Audit me!
February 16, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG and PwC filter. I have an interview up soon for an auditing firm and would like to fresh up my admittedly rusty accounting skills. I'm not asking for a way to pass my interview with the least amount of effort, but rather which topics they will expect me to know for a successful internship.

Anyone with experience in this field is welcome to offer comments or suggestions - or anything else he/she deems appropriate! Thank you in advance.
posted by freddymetz to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It has been a few years since I've interviewed at an accounting firm, but I don't think you need to worry about technical questions. Especially if you're still a student and just interviewing for an internship, there will likely not be any accounting questions. They will basically just ask questions like "give an example of a time when you had to solve a problem in a group setting...", and give hypothetical situations and ask what you would do. These will focus more on how you relate to people and solve problems, not technical accounting or finance-type questions.

As for suggestions, just try to focus on looking like a friendly person with good social skills. That's basically what they're looking for in students and new grads. Maybe try to think of past experiences (work or academic) that you can use as examples of how good you are at working with others and solving interpersonal or ethical problems.

Good luck!
posted by barney_sap at 11:49 AM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for you answer! Thats some sound advice. Do you know from experience what I should be learning once I get accepted or any resources I should be familiar with?
posted by freddymetz at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2012

barney_sap nailed it. They're looking to make sure you're well-adjusted and can be entrusted with small tasks. I don't mean this to sound rude, but nobody really expects much of interns. Give examples of how you can take a small project and work on it without much oversight. Talk about how you have communicated the results of the things you've worked on (reports, presentations, etc).

And be at least minimally informed about what's going on in the world of sports. It's a shibboleth.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2012

What type of practice are you applying to? Audit? So far as the culture at the Big Four goes, there are probably bigger differences between different functional practices at the same firm as practices carrying out the same function at different firms.

If you are applying to an audit practice, an important skill to learn is going to be pretending to be enthusiastic and diligent about exceedingly tedious drudge work. You need to project that you're psyched to do a great job of overnight inventories at an adult diaper warehouse in Peoria.

No, I'm not kidding at all.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:55 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked at a large accounting firm (just outside the Big 4, in state and local tax rather than audit), and it was understood the internship is a guarantee job offer when you graduate. This has changed with the market, but expect that they'll be looking a bit longer term with their questions.

So while the internship is usually a pretty comfortable gig, I would convey that you're up for the burn-out that is the entry level public accounting job. Lots of boring travel, lots of client-facing work without the ability to make decisions, long hours, weekend hours.

Passing knowledge of college sports was key. Dressing conservatively but sharp was as well.

A lot is going to be personality. The sort of person who thrives in public accounting is a hard working sharp person with impeccable social skills. It's expected that you're building a network now and keeping it up to date. That person who sat next to you in Fed Tax might eventually be a Director at a company needing their accounting services. You don't have to be there yet, and you certainly don't have to stay in Public Accounting. But I think it's helpful to know why they're looking for the upbeat charmer in the group.

As for knowledge, it's important to convey that you study and you're a bright kid. But a lot of accounting is research. Don't feel you need to know the correct answer so much as you know where to find the correct answer.
posted by politikitty at 12:56 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

And while I say that the ideal personality type has impeccable social skills, that doesn't mean that accounting is known for social skills. Your social skills should be good enough that you can brush off rude behavior and develop a good functioning relationship with people who can be sexist, clueless, painfully shy, dumb as a box of rocks, etc.
posted by politikitty at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2012

BIG 4 auditor here - your profile indicates you're in Germany and these things vary a bit country to country. In the UK our interns went through the exact same multistage hiring process as graduates, in Switzerland it's just two interviews one of which is with HR...who are clueless about the demands of the job and put any number of useless people forward. In any case, in the UK I was observing our assessment centres and my decision to put somebody forward for the final interview came down to whether I was happy to take somebody out to a client.

What made me happy to take somebody out to a client was a good attitude, a reasonable level of social skills (you will be dealing with warehouse staff, admin staff and people who know a lot more about accounting than you do in any one working day) and showing an interest. It also helped if I got the impression that somebody would get through a fair amount of work efficiently...

So no idea what your interviews will be like but please give the impression that you actually want the job. Ask them what kind of work you would do and what kind of clients you'd be working with.

Finally, assuming you get your internship and they offer you a graduate job be clear about what you want out of audit. You can work in audit in Germany for years without doing your WP/Stb exams but you will not be promoted to manager unless you pass them. There a several exams to pass and they range from nasty to very nasty and in Germany you get minimal employer support (paid time off to study).

As others have said BIG 4 firms do make sure they get their money's worth out of their employees. There are easier ways to make a living if you don't want to become qualified and make a career of it. If you do want a career out of this you may want to consider doing your training in another European country like Switzerland or the UK where you get a training contract that covers your study and gives you time off to study...especially if you like the idea of working abroad at some point in your career. You can always transfer back to Germany either within your firm or get a job with one of the others once you've done that.

Good luck with the interviews!
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:06 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you! I mentioned in my letter of motivation that I am very eager to relocate later on, especially to South America, so that German will only be the country for this particular internship.
posted by freddymetz at 2:49 PM on February 16, 2012

freddymetz, you indicated that you are interested in relocating to South America, if so, language skills will be a huge plus! If you have them, make sure you highlight them. If you don't, start brushing up immediately.
posted by msali at 2:50 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: Fluent in 4, that shouldn't be a problem ;)
posted by freddymetz at 2:53 PM on February 16, 2012

Check out irreverent and snarky accounting blog Going Concern.

Glassdoor has interview recaps and the like.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 3:52 PM on February 16, 2012

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