June 23, 2018

What Can Accounting Firm Interns Do To Be Ready For The Big Day?

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 over the last year. However, with that being said, how can I prepare for my first engagement? I've heard I should try to get some industry and client information. What are good sources? Should I browse last year's 10-K? Any other advice on how to turn the internship into an offer would be greatly appreciated.

Newly Minted Intern

Dear NMI,

Congrats on landing an internship with one of the Big & Tall 4. You’re right in the sense that they – meaning your soon-to-be bosses – are not expecting you to know much. But don’t think that they won’t come at you with ridiculous “you should know this by now” comments. “Why doesn’t this tie out?” “You know, just roll it forward.” “Can you make mine a Venti?”

Check your email.  Like many ad-hoc responsibilities, the communication between engagement team and intern usually falls on a senior associate member of the team.  Typically the lead senior associate of your first engagement will reach out to you during your first week at the firm (when you are busy learning about T&E and taking independence exams) and initiate contact.  It can be as simple as "show up at 230 Fifth Street at 9am" so you might have to ask follow up questions. Reply to the email to confirm that you received the message.  Ask about dress code if it is not addressed.  Also, if you're supposed to be meeting the team at the client site, inquire if there is anything you can bring from the office.  Some client sites are more "secluded" than others, and a re-fill of binder clips and manila folders can go a long way.

Things to bring the first day. Everything you received in your laptop bag. Coffee/tea (because the ability to go to Starbucks at 10a is not guaranteed). A photo ID. Lunch money (leave the bagged lunch at home, at least for the first day). A patient, positive attitude. 

Do some homework. You mentioned reading through your client's 10K; not a bad idea if your client in fact releases one.  Chances are though that you'll be able to paint a better picture of your client by spending an evening Googling them. Start with their official website (if they have one), and move on to third party stories about them.  Is your client private, like a hedgie?  Search Dealbreaker or FinAlternatives.  It's more important to know the recent issues affecting your client than what last year's Rent Expense was.

Your First Day and Beyond…

Be on time.  Don't fuck this up.

Don't be a stereotype.  You are from the Millennial Generation.  You grew up with a cell phone, wall posts, and a "just Google it" mentality.  There's nothing wrong with this per se, but you know who doesn't want to hear about it or see it on your computer all day? Your boss. The reason I mentioned above that you need to bring a patient, positive attitude is because at some point – or even for most of your internship – there will be downtime.  You'll be tempted to check Gmail, comment on Facebook, or Tweet at Going Concern "so borrrred on my first day please send help xoxo."  Just trust me on this one – do yourself (and your engagement review) a favor and resist the urge.  Have downtime on your first day?  Great.  Read every free article on the Journal.  Scan Bloomberg.  Take some firm trainings. Email your fellow interns about happy hour. Do not be the intern that's "always on the Internet."

Attitude is everything.  There are two different ways you can respond to your senior's request for you to organize last year's binders: "Great, I'll get on that right away" or "I didn't go to school to be someone's binding bitch."  Although you may think the latter, the former is a pathway to more detailed worked, a positive review, and eventually a fulltime offer.  Do not lose sight of why you're interning.

What did we miss?  Add your insights below.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte or KPMG. Resumes that boast experience at a Big Four firm are a step ahead of the pack.
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“[S]tringent hiring standards” could be called in question in some instances but for the most part, we agree that having a big name on your resumé is definitely something that a lot of employers notice.
Our thread on Life After Big 4 life is a good place to get some further discussion.
Contrary to popular belief, your career is not dead in the water if you don’t have experience at a Big 4 firm. FINS lists some other must-haves including:
IFRS – It’s coming people (albeit slowly). If you’ve got experience with it, make it known.
SEC – Regardless of the Commission’s track record, there will always be filings.
Experience with specific industry software – Caseware, SAP, PeopleSoft, Deltek, and Black Baud
Numbers – listing specific accomplishments that result in cost savings or creating revenue streams
Customer service skills – Yes, you socially awkward types will be at a disadvantage.
So a good presence of all these things will look good on your resume but we wouldn’t get too hung up on any one aspect. If there’s anything else you’ve noticed that get the recruiters giving you that extra look, please share in the comments.
Now get out there and impress the pants off somebody. January will be here before you know it. Good hunting.
Six Must-Haves for CPA Resumes [FINS]