How Do Big 4 Accounting Firms Evaluate You?


From the mailbag:

Hi Andrew!

I hope you are having a great day. I wanted to let you know that I recently went to a Big 4 accounting firm summer student program. It lasted for two days and I really appreciated having the opportunity to learn more about the firm.

I was amongst 27 other candidates and we each were given the chance to interview for the spring or summer internship. I wanted to know your thoughts on the evaluation process.

Does the recruiter sit down with management and go through each candidate and discuss their interactions with them? How do they come to a conclusion? What factors do they take into consideration?

I would appreciate further insight on this matter.

Thank you,

Bean Counter Fanatic

This is a great question and one that is important to understand before you attend any:

  • Interview
  • Summer leadership conference
  • Firm social

The truth is that all firms do this slightly differently, but the essence of the process is the same at all of the Big 4 and other large accounting firms.

At an event like a summer leadership with 27 candidates competing for internships and full-time positions, they break you up into groups.

Most of the time, you will be given a contact who you know as your “buddy” or “mentor”.

This is the person that is going to be the main “reviewer” of your performance and will pay attention to pretty much everything you do for the few days of the conference. It is their job to report back to HR and the Partners and great or alarming things they notice along the way.

HR will also open the floor to anyone else who may have had a good or bad experience with you as well, however, they are relying heavily on the person assigned to you, and any Partners opinions.

While it is true one person is doing most of your evaluation, don’t let that fool you.

Every single interaction you have with anyone is fair game to evaluate you.

Partners, interns, HR, staff, managers, event coordinators, hotel staff, other attendees like yourself anyone.

You want to treat everything with complete respect and never let your guard down, get angry, or put others down.

Any negative interaction you have will be reported to HR.

I see it as a 1-strike rule.

If one person at the event makes a complaint about you, you are done.

That doesn’t mean you need to have the BEST conversation with every single person you meet.

You just can’t screw up any conversations or be distractingly rude, arrogant, cocky, or indifferent.

Imagine that the entire time everyone is looking at you thinking:

Could we present this person to our clients?

Would we be proud if they represented our firm?

This includes little nit picky things like complaining about flight plans, food arrangements, hotel, all the way to being too bossy or annoying during a group activity.

And don’t feel like you need to compete against the others. Most people will shoot themselves in the foot somehow.

Most people will shoot themselves in the foot somehow.

And besides, the firm would likely hire every single person if there were good enough.

Trying to bring others down or viciously compete with them will only hurt one person: you.

Stay polite. Stay excited and alert. Stay classy. Ask a ton of questions. 

You do that, everyone you meet will be ranting and raving about you and you’ll be accepting that clean internship or full-time offer any day now!