How To Get A Personal Recommendation To Work At Any Accounting Firm (Script Included)


From the Bean Counter mailbag (read the entire story):

Hello Andrew.  I am a junior accounting student. First of all I want to thank you for what you do for the community, your passion and energy is definitely contagious. I am looking into getting your program and I would like to know if you have any kind of coaching for students. Let me tell you about me so you know what my situation is.

I was born in Cuba and studied Ballet there (starting when I was 9 years old), I danced for a while and got the chance to escape through Haiti and made to the US where I danced with a professional ballet company for a few years. I then damaged a ligament on my right leg and had to make a decision on whether to wait a year or two and continue dancing or do something else.

I decided to start going to school and accounting, I am very excited with it.

At this moment I am not very clear on what would be the best strategy to get an internship and an offer from the Big 4.

I did my two year Associate at a community College and the transferred to a University. I just finished my first semester as a Junior. I was planning to take more classes so I can finish school sooner. I planned to take the rest of my classes (16 I believe) in the next 3 semester, so I will be done at the end of fall 2015. My first semester at FIU passed and I didn’t participate much in my organization or do many extracurricular activities (Which will definitely change from now on, now that I found your advice).

I would very much appreciate if you give me your opinion on what I am planning to do and how to go about it. Ahh by the way. My partner is a senior Manager at EY. I haven’t ask him for help with referrals or anything but he told me whatever he can do, he will.

Thank you very much Andrew for reading my email. I wish you a very nice week.

Thank you for the kind words! I’m loving these Q&A’s! The more I do the more I receive. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, email me at

The thing I love the most about this question is the story. I always tell students they have a HUGE leg up on the competition if they have a story! For my wife, it was that she was a scuba diver, sky diver, wake boarder and crazy thrill seeker! For me, it was that I spent 2 years living in Costa Rica for high school and speak fluent spanish.

Having a story helps you stand out from the crowd. It helps plant an image around you that people within the firm can talk about internally to promote you.

This person has a story of his own, what’s yours?

There are two questions here. The first is how can you get involved in accounting? The best answer I have is obviously The Bean Counter! If you have questions or have a suggestions for the show, email me here. But if you’re reading this you’ve got that covered. So my second would be to join Beta Alpha Psi (find a chapter here). This is the single most important accounting organization at any University! They have firms come in and speak on a weekly basis, set up events, compete in regional and national accounting competitions, and more!

If you don’t have a Beta Alpha Psi chapter, no worries! Another great thing to put on your resume is Volunteer Income Tax Assistant (VITA). You are trained to prepare taxes for the underprivileged in the US. It’s accounting experience and community service in one! It’s great even if you don’t want anything to do with tax accounting like me.

These are just two examples. You can also check out the Association for Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting or the National Association for Black Accountants.

Point is, get involved in whatever is available to you at your University given your personal situation. If all else fails, do everything you can to get a part-time accounting job, which you should be doing anyways!

To the second point, this is always tricky! You have a connection to a firm, whether it be a significant other, mother, father, uncle friend, whatever!

The most important thing I can say is:

Handle this professionally and take it seriously

Yes, you have a relationship, but you’re messing with this persons career here. Here is exactly what I would do with any of these people.

Prepare a flawless cover letter and resume before speaking with them. Then reach out and tell them you have something you want to talk with them about, maybe over coffee or lunch. Then say something like this:

After introductory pleasantries…

Thanks for meeting with me! So I’ve been thinking a lot about my future and what I want to do with my life. The more I think about it, research, and talk with others, I want to work in <insert industry or accounting firm>. I wanted to sit down with you and ask your advice. I’ve prepared a cover letter and resume which I thought I would share with you. I’ve also joined Beta Alpha, worked a part time accounting job for a few months now, and held up a pretty good GPA. I plan on getting my 150 hours and CPA license shortly thereafter. I’m curious what you think of what I’ve done so far, and my plans for the future?

From there, let the conversation flow. Ask them about their life and experience. Ask, ask, ask…. the ask more!! Through this process they’ll most likely offer to introduce you to the firm, but if they don’t you can politely ask at the end.

Wow, thank you for all this advice, it helps so much! I have one more question/favor to ask. When the time is right, would you be able to introduce me to someone at the firm about going through the hiring process? If not, there is no pressure. But whoever you think would be best partner/HR, I would really appreciate it if you feel comfortable.

If they say no, who cares! You have NOTHING to lose! But assuming you have a decent GPA, and carry yourself well, they will be thrilled to make the introductions to their accounting firm. But remember, this can be a sensitive subject so approach it as such. You never know what’s going on for them at work. Maybe they just made a mistake and don’t feel comfortable making a recommendation. It may have nothing to do with you if they say no.

Approach with care, take it seriously, but be direct. They’ll assume you’ll act the same way in an interview!