AMA: Big 4 Auditor

Mr. Manager's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,268

I haven't seen an AMA with any Big 4 auditors out there, so I'm happy to answer questions. I have been an auditor for long enough to answer questions relating to salaries, hours, lifestyle, locations, work, day in the life, recruiting, interviews, and almost any other applicable topic with confidence.

Full disclosure, I just quit my job as an auditor in order to take a break, expand my resume, and focus full time on starting a career that really interests me. This was a risky decision, and I can speak to many of the logistics around separating from your current career, networking, etc.

Finally, I will attempt to answer any question regardless of its pertinence to Big 4, so ask away!

Comments (76)

Feb 7, 2014

What specifically are you planning on doing relating to expanding your resume/starting a new career now that you quit?

*Curious as I'm also a former Big4 auditor

Feb 7, 2014
nymatt:

What specifically are you planning on doing relating to expanding your resume/starting a new career now that you quit?

*Curious as I'm also a former Big4 auditor

I started networking very heavily while still at Big 4. It got to the point where I had too many calls, phone interviews, and flyouts to possibly manage, especially during busy season.

I'd say your most important steps are these:

1. Understand what you want to do, and EVERYTHING it entails.
2. Use all of your spare time to network, cold call, cold email, and submit your resume everywhere.
3. With whatever spare time you have left, study the technical and be ready for behavioral questions because interviews can and will come out of nowhere after a little while.

If you do these three things, the interviews and informational calls that will inevitably come will start to feel like a full time job but you will get better with each interview.

I knew I wanted to work in VC/PE someday, and that starting in IB would be my best bet. It is too early for MBA and I am still relatively young in my career, so I went for IB mainly but also have had success interviewing with small VC and PE firms. Plugging myself into the network and building my resume with these jobs is my main focus; I'm not concerned with trying to get a BB gig or anything like that, so the pressure is lower and it is very easy to tell my story at this point which is something always harped on in finance, but really is key to getting people to consider you seriously.

I have had lots of success with this and I expect an offer by the end of the month.I plan on an AMA later with specifics on the whole transition.

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Feb 7, 2014

Why/how did you stay so long? Are you going to stay in accounting or are you going to try to transition to corporate finance? (Is that possible?)

I am a former big 4 intern with two big4 offers and currently an audit intern at a small CPA firm, but I just got a FDLP internship and will most likely go corporate finance and skip the big4 route all together.

Best Response
Feb 7, 2014
ishouldbstudying:

Why/how did you stay so long? Are you going to stay in accounting or are you going to try to transition to corporate finance? (Is that possible?)

I am a former big 4 intern with two big4 offers and currently an audit intern at a small CPA firm, but I just got a FDLP internship and will most likely go corporate finance and skip the big4 route all together.

I went to one of the biggest Big 4 targets (think UT, Notre Dame, Illinois) and they really funnel you into Big 4. I was too really deep in the process before I knew I didn't want to do that, but I did have the feeling I wouldn't love it. I took the conservative route because I knew long before most applicants that I'd have a job set in stone with Big 4 because of a personal acquaintance with a partner.

If finance is what you want, go for it and forget the Big 4 offers. But yes, it is possible to transfer to corporate finance but again, it's a long process and the Big 4 is sometimes hard to explain away in finance interviews.

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Feb 7, 2014

Thanks for your honesty and I appreciate the time you took to do this! I'm certain it will help many in the future.

I definitely know what you mean by the funnel metaphore, I go to a large state school in the west and all of our accounting courses/professors PUSH Big4 as well as 2-3 times a year when they all come on campus and recruit.

Feb 7, 2014

Would you say that a lot of bright people are tricked in to going for Big 4 accounting careers? I.e. Big 4 firms are positioned very well to scoop up all of the people who finish university without having a good understanding of what they want to do with their future (very bright nonetheless, just less career-driven). The reason why I'm asking is I've heard from many Big 4 people that they realized it's not a job for them pretty much the second they joined and many start looking for exit opportunities that very second, but simply decide to stick with it for a few years to get the qualification.

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Feb 7, 2014
TheFamousTrader:

Would you say that a lot of bright people are tricked in to going for Big 4 accounting careers? I.e. Big 4 firms are positioned very well to scoop up all of the people who finish university without having a good understanding of what they want to do with their future (very bright nonetheless, just less career-driven). The reason why I'm asking is I've heard from many Big 4 people that they realized it's not a job for them pretty much the second they joined and many start looking for exit opportunities that very second, but simply decide to stick with it for a few years to get the qualification.

Spot on. I don't know if I'd say tricked, because an auditor that tells you he didn't know what he was getting into is probably lying. We are all warned of how boring and seemingly pointless it will be and those who do it do it anyway. Like I said above, I knew beforehand I wouldn't love it but I just wanted to put in my time and make partner ASAP. Learned quickly that I didn't even have enough interest and not only did I start looking elsewhere immediately, I stayed for less than a year before I got out.

The truth is, there are a lot of really talented and bright people whose personalities fit with Big 4 better than finance and those are the ones that thrive there and end up making decent money. (I'm talking decent money relative to most occupations, not Wall Street type pay).

Feb 7, 2014

what are the exit opps in Big 4?

Feb 7, 2014
kyc133enydc:

what are the exit opps in Big 4?

Most commonly, Big 4 audit alums go on to become Senior Accountants, Accounting Managers, Directors of Financial Reporting, Controllers, and even the occasional CFO. Some go into other types of rolls like Plant Managers, Internal Audit, supply chain, etc.

However, lots do end up in finance, but they work A LOT harder to get there than those that take the jobs above, with the obvious exception of CFO.

Feb 7, 2014
Feb 7, 2014
coreytrevor:

Can you comment on this blog: http://audit.wordpress.com/2006/11/10/holy-crap-this-really-sucks/

Only skimmed it, but that is definitely the viewpoint of many, many auditors. I will say, the critiques sound different coming from high performers than they do from low performers. The angry, well thought out ones come from high performers. The depressive, this is just too boring for me ones come from low performers. Just my perspective.

Feb 7, 2014

I took a job at a big 4 recently (starting soon) and know it's not what I want to do the rest of my life, it was just the best option available from all things considered... Like most others on this site, high finance is my main goal. When should I try to leave? Where do most people go from big 4? IB? Corp dev? Asset Management?

Also, not all of the big 4 work experience is relevant to your new career path. What did u focus on as your main key points of what you got out of your experience?

Thanks for doing the AMA OP

Feb 7, 2014

The question of "when should I leave" (or some variation of it) is a reoccurring question in this thread and with all future Big 4 kids. I hope OP does not mind me answering this. The answer to this question is...it completely depends.

I would say you should stick with Big 4 for 3+ years if your goal is one of the following. The reason is, you will want to start at the highest level possible when you switch into one of these roles or you will be fighting to get promotions.

-Controller/CFO in whatever industry you focus on
-Financial Reporting
-Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)
-Due Diligence at a PE firm
-Internal Audit

If your goal is NOT listed above but instead falls into one of these roles, I would say stick around for

-Valuation services (non Big 4)
-Real estate finance
-Consulting (MBB or any top consulting firm is a long shot, but have seen people transfer into boutique)
-Investment Banking (BB or any top mid-tier firm is a long shot, but have seen people transfer into boutique)

I hope this helps answer some questions. For me, I was in Big 4 audit for 1yr, realized that nothing accounting related appealed to me and switched to real estate finance. Even that switch was a bit difficult. Everyone still wanted to classify me as an "accountant" even though I only had 1yr experience.

Feb 7, 2014
AcquisitionsGuy:

The question of "when should I leave" (or some variation of it) is a reoccurring question in this thread and with all future Big 4 kids. I hope OP does not mind me answering this. The answer to this question is...it completely depends.

I would say you should stick with Big 4 for 3+ years if your goal is one of the following. The reason is, you will want to start at the highest level possible when you switch into one of these roles or you will be fighting to get promotions.

-Controller/CFO in whatever industry you focus on

-Financial Reporting

-Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)

-Due Diligence at a PE firm

-Internal Audit

If your goal is NOT listed above but instead falls into one of these roles, I would say stick around for <2yrs or you will be labeled too much of an accountant (seen it happen with many friends).

-Valuation services (non Big 4)

-Real estate finance

-Consulting (MBB or any top consulting firm is a long shot, but have seen people transfer into boutique)

-Investment Banking (BB or any top mid-tier firm is a long shot, but have seen people transfer into boutique)

I hope this helps answer some questions. For me, I was in Big 4 audit for 1yr, realized that nothing accounting related appealed to me and switched to real estate finance. Even that switch was a bit difficult. Everyone still wanted to classify me as an "accountant" even though I only had 1yr experience.

SB. Great input, and I'd say the exact same thing. I also had almost exactly 1 year of experience when I left, and I found it pretty easy to shed the "accountant" label within 30 seconds of telling my story.

Feb 7, 2014
FutureWaller:

I took a job at a big 4 recently (starting soon) and know it's not what I want to do the rest of my life, it was just the best option available from all things considered... Like most others on this site, high finance is my main goal. When should I try to leave? Where do most people go from big 4? IB? Corp dev? Asset Management?

Also, not all of the big 4 work experience is relevant to your new career path. What did u focus on as your main key points of what you got out of your experience?

Thanks for doing the AMA OP

You're welcome FutureWaller. If it was the best option, and you took it, then you did the right thing, period. It's up to you to decide whether it was really the best option. However, from my perspective, I instantly became SO MUCH MORE CREDIBLE with a Big 4 name on my resume.

Some people will tell you that it labels you as an accountant, and if you stay long enough then it's true. I don't have my CPA so it was easy to say that I got into this huge global competitive firm and it wasn't fast paced or forward looking enough for me. And that really worked. I know Big 4 isn't the same as BB, but it's still a place where tons of kids wished they had the smarts, grades, or charisma to be. (Sounds crazy writing that but it's sadly true).

As far as Big 4 experience, I focused mainly on 3 things:

1. Being a leader even without a leadership role
2. Being a team player, and
3. Becoming a solid expert in excel (which didn't come from the job as much as my own dedication).

See above for exit opps, but as for uncommon exit opps IB, CorpDev, AM, etc. It happens. It's all about how you network.

See my other blog posts for a guide to off-cycle networking, but it's just all about making your resume viral. Call and email every single alum in the industries you like and make sure you can have a solid conversation with them about THEIR job. If you can do that, something will turn up and your Big 4 on the resume will only help you.

Also, Ex Big 4 guys who broke in will be interested in your story, and more likely to talk to you because they went through what you're going through. They will also be tougher on you with technical questions etc. so be prepared.

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Feb 14, 2014

I would totally echo this. I also departed Big 4 audit last summer (after 1.5 yrs) and left for a Treasury role in corporate (Fortune 10). It was not easy. My background is a large SEC school, 3.5 gpa, Acct & Fina dual major, CPA licensed, passed CFA L1.

Personally, I didn't see myself working very hard as an auditor because I wasn't a fan of the work, but that was also a function of having a few bad client engagement experiences. I imagine if I had been on some rumored pleasant audits, I may have stuck around. So it's sort of a blessing/curse that I had a bad experience early on at Big 4, since I'm in a great place now and very happy with where my career is moving. 2.5 yrs out of undergrad, I'm making >$90K (base+benefits) and the hours are 40-50/wk on avg which leaves plenty of time to pursue additional learning (i.e. CFA L2 studying) and professional growth.

Feb 7, 2014

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm going on my sixth month as an auditor at a regional CPA firm, specializing in auditing hedge funds, broker dealers, and registered investment advisors. Being an economics and finance major in uni, auditing was never really my dream job, but it's sort of how things went for me.

My question for you is this: how difficult would it be for someone like me to transition to big 4 consulting? I have more than a few friends that do consulting for one of the big 4, and would be networking through them. Also, should I stick around here long enough to get my CPA and become senior before starting to look elsewhere?

Feb 7, 2014
Sealberg:

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm going on my sixth month as an auditor at a regional CPA firm, specializing in auditing hedge funds, broker dealers, and registered investment advisors. Being an economics and finance major in uni, auditing was never really my dream job, but it's sort of how things went for me.

My question for you is this: how difficult would it be for someone like me to transition to big 4 consulting? I have more than a few friends that do consulting for one of the big 4, and would be networking through them. Also, should I stick around here long enough to get my CPA and become senior before starting to look elsewhere?

I've heard lots of different things about the CPA. In fact, my first posts on WSO were rather insecure questions (pleadings) for people to help me make the decision.

My personal opinion is that CPAs are for accountants, and if you are going to be an accountant you NEED it. If you are not going to be an accountant, you don't need it and you should be able to explain why you don't have or want it.

As far as Big 4 consulting, again it's all about networking. Since you're not in a big 4 now, you won't have to deal with the bureaucracy (spelled right on my first try, hallelujah) of an internal transfer, which is a plus.

I will say that it will be pretty hard, but if you have the resume that can back up this change JUST ENOUGH to get someone to talk to you, and you can do case studies with your eyes closed, I see no reason why you couldn't be a Big 4 consultant right away.

Your other option, of course, is MBA.

Feb 7, 2014

For recruiting from master's programs, does it really matter which school I go to? Or is recruiting done more locally? ie, will I have more opportunities coming from Texas than I would a school like San Jose State, or would my chances be equal?

Does the office I work at influence what kind of clients I will get exposure to? If so, what would be the best office(s) to choose if I'm interested in breaking into Energy/Mining/Natural Resources/Oil & Gas?

Feb 7, 2014

Most of the Big 4 Energy centers are based in Houston in the US. Other offices that have multiple O&G clients are Tulsa, Ft. Worth, and Denver. NOLA has a few but not too many. If you want to get into this area its best to go to a school in the area as recruiting is done by region.

Feb 7, 2014
bl00211:

Most of the Big 4 Energy centers are based in Houston in the US. Other offices that have multiple O&G clients are Tulsa, Ft. Worth, and Denver. NOLA has a few but not too many. If you want to get into this area its best to go to a school in the area as recruiting is done by region.

Didn't read this when before I posted an answer, and I forgot to mention Denver. SB

Feb 7, 2014

@danin650 to follow up on Scott Irish's comment, if you can, try to avoid getting a MAcct and get the 150 credits in 4 years. I did this and consider it one of the best decisions I've ever made. My friends who stayed for a 5th year really didn't learn much more, wasted a full year where they could've been making money/getting experience, and blew a ton of extra tuition money (this is all from the perspective of someone who wanted to/left auditing after 2 years)

Feb 7, 2014
nymatt:

@danin650 to follow up on Scott Irish's comment, if you can, try to avoid getting a MAcct and get the 150 credits in 4 years. I did this and consider it one of the best decisions I've ever made. My friends who stayed for a 5th year really didn't learn much more, wasted a full year where they could've been making money/getting experience, and blew a ton of extra tuition money (this is all from the perspective of someone who wanted to/left auditing after 2 years)

SB. 100% my thoughts. I actually did this and transferred to a new city in order to have easier CPA requirements. The fact that I didn't end up getting my CPA at all is a different story. Almost everyone I know in Big 4 has a MAcc and they regret it. Save that time and money for an MBA later UNLESS you know for sure you want to be an accountant forever and ever (and ever) OR if you need it to keep recruiting from school for one more year. (Some people I know in IB did just this because they found out about IB later than other kids and wanted the extra year of school).

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Feb 7, 2014
danin650:

For recruiting from master's programs, does it really matter which school I go to? Or is recruiting done more locally? ie, will I have more opportunities coming from Texas than I would a school like San Jose State, or would my chances be equal?

Does the office I work at influence what kind of clients I will get exposure to? If so, what would be the best office(s) to choose if I'm interested in breaking into Energy/Mining/Natural Resources/Oil & Gas?

At UT you will likely have much greater access to national and even international positions; however, if you are a top student at SJS, you will still be able to go anywhere in the country. The recruiters will make it happen.

The office you work at does influence the clients you will get exposure to. The best offices for OG/Natural Resources/Energy would be Houston and Oklahoma City probably. Especially Houston.

Feb 7, 2014

how has the off cycle process been for you? Are you targeting big cities (ie. NY) for more opportunities, or are you looking at secondary markets (ie. Clt / atl etc) for less competition?

Feb 7, 2014
bank-on-this:

how has the off cycle process been for you? Are you targeting big cities (ie. NY) for more opportunities, or are you looking at secondary markets (ie. Clt / atl etc) for less competition?

Personally I'm not particularly interested in NYC but everything has been fair game. I have targeted both CTL and ATL and at Wells in particular I have five or six associates ready to vouch for me. However, my main leads are in the Bay Area.

To be honest, I've had tons and tons of success, including turning down offers. The reason is because I have networked like crazy. I've probably talked to a good chunk of my school's alumni base which is massive. Now I'm just waiting on final words from a few really great places and I the funny thing is that both just popped up because I sent my resume to someone who knew someone. Gotta make that resume viral, yo.

Feb 7, 2014

@danin650 it doesn't matter that much with MAcct degree which school, I won't say it's completely irrelevant, but it is far, far less relevant than where you get an MBA for applying to finance jobs.

If you're interested in a particular Big 4 office, see where they do their OCR, and make sure your school has a good placement history with Big 4.

Feb 7, 2014

How much money do you have to bring in the firm to be promoted to Partner?

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Feb 7, 2014
companion:

How much money do you have to bring in the firm to be promoted to Partner?

Honestly, you don't need to bring in anything. As long as you make it to Senior Manager, have good client development skills (or potential skills) and there is an opening, you can make it to Partner. However, those who bring in even one client at Manager or Senior Manager are almost guaranteed a Partner spot, especially if they are willing to relocate.

Feb 7, 2014

Thanks for doing this. What are the salaries like in different levels and companies?

Feb 7, 2014
TwoThrones:

Thanks for doing this. What are the salaries like in different levels and companies?

As far as Big 4 go, the salaries are all pretty equal. As different levels it might look something like this depending on the city and your own personal rating: Staff: ~45k - 55k. Senior: 60k - 85k. Manager: 75k - 100k. Senior Manager: 100k - 180k. Partner (depending on years as a partner and payoff of buy in): 250k - 2MM (the high end of this range is up for debate. I think it's closer to 1MM but many argue higher.

This isn't exact but it is close, and I have posted much more accurate numbers somewhere on this site.

Also, Bonus: you get the occasional promotion bonus, and sometimes a performance bonus. But the former are less than $10k and only happen once ever 3 years or so and like 4 times total, and performance bonuses are extremely small. My last bonus before I quit: $100 (top performer).

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Feb 7, 2014

@nymatt - I completed my bachelor's in 2012, so Macc is the only option I have really.

@bl0021 - thanks, I know that Chevron is in the SF area, how likely is it that the SF office would do that audit?

@Scott Irish - Thanks!

Feb 7, 2014
danin650:

@nymatt - I completed my bachelor's in 2012, so Macc is the only option I have really.

@bl0021 - thanks, I know that Chevron is in the SF area, how likely is it that the SF office would do that audit?

@Scott Irish - Thanks!

For the 150, you often times don't need a second degree. You might be able to just take credit classes at your local community college to get to 150. That's what I'm doing and getting it 100% covered by my employer.

Look up Chevron's audit firm and that will help you out.

Feb 10, 2014

Chevron is signed off on by PwC in SF however there a large portion of the team that resides in Houston. Most of the remaining seven sisters have very large offices/ operations in Houston, so even those that don't technically have their headquarters in Houston have audit work done there.

Feb 10, 2014
bl00211:

Chevron is signed off on by PwC in SF however there a large portion of the team that resides in Houston. Most of the remaining seven sisters have very large offices/ operations in Houston, so even those that don't technically have their headquarters in Houston have audit work done there.

Should be noted that there are hundreds of smaller O&G companies exclusively in Houston/Tulsa/Denver etc. Working on the biggest clients is often the worst part about Big 4. Nobody really cares if the analytic review you worked on during busy season was for Shell compared to Chesapeake compared to Small Oil Co. Inc.. The work is almost always the same but at big clients you work far more and are subject to far more bureaucracy than at smaller clients, which are usually more fun and have way cooler clients. Don't let the kids on the Amazon and Google and Goldman audits fool you... the big clients have perks but it usually sucks way more at those clients. Best time I ever had was working for small VC/HF audits that I could never put on a resume.

Feb 7, 2014

I'm so happy this came up! (This is my first comment btw. Nice to meet everyone.) I'm currently a first year associate at a Big 4 firm (IT audit) and I'm already looking at exit opportunities. I was actually a finance major in undergrad and I really didn't know what direction I wanted to take my career upon graduating. I went with this firm mainly because everyone says the Big 4 is a great "training ground" and to an extent I agree.

Given that I'm in IT audit, testing mostly internal controls around SOX compliance, I was given the option to obtain my CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) or my CPA before I can get promoted to senior. I decided to go with CPA as Im more interested in the business side of things than the IT side. The issue, however, is that I only graduated with 123 credits, so now I'm 21 credits (after this semester) into a part time Macc degree at a not-so-impressive Big East school.

I feel like I'm at a bit of a crossroads in terms of where to go from here. Like many people on this thread, I would definitely prefer a career in finance and I'm sure having an undergraduate degree in finance will be helpful in my pursuits. On the other hand, while I'm not too far along in my CPA preparation (haven't sat for any exams yet), I am far along with this masters degree. There is a bit of guilt involved in this for me as my parents were generous enough to cover the tuition that my firm is not already paying for. The whole reason I'm in this masters program is to get the credits to obtain my CPA, which I'm starting to think I do not even want. It does make me feel like I've wasted a lot of their money and I almost feel obligated to go with the CPA route. I keep rationalizing it to myself ("a CPA will look great no matter what business field I eventually go in"), but I'm debating to cost/benefit of it all as I do eventually want to leave for a career in finance.

I'm thinking my best bet is to start networking with alumni from my university. I went to a consistent top 15 undergrad business school (according to business week, for what thats worth), so there are some good connections to be made. If you have some advice or recommendations for someone in my situation, it would be much appreciated. Thanks guys!

Feb 7, 2014

why is jeff van gundy so sad?

Feb 8, 2014
hankyfootball:

why is jeff van gundy so sad?

You see, Jeff Van Gundy has never quite recovered from Marcus Camby's sneak attack in 2001.

Feb 9, 2014

Just wondering how you managed to network extensively with ibankers?

I am guessing most would be extremely busy. So what had you done so that they would want to meet / help you? Afterall I don't see much value an auditor can give to a banker.

Many thanks for doing this AMA. Current big 4 auditor wanting out.

Feb 10, 2014

Having worked on both large and small clients, I agree completely. There's a (short) novelty to being on a ginormous client, but getting face time with executives at mid market companies was one of my best experiences in the Big 4

Feb 10, 2014

Thanks for the contribution! This is definitely a common situation for most of the accounting students on this website I'm heading to Big 4 Audit after I graduate this spring and I'm also looking to make the switch to IB as soon as possible. (I'm also looking into PE/VC as well long term so your path is extremely applicable to me) That said, I have a few questions.

1)How soon do you recommend setting up informational interviews? I've heard that if I start too soon it gives the appearance that I tried to get into IB, but failed.

2) What role does the CPA play in interviews/your story?

3) How much does undergrad GPA impact the process of switching over?

3) Do the interviews come from just getting your resume pushed, or is it more a case of people reaching out when positions open up?

4) How long does it take to go from an initial interview to offer? (read: How long does it take to work interviews around your work schedule until you can quit?)

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Feb 10, 2014
OttoReadmore:

Thanks for the contribution! This is definitely a common situation for most of the accounting students on this website I'm heading to Big 4 Audit after I graduate this spring and I'm also looking to make the switch to IB as soon as possible. (I'm also looking into PE/VC as well long term so your path is extremely applicable to me) That said, I have a few questions.

1)How soon do you recommend setting up informational interviews? I've heard that if I start too soon it gives the appearance that I tried to get into IB, but failed.

2) What role does the CPA play in interviews/your story?

3) How much does undergrad GPA impact the process of switching over?

3) Do the interviews come from just getting your resume pushed, or is it more a case of people reaching out when positions open up?

4) How long does it take to go from an initial interview to offer? (read: How long does it take to work interviews around your work schedule until you can quit?)

1. Setting up informational interviews is up to you. I started about 8 months in. However, everything depends on your story. If you can find away to sincerely, truthfully, and logically explain why you're looking for informational interviews after one month, then go for it. For me, I had a guaranteed job long before my classmates and so i explained how I joined Big 4 to be conservative, but found out that I should have gone for what I really wanted.

2. CPA is a really personal decision. I chose not to do it. I have had some bankers ask me why I don't have it, but the majority haven't even inquired about it. For those that have, I explained that I am more interested in spending my time doing other things more pertinent to IB. However, those that have asked about it have invariably told me that I should get it. Overall I'd say that it definitely can't hurt, but it's all about making the best use of your time. For me it was networking and studying banking interview questions and modeling.

3. Undergrad GPA matters probably the same whether you are switching early in your career (=

4. I don't know yet, but I hope to find out soon! If I get the offer I think I'll get when I think I'll get it, it will be about 3 weeks. But another offer I'm hoping for as a backup will have been about 2 months. It all depends on where you are interviewing, but remember, I quit before I had an offer because I simply had no time to do informational calls, phone interviews, and flyouts while still working.

Feb 10, 2014

I'm kind of in the same boat with respect to #1- how do you weave that into a story about transitioning?

Also, did BB's seem to be interested in auditors transitioning or was it mainly boutiques? And how accepting were the VC firms of your background?

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Feb 11, 2014

I am a mom who occasionally peruses this forum and this is the second thread that I have commented on. I have a son who works in finance. As I wrote in the previous thread I posted on, please don't criticize me for my input.

My son worked in big4 NYC audit for one year. He has an undergraduate degree with 150 credits (AP credits, online courses, CLEP exams). My son passed all 4 parts of the CPA exam and is a CPA. My son left big4 after one year to accept a position as in IB analyst for a large bank in NYC. He loves his new job.

Although my son knew from day one that he did not want a career in accounting, he studied for and took the CPA exam. Since he had the credits and was getting the audit experience to become a CPA, it seemed prudent to just take the exam. It is more impressive to say in an interview that you quickly passed all 4 parts of the CPA exam than to have to explain why you do not have the certification. My son beat out some very strong competition for his job. I believe that having his CPA helped.

My son was given extensive technical grilling before he received his offer for his position. He said that he fell back on his accounting knowledge to answer many of the questions.

My son networked by contacting alumni from his university. He had many, many informational interviews. The guys he spoke with helped him figure out what he wanted to do, helped him refine his story, and referred him on to their contacts. Although my son went to a very good school with many alumni working on Wall Street, it was not a target school. My son got very lucky when he was referred to his current job. Because my son did not attend a target school he made inroads at firms through connections rather than through HR.

My started out as an entry-level hire in finance. If he had stayed at his big4 for too long it would have been difficult to shed the accountant label and start at the beginning in banking.

My son spent a tremendous amount of time and energy on transitioning into finance. He turned down job offers. He was driven and persevered until he got what he wanted. Good luck to anyone trying to make the switch.

Feb 11, 2014
Amanda23:

I am a mom who occasionally peruses this forum and this is the second thread that I have commented on. I have a son who works in finance. As I wrote in the previous thread I posted on, please don't criticize me for my input.

My son worked in big4 NYC audit for one year. He has an undergraduate degree with 150 credits (AP credits, online courses, CLEP exams). My son passed all 4 parts of the CPA exam and is a CPA. My son left big4 after one year to accept a position as in IB analyst for a large bank in NYC. He loves his new job.

Although my son knew from day one that he did not want a career in accounting, he studied for and took the CPA exam. Since he had the credits and was getting the audit experience to become a CPA, it seemed prudent to just take the exam. It is more impressive to say in an interview that you quickly passed all 4 parts of the CPA exam than to have to explain why you do not have the certification. My son beat out some very strong competition for his job. I believe that having his CPA helped.

My son was given extensive technical grilling before he received his offer for his position. He said that he fell back on his accounting knowledge to answer many of the questions.

My son networked by contacting alumni from his university. He had many, many informational interviews. The guys he spoke with helped him figure out what he wanted to do, helped him refine his story, and referred him on to their contacts. Although my son went to a very good school with many alumni working on Wall Street, it was not a target school. My son got very lucky when he was referred to his current job. Because my son did not attend a target school he made inroads at firms through connections rather than through HR.

My started out as an entry-level hire in finance. If he had stayed at his big4 for too long it would have been difficult to shed the accountant label and start at the beginning in banking.

My son spent a tremendous amount of time and energy on transitioning into finance. He turned down job offers. He was driven and persevered until he got what he wanted. Good luck to anyone trying to make the switch.

Hi Amanda,

First of all, you obviously care about your son A LOT to be so informed about what he is going through. As a very young father myself, I can relate!

The CPA is a very impressive credential and can potentially set you apart from other applicants for sure! I will stress that it is a personal decision and I haven't found many setbacks in my recruiting from not having it, but I have no doubt it would make my story even more impressive.

Your son sounds like a real diligent kid, so he would likely fit right in here. Thanks for sharing your son's experience, it is very applicable here and we all love to hear stories like this.

    • 1
Feb 11, 2014

First, thank you very much for creating this AMA as I'm sure there are a number of other members using this site that took the conservative route and were "funneled" into the Big 4. You previously responded to one of my smaller posts but I am in a similar career point to you (about 15 months) at a Big 4 although I am in a tax role rather than audit. I am looking for your insight on the following topics:

1) Importance or benefit of pursuing CFA license?

2) Most important topic to discuss or convey when having "networking interviews"?

3) Which is more beneficial - Pressing for a TS position at a Big 4 before looking for an exit opportunity down the road or taking a ODD position or budgeting and forecasting position at a smaller ibank or PE firm?

Feb 14, 2014

This is not an insult, but get out of tax if you have any interest in anything related to finance. Based on anecdotal experience of many friends of mine (mostly Big 4 and regional firms), tax is not the place for you if you want to do something outside of tax. I'm sure you can do whatever you want, but your story becomes harder and in people I've seen trying to make a switch, it's not easy.

Part of your story, whether or not you stay in tax, will be how you have the understanding and skill in understanding financial statements. Most groups in tax don't see GAAP financials very much, if at all. In any case:

1) CFA can't hurt, but it's a big time commitment. It's good to pursue as Level 1 is a good refresher of basic finance/econ/acct. Each level of the CFA takes about as much preparation as 2 sections on the CPA, depending on how familiar you are with the topics.

2) Your story. COnvince whoever is sitting across the table from you that you are worth their time and effort. Unless your new job is directly related to your old job (probably not, since you're looking at a move), they need to know you have what it takes in terms of skill and interest to be a good addition.

3) I would say go for audit (I can't believe I'm saying this, but yes), TS, consulting roles, anything that interests you that you have even a remote connection in (not an uncle who can make someone give you a job.. but at least someone to give you an introduction). Finding any job, whether or not it's related to what you're doing now, is tough. Your best chances are if you can make an introduction with someone and get a reference. Submitting resumes online can be a crap shoot.

Feb 15, 2014
rmendpara:

This is not an insult, but get out of tax if you have any interest in anything related to finance. Based on anecdotal experience of many friends of mine (mostly Big 4 and regional firms), tax is not the place for you if you want to do something outside of tax. I'm sure you can do whatever you want, but your story becomes harder and in people I've seen trying to make a switch, it's not easy.

Part of your story, whether or not you stay in tax, will be how you have the understanding and skill in understanding financial statements. Most groups in tax don't see GAAP financials very much, if at all.

As someone going into tax starting this Fall, this seems to be an attitude I've encountered a lot. This confuses for a couple of reasons:

1) Tax is, IMO, far better to jump from an accounting role to a finance role than audit because tax is more of a strategic-orientated, value-add service than audit. While firms are required to comply with both tax laws and audit rules, tax planning is much more beneficial than audit because tax can actually same money down the road for a firm, whereas most audit work is retrospective. You can't undo a prior year's financials, but in tax you can say "if you do this instead of that in the next couple years, you'll shave several thousand/million off your tax bill." This in my mind breeds a whole different kind of mindset. Tax people look for ways to save the firm money (or reduce the money they have to pay to the government), while audit does ziltch to save a firm money (unless you consider stopping egregiously mistated financial statements being issued "money saving"). and

2) The expected level of the understanding of auditors (and accounting students in general) should be no greater than that of a finance student. Anyone who's had intermediate accounting or above should have no issue what-so-ever reading or understanding a 10k financial statement. If they do, they should stick to public accounting. Heck, even the finance students I've had class had a hard time understanding how depreciation works, so maybe it's no wonder why they think accounting student's should "know it all". So unless you're dealing with derivatives or highly complicated and complex transactions, there so be no reason someone who does tax would be worse off than someone who does audit. Additionally, most people jumping from audit are jumping within 1-2 years. Most junior auditors get stuck with things like auditing cash or accounts receivable, which is essentially no different than the bitchwork tax people do (filling out tax returns all day long).

I'd be interested in counterpoints, as I'm having a hard time understanding this "don't do tax if you want to jump into finance" mentality.

    • 1
Feb 15, 2014

Hi Mr. Manager,

I'm a sophomore in college and I have an interview with a big4 for an internship in audit. Could you please talk about recruiting and interviews? What are some skills and traits that the recruiters look for? As a Sophomore, I should expect behavioral questions, right? What kind of projects/work should I expect as an intern? Is the internship program structured? I feel like it's been a while since you've been an intern but do you know what the culture is like among the interns and the general environment?

I also do want to get my feet wet in finance before I graduate college. I still want to explore different areas of business. How would an internship at an accounting firm look on my resume?

Thank you for doing this and any advice/tip for my interview would be very much appreciated!

Feb 16, 2014
wallstreetwannab:

Hi Mr. Manager,

I'm a sophomore in college and I have an interview with a big4 for an internship in audit. Could you please talk about recruiting and interviews? What are some skills and traits that the recruiters look for? As a Sophomore, I should expect behavioral questions, right? What kind of projects/work should I expect as an intern? Is the internship program structured? I feel like it's been a while since you've been an intern but do you know what the culture is like among the interns and the general environment?

I also do want to get my feet wet in finance before I graduate college. I still want to explore different areas of business. How would an internship at an accounting firm look on my resume?

Thank you for doing this and any advice/tip for my interview would be very much appreciated!

I'd love to give some advice on this.

First of all, the interviews will be almost exclusively behavioral. In fact, of all my interviews (received offers with 3 of the Big 4) I didn't have a single technical interview for audit. The following is a list of some of the types of questions I encountered, though some of these questions were posed in various ways.

- Walk me through your resume
- Tell me more about ____ experience (from your resume)
- Why is your GPA only ____?
- What did you like/dislike about _______? (from some experience on your resume)
- Tell me about a time when (you failed, you succeeded, you showed leadership, you handled a difficult person, you solved a complex problem, you taught someone a principle, you had to make a difficult decision, you overcame something, etc.)
- What would you do if (you saw someone cheating, you made a huge mistake at work, etc)
- What are some of your strengths/weaknesses (commonly, they ask for 3 examples of each)
- And many more.

The main traits they are looking for (and trying to identify with the questions they'll ask) is that someone is smart, not awkward, and that communicates well. They will try and assess this at summer leadership events, any communication whether in person, phone, or email, and during interviews. To sum it up, they want someone that they can feel comfortable "putting in front of the client". (Once heard a top recruiter at a Big 4 chewing out a kid on campus because he was complaining about not getting a second round interview. He was being argumentative and whiny and she told him he didn't get the second round interview because they knew right away they'd never trust him to talk to a client).

The types of projects you'll work on as an intern include auditing simple accounts like cash or receivables. You'll roll forward lots of documents (basically taking prior year excel documents and dropping in current year numbers, changing dates, and updating formulas), tie out financial statements, and you'll get lunch and coffee, make copies, and other things, some meaningful, some not.

I interned relatively recently, starting last year in January, and I worked with interns recently as a full time staff auditor. The culture is very forgiving for interns because the whole process is very sugar coated. They are still selling the firm to you as an intern, and as such, while you'll have roughly the same hours, you will be helped (coddled) more, and many of the really annoying things (inventory counts, multiple clients simultaneously) aren't experienced until full time. Luckily, once you have the internship, there is almost nothing you can do to not get the offer.

Lastly, if you find out you don't like audit, the internship looks good on your resume as long as you can sincerely and credibly tell your story about why audit wasn't for you and why you are looking at a different career.

Feb 16, 2014

Thanks, Mr. Manager, for doing this AMA. It's really refreshing to hear the story of someone who has had some of the same experiences and many of the same thoughts as I have had regarding Big 4 auditing, transitioning into finance, and the CPA. Currently I am an intern in an corporate tax department and studying for the FAR section of the CPA. I will be starting in Big 4 audit soon and feel myself trapped by the path I am on: spending hours and hours to earn a credential that I don't really care about. Long story short, I came out of undergrad not knowing what I wanted to do, however feeling the desire to learn more about finance. My undergrad degree was not business related, and being completely clueless as to how to make such a transition, found my current internship and began a MAcc program. Two years later, I have a good job offer and feel like the past two years have been more about working, studying for the next accounting test, and finding a Big 4 job in audit than preparing myself for breaking into VC, PE, consulting, etc. I am constantly telling myself that it is good just to have this job offer and that it might help me find something that I am really passionate about. My new job will entail auditing companies in the financial services industry, and I was hoping that working with hedge funds, PE firms, etc. would help me to network and to change paths. I am not an accountant--though my resume would contradict that statement--and I regret spending so much time studying the subject. What did you do to become so prepared for interviews? What did you read to become so familiar with the process and with the technical aspects? I have 6 months before I start my new job, what should I do today to get out of my own head and to start being proactive? The school I got my master's from is more about accounting and Big 4, so networking might be a challenge. I just need to break this stupid cycle of procrastination, rationalization, complacency, making excuses, whatever.

Feb 17, 2014

Hi Mr. Manager,

First of all thanks for your help. My question might be a little off-topic, but I wanted to get your insight. I have to quit my current job at Big 4 (consulting division) in a couple months to pursue an MSF in another country. Will have only been there about 6 months, and want to go about it as smoothly as possible. Any advice for when to put in my two week (or maybe shorter/longer?) notice and how to avoid burning bridges in the process (they currently have no idea about my MSF plans)?

Feb 17, 2014
mandelbaum:

Hi Mr. Manager,

First of all thanks for your help. My question might be a little off-topic, but I wanted to get your insight. I have to quit my current job at Big 4 (consulting division) in a couple months to pursue an MSF in another country. Will have only been there about 6 months, and want to go about it as smoothly as possible. Any advice for when to put in my two week (or maybe shorter/longer?) notice and how to avoid burning bridges in the process (they currently have no idea about my MSF plans)?

I actually have a lot of insight into this. I severed ties with my firm in a very amicable way for a couple of reasons. I told them flat out what my goals and plans were, but made sure to spin my experience with the Big 4 firm in the most positive light I could (which was easy because, besides the work, it was positive). I then told them I would do EVERYTHING I could to make my transition easy for the team (even though it was busy season) and I gave them my two weeks. For two weeks, I went way above and beyond to the point where my teams were literally astonished, which I didn't understand. Right before my last day, they told me how surprised they were that I was working, as most people submit their two weeks and then dodge assignments or try to stay unassigned for the duration.

So, be honest about your reasons for leaving but positive about your experience, and then work hard until the very end. You'll likely not deal with HR again, so don't worry if you piss them off. As long as your team members (from interns to partner) feel like you handle the separation in a classy way, you should be good. And you can't do anything about the bitter souls (and there are many!) who will just be pissed you're leaving and not them. Sometimes you do everything you can and people burn the bridge for you. But please the people who count by working hard on your way out and you should be fine.

    • 1
Feb 18, 2014

Did you try move into TS at big 4?

Feb 18, 2014

For those of you interested in Big 4 --> IB, my advice to you is to keep pushing and not be distracted by the "lack" of precedent Big 4 --> IB transitions. You'll often hear it's almost impossible to make the switch, and I can tell you from experience (former Big 4 now in IB for several years now as well as friends) that it happens fairly often. There's a heavy bias because majority of Big 4 auditors don't want to put up with busy season hours, why would they want to go into IB for it's busy season all year round. That's why you don't see that lateral very often. It's not easy by any means to break in, but getting into IB was never easy to begin with even if you're in undergrad. It's just harder off cycle because there isn't a set time frame where you know events will happen. You have to be prepared and ready at any time to pursue an opportunity and actively network so your resume is thought of when a position does open up. Do note that you absolutely have to know your technicals and a believable story as to why IB. There are just way too many guides out there that it's not an excuse to not know valuation, LBO, M&A, etc, even if you didn't take any finance courses. Prove to the interviewers you really want the job.

Best of luck! You should start to see lateral analyst positions opening up as people start leaving early for PE/quitting after bonuses, burning out, optimism around increased deal flow and need for increased headcount, etc. In fact, check Indeed.com as I already see several listings.

Feb 18, 2014

Mr. Manager,

Thanks so much in advance for doing this AMA. Its always great to see Big 4 info on here.

My question is probably sort of a strange one, and maybe not pertaining to a particular career path that most monkeys strive towards, and maybe not even something you could give any insight towards at all. But hey, worth a shot.

I will be doing an audit internship this summer in a major metro (NYC, Chicago, SF type, far away from where I currently live). I don't know if its just my shitty part time campus job thats getting to me, but lately I've been really thinking more and more about eventually starting my own accounting and tax practice, serving individuals and small businesses, and working for myself only. My dad was a small business owner for a while, so maybe I picked up that desire from him.

Basically, I'm wondering if you think I'm absolutely wasting my time even bothering with Big 4 audit for 2-3 years. I guess the work isnt exactly relevant (at all) to accounting and tax for small businesses, but will Big 4 audit maybe help me get other positions that CAN help me get that experience? Basically, I'm just too unsure of my life goals to skip Big 4 audit entirely and just work for a small tax firm. I feel that I'm too young and naive to limit my back up plans by not having the Big 4 audit experience that could get me a very cushy corporate finance and accounting job. I know my Big 4 audit experience can lay the foundation for a great career, but I'm wondering if I'm wasting my time and just subjecting myself to all the negatives of it (long hours, primarily) for no benefits at all. Would I be able (and better off) to switch into Tax at my firm if after, say, a year, I decided I was DEADSET on the idea of starting my own practice?

I know this is kind of a non traditional question, but figured I'd throw it out there. Even if you cant provide any insight, thanks again for doing this AMA. Got some nice info out of it.

Bonus question just cause I like gathering opinions on it... Is it really as bad, hours-wise, as everyone says?

Feb 20, 2014
Art.Vandelay:

Mr. Manager,

Thanks so much in advance for doing this AMA. Its always great to see Big 4 info on here.

My question is probably sort of a strange one, and maybe not pertaining to a particular career path that most monkeys strive towards, and maybe not even something you could give any insight towards at all. But hey, worth a shot.

I will be doing an audit internship this summer in a major metro (NYC, Chicago, SF type, far away from where I currently live). I don't know if its just my shitty part time campus job thats getting to me, but lately I've been really thinking more and more about eventually starting my own accounting and tax practice, serving individuals and small businesses, and working for myself only. My dad was a small business owner for a while, so maybe I picked up that desire from him.

Basically, I'm wondering if you think I'm absolutely wasting my time even bothering with Big 4 audit for 2-3 years. I guess the work isnt exactly relevant (at all) to accounting and tax for small businesses, but will Big 4 audit maybe help me get other positions that CAN help me get that experience? Basically, I'm just too unsure of my life goals to skip Big 4 audit entirely and just work for a small tax firm. I feel that I'm too young and naive to limit my back up plans by not having the Big 4 audit experience that could get me a very cushy corporate finance and accounting job. I know my Big 4 audit experience can lay the foundation for a great career, but I'm wondering if I'm wasting my time and just subjecting myself to all the negatives of it (long hours, primarily) for no benefits at all. Would I be able (and better off) to switch into Tax at my firm if after, say, a year, I decided I was DEADSET on the idea of starting my own practice?

I know this is kind of a non traditional question, but figured I'd throw it out there. Even if you cant provide any insight, thanks again for doing this AMA. Got some nice info out of it.

Bonus question just cause I like gathering opinions on it... Is it really as bad, hours-wise, as everyone says?

You're welcome for the AMA, and I really am happy that I have been able to help people get their questions answered.

Regarding your questions, I FIRMLY believe that if you have a desire to do anything accounting/tax related in the future, the Big 4 is the BEST place to start. I can't emphasize enough how important the experience, the resume, and the connections will be to you. Obviously, if you want to go into finance or marketing or professional rowboating, there are better places to be. But if you want to start your own small business tax/accounting advisory (and you shoudl! If you choose the right spot and are a people person it can be very lucrative) then you should start at the Big 4.

I don't know how long you need to stay, but go there at the very least to get them to pay for your CPA license and get some leadership roles, at least senior. I promise that even if you don't like the work, you will make connections and gain expertise at a much faster rate than if you go elsewhere to start your career. Concluding opinion: Go Big 4, work super hard for a few years, and reassess every year. When the time is right, don't think, just go get what you want.

Bonus question: In my honest opinion, no. The hours are easy. I really never worked more than 65 chargeable hours, and usually never even got that close. I can honestly say that with the exception of the 3 months of busy season, I worked close to 50 hours every week.

Feb 20, 2014

Thank you very much. I was worried Big 4 audit might be a "waste of time" if I wanted to do my own practice. This makes me feel better.

And so does your statement on the hours haha. The only real contact I have is with a friend at my firm (different city, another large metro) who is constantly saying how he's logging 90 hours a week all month, etc. I cant tell if he's just exaggerating or got on a very unlucky job

Feb 21, 2014

Nice thread man, a lot of useful, honest input here from you. From another B4 grunt, I hope you break into that PE position.

However one thing to point out, 65 chargeable hours is a HUGE difference from working 65 hours. 65 chargeable hours does not account for the 2 hours you spend in the office eating lunch/dinner, the admin tasks you do, recruiting, etc. So 65 hours can easily be actually 80+ hours. Factor in shitty commutes and your out at work time becomes a lot higher.

Just to give you an example, I was pulling 70-75 chargeable for a couple of weeks at my last client. This meant I was leaving the house at 7:30ish to get in to the client by 8:30-9. The team would get off at 12, and both Sat/Sun would be 9-6. Thats roughly a 75 chargeable hour work week, but I would argue that is extremely deceptive factoring in the actual amount of time spent at work.

Feb 22, 2014
BackOfficeLove:

Nice thread man, a lot of useful, honest input here from you. From another B4 grunt, I hope you break into that PE position.

However one thing to point out, 65 chargeable hours is a HUGE difference from working 65 hours. 65 chargeable hours does not account for the 2 hours you spend in the office eating lunch/dinner, the admin tasks you do, recruiting, etc. So 65 hours can easily be actually 80+ hours. Factor in shitty commutes and your out at work time becomes a lot higher.

Just to give you an example, I was pulling 70-75 chargeable for a couple of weeks at my last client. This meant I was leaving the house at 7:30ish to get in to the client by 8:30-9. The team would get off at 12, and both Sat/Sun would be 9-6. Thats roughly a 75 chargeable hour work week, but I would argue that is extremely deceptive factoring in the actual amount of time spent at work.

Honestly, you couldn't be more correct. More frustrating to me than ANY of the work I did was all the extra stuff - recruiting, online training modules, etc. - that were expected on top of regular administrative tasks/eating/commuting. It really did add up. I found a way to do most of the extra stuff at home, and at the end, I have to admit, I simply ignored most of the non-key tasks, even mandatory online training. I do NOT recommend this unless you know for a fact you are leaving... While you are there, give it your absolute best.

May 12, 2014
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