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Getting a Big 4 summer internship


Many of you may be scrambling around trying to find a summer internship, so that you can hopefully secure a full time offer, while also making pretty decent money. If you’re just starting to look now, your at a pretty big disadvantage.. you see most offers for summer internships are given out up to a year in advance. But, there is still hope. You will have to be pretty proactive, because they are surely not going to just come to you.

Keep in mind timing 

Different firms do different things at each office, but the most typical progression (for the US) is:

Fall of your senior year: Interview with the firms and accept an offer to start the summer after your senior year and you’ve graduated. Once you complete your internship, you will likely be given an offer to start full time a year later, after you’ve completed your 1 year masters program.

This is obviously dependent on your situation, because some people may not do a masters program, and some others may do a 2 year program. The thing to keep in mind is to explain your plan. When talking to a recruiter or someone who comes to campus, the first thing we’re trying to figure out is what category to put you in – full time, intern, or keep in touch for next year when you’re ready for an internship. So what is important is that it is less likely that they give you an internship if you have 2 years to work after the internship. Winter internships (Jan-March) are a little different because they require you to take a semester off, but they would want you to be able to start either the next January or August, unless you just have some summer classes to finish you, and you can start the same year.

So what can you do if you don’t have an offer?

I’m writing this in April, and like I said if you don’t have an offer for summer it will be tough. What you are going to hope for is that there was an unexpected change at a particular firm, and they need to fill the slot. The firms hire out far in advance, so they may get a new client or an intern may decline or opt out of it after taking an offer, for some reason.

  • Start with professors/career center – as I discuss in the accounting interview guide they are a great resource and often know when firms are looking to hire. But don’t make it too hard on them – tell them your situation and ask if they have any advice on getting a big 4 or accounting internship.
  • Get the email addresses from professors or emails you have seen go back and forth from career centers to students, and email them directly. I describe some of these tactics in the guide but basically tell them your situation, what you’re looking for, and if they have a minute to talk with you
  • Get phone numbers and call the offices directly. I did this for about 40 offices and got in touch with about 2 recruiters which didn’t work out, but who knows, maybe you’ll have luck. When calling an accounting firm say (I’d like to talk to someone in charge of recruiting at XYZ school).
  • Reach out to non-big 4 firms. They may have some non-standard hiring practices and have a need. If you’re dead set on big 4 or bust, it definitely looks better than working as a lifeguard and really doesn’t matter for an internship.
  • Get on linkedin and connect with peers who have graduated, alumni from your school, or just people you don’t know but work at a firm you want to work for. People are surprisingly receptive to this. Since it’s late in the game, you probably don’t have a lot of time to cultivate the relationship and ask for coffee and all that, so just flat out ask if they have a need for an intern this coming summer.

If you don’t get an internship, it’s not the end of the world. Rock your grades, get involved significantly, go to every recruiting event and make a good impression, and you’ll be in good shape. Keep in mind if you have a terrible GPA, you get a reset in grad school, so you can make a 4.0 to cover up that 2.5 – hopefully they just never ask you about it!

For more tips like this, take a look at the Big 4 Blueprint – which provides complete recruiting and interviewing guidance from a Big  4 Senior Associate.

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