We love this time of year. Along with the beautiful, crisp fall weather, we also love visiting Universities and talking to young, enthusiastic students excited to get hired by a public accounting firm so they can start working towards their CPA designations.
Unfortunately, the competition for good CPA Firm jobs is fierce these days. Our Firm receives 50 – 100 applications for every position we’re looking to fill, whether it be for a co-op work term placement or a permanent entry-level staff accountant position.
With so many application packages to comb through, firms have to aggressively screen applicants to decide who to interview. At our Firm, we scan covering letters and resumes for certain key pieces of information to help us decide who to interview. We’re not alone – most firms look for the same things we do.
We’re sharing this with you today to help you stand out from the crowd when you apply to public accounting firms.
Keys to a great application package are:
- Let us know why you’ve decided to pursue your CPA designation. We really do want to know. If your parents are both CPA’s, and you want to follow in their footsteps, we know that you’ll already have a pretty good idea about the demands of the career path you’ve chosen.
- Demonstrate that you have at least a basic understanding of the demands of the profession.
You’ll get a lot more out of your co-op work experience if you spend more than one work term at the same public accounting firm as you’ll be able to take on more challenging work as you get more experience. Most accounting firms aren’t looking for students for just a single work term because the initial learning curve in the CPA profession is very steep – it benefits both sides if you stay with the same firm, if possible.
Be sure to mention in your cover letter what the timetable is for your remaining work terms.
- Mention in your cover letter if you have a valid driver’s license and access to a car.
This is a requirement for many public accounting jobs, including those with our Firm because even in this day and age; a lot of entry-level public accounting work is still completed at clients’ premises.
- Mention in your covering letter when you’re available to start work.
If you’re looking for a co-op placement, what work term are you looking for? If you’re applying for a full-time position, when do you expect to graduate and be able to start work? You would be amazed how many cover letters leave us guessing as to what the applicant is looking for. Guess how many of these get interviews? Not many.
- If you took accounting in high school, mention it in your covering letter.
This puts you at an advantage over other applicants who didn’t because it’s much harder to learn basic bookkeeping at the fast pace of a University introductory accounting course. Basic bookkeeping knowledge is still one of the fundamental building blocks of our profession.
- If you’re tech-savvy, make sure your application package shows it.
We understand that you likely won’t have experience with industry specific software (such as CaseWare and Taxprep) and we don’t hold that against you. That said, we are looking for people who have already grasped the fundamentals of operating paperlessly in today’s digital world.
At an introductory level this means you need to have strong skills with MS Office and Adobe Acrobat. You can’t be a dinosaur when it comes to technology these days and have a chance of success in public accounting.
- Be sure to include your most recent transcript.
Marks aren’t everything, but they are a strong indication of whether you’ll be able to meet the rigorous demands of the profession.
We wish you all the best in your careers in public accounting. Getting your first job in the profession is definitely one of the hardest steps along the way. By making sure your application addresses the above points, you’ll definitely make it easier for public accounting firms to choose you for an interview, which should definitely help you land that coveted first public accounting job.
The Pros of Public Accounting
- You will not be bored! No two days are the same. With the ever changing demands from the client and the ability to experience different industries, a job in public accounting will allow you to put on different hats and expand your library of knowledge.
- You will be trained by the best of the best. The individuals you will work with have been through the fire and survived. They are bright people who have been tested and tried by the demands of their work and have still come out on top.
- You can obtain a Public Accounting License. This license gives you the ability to sign off on financial statements for assurance engagements. Holding this license will increase your value to your firm.
The Cons of Public Accounting
- It ain’t easy. The demanding workload may mean more hours of work plus rolling deadlines compared to an individual that works in industry.
- You must multitask. Now multitasking is not a dirty word. It is an important life skill and everyone is capable of doing it to a certain degree. In public accounting, your job relies on your ability to juggle the many tasks that will be given to you. This is what new CPA candidates find the most difficult to get under control. However with time and practice, the skill of multitasking will take you far in public accounting.
- Your time is not always your own. There are Black-out periods. These are certain times during the year where public accountants are not able to take vacation due to the rolling deadlines and demands of the job.