Big Four – now what?
A common pathway for many aspiring accounting and finance professionals is to join a Big Four organisation after graduating from university - often joining as a graduate in audit or BAS, sometimes tax, and working their way up the ranks while completing their CPA or CA qualifications.
There is usually a point in time when candidates feel they have done their time in public practice and are ready to move into a commercial role…that is where Tribe comes in!
There’s always a big demand from our clients for Big Four-trained candidates. The exposure you get to a wide variety of industries and the technical skills and soft skills developed should’ve set candidates up with a great base to work from.
The first move out of public practice is an important one. Along with the type of role you move to, you want to think about the industry you are joining, the systems you will be exposed to, and perhaps most importantly, the team you will be working with. These are the people you will be continuing to learn from as well as spending your days with.
Traditionally, audit candidates often moved on from public practice into some kind of financial accounting role. However, more and more we are seeing a rise of the financial analyst or management accountant coming straight out of this environment too. As an auditor in particular, you are often analysing large sets of data to create insights and make recommendations. Along with a strong technical ability, you need to be able to demonstrate commercial acumen and an ability to communicate with stakeholders.
When is the best time to make the move?
This is a completely personal decision. I think for most candidates they know when they are ready. The majority of candidates leaving public practice have usually completed their CA within the last six to 24 months or so and are ready to move client-side. There is no right or wrong time. However, the level you are operating at will have an impact on the type of role you will be suitable for, in regards to the experience you’ve gained and can bring to your new role.
How to standout?
Coming out of a Big Four as a freshly qualified CA, there is a certain amount of assurance that technically your skills will be of a high standard. It’s therefore important that you can demonstrate the soft skills that will help you standout over other candidates.
Here are some ideas of areas to focus on when preparing for interviews.
Commercial Acumen – to be successful you need to be a big picture thinker, to allow you to develop strategy and work across different parts of the business. To demonstrate this, you should come to interviews prepared with knowledge around the business and industry that you are looking at joining – strengths, challenges, potential growth opportunities.
Future Leaders – generally hiring managers want to employ candidates who they can see growing within their business - self-starters who are able to embrace and adapt to change and focus on continuous learning. Think about examples of when you have led teams or offered new ideas on how to do things and what has been successful.
Communication Skills – as well as being able to communicate effectively with your team, a large part of any accountant’s role these days is to be able to communicate the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner for non-financial stakeholders.
Technical Ability – be ready to talk turkey. Some hiring managers will want to test your technical skills and give you technical accounting problems to discuss – know your stuff and be ready! The use of accounting systems and technology are a key part of any accountant’s role. If you haven’t used a specific system before, you should do some research to understand how it works and what it’s used for.
Are you ready to start thinking about your next move?
I am always interested in speaking to candidates who are keen to start thinking about their next career move. It could be you are only in the early stages of thinking about moving and just want to get a feel for the market or understand what you can expect in regards to salary, or you could be keen to press go straight away!
Either way, get in touch with me to start the conversation.