The Ultimate Step-by-Step Hiring Process Guide for Public Accounting


The hiring process guide for public accounting (overview)

  • Diversity Big 4 Internships
  • Part-Time Jobs
  • Small Internships
  • Summer Leadership Conference
  • Internship
  • Part-Time or Full-Time Job (while passing CPA or getting Masters)
  • Full-Time Offer

Diversity Big 4 Early Internships

To the best of my knowledge, these internships are done only by the Big 4. They were created to find talented accountants who are at a very young age, mostly freshmen and sophomores, and most of the firms are limited strictly to “diverse students” (meaning students of non-US backgrounds or heritage). These aren’t your traditional internships and were created due to the restrictions that many universities put on internships. Many universities won’t allow firms to recruit their students until a number of specifications are met (these often vary by university but can include the following parameters: junior or above, has attended a career fair, has taken certain classes). The universities have done this to ensure firms don’t offer a student a position before they’ve had the chance to see all of their options.

These internships tend to be a little different in that they aren’t normal “client facing” internships. They are typically internal firm roles and they typically are only for the summer. If you land one of these internships, it’s not guaranteed you’ll receive a “standard internship” (which we’ll discuss shortly), however it’s very likely. These internships typically occur the summer after your sophomore and junior years. Then in your senior year you have your “client facing internship.” The different nature of the internship and the fact that they don’t offer you a position for a full-time job at the end allows companies to get around the rules and lock students in earlier than normal.

If you’re a freshmen, sophomore, or early junior and you are interested in this internship option, email me at and I can try to help you out with the best strategy given your situation!

Best strategy to get this position:

Part-Time Jobs & Other Small Internships

The part-time jobs could arguably be before the “Early Big 4” internships and they should be if you’re serious about getting those internships. This way you’re more presentable to the firms when you’re applying for the internship. Even if you don’t plan on applying, this work is essential. It’s highly competitive when you’re up against everyone else for the internship you need to convert to a full-time offer. This applies whether or not you’re thinking of going Big 4, or even public accounting. This internship pads your resume; it gives you an understanding of what it’s like to work (whether or not it’s in an office) at virtually any job. Also, if you’re not interested in going into public accounting, this is the best way to land a position at a company.

Best strategy to get this position:

Summer Leadership Conference

For lack of a better way of explaining this, unless you’re a “minority,” this is the first opportunity you have to make a connection with public accounting firms. There are tons for firms that do summer leadership conferences including international (Big 4), national (firms like BDO, McGladrey, Grant Thornton), regional firms (like Moss Adams, Larson Allen, etc.), and local firms. If you’re committed to working in this profession, there is no excuse for ruthlessly pursuing these opportunities. We’ll have other podcasts that will help you work towards these goals, but for now, know that it’s important. If you’re going after these conferences, know that the heaviest time of recruiting is in the spring, for the same year of the summer. If you have any questions before I release my “Comprehensive Guide to Obtaining a Summer Leadership Conference,” email me at

Best strategy to get this position:

  • Apply at your University’s job site
  • Reach out to a partner or firm employee and ask to go out for coffee/lunch
  • Go to the career fair

NOTE: Want a FREE resume template to apply for these positions? 


The internship is far more important than the summer leadership conference. There is a big myth out there that if you don’t obtain a summer leadership conference, you will most likely not obtain an internship. Now I will introduce you to my “50% rule of recruiting” (this is by no means proven, definitive, or researched, it’s based solely on my experience). The “50% rule of recruiting” is that approximately 50% of the people who are hired at the firms come from the “normal process” (meaning summer leadership -> internship -> full time) and about 50% of them come from somewhere else.

For example, 50% of interns come from summer leadership and 50% come from career fairs, referrals, etc. And for full-time positions, approximately 50% come from internships and the other from career fairs, referrals, etc. This is great news for you! What it means is that you’re just as likely to receive a position if you are in the “normal track” than if you’re not.

Best strategy to get this position:

Part-Time or Full-Time Job While in University

Let’s say you’ve now completed your internship (or never did one) and are still in university finishing up your 150 hour requirements, Masters, or sitting for the CPA. It doesn’t matter if you’re still looking for your full-time position or are just waiting for your start date on an offer you’ve already accepted! My recommendation is that you should be working 30+ hours a week in an accounting role and preferably a full-time 40-hour a week role. The reasoning for this is simple–if you want to be a top-rated new hire when you start full-time, you must be able to compete and defeat your peers.

But if someone worked for a year before starting and you didn’t, how can you possibly expect to compete with them? They know more about Excel, office politics, accounting, office relationships, and much more. If you’re serious about succeeding when you’re finished with university, don’t wait until you’re finished university, get in the game now!

Best strategy to get this position:

Full-Time Offer

Now, for the full-time position; the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (although it probably won’t feel that way). You’re lucky that you chose accounting as it’s one of the few majors left that’s worth the investment to go to college (unless you spent 70-150K, then it really only makes sense for doctors!). While your first few years are tough, if you’ve committed to the process we’ve discussed in this post, you probably have a job with lots of opportunity and a great starting salary and compensation package. If you haven’t gone through this process, you may be in a more challenging position, taking a 30-40% lower starting salary than your fellow graduates!

Best strategy to get this position:

Want to hear the podcast analysis of each of these parts of the hiring process? Check out the course Get Hired By Big 4 Accounting Firms.