Interviewing for the Big 4 is a great opportunity. But since the competition is high and it’s what many CPA Exam candidates strive for, having this opportunity can also be stressful. Luckily, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll go through what a typical “office visit” looks like, what you can do to be prepared, and the 28 most common questions that Big 4 interviewers ask.
Now that offices are opening up again, it’s good to start preparing for office visits. An office visit is exactly what it sounds like it is: when the firm invites you into their office for the interview. When interviewees new in accounting hear “office visit”, they typically think, “Nice! I’ll get to walk around the office, see the place, see what they do, and they’ll tell me a little bit about the company.” However, this is not the case. Coming in for an office visit is all part of the interview process, all of which can last up to 24 hours. Even though office visits might now look a little different in today’s world, it’s important to understand how the dynamics of office visits work and to be ready to always put your best foot forward for the entirety that you’re there. Otherwise, your resume could be pulled right out of the pile.
If the interview is in person and you’re from another city, or live far away from the office, the company will arrange a hotel room for you for the night before the office visit. Many interviewees think that the official interview process doesn’t start until they’re sitting opposite their interviewer(s) and answering questions at the office. However, this is not the case. It’s important to make sure you treat every situation as part of the interview process.
With that said, if you’re staying in a hotel room, make sure you’re treating it as a business trip. You may also come across other interviewees, but we recommend avoiding divulging too much information to them. Remember, they are your competition and you don’t want anything to jeopardize your interview process.
Typically with office interviews, there is a social, or meet and greet, the night before you go into the office. Again, this is part of the interview that used to happen prior to the pandemic and might slowly come back into the interview process. If you attend a pre-interview social, be sure to not take this lightly by ensuring you’re on your “A” game. Dress is usually more casual than a suit and tie, but make sure you reach out before determining the setting, dress, location, and time the event begins. Presenting yourself professionally both in attire and mannerism is important for all aspects of the interview process.
What hobbies and interests do you have?
Depending on the interviewers, they might switch the questions between getting to know you professionally – and personally. In this case, they may ask you about your hobbies and interests outside of work. Usually, this is to get to know you, but also to see that you have a busy, active life – qualities which are attractive to an employer. For example, you may enjoy travelling in your spare time or you may be a member of a sports club. You might enjoy reading, climbing hills or running. Interviewers want to avoid someone who ‘enjoys socialising’, as this can be translated into ‘enjoys clubbing and might be hungover on a Monday’ – even if that’s not really the case. Be careful with your wording here and try to focus on active or intellectual hobbies. If you say you spend every weekend watching box sets of Netflix, it might come across that your job is the only thing you have in your life, and this really isn’t what employers are looking for. They want someone with drive and other interests.
Why do you want to work with us?
The interviewer wants to know why you have chosen this company to work for, rather than any competitors. For example, why did you choose Deloitte, instead of KPMG, PwC or EY? It is important to focus on the company here, rather than the job spec. They are not asking you why you want the job, but why you want to work for them. What qualities does the organisation have that appeals do you? Focus on their core values with this answer and any achievements they have. Don’t focus on salaries or other benefits.
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.