After recruiting for various public accounting firms throughout my career, and having the same questions asked to me by candidates again and again, I felt it may be helpful to put together some tips on how to get a job in the field. These tips are not only helpful for those looking to get their foot in the door, but also for those of you who have only worked with one firm and are considering a transition to a different type of firm.
What do public accounting firms look for in a candidate?
Generally speaking it’s ideal to be working towards your CPA designation as most firms look favourably upon this. While it’s not 100% necessary for all roles to complete a designation, if you want to grow and move up the ranks you definitely need to obtain your CPA (you can learn more by visiting their page here – https://www.cpacanada.ca/). If you are looking to specialize in Tax, which I highly recommend as there is a shortage of Tax specialists these days, you will want to enroll in the In-Depth tax courses (click here for more information http://www.cpd.cica.ca/newindepth/about.cfm).
There are also personal characteristics you need in order to get hired into a Public Accounting environment. The top three are listed below:
Confident communication abilities –You need to be comfortable dealing with all levels of staff from entry level up to Partner level. You also need to be confident and clear in your communications and interactions with clients.
Analytical/attention to detail – In the accounting world being analytical and working well with numbers will help you excel. Having a close attention detail is also extremely important when dealing with a company’s financial statements.
Conscientious– Certain times of the year your schedule will be the standard 9-5. That being said, busy season hours can have you working until 9 or 10 pm every night. Also, if there is a deadline that needs to be met in order to ensure a client deliverable is ready to go for the next day, whether its busy season or not, you need to be prepared to stay late to get the job done.
How do you decide which firm is right for you?
There are two major factors you should focus on to figure out what firm is the right firm for you (all else being equal – meaning professional development, benefits, etc.). The first is the size of the firm. Larger firms will likely have you specialize in a particular area or industry. The good thing about this is you will gain a depth of knowledge and become an industry expert. Later in your career you could easily transition to a career within that particular industry based on your knowledge and contacts.
With a smaller or mid-market firm, your role will be broader as they typically don’t have as large a volume of work in order for staff to specialize based on industry. What is good about this type of role is you will be continuously learning about various industries and you will gain a breadth of experience and industry knowledge.
Cultural fit is also important. Every firm has its own unique culture and you want to ensure that you fit in. It may seem trivial, but you will be spending a lot of time at work, so you want to make sure you like the people you will be working with and have similar expectations.
So how do you get in?
If you are looking for seasonal or contractual work, I have two suggestions. First of all, you should check out the following website: http://ftn.ca.pwc.com/. This link will bring you to PwC’s Flexible Talent Network site. I recently learned about this network which allows those who have accounting expertise but don’t necessarily want to work the full year in a public accounting firm, to apply to seasonally based positions.
Alternatively, there is a firm called PTC recruiting – http://www.ptcrecruiting.com/ – that specializes in placing accounting professionals in shorter term assignments versus permanent roles.
If you are looking for a full-time permanent role, I suggest contacting us at Key Recruitment Consulting – http://www.key-recruit.ca/ as we specialize in placing qualified candidates in public accounting roles. Although we typically focus on the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, we do have clients across Canada. You can reach the founder Christine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck with your career search!