How to network your way to a Big 4 interview
So what do you do if the Big 4 (Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and EY) don’t come to you directly?
You have to go to them.
This is what I did, and it worked. See my guide for a more comprehensive strategy including cold call, LinkedIn, and email networking templates in my Accounting Interview Guide.
If you’re not at a “target” school for the Big 4 or you just have a low GPA it can be very challenging to get noticed.
About 85% of new hires come directly from schools that the Big 4 recruit from on an annual basis.
In the best case scenario, you have a few recruiting seasons to go through so you have time to develop your network and build relationships.
If you are reading this a few weeks before the Big 4 go to other schools to recruit, you can’t wait any longer.
You need to forget about the fear of denial and exhaust every opportunity available to get an interview.
I say this because the recruiting season is very short and when it’s over – there are no jobs left over. Accounting firms typically hire most of their new hires and interns in the fall, with very little recruiting done in the spring. The Big 4 hire a year to a year and a half out. This seems crazy, but I had several friends hired in September to start the January 15 months away.
They do this because resource planning is difficult because people quit/get fired so frequently. If you want a good chance at breaking into the Big 4, you are going to have to be ambitious, persistent, and resourceful. The first two places you are going to go are to your accounting professors and the business school career center.
1) Accounting professors
These guys know how hard it is to for the students to get jobs at the school when the Big 4 won’t give them the time of day. They work towards building up the schools program to be “good enough” to have it’s students looked at seriously. They know that the more students they can place in the firms the more they will come back to recruit later on. Explain your situation and hopefully (if you’ve been a good student over the years) they will be able to pull some strings and send a personal email recommending you. This happens more often than you think.
2) Business School Career Center
The career center’s job is obviously to place the students in employment, and many of the top faculty have similar connections as the professors with top employee’s/partners in the firm. They will offer to look over your resume and also to do mock interviews – and you should go through iteration after iteration until your resume is perfect. I probably went through about 100 different versions (if you include minor tweaks) in a year.
Next you are going to want to reach out to everyone you can. Start with LinkedIn, and do a search of people who went to your school who are working for the firms that you want to target. Do NOT ask them if they are hiring, but you can tell them that you wanted to find out “how they did it” and how the recruiting process went. You will be shocked at the response you get. These people, especially if they are 1 or 2 years into their career are not far removed from the situation you are in and understand what you’re going through.
If any of the Big 4 have come to do a presentation, get their contact information and send them an email asking about the recruiting process and what they would do if they are in your shoes.
For many of you, this will be the first time in your life – but you are going to do a “cold call.”
You need to look up the number for the office for each of the Big 4 in your area, and call them. You will find that many of the Big 4 will list the Campus Recruiters name and contact information online (usually just email). If their name isn’t on there, ask the secretary to talk to the Campus Recruiter. If it is a smaller office there may not actually be a designated recruiter and it will be a hiring manager. Discuss with them your interest in the firm and that since they don’t recruit directly from your campus you want to reach out and discuss the recruiting process.
Follow many of the same key tips I discuss in this post when speaking with them over the phone.
Lastly, make sure you keep in touch with everyone who you’ve met in the process and don’t be shy.
You never know when just emailing them and saying hey how is life turns into “Hope you’re doing well – give me your resume and I’ll send it over to the hiring manager.” This is how connections turn into interviews.