We all have some career objectives and aspirations. For higher studies like MBA, CA, CPA, ACCA, CFA etc. one has to decide the stream that they need to undertake for graduation. Graduation is the bare minimum professional requirement to get into any accounting or technical job be it in Government sector, private sector or even in army. For an accounting graduate, there are a number of options available nowadays.
Of late, the Big 4 consulting & accounting firms are hiring huge number of accounting graduates for their Indian as well as off shore functions in varied fields. But getting into Big 4 accounting firms is not an easy task. Now let’s discuss about these firms as well as how one can get in there.
Big 4 Accounting firms & Services Offered
The Big 4 are the four largest international professional services firms offering wide variety of services. They are as follows :
- Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC)
- Ernst & Young (EY)
The major categories of services offered by these firms are:
- Auditing and attestation
- Tax consulting
- Internal control, risk and governance services
- Other business advisory
Apart from above they also provide corporate finance as well as legal services. They handle vast majority of audits for publicly traded companies as well as private companies.
How do Big 4 firms hire?
Big 4 firms hire candidates through:
- College campuses
- Organization of career fair
- Placement drives
- One on one hire through job portals
- Internal referrals
You can also check out their website’s career page to find vacancies.
Various Interview Rounds in Big 4s
There are several rounds of interview that a candidate needs to crack to get into the Big 4. Typically these rounds are as follows:
1.Initial HR interview – In this round, HR would ask question about the background of the candidate, career objectives as well as their strengths and weakness. However the questions are not limited to above. In case if hiring is done through campus/ job fairs, the HR team conduct group discussions & debates.
2.First Technical round – Here the Manager/ Team Leader under which the candidate would be working takes the technical round of interview. A candidate is required to have knowledge about Accounting standards, corporate law & taxes etc. Depending upon the level at which candidates are hired, there can be second as well as third round of technical round of interview.
3.Partner/Director round – This round is taken by Partner/ Director. The interview may or may not happen for entry level candidates. The purpose of this round is to analyze whether the candidate is suitable for the firm. Here behavioral aspect of candidate is looked into and analyzed.
4.Final HR Round – Once all the above rounds are completed, a candidate has to appear for the final round of interview with senior HR personal to finalize the candidate. Typically in this round, the HR discuss about the monetary & other expectation of a candidate and spells out terms & condition of the employment.
Basic Skills Required to get into Big 4s
In order to clear all the above mentioned round of interviews and get into Big 4 firms, the following skills are very critical:
1.Communication Skill – Good communication skill is an important prerequisite for getting into Big 4 firms. A candidate should have good command over English language (both verbal & written). This is important for HR as well as technical round. More over good communication is required in group discussions and debate as well.
2.Technical Knowledge – A candidate is required to have through knowledge about Accounting Standards, Corporate law & taxes. Also they are expected to know recent technical updates, amendments to relevant acts, newly issued accounting pronouncements etc.
3.Computer Skills – This is another important skill one should have. Good working knowledge of MS office like MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint.
4.Others – Apart from above, one should have in & out knowledge about one’s resume, knowledge about current topics. One shouldn’t show off but should be humble and polite. Also the candidate should be in proper formal attire as it creates a good impression in front of interviewer.
It is important to note that though the interview procedure is lengthy and tough, if a candidate is well prepared and avoid some common mistakes, he/she would be would be successful in converting the interview. Let’s discuss about some common mistakes and interview questions that needs to be taken care.
Cover Letter & Resume mistakes
The first point of contact between employer and candidate is a Cover Letter & resume. On many instances it was observed, that Big 4 firms rejected good candidates because of poorly drafted cover letter & resume. Both the cover letter &resume should be short, precise and to the point. Candidates should note following common mistakes which should be avoided:
- Grammatical errors & typos and unformatted documents
- Making unsupported claims about oneself
- Making cover letter & resume to lengthy like a novel
- Ignoring important details & accomplishments
- Writing to much personal information
Common Interview Questions
There are no pre-defined questions for any interview. But from past hiring trend and analysis, one can prepare for certain questions which are common. They are as follows:
1.What are your strength & weakness?
This is a common question asked in both HR & Technical round. Give specific examples drawn from your experience for each of your strengths, which should be relevant to the job you are applying for. Try to spend less time talking about your weaknesses. Demonstrate what you have learned from them and what positive actions you have taken to mitigate them.
2.Why do you want to work for the firm?
Demonstrate that you’ve really done your research on the firm, that you have a sense of its culture, main service lines, competitors etc. For this it is very important for candidates to go through website of the firm in order to obtain the desired information about the firm.
3.Please walk me through your resume
One should have knowledge about his/ her resume. It should state what is actual and factual. Many times candidates provide false details in resume. It becomes trap from them and an experienced interviewer can make out whether candidate is faking.
4.Tell me about yourself
This is another routine question. Candidate should begin with providing latest information first and then go backward. After providing details about previous jobs & qualifications, one should provide personal details like family background, hobbies etc.
5.Where you would like to see yourself in next 5 years?
This answer to this questions shows about candidate’s career aspirations and seriousness about professional life. The best answer would be excelling in the area in which candidate would be employed and moving to the next level.
How to tackle interviews if your GPA is low?
We all know that Big 4 conducts various rounds of interview to hire best candidate. They follow grading system for selection wherein weightage is given to your academic qualification and your performance in group discussion & initial HR round. Many times candidates are shortlisted for technical round but have low grade score. In such cases it’s important to be well prepared for technical round. One should consult with those who previously appeared for such interview before. For practice purpose have mock interview. Also go through the current topics & amendments in applicable laws. If the technical team is satisfied, candidates are selected even if the initial score are low. Your confidence on day of final interview will be the most critical factor for your selection.
As discussed earlier, Big 4 accounting firms provides a very good career opportunity. Working in Big 4 also helps in overall personality development and monetary growth in later stage of career. So it’s important for all aspiring candidates desirous of making career in Big 4 to start preparing for interview once they are into final year of graduation. Remember there is no instant formula for success. It is result of continuous hard work and labour. So it’s important for all to stay focused and work hard to get in the big league.
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