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Tips on How to Get Hired by a Big 4 Accounting Firm

​As industries across the globe are seeing a record boom in M&A due to the pandemic, paired with the increasing complexity of the international business environment, accounting firms have been busy hiring more than ever. 

The Big 4 - Deloitte, PwC, E&Y, and KPM - are the four industry leaders which provide professional services that include auditing, management consulting, risk assessment, and more to many of the world's top-tier companies and foundations. For career seekers, they are also fantastic places to work at, earning professional accounting expertise and powerful consulting skills. But can someone who is not a fresh graduate and has never worked for a firm get in The Big 4? Here, we provide some tips on how to get hired by a Big 4 accounting firm.

Skills and experience needed at The Big four

Such as M&A practices, financial advisory firms primarily provide consulting services on a wide range of transactions and events to their clients. While each firm’s organizational structure may differ, in general they offer deal advisory practices including corporate finance, due diligence, valuation, M&A strategy planning, and PMI (Post Merger Integration), as well as other advisory services such as forensic or business recovery services.  

What adds value to The Big Four accounting firms is that they cover nearly a 360-degree range of companies and industries, with the strongest global networks with multinational corporations throughout the world. In fact, one of The Big Four audits the financial statements of the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies. Another merit is that the powerhouses provide clients with a one-stop shop of M&A consulting services from strategy planning to PMI practice. So, they have extensive recruiting for diverse professions divided by the process of M&A. With recent emphasis on AI or data analytics to survive in the age of technology, they have also started to provide tech training to employees to bring advanced digital solutions into the consulting and audit practices. 

If you are interested in working for an accounting firm, you should have a good knowledge base on accounting, as well as M&A. Certified Public Accountant, USCPA, or finance/accounting qualifications such as securities analyst will also offer you a greater chance to get employed. Experience in corporate sales at banks or securities firms is also a plus. An M&A advisor or accountant at auditing firms can be an advantage if you are over 30. 

In addition, The Big Four frequently manage cross-border projects that include M&A of oversea companies by domestic firms, so good business English skills are highly advantageous. 

Popular professions at The Big Four

The Big Four are famous for their extensive training programs and seminars to cultivate highly skilled professionals to meet the various needs of clients across the globe. This can help employees advance their careers with adequate professional skill sets in a short span of time, in some cases, to increase their career move opportunities to an investment bank for instance. In this sense, working in valuations or corporate finance divisions is the most popular choice to quickly build financial expertise. 

Financial due diligence is an examination of the financial health of a business to eliminate any hidden financial risks in proceeding a potential deal or investment. Since this is the area where accounting expertise is the most used, there are relatively a lot of job vacancies filled by CPA or USCPA, who also frequently seek the opportunities. 

Tips on how to get employed by one of The Big Four

A career in the Investment Banking Division (IBD) within global investment banks or securities firms is very high profile when you wish to engage in M&A consulting services, but the competition for positions is heightened. Compared to jobs in the IBD, the Big Four accept more career seekers and provide a broader range of opportunities. They are not an option for everyone, but still easier to get into, especially in times when they are hiring more people. 

It can apply to every job change process, but demonstrating your professionalism as well as ambitions is one of the keys to success during an interview. Studying the industry and technical accounting topics as deeply as you can is a must-do. Plus, present your understanding of the whole process of deal advisory practices, details of each work stream, and how they interact with each other. Do not forget to emphasize your enthusiasm by giving the reasons why you want to pursue an M&A career, what role you are the most interested in, and why you pick the company over the other accountancy firms.

Working with a job change agency like Apex also enhances the chance to land your ideal job. Take advantage of our resources and know-how that we have built in supporting an abundance of talents in each industry. Not only will our consultants know the hiring managers, they often have an extended relationship with them and know exactly what sort of candidates that the managers are looking for. Spare some time for interview preparation with the consultants to understand what questions they frequently ask, the most valid answers to the questions, and what skills and experiences you have should be highlighted to satisfy the interviewers. 

Current industry trends and your ideal career path

In the current climate where plenty of M&A deals are going on due to the pandemic or accelerating DX, the Big Four are busy hiring. Prior to this, job seekers were not easily accepted, but now qualified professionals under 35 have a chance to get in even without an experience in working on deals.  

The powerhouse organizations offer plenty of appeal to financial talents: High profile career, competitive salary, their global reach, extended training programs, variety of work in a broad range of different industries to hone your financial and professional skills, career development options that include chances for a different in-house role, lateral shifts to a different group company even in another country, or great exit opportunities. Share your career aspirations with your potential boss when getting an offer. Otherwise, you may be assigned to a different service line from your ideal deal advisory career path, as their services include other practices such as forensic.

With an organization so big, the opportunities for internal promotions are always available through the ranks from Associate to Partner. Firms are clear about what’s needed to get promoted, so you can climb the career ladder within the organization depending on your performance. Also, forget about Japanese traditional values on the seniority system and adapt to the diverse work culture.

In this industry, switching jobs is fairly common. Consider what you want to achieve in your career before getting in the business. It is great if you want to pursue more senior positions or management opportunities within the firm, while considering a career change is very plausible since being some of the biggest advisory firms will add to huge value on your resume.

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