8 Tips for Your Big 4 Interview

Big 4 Interviews (KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, E&Y) can be stressful, but if you prepare and practice enough it will make it a much easier and relaxed experience. The Big 4 firms are looking for polished, professional, and hard working students to fill their slots for new hires.

How to Act in a Big Four Interview?

They want professionals that they feel comfortable putting in front of their client. Students who rocked their accounting courses, focused solely on school and got 4.0′s meet their match at the first interview: The On-Campus Interview. It is the first round of the interview process and is commonly known as a “Fit Test.” If your resume goes through the initial screen process (usually cutting off GPA’s below 3.3 depending on the office), you will be called to have an interview.

Since the process is so common it has become almost systematic, so here are some of the things that can help your resume rise to the top of the stack.

Be Confident in the Big Four Interview

Being confident might be the most important interview tip of all of them. The impression that you want to give off is that you are capable of carrying on a conversation in a business setting, especially when there is a lot of pressure. Don’t fidget, give solid eye contact, and try to pretend that it is a conversation with a familiar professor rather an employer. Being a part of on campus interviews, the firm I work for is mainly trying to get a feel for how the person will act with regard to the client. Will they crumble under pressure and act really weird or will they be able to carry on a conversation?

Show Humility in the Interview

This one seems like it is directly competing against “Be confident” and it is. There has to be a balance to how confident you appear. While being confident is important for being in front of clients, coming off as arrogant makes you someone they do not want to work with. I have witnessed a candidate with a very impressive resume (GPA, clubs, internships ect.) come in and give off a cocky attitude without trying. This guy might not even be cocky outside of the interview setting, but was trying to be too confident and it came off negatively. The key is to strike a balance and the best way to do this is to just be relaxed.

Be Direct About What You Want In This Interview

This area is not talked about much and often times there is some wrong information being distributed. I remember my professors saying “You need to be flexible if you want to get a job in this market.” this absolutely false when it comes to interviewing and it can really hurt your chances of getting a job.
This wasn’t actually at an interview but it was a summer networking event with about 50 or so students. There was a sign in form and then a paper spreadsheet with preferred office and audit/tax/advisory. For the office I put my first choice and then my second choice and then audit. I noticed several people had put “Any” for office and audit/tax for position. The recruiter explained to the entire group that if you continue with this practice in your interviews it will really hurt your chances. The reason is that the way recruiters filter people is by their preferences. If you put down every office in the country and every service line, they have no where to put you – and they aren’t going to put you in every single resume stack. Those who chose a specific office in a specific service line are much more likely to at least get an interview.
Now, back to the actual interview at hand – continue with this practice and say why you want this particular office and why you want audit/tax. Also don’t say you want audit because you hate tax or the reverse. If you have family in the area, friends, or if you’ve grown up there – voice those reasons to the interviewer. They want employees they can invest in, not those who are going to transfer out in a year. Also, don’t mention how you want to get into the Transaction Advisory Services group within Advisory. Unless you are very confident that you will get at least a couple offers, don’t gamble with this.

Develop and Practice Your Interview Answers

Although you may be tempted to just “wing it” and be yourself, it is honestly best to practice the Q&A. Take common Big 4 interview questions, write down your answers and practice answering them. Get a friend to help you practice by reading the interview questions. It’s kind of awkward in these situations to “pretend” you’re in an interview – but it will vastly reduce the awkwardness of the interview that counts. It is important however, to not regurgitate what you wrote down as the answer because it will show, and you will come off as having no personality. Instead, have the answer as a base for discussion and have an actual conversation, not a speech. Answering the Q&A’s catalogs many of your experiences, so if they give you a question that you didn’t prepare for you will still have a relevant experience to talk about that is fresh on your mind. It is also good to have something “scripted” to fall back on if you freeze up. Having something to say is much better than that awkward period in an interview where you say “umm.. well holdon.. well.. actually I can’t really think of an example.” I’ve been there and it makes the rest of the interview tense.

Understand the Office Before Starting the Interview

Most firms have their office information online and it would be a great resource to look up the clients and industry the office mainly works on. Sometimes they mention intramural or non-profits they participate in, and you could discuss how they interest you. Do some googling and see if the office recently won any major client. If you’re interested in a particular industry, explain why. This is especially important for offices heavy with financial services clients, healthcare, or nonprofits.
If you’ve done your networking you have several people “on the inside” who you can ask information about if it isn’t online. Hopefully you’ve already gotten a lot of information as part of the initial information request, but go to them with questions about the culture, clients, ect and they are likely to give you some great information that you can use. They may take a while to respond – we tend to stay busy.

Big 4 Mock Interviews

Because practice makes perfect. I took part in the mock interviews that were offered through my career services and I think it helped me a ton. Not only do you get feedback on what you need to work on, you begin to be more comfortable with the interview process. The first interview I did through the process was absolutely horrible, but by the time I had the real big 4 interviews, I was much calmer. If there aren’t any mock interviews, talk to your career center and they will do practice interviews with one of the staff in the office. If you’re interviewing for the Big 4 firms, you’re likely to be an interview slot with the smaller firms so sign up for those even if you aren’t interested in working for them.

Have Solid Questions Prepared for the End of the Interview

Having questions at the end of the interview for when they ask gives you an opportunity to display your personality, build rapport with the interviewer, and especially to get them talking about themselves. Some questions you can ask are:

  • Could you tell me a little about how long you've been with the firm and why you made the decision to go with XXX
  • Have you had any interesting experiences with clients either good or bad?
  • Has the office had a lot of turnover in the past few years?

The last question is a something that you as an interviewer should actually care about. On our end, we hate hearing it because we have to tell you about how people quit because the work environment was terrible or that we laid some people off. Turnover is normal for the Big 4 and people often leave because of competitive offers but if there are a lot of people jumping ship you may need to weigh that into your consideration of offices.

Send a Thank You Card

Yes, an actual physical thank you card that you put in a mailbox. Ask for a card and it will have the address of the person you’re interviewing with. I guarantee you will be only one of a very small amount of people who did this. At my office, only 2 of the 30 or so people interviewing mailed thank you cards and it was noticed very favorably.
If the person you’re interviewing with is fresh out of college sending a card is slightly less important. It is up to you but I wouldn’t send a thank you card to anyone below manager, simply because it just isn’t as common – but you will definitely stand out. It isn’t as powerful a gesture as when you’re interviewing with a senior manager or partner who is used to the good ole days when thank you cards were mailed and people called instead of emailed. Also keep in mind that mailed thank you cards can take a while to arrive, so send an email thank you card to everyone you talked to so you touch all the bases.

Learn more about this concept below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLoIJhpi5UE

Read More About the Big 4 on WSO

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Comments (37)

Jul 1, 2013

send a thank you card to a big4 firm?

joke?

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    • 2
Jul 1, 2013

'How to Network your way to a Big 4 interview'... '8 Tips for Your Big 4 Interview' ..... are you kidding me?

No offense, but I don't think these posts should make the front page and be featured - I see absolutely no value in these posts and think they belong in either an accounting forum or general posts made by those interested in a career in accounting.

Networking and interviewing at the Big 4, quite frankly, are a joke compared to the oft-discussed banking and consulting positions. You simply need a 3.4 (below works too), be generally involved, and maybe have a waitress / lifeguard job one summer. Oh, and you don't need to go to a top school - all top 100 and others in the US that have accounting programs will have Big 4 recruiters come on campus.

I'm not trying to be an ignorant [email protected]#$% to suggest jobs and life is all about finance/consulting or bust, but these kinds of posts just don't seem to belong here. Not to mention, people in finance simply don't respect those in Big 4 positions. In sum: posts like 'Big 4 -> IB' or articles about TSS would be more fitting on this forum.

PS: Send a thank you CARD? ... No, just no.

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

    • 9
Jul 1, 2013

PS: Since when does 2nd year analysts with a grand total of three authored posts get to become a certified user on WSO?

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

    • 4
Jul 1, 2013

We have some finance folks around here, right? Any of you familiar with the concept of a 'revenue model,' or perhaps 'supply and demand?' Got a problem with Patrick making some coin? Buy more resume reviews and salary guides, shitsticks, and you won't have to deal with accountants on your front page.

Jul 1, 2013

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people on WSO who don't go to target school for investment banks, but still have a desire to be successful in finance. Many students going to less represented school choose the big 4/CPA route because it gives them a little more credibility on their resume and for some a possible stepping stone into a more financial role (ie big 4 audit > TAS/banking). Just look on the forum for at how many posts are about big 4 audit to banking.

The types of people competing for positions in private equity and investment banking may laugh at the thought of sending a thank you card after a big 4 interview, but that doesn't mean getting an offer is a cakewalk.

And bluecheese - you're way off.

Jul 1, 2013

FWIW, I was once on the Big 4 route myself: Went to two big name (one Big 4) campus presentations and they specifically said NOT to do cards and letters because candidates were overdoing it. Also went on two different company tours / leadership programs (two diff companies from the first, one of them being Big 4) and were told they've rejected candidates based on hand-written notes/cards because it made candidates seem desperate.

I completely stand by my comment about Big4Bound being a certified user. I know I certainly don't deserve to be one (I haven't contributed enough yet)... don't know if Big4Bound has either though. Not my call though, I was just expressing my opinion

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

Jul 1, 2013

I've never heard of hand-written notes being seen in a negative light - can anyone else attest to this?

Jul 1, 2013

Syndicated content, sport.

And again, people take a lot of different paths to WSO. I started reading because my wife found this site in a "CFA vs. CPA" discussion and wouldn't stop laughing about the stuff people were saying about CPAs. Comes with the territory.

Jul 1, 2013
Big4Bound:

I've never heard of hand-written notes being seen in a negative light - can anyone else attest to this?

Agreed that they are rare - I think I sent a note but that was way back in '05 - but it doesn't hurt, and I've witnessed a couple "Hey, so-and-so sent a nice note." So it can reflect favorably, but I'll also say that I wouldn't be offended by an email.

Best Response
Jul 1, 2013
TheBlueCheese:

No offense, but I don't think these posts should make the front page and be featured - I see absolutely no value in these posts and think they belong in either an accounting forum or general posts made by those interested in a career in accounting.

This is the best post I've seen all day. Looking at the "Forum Topics" list, all I see is the usual topic categories:

1) Google didn't give me the answer to my homework question so I'm trying WSO
2) Here is my situation; what will progress my career? [insert vague question about which is the best option to do next considering all the groups, industries, certifications, and degrees]
3) Networking etiquette over-analysis
4) Girl problems

I'm grateful someone is taking the time to put together a quality post with practical, step by step advice that could help many people on this forum progress their career.

Networking and interviewing at the Big 4, quite frankly, are a joke compared to the oft-discussed banking and consulting positions. You simply need a 3.4 (below works too), be generally involved, and maybe have a waitress / lifeguard job one summer. Oh, and you don't need to go to a top school - all top 100 and others in the US that have accounting programs will have Big 4 recruiters come on campus.

I'm not trying to be an ignorant [email protected]#$% to suggest jobs and life is all about finance/consulting or bust, but these kinds of posts just don't seem to belong here. Not to mention, people in finance simply don't respect those in Big 4 positions. In sum: posts like 'Big 4 -> IB' or articles about TSS would be more fitting on this forum.

Not everyone with the qualifications necessary to attend a top school is lucky enough to also have the means to do so. Some don't have the money; some didn't have the mentors to tell them about their options; some may have had personal circumstances that led them to a different choice. Others aren't willing to give up their health and relationships to work 100 hours a week for two years. For someone who walked that particular path of life, the Big 4 are typically the best choice a business student can make, and it is by no means an easy road. A 3.7+ GPA is typically required (except from the top schools), and it is highly unlikely you will get a second glance without prior internship experience. Less than 1% of those who applied for the position I got straight out of college received an offer.

Big 4 is clearly a tier below MBB consulting or investment banking - I don't think anyone will argue that. But while people in "high finance" may not respect the Big 4, in the business world they are very much alone with that myopic viewpoint. The one thing I want to communicate above anything else is that the Big 4 can very easily lead to far more opportunities in finance than many on this forum are aware. As a result, I would say that posts like these can do more to help more people on WSO than 99% of the posts on this forum. Isn't the majority of the population on this site people from "nontargets" who are trying to "break in"?

I think many people here have a distorted perception of the Big 4 because they are familiar only with financial services auditing, which to be fair is every bit as awful as people say. Outside of that service line, the story is very different. Plenty of people go into venture capital or private equity (though most choose F1000 for the work/life balance), and more F500 CEOs and CFOs come from the Big 4 than anywhere else. What most people here don't realize is that Big 4 people don't consider themselves accountants and dread the idea of doing anything accounting-related with their careers. Most of us want to get the CPA as an indicator of financial expertise, then get far away from accounting as soon as we can.

BlueCheese, I think Patrick (and many on WSO) shares your perspective to some degree. The connection I would like you and the rest of WSO to make is that most Big 4 people see the Big 4 as a means to a career in finance, and that is why you see many of us here.

OP, if you would like to post in the Big 4 group (link below), I think you will find a fairly large audience who will be much more receptive to your contributions. Thanks for the post.

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Jul 1, 2013
TheBlueCheese:

You simply need a 3.4 (below works too), be generally involved, and maybe have a waitress / lifeguard job one summer.

really?? I don't believe anything you said now based on this bs you said

Feb 18, 2014

-

"Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly"

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Jul 1, 2013

Hey, this is a great post and thanks a lot for taking the time out to write it. I completely agree with 808 and this is advice that can be useful for a large group of people in this community including myself. Once again, thanks for taking the time to write this, and don't pay attention to the negative comments.

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Feb 18, 2014

say you want to be an executive in the future, its the best response

Feb 18, 2014

I got lucky on this one. When I was interviewing, the interviewer happened to start at the firm, go private, then come back and she mentioned it in our initial conversation which I then tailored my answer to this, in a way. I explained how great of a place the firm is to start your career and go on to list the opportunities the firm provides after a few years, like she was given. Be honest. Explain how theres a small amount of people that stay more than 5-7 years, so there will be an opportunity to leave, but I wont know until I am at that situation and weigh out my options.

Just say what you think you should say. If they like you, they like you and its a win win. I wouldn't be so worried over a meaningless question.

Personally, If I could have went back, my answer to the five years question would be:

Retired

Feb 18, 2014

I have an interview tomorrow with a Big 4 (audit internship).

If they ask me, I'm going to say that I could see myself potentially taking two paths. That I could either stay in public accounting, or do public accounting for a few years and then working towards a management position at a company and pursuing an MBA. That I would like to first experience public accounting and make my decision once I am more learned in the field.

Feb 18, 2014
comeonmac:

I have an interview tomorrow with a Big 4 (audit internship).

If they ask me, I'm going to say that I could see myself potentially taking two paths. That I could either stay in public accounting, or do public accounting for a few years and then working towards a management position at a company and pursuing an MBA. That I would like to first experience public accounting and make my decision once I am more learned in the field.

Ummm no. Say that you think the work in public accounting sounds very interesting and you are ready to get in there and get after it and that as far as you can tell right now, the whole big 4 gig sounds awsome and that you plan to stick around.

Feb 18, 2014
comeonmac:

I have an interview tomorrow with a Big 4 (audit internship).

If they ask me, I'm going to say that I could see myself potentially taking two paths. That I could either stay in public accounting, or do public accounting for a few years and then working towards a management position at a company and pursuing an MBA. That I would like to first experience public accounting and make my decision once I am more learned in the field.

just say that you hopefully see yourself making partner..they will be 99% sure that its bullshit but thats the answer my recruiter gave me and im 99% sure he was full of shit..everybody knows that Big 4/banking are a one and done type job but to go into an interview and say that can really only hurt you

Jul 1, 2013

you can see the mentality of the people working there or prospective analysts when you check how much monkey shit rage people who criticize it get

there is no GPA cut off for Big4, especially not at regional offices (know from personal xp); people dont even network to get in. most of the time the interview doesnt even have a technical part... you get asked random questions by selected people, no structure whatsoever.

with solid networking and 3.3 GPA you could aim for something better to be honest...
or better might not be a best word - i wanted to say something more challenging/attractive etc.

and Big4 consulting is not one tier below MBB - it is at least 2-3 tiers below.

the post itself is a good post, with generally good tips, but not too much relevant to Big4 since their jobs arent competitive and there are bunch of ways to get in

Feb 18, 2014

Ask them how long it typically takes to begin to specialize in a certain industry. And then follow up with how you're so interested in working there because it will expose you to many industry early on, and you can specialize in one later.

I asked this question in my big 4 interviews, and got an internship and full-time offer.

Feb 18, 2014

I always asked abroad rotations. Most of them have a 2-year work exchange in any of the international offices, I ask what the requirements were, and how to go about setting myself apart to help me achieve that goal fastest. It helps if you find a specific international office to ask about - it shows interest, initiative and a long-term commitment to the firm (even if its just go gain praise)

Jul 1, 2013

No reason to shit on the OP, big 4 is a pretty decent fallback for those that can't get banking out of UG. That being said the thought of working audit or tax makes me want to blow my brains out.

Jul 2, 2013

Coming up next:

8 Tips for your McDonald Front Counter Interview

Jul 2, 2013

Really sad to see all those unqualified and disrespectful comments above. We should embrace diversity on this forum.

Jul 2, 2013

Big 4 is cool, but the thank-you cards are ridiculous. Maybe a 2 sentence thank you email. and even then thats pushing it sometimes, or doesn't even make a difference since the hiring decision is made so quickly.

tiers...really? can you people not be pricks about any career other than ib/pe/hf. I understand where you're coming from, just say there are more ways to break in and its a solid career.

Jul 2, 2013

I think this is a high quality post, but I'm scratching my head at why this is on the front page of WSO rather than Big Four Oasis.

Yes, there is maybe a little crossover between Tax at Deloitte and IBD at Goldman.

Yes, many accountants are brilliant. I'd like to think my dad is one of those brilliant accountants. And for some people, accy has always been plan A.

But if you're a regular reader on WSO, there's a good chance accy isn't Plan A. This is post is high quality but the relevancy isn't there. I think most of the hate for people who find this less relevant is coming from Accy majors and Big 4 employees.

I get it. Big Four is a great lifestyle with brilliant people, and is just as smart of a career move as banking. I feel the same way about Google and I don't disagree on Deloitte or Ernst and Young Crowe Chizek for that matter. That doesn't mean we should put advice for landing a programming job at google on the front page of a finance/banking oriented forum, unless its a very slow day.

That's all.

I'm with Bleu Cheese on the relevance of the post on WSO (just not the quality of the postor the quality of an accounting career)

Jul 2, 2013

I think the main problem here is that you can use everything in the IB guides to get a Big4/corp finance gig. So, it's pretty redundant.

Still, it's more helpful to the general audience of this site than threads about balancing video game hours with work...

Thanks for taking the time, OP.

Jul 2, 2013
animalz:

and Big4 consulting is not one tier below MBB - it is at least 2-3 tiers below.

Can you tell me what is in between? I can't get into IB but I don't wanna do Big4 either

Jul 2, 2013
Arsene Wenger's Father:
animalz:

and Big4 consulting is not one tier below MBB - it is at least 2-3 tiers below.

Can you tell me what is in between? I can't get into IB but I don't wanna do Big4 either

Between MBB and Big4 are your second- and third-tier consulting groups - OW[FS], BAH, LEK, Accenture, etc.
IB and Big4 aren't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. If you can't make it into a top IB firm then try for boutiques. IB spans the gamut, top the BB to the 1-man shops; it's not like "IB" is a tier above everything else.

Currently: future psychiatrist (med school =P)
Previously: investor relations (top consulting firm), M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM)

Jul 2, 2013
TheBlueCheese:

'How to Network your way to a Big 4 interview'... '8 Tips for Your Big 4 Interview' ..... are you kidding me?

No offense, but I don't think these posts should make the front page and be featured - I see absolutely no value in these posts and think they belong in either an accounting forum or general posts made by those interested in a career in accounting.

Networking and interviewing at the Big 4, quite frankly, are a joke compared to the oft-discussed banking and consulting positions. You simply need a 3.4 (below works too), be generally involved, and maybe have a waitress / lifeguard job one summer. Oh, and you don't need to go to a top school - all top 100 and others in the US that have accounting programs will have Big 4 recruiters come on campus.

I'm not trying to be an ignorant [email protected]#$% to suggest jobs and life is all about finance/consulting or bust, but these kinds of posts just don't seem to belong here. Not to mention, people in finance simply don't respect those in Big 4 positions. In sum: posts like 'Big 4 -> IB' or articles about TSS would be more fitting on this forum.

PS: Send a thank you CARD? ... No, just no.

No offense, but, fuck off. Seriously, I have to read a condescending rant from a non-target prospective monkey? You haven't earned the right to be an asshole.

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Jul 3, 2013

Geez. Look, my tone and the way I ranted wasn't right. Accounting is a great launch pad for a career in business and can be a good long-term choice as well if that's what interests you. I really mean that.

But some of those things I wrote wasn't completely off either. Like I said, I used to be on the Big 4 track, did tons of research on this and even networked with auditors, so it's not like everything I said was meant to be a clueless rant. (although I fully realize I came off that way, so I understand the backlash)

For instance, you can definitely have just a waitress / lifeguarding job before your junior year, which then after you'd interview for 'leadership programs', which is a (almost) guarantee springboard to obtaining an internship your senior year (if you're on the 4 year track, go back one year for everything I said). I know plenty of people who had one of those jobs sophomore year, or did some work-study job during the school year, some random school clubs, 3.4+ GPAs, and got interviews (and ultimately offers). My alma mater isn't even a huge Big 4 target. Recruiters/auditors/research all indicated that 3.3/3.4 GPA is the cutoff, although they will sometimes make exceptions.

In sum: My point was that it's a nice post and all, but think it's somewhat irrelevant and could've had a finance spark/touch that will interest readers better.

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

Jul 3, 2013

So before I chip in my 2 cents, I'll come out and say I work for a Big 4...

A few years back while I was still in school recruiting, I sent a thank you note to the partner who ran the whole Americas-division of one of the lines of service (audit/tax/advisory), aka #3 guy in the whole US firm... saw him again 6 months later and he ran past 10 people waiting to talk to him to come up and thank me for my note...

And since then he's been promoted to the global practice leader (#3 in the global firm). The thank you note ended up solidifying our relationship and now he's one of my mentors.

My conclusion: writing thank you notes can only help -- in IB they might come off as douchey or insincere, but Big 4 partners love them.

Oct 16, 2013

Sorry, but Mr. Cheese's comments are dead on accurate. An internship, a part time job washing dishes at olive garden, and a 3.4 GPA are more than enough to get a big 4 offer. The interviews on campus, and then at their office, are entirely "competency" type questions, ie "when have you worked in a group and had difficulty." The people who interview you are completely unremarkable, dull, average intelligence, and generally have a very high opinion of themselves. Have you ever heard of the guy who got rejected from a police department because he scored too high on their test? Yeah, its like that.

Everyone who works at a big 4 either takes an idiotic sense of pride in working stupid hours for their salary (which at times break down to around the same hourly wage as a manager at McDonalds - literally), or realize what a fucking joke it is and are just waiting to jump ship for a better opportunity. It is not remotely surprising that certain people would get all butthurt when confronted with facts about their miserable existence. (Since those people are likely incapable of catching on to the subtext in that last sentence, I am saying its because you are morons.) Ask me how I know these things.

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Nov 15, 2013
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