Getting a job with a Big Four firm means that you’re doing a lot of different things right.
Not getting the job, or simply not getting to the next round, can come down to the result of just one error in your process.
Most of the time, these errors aren’t due to inability, but instead due to a lack of preparation and a focus on other parts of the application process.
Below, we detail the four most common mistakes that candidates can make during the application and interview process that can cost you the job, straight from the mouths of our recruiter network.
Overselling Your Experience
“Too often, I’ll see an excellent resume with what seems to be great accomplishments, then when I give them a call they just can’t talk through any of it, or give any project specifics. If you can’t explain what you did at a high level, it gives the impression you didn’t actually do it.” – KPMG Associate Recruiter
We get it – you want to position your resume in a way that gets you a call back from a recruiter. Everyone else does, too, which is why people are so quick to embellish their titles, responsibilities, and accomplishments.
Don’t downplay your skills, but be sure to be honest about what you’ve done and what your knowledge is. Even if you get past the initial recruiter screening, if a manager, director, or partner asks a question about an experience that you didn’t really have, floundering around the answer will be a bad hiring signal.
Assess your accomplishments, phrase them in a way that shows your value to recruiters, and be transparent about your past experiences.
In short, no #fakenews.
Applying for Under-Qualified Positions
“If you have a lot of industry experience, of course, there is a great case to be made for you to apply to a higher-level position than an associate. If an applicant has only been in the seat as an accountant for two or three years and hasn’t done a public accounting busy season, they probably aren’t fit for a senior level role.” – Former PwC Recruiting Manager
This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but we’re all guilty of over-valuing ourselves at one point or another. Just because you were managing a team of four in your industry accounting role does not mean you are ready to bring a team of four through a busy season with several clients.
It’s always helpful to speak with a recruiter or members of the firms you’re looking to join to get an idea of what makes someone qualified for a certain role. If you don’t have any connections, LinkedIn research can reveal common backgrounds for the role you’re looking at, as well as the different paths people took to get there.
Overdrinking at a Recruiting Event
“In our industry, it’s no secret that drinking is a core part of the culture for many teams. It’s one of the reasons that recruiting events often have booze – just be careful when you’re there, I’ve seen offers rescinded from a bad night at a recruiting event.” – Deloitte Senior Associate
Accountants drink – it’s just a part of the culture. Enjoying a couple of beverages with your prospective colleagues is a great way to build rapport and show people that you’ll be a fun addition to a team that spends more hours together than they do with their family.
That being said – do NOT overdrink at the recruiting event. While it’s probably inevitable that you’ll let loose once you’re comfortable on the team, no one wants to hire the liability that downs six whiskey sours at the recruiting open bar. Instead, limit yourself to one or two beverages and stick to wine, beer, whiskey, or simple mixed drinks.
If you don’t drink, never feel pressured by the teams you’re trying to join – if they don’t accept you aren’t a drinker, it won’t be a good fit. If you want to avoid the conversation, grab a seltzer with lime from the bartender and no one will know the difference.
Not Doing Your Research
“Most of the problems people have when they apply are caused by their laziness. If you do your research on the company and the position, you’ll have a much better idea of how to position yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters to chat, either – it sets you apart and gives you a good idea of what you’re getting into.” – EY Senior Recruiter
You studied in college, you prepared for your CPA, why wouldn’t you prepare for your application and interview?
Take a few minutes out to connect with the hiring manager and see if they’d be open to fielding some questions about the position and what they’re looking for. As mentioned above, not only can this put you ahead of other candidates, but it can really help you find a good fit role.
Recruiters exist to fill the firm with good talent – if you can work with them to better understand the requirements of the roles you’re looking at, they may be able to direct you toward positions that are a better fit based on your skills and your background.