How To Get A Summer Leadership Conference At Large Accounting Firms


From the Bean Counter mailbag:

Hi Andrew,

I am studying accounting at Binghamton University. I really want to apply for the leadership conference programs of big firms this year, and I have tried to look for any related information of those programs, but I could not find much information. I heard that it is very competitive. Can you give me some information or pieces of advice about the programs?

Thank you so much,
Bean Countess!
While I have mentioned summer leadership programs in posts like the Ultimate Hiring Process For Public Accounting, we haven’t adressed this directly!
The good news is that this is the perfect time of the year to be thinking about Summer Leadership Conferences!
All of the Big 4 Firms do them and many of the remaining Top 10. Many of the other Top 25 and local regional firms do them as well, but they are typically much less formal.
What is a summer leadership conference you may be asking?
Summer leadership conferences are usually multi-day “conferences” for early stage university students to learn more about a specific firm, and the peers that may also be working there in the future. They can have anywhere from 15-100 students. The most important thing to remember about this events is that they are extended interviews. Treat them as such! While everyone is nice, they are examining you!
-How you interact with other team members
-Are you under 21? Why are you drinking a beer! Put it down Sarah!!!
-Are you too domineering in group activities or do you harness the appropriate amount of enthusiasm and constraint when competing with peers?

These are a few questions that are running through everyone’s head who works for the firm. Be sure that you are on your “A” game but not overdoing it. This can be a challenging thing for many people to understand but the most important thing to think about is:

“What would I think of myself if I were in their shoes? Would I be impressed? Would I respect me? Or would I say, ‘wow, he was domineering and cheesy…'”

With that in mind, this is by far the BEST way to get into one of the larger accounting firms. You will often do a summer leadership adventure in the summer between your junior and senior year. Then between the Senior year and your Masters (or 5th year), you can do your internship.

The thing to remember is that the earlier you get into the process, the higher likelihood you have of getting the final job. Here are “Andrew’s rules of thumb“:

Likelihood of getting a full-time position:

  • Summer Leadership: 45%
  • Internship 95%
  • Office Visit 80%

While 45% may seem low for the summer leadership, if you’re attending one, you’re probably attending three to five. It’s rare to be good enough to attend one and and only be invited by one firm. Attending more than one increases your chance greatly!

Most students need a 3.5 GPA+ just to have a chance. I was the exception with a 3.23 go into summer leadership conferences.

But to now finally address the question: the best way to get into the summer leadership conference is BY FAR the spring career fair

I got my summer leadership adventure by sneaking into another University’s career fair. It is possible to reach out directly to the employer using my method, but it gives you a much lower chance.

The firms bring partners, manager, HR, and senior to the career fairs to meet prospective candidates. This is where they pick people for the career fair. Since it’s so early in the process, they aren’t desperate. They aren’t freaking out doing anything they can at the last minute like December before busy season.

That being said, if you go to a small University, or something prevents you from attending to the career fair, use my method.

Also check out the programs for the Big 4 here:

Search here for the remaining Top 25 accounting firms and learn how to find all other CPA firms near your in this video!