How Do You Prepare for an Interview with a Big 4 Accounting Firm?
For many accountants, the ultimate goal would be to land a job with the Big 4 accounting firms (Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and Deloitte). Within in the industry and worldwide, these organizations are considered the best of the best.
Naturally, an interview with a Big 4 employer can seem daunting. However, don’t be too overwhelmed. It is better to handle the process as you would for any other job (with some special considerations in mind).
Here are some tips to help you create a good impression for one of these major accounting firms:
1. Be confident.
For any job or job interview, you must be able to handle stress. Do your best and attempt to hide your nerves. Avoid fidgeting and always look at your interviewer when you are speaking to him or her.
A helpful way to ease the butterflies in your stomach is by imagining that you are having a conversation with a favorite professor of yours instead of a possible employer. This technique should enable you to let your guard down for a little bit. Good interviews are meant to be somewhat vulnerable.
Additionally, confidence with the hiring manager hints that you will have excellent communication skills when working with a certain client. That is why employers value good self-esteem, because it makes the clients feel welcome and that will always be a priority for any organization.
2. Avoid arrogance.
Confidence is great, but it is also advisable not to be too confident. An excess of confidence may seem like you are an arrogant individual. Modesty is a very appreciated trait. Being humble shows that even though you know that you have a big list of accomplishments, it is not necessary for you to brag about all of them.
3. Be curious.
Learning is a lifelong experience. Although you have already spent numerous years in an educational environment, there are still opportunities to learn more. Indeed, as a junior employee, you still may be unaware of many things, whether it’s a different way of presenting or new technology that needs to be utilized. Therefore, by acknowledging this intellectual curiosity, you can most certainly stand out as an enthusiastic and engaged candidate and/or employee. Indeed, employers find one’s willingness to learn very attractive. It is appealing to find a professional who can adapt to a changing environment. Such adjustments may occur more often in the giant firms (as opposed to smaller ones), simply due to the never-ending need of keeping their competition at bay.
4. Clearly communicate your professional ambitions.
You should be able to communicate what you desire professionally. More often than not, candidates are told to be flexible in regards to the position they want. Since the job market is tough, people recommend that you stay neutral and then much more job offers will come to you.
Although, in some respects this is good advice, it is important to be clear about your professional desires. You should not settle. By voicing your passion and providing sensible reasons as to why you want to be involved in a certain area, you are still very likely to secure a job. As a matter of fact, while you should be flexible to an extent, you should indicate your preferences. Without that information, an employer will not know where to slate you if you are willing to fill in any job opening. One goal of a company is to obtain workers that they can invest in, not people who are so flexible that they will leave as soon as something better comes along (8 Tips for Big 4 Interviews).
In some instances, another good idea is to bring a “brag book” with you to any interviews that appear in your schedule. “Brag books” allow employers to catch a glimpse of your impressive academic and professional past. The following papers should be present in your “brag book”:
-Copies of work-related and personal awards that you may have received
-A few letters of recommendation
-Encouraging reviews and HR documents that do not share any private information
-Any other works that showcase your ability to go beyond the call of duty
It is imperative that your book possess a professional cover and have a table of contents to illustrate organization and easy viewing. If you are willing, leave behind a copy or copies for your interviewer(s) so they can take a proper look at the highlights of your career. If you give them a copy that needs to be returned, have a self-addressed and stamped envelope ready to be used.
Before arriving for the interview, take it upon yourself to research, research, and research. The interviewer will want to know why you chose them out of their competition. Pay close attention to the major details such as the company’s net worth and who the CEO is, but the seemingly small facts are important too. For instance, you will be better equipped to identify with the firm’s mission statement and the causes important to that specific Big Four firm.
7. Prepare substantive questions.
As with any other interview, always have questions to ask at the end and send the interviewer(s) thank you cards.
8. Know the firm’s mission.
As you complete your research about the firm, learn and understand what the firm’s mission is. Once you have that understanding, incorporate into your interview responses. Indeed, often it is helpful to draw upon examples from your own life that relate to the company’s values. An employer will find that your responses are thoughtful and engaging.
9. Write a thank you note.
To dramatically increase your chances in getting hired, send an actual handwritten thank you note. With the modern technology today, people often take the lazier route and send an email. Be different from them. A physical card indicates that this job deserved the extra effort.
If you understand that the decision will be made quickly, bring the paper for the note(s) and write your thoughts down in the waiting area of the interview location. Give the card(s) to the receptionist and ask him or her to hand the card(s) over to the interviewer(s).
On the other hand, if there is more of a time frame to mail the thank you note(s), then do so. Throwing in a positive review from an article referencing the organization would also be an extremely thoughtful idea (Henry).
An interview with one or more of the Big 4 is a great achievement. For continued success, be sure to follow these basic interview rules and tailor your responses using the research that you discovered about those complex firms.
Need help with interview preparation strategies? Learn more about Lexacount Search’s interview skills career consulting services here.
“8 Tips for Big 4 Interviews.” Big 4 Bound. Big 4 Bound, 6 June 2013. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.
Henry, Kathryn. “Put Your Best Foot Forward For A Big Four Interview.” Big4.com. Big4.com, 30 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.