you to stick it out until Senior Associate if you can, since this will give you ample opportunities outside the firm (and maybe a nice get-away). Good luck.
GCers – your thoughts?
Because the PCAOB is giving you until December 14th to make your views known.
“One cannot talk about audit quality without discussing independence, skepticism and objectivity. Any serious discussion of these qualities must take into account the fundamental conflict of the audit client paying the auditor,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty.
“The reason to consider auditor term limits is that they may reduce the pressure auditors face to develop and protect long-term client relationships to the detriment of investors and our capital markets,” Chairman Doty added.
Don’t fret anti-rotaters, the Board did invite everyone to weigh in on the idea that they “should consider a rotation requirement only for audit tenures of more than 10 years or only for the largest issuer audits.”
Ed. note: Have a question for one of our Big 4 refugees or the perma-ink stained wench that has never passed the CPA exam? Email us at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the tide to address my concern. I am a 10 year veteran looking to transition out of the military and into public accounting. I have a BSAcc from a private school and am looking at potentials for a Grad degree. My enlistment expires in the next few years, and I am really lost on the direction I should go with a Master’s degree. I have heard some say that I should do MBA with a finance interest so that I am more marketable. I have also heard others mention that I should specialize. I have some marketable qualiti SCI clearance, 3.9 GPA in undergrad), but I feel like I have lacked in networking due to my military service. I do have several contacts in the space business, specifically with Lockheed Martin, Aerospace and Boeing, but nothing on the accounting and finance sides (my current job is in military space communications). My undergrad school is in Colorado Springs and the networking events do not have any real attraction from accounting firms. Because of my military commitment, getting accounting experience is not possible (short of small things like running finance for my local HOA and VITA tax stuff for my base).
My dream is to work for a large accounting firm (doesn’t have to be Big 4, as I am not nearly as marketable as a 22 year old), but I am finding Internet research and local conversation to not hold enough for me. I am a student member of my local IMA, but management accounting is not the direction I want to go. I prefer audit, and would even consider tax (or if I am desperate I would even consider compliance), but I feel stuck in a hole about how to get my foot in the door. It seems until my military commitment is up I don’t have any place to start. I am in my early 30s, but my military career has taught me how to work long hours, so I am not opposed to Big 4-like treatment. I really want to make this change in my life, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Given that you have a few years left in your enlistment, I commend you for planning ahead. Your situation could lend itself to being a difficult one, but with some patience and enduring networking, I don’t see a reason that shouldn’t be able to break into a career within public accounting. For the reason you mentioned above (young blood), you might not be able to start out at a Big 4, but regional/midsized firms should definitely be on your radar.
Couple of things to consider:
Education: You have a great foundation with your BS in accounting and high GPA; however, you will be removed from the classroom by almost 15 years when you’re applying for accounting positions. Consider a Masters in Accounting program, as it will compliment your undergraduate work well, refresh your memory and skillset, and look attractive to HR reps at the public firms. I suggest staying away from the Masters in Finance because it won’t be the strong refresher you need to impress the hiring managers.
Network: Definitely check in with your contacts at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. Sure, they may not be in the finance/accounting departments you’re interested in, but they should have access to the internal job boards. Have your contacts formally introduce you to the HR hiring rep responsible for the accounting positions now, just to initiate contact. Stay in touch in the coming years, seeking advice and providing feedback about your situation. Keep these doors open even though they are not direct links to the public accounting career you seek.
Spread out: Make a list of the geographic areas that you’d considering move to when you return to the States, then do your due diligence on what accounting firms are in the area. Reach out now to their HR/hiring managers (if not listed on company’s website, search LinkedIn) to establish contact now, and ask them straight up what they think of your candidacy.
Feel free to email me your résumé or any follow up questions should you have them. Stay in touch.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t a troll and this guy actually wants to know if this is OK. I have some location-based advice having lived in that area for over a decade, hoping you guys can fill in the rest. What would be the etiquette on this?
I am starting with a Big 4 firm in a little over a month in their San Jose office. However the more that I think about where I want to be and the housing options available I am more interested in San Francisco. Would I be risking my offer by asking to transfer so late in the game?
If it matters at all, I have heard from a friend in the SF office they are still looking to fill a few entry level audit positions.
Are you kidding me? You’re trying to kick off your career as “that guy” (don’t think recruiters aren’t tweeting amongst themselves all the time; you will get talked about) over the difference of a 45 minute drive. I could understand if you were struggling between New York and Los Angeles (with tail and good salary potential in both relative to cost of living and actually being able to enjoy the apartment you pay too much for) but you’re within the same metro area. San Jose isn’t that bad and you have the advantage of being able to “escape” city life to some extent when you are not actually at work.
Would you be risking your offer? Did you sign it? Did you feel like it was right at the time but now think a handful of miles will be worth considering that bridge burned?
But living in San Jose means you don’t live in the thick of it. San Francisco is fun to visit and great on paper but after a few years, it gets really old. You’re already putting yourself through life in the Big 4, why make that worse by also subjecting yourself to guys peeing on the Muni and those damn grey speckled recycled blankets everywhere? What makes you more interested in San Francisco?
In your copious amounts of free time, you can drive near San Francisco, BART in, enjoy yourself a paper-bagged PBR and BART your ass back to the San Bruno parking lot and retreat back to your San Jose lair. It’s practically like being in San Francisco.
If you haven’t actually signed the offer, you could try to get a lead on “your friend’s” firm; tell them unsubstantiated rumors are one thing but calls from HR are another. I’d advise against rejecting the San Jose firm’s offer without having some sort of reasonable assurance (bleh) that the San Francisco office actually wants you but with less than a month to go, you better have started pursuing that yesterday. I assume you don’t have the luxury of doing this in person; if you were local, you would know San Jose and San Francisco are pretty much the same thing if you are talking about money but there’s also a quality of life issue here that you need to look long and hard at.
If you still like this idea, please go read So You’re Moving to San Francisco by Twitter API lead Alex Payne. I’m not trying to talk you out of it, I’m just asking you to really think this through before you screw yourself in San Jose. If you signed the offer, you should do the grownup thing and suffer through it for two years like everyone else. Then once you are sufficiently jaded, have passed the CPA and have the work experience to get the actual license, you are more than welcome to bail on the firm after the competition in San Francisco poaches you.
The market is not that good to allow you the opportunity to get this picky unless you are an Elijah Watt-Sells winner, 4.0 MAcc superstar or putting out. A lot.
(Acting) Ed. note: if you have a question for our team of highly knowledgeable monkeys, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to make fun of you in front of your peers, superiors and the Internet-at-large, unless it’s a good question, in which case we will do our best to give you awesome information.
I found the advice column on your blog so I thought I would ask you this question:
I recently graduated from a state school in the California State University system as a Philosophy major. My original plan was to go to law school, but I am now thinking I may want to go into accounting instead (due to the terrible job market for lawyers and the 150k debt I’d be faced with). Par ike to work at a Big 4 firm. Is this change possible? I found a “Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate” at Portland State University (I’d like to end up in Portland if possible). Does that program have any chance of helping me land a Big 4 job, or does it lack prestige? If you’d like to suggest the best post-bac/master’s program for me you should know that the only math I’ve taken is statistics 1, and I’ve taken micro econ and macro econ, but aside from that I’d be starting from scratch. My undergrad GPA is 3.13, which I believe is a little low for the Big 4. Could I make up for that with a good post-bac certificate GPA, or perhaps a good master’s GPA if that is the route I should go?
Thank you for your help!
Listen, Ambulance-Chaser-cum-Capital-Market-Hero, you need to slow down and do a little more research on the Big 4 before you even attempt this stunt. The Big 4 don’t want some 3.13er who originally picked a different profession and then just kind of stumbled upon accounting as a more “viable” option due to the long-term (or even short) career opportunities. Sorry the law school plan didn’t work out but no allegedly prestigious firm is going to want you with your “certificate” (unless it is one of these) and low GPA. So if I were you and actually attempting this, I would be sure to spin those particular details into as much gold as possible. Don’t lie but don’t be so upfront about it either.
You admit that you’re new here so I won’t rail on you too but hard I will highly recommend you catch up on some advice columns (and especially their comments) we’ve done before. If we can sniff out your “well looks like you’re the only viable option” attitude via email, I can only imagine which method recruiters will use to avoid your emails and talk about you behind your back.
You still have a chance here if (and that’s a huge if) you actually want to do this, get yourself into a real program and not some funky certificate program, you might as well get a degree from some adult college advertised during Maury Povich for as much good as that will do you. And for Christ’s sake, at least try to pull a 3.8.
Fast track the CPA exam if you can but I get the sneaking suspicion that you are one of the candidates who will end up having to take BEC 7 times based on the fact that accounting is not your background and you don’t seem all that excited about the prospect of ticking and tying your good years away for “The Man,” but are instead focused on making a few bucks in an industry that’s still actually hiring because your first choice is a really awful one. In my experience, those who do best on the CPA exam are those who actually want to do it (shocking, I know). The ones who are forcing themselves because of the economy, their parents, their boss, etc are the ones who fail miserably over and over, usually with infuriating 74s. If you managed 4 years of philosophy, you’re probably too right-brained for the CPA anyway.
Big 4 recruiters do hit Portland State but you’re going to have a hell of a time explaining to them what you did with the last four years of your life and convincing them that you’re in it for the long-term and not just to have a job ’til the economy looks better.
We’re not going to do your job for you and recommend “the best” program for you, but nice try. We recommend Google, it’s a pretty helpful career tool. That’s how you found us, right?
I’m not saying it can’t be done but you need to be realistic here. The industry has already reached its quota of useless, mediocre assholes who don’t know which side debits go on. If you’re OK with being an AP clerk or working at a smaller firm I say go for it but with your “credentials,” I wouldn’t count on having to beat off the Big 4 recruiters with a stick any time soon.
You may have heard that accounting firms – primarily Big 4 firms – have been slowly transitioning work to countries like India and Sri Lanka. This particular topic of discussion typically results in a heated/subtly racist conversations about “foreigners taking American jobs” which eventually evolves into a more overtly racist conversation, not unlike what happens on some Deloitte forums.