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Besides a high GPA, what extracurricular or activities do the big 4 firms like to see?

As an accounting major, my target dream employer is of course the big 4 firms. I was told recently that grades are the first thing that they look at before even considering everything else, so I am shifting gear to focus on that. However, I am now wondering what sort of extracurricular or activities will help me become a more appealing candidate to these firms. #accounting #employment #college-recruiting #cpa #big-4

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Carla’s Answer

When I am interviewing students, I consider their GPA in the context of the other activities they are involved in. In other words, I want to see that the student can balance multiple priorities while still maintaining a high GPA. If a student is actively involved on campus and/or works in addition to their coursework, I value this more than a 4.0 GPA without any other commitments. The specific extracurricular activities matter less to me as everyone's interests are different. Being able to communicate the benefits and skills achieved through those activities is important though. Did they help you learn to collaborate with others? Did you learn to interact with customers and deliver high quality service? Did you learn to balance several varying commitments, prioritize?


Some extracurriculars that I've found that are particularly helpful in achieving that objective are:

  • internships
  • other work experience, particularly during the semester
  • study abroad programs
  • student clubs

The other suggestion I would make it to not focus on the quantity of extracurriculars, but the quantity. Specifically, instead of joining 5 different groups, join 1 or 2 where you can have leadership positions and communicate the specific impact that you've had.

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Mallory’s Answer

Hi Esther - It is great that you are looking to get involved in extracurricular activities! I agree with those above that have talked about having stories of examples / situations from extracurriculars that you can discuss in an interview with a Big 4 firm. Any position or involvement that would help expand your technical skills, leadership, communication, professionalism, and teamwork will be helpful in the interview. However, my main piece of advice is to pick extracurriculars that you are passionate about - not only will this motivate you and excite you, but that will also come across in an interview when you are discussing your involvement. I would also suggest to get involved in something business / accounting related as well as things that are not business-related (I was heavily involved in an organization that was focused on helping global poverty -- it had nothing to do with accounting / business but it was something I was passionate about and enjoyed). Best of luck!

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Meg’s Answer

As it relates to extracurricular activities, the goal in presenting those through an interview process is to demonstrate that you are able to handle multiple things at once and that you have strong leadership skills. While it is great if you can find extracurricular activities directly related to accounting, that is not the only things that can make a difference in your career. This could be student government, leadership in on campus organizations, athletics, and any other avenues that will help you develop these skills.

For me personally, I found that student government ended up being a great activity for me. Not only did it help my resume look better, but it also helped me learned how to work together with other people to achieve common goals. It gave me exposure to presenting in front of professors and receiving feedback on how I present myself, and it helped me have a safe environment to make judgment calls in order to see the impact of decision making. The key is to find what helps you grow into a more well rounded candidate.
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Colin’s Answer

Hi Esther,

It's great that you are thinking about extracurriculars and how they may affect your chances at employment. All of the answers so far have been spot on and are great advice. The one additional point I would like to make is that any extracurricular activity you do should be something you are passionate about. It isn't worth doing something just to put it on your resume if you don't truly care about that activity. If you truly care about the things you do outside of school, you will be much more effective in explaining those activities to hiring managers/recruiters and they will sense your enthusiasm and authenticity!
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Katie’s Answer

Hi Esther,

I definitely agree with Ken's comments above about networking. Reach out to upperclassmen who had internships at the Big 4 to learn how they got there and how they are enjoying it. This will help you better understand each company and what they are looking for. In terms of extracurriculars, any leadership experience within a club or during a prior summer job can help set you apart. When interviews come around, be able to clearly and concisely articulate how you led others, how you worked with a team, etc. Being able to speak to your experiences is just as important (or more) than what's written on your resume. Good luck!
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Christel’s Answer

Hi,

Working for a Big 4 means that you are servicing some of the biggest corporate entities every day. This often means that client demands are bigger, and expectations are higher. The Exposure is amazing. While working with any Big 4 you would get a world class exposure Also, the people you would be working with are the best brains in the industry.
Getting a job at a big 4 is not that easy and maintaining and growing with you career path is not easy as well once you are in. The Job requires a lot of flexibility, lifestyle changes, working under pressure, Networking and social skills, etc.
The Big 4 employers would like to see some qualifications on your resume (CPA, CFA, IFRS diploma). They would like to see some good internships, other work experience.
In addition, they are interested in other activities that may show some skills required in the job like being a team player, problem solving skills, open minded, multi-tasking skills, etc. Volunteering work will be a plus, being part of a club or an association, sports, taking some wellbeing sessions. Shed the lights on your Extracurricular activities that shows that you are reliable, social, multitasker, well educated.

Best of luck
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Marcus’s Answer

While I do not work at a Big 4 firm, I did go through their recruiting progress. GPA is definitely important, but I would also place an equal emphasis on prior experience. If you have done work as an intern for a finance/accounting department (no matter how small the company) it will go a long way. It shows you know how an office works and how to communicate with others professionally. I would also say showing a commitment towards earning your CPA is important. You cannot make it past Senior Associate without a CPA, so showing you plan on obtaining your licensure will show a long-term commitment to the industry and the firm.

Best of luck!
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Marcus’s Answer

While I do not work at a Big 4 firm, I did go through their recruiting progress. GPA is definitely important, but I would also place an equal emphasis on prior experience. If you have done work as an intern for a finance/accounting department (no matter how small the company) it will go a long way. It shows you know how an office works and how to communicate with others professionally. I would also say showing a commitment towards earning your CPA is important. You cannot make it past Senior Associate without a CPA, so showing you plan on obtaining your licensure will show a long-term commitment to the industry and the firm.

Best of luck!
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Minaz’s Answer

Hi Esther, grades are definitely important but I am glad you are thinking about other things that employers look for. Given that our jobs are a lot about leadership and teamwork, these are two of the many things that firms look for. You can demonstrate that through sports participation or leading a club/ association etc.
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Scott’s Answer

Volunteer work is always good to see! Anything related to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives is a plus!
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Sovita’s Answer

Hi Esther. Good grades are really important but it is great that you are thinking about extracurricular activities. This will definitely give you a competitive advantage. I would definitely encourage you to volunteer in community services that is in line with firm's values. Also being involved in different clubs (accounting, community service etc) can demonstrate your skills of leadership and working together.
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Alexandra’s Answer

The most important aspect of our job that you can demonstrate outside of academic success is being a team player. You don't need to be on a sports team, but do show any activity or project where you worked with others and be prepared to describe your roles and responsibility. Have some examples at hand of how you took initiative, stepped up to new repsonsibilities or helped your team in a challenging situation. Good luck!
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Denise’s Answer

Hi Esther GPA is important but definitely not everything! I'm glad you realized this and are looking into extracurricular activities. One thing to note is that you definitely don't have to join one that is related to accounting or even business. Just show the firms that you are an interesting person on top of a resume. You could join the orchestra, football team, non-profit, or anything that you are interested in! This could demonstrate if nothing else that you have good time management. It could also spark a common bond and thus a conversation with a recruiter/employer. And show you have a good attitude on top of everything else! Best of luck!
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Mikayla’s Answer

Hi Esther,

Outside of good grades, I would recommend involving yourself in activities that reflect the firm's values, such as volunteering, leadership opportunities, global/cultural activities, etc. My advice would be to look at the firm's website for their values and build off that.

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Emilio’s Answer

I think any activity that involves teamwork is huge. The Big Four are very relationship oriented and want to hire individuals who work well in teams. In addition having related internships is also a big plus because it shows that you are taking initiative to get experience in the field.
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Moeko’s Answer

I agree with Camille & Ken. Extra-curricular activities related to accounting are good, and also anything "extra" you do on top of school can demonstrate your ability to multi-task and manage your time. For example if you are a full-time student and juggle a part-time job, volunteer or play sports, etc., it shows that you are dedicated and can do more than one thing at a time.
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Camille’s Answer

One option is an accounting club, if your school has it. http://www.delval.edu/blog/extracurricular-activities-employers-love-to-see


Another idea is to volunteer for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). It is a program run by the IRS. They will train you to prepare basic income tax returns for people. So it's a great way to volunteer (good on a resume) and also learn about income taxes (also good on a resume). Tax accounting is one career path for Big 4 firms (the other is auditing).


VITA volunteering is done during part-time during tax season (January through April) so it's too late to sign up for this year, but you could look into it for next year. Look for the VITA site near you.


https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-tax-volunteers