I wanted to provide some tips for everyone out there whether you are interviewing in school for an internship or whether you are an experienced hire.
Big 4 Interview Tip #1 Be Ready for This Question (Tell Me About Yourself)
First let’s get to the question that you are most certain to face and is the hardest to answer. One question that you should expect to answer is
Tell me something about yourself.
This one always catches me off guard when people ask this.
I mean how are you supposed to answer that. Should you mention your deep love of cats or that you are afraid of the dark? I don’t think so, right.
Should you start from the first memory you ever remember happening, should you start from high school. It is such an open-ended question and it immediately requires a lot of thought. Since it does require a lot of thought, it can throw you off pretty badly in the beginning of an interview. That is why you need to start prepring for it today. This very instant!!!
I think you should answer based on which stage you are in in your career or life. If you are in school, you should answer by saying the school you are going to and why you chose that school and some interests you have.
For example, you can say that you chose to go to Notre Dame because of the strong academic background, job placement statistics and religious principles. However, you answer the questions, you need to make sure your answer ties into traits that the big 4 look for. If you say that you went to a school for the strong acadmeics, that is a good response. It is a good response because you need to constantly learn in the four big accounting firms. If they know you like learning, then it will show that you can transfer that to the job.
It would be especially great if you had interests that are centered towards accounting or being a better business professional. Some examples of this would be if you are a member of beta alpha psi, or if you are part of a toastmasters club. If you aren’t doing any of philanthropic or community activities right now, you should go get started today. This will help you to set yourself apart from other big 4 interview candidates.
Big 4 Interview Tip #2 Be Ready for Diversity
Don’t expect your interviewer to think or look like you. Whenever I prep for an interview I expect my interviewer or interviewee to look like me. Because I think that way, I automatically believe that I can establish rapport with my interviewer and that the interviewer will look like me.
Of course this is often not the case. You will definitely run into more diversity in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. There are many ways that your interviewer can be different than you. They can be a different race, ethnicity, gender or age than you.
Try to think of different scenarios with different interviewers. For example, your interviewer could be another gender than you, so your small talk should be not be about football if you are a man and you are speaking to a woman.
I know more women are watching football nowadays than ever, but I’m just trying to set an example to be mindful of your interviewers background and don’t assume they automatically think like you or have had the same life experiences as you. You will need to build rapport. You have to do this by making small talk and asking the person questions about themselves.
Big 4 Interview Tip #3 Practice Your Small Talk
That leads me to my next tip. You need to be able to engage in small talk on your big 4 interview. Many big 4 interviewers aren’t very good at making small talk. If you aren’t good at small talk, then that will make two people that are bad at small talk which equals complete and utter awkward silence.
You need to have some questions ready to ask. Questions are the easiest way to break silence and break the ice with your interviewer. Asking about your interviewer’s weekend plans is a good question to start with. I work in the big 4 on a daily basis. You have no idea how many times I hear this question and ask this question. Utilize my knowledge to your benefit. Your interviewer will be used to this as well and will feel at ease after you ask it.
If a holiday just passed, you can ask them how their holiday was. Another good question is to ask the person how long they have been working at the big 4 firm you are interviewing with and after they answer you can ask them what made them choose to work and what do they like about their job. These are all good questions to ask your interviewer and they are also good questions to help break the awkward silences.
Another way to make small talk is having a story ready. People love stories. Stories make people feel comfortable. Think of how you can craft a story about your weekend that is professional and puts you in a good light. This will help you develop rapport on your big 4 interview.
Big 4 Interview Tip #4 Dress for the Part
Another tip that I can offer that will help you get the job you want is invest in a good suit or dress. You don’t need to buy a whole wardrobe of suits or dresses, just one really good one. Looking the part is a huge part of getting a good job. People just feel good hiring someone that looks well groomed and professional.
Your interviewer might be a big 4 partner. Big 4 partners aren’t millennials, so they won’t necessarily appreciate a casual style. They will prefer a professional looking individual. This means black or blue professional attire along with brown or black shoes. It might be tempting to show some flare but wait until you have the job to bust out your own personal style.
Dressing professionally makes you appear trustworthy and consistent which is very important in business. If you want to go an extra step, I recommend buying a really nice folder to put your resume and business cards in if you have business cards. If you are well dressed and have an extremely nice folder with your resumes in it, you will blow people away in the optics department and be that much closer to your dream job.