Office Hours: Stand Out To Accounting Recruiters With This Advice From Grant Thornton

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December 4th was an egg-citing day at TalentEgg: we hosted Office Hours with Grant Thornton, a professional services firm providing audit, tax and advisory services to clients across Canada.

Office Hours is an hour-long live chat with representatives from top employers for TalentEgg members.

This was our second Office Hours event with Grant Thornton – we were lucky enough to have them join us for the first time on September 18th. It went so well, we invited a few Grant Thornton representatives – Paul Peterson, Andrea Forbes and Sumira Duggal – to join us once again to answer your questions about hatching your accounting career and how to stand out to Grant Thornton recruiters!

If you missed the live event, you can read the complete transcript below. And make sure to sign up for Grant Thornton’s next Office Hours event on March 6, 2013!

TalentEgg Hayley:

Welcome to Office Hours, TalentEgg-ers! My name is Hayley and I’ll be moderating today’s chat.

Our eggs-pert guests today are Paul, Andrea and Sumira from Grant Thornton!

Over the next hour, you can send them your questions about career opportunities at Grant Thornton, learn how to stand out to recruiters and get tips for successfully hatching your accounting career. You can start submitting your questions now.

Paul, Andrea and Sumira, could you please tell the audience a bit about yourselves?

Andrea Forbes:

Hi everyone! My name is Andrea Forbes and I am the Manager of Top Talent Attraction for Grant Thornton in Atlantic Canada.

Paul Peterson:

I am the National Talent Resource Manager for Grant Thornton in Canada. I am responsible for our Talent Acquisition strategies across English Canada. I have worked in talent acquisition for about 15 years.

Sumira Duggal:

Hello everyone, my name is Sumira and I am the Talent Attraction Specialist for Alberta. I have been with the firm for nearly nine months and have had the chance to be fully immersed in all recruitment practices out west. I love Grant Thornton!

Comment From @RohanSharma

Hi Paul, Andrea and Sumira, I’m an aspiring CA student who’s just finishing up his 51 credit hour requirement by the ICAO. I will be ready to join a firm in January 2013, but no one seems to be recruiting for January. What advice do you have for students in my position who aren’t following the “traditional” time line?

Paul Peterson:

We hire students in this position, but unfortunately not many for January starts. Our training is on an annual schedule so it makes it tricky for us to accommodate those who wish to start at other times of the year. I would recommend that you still apply in the fall. We hire many people each fall that have already finished, as well those who are beginning their fourth year.

Comment From Vidur Pathak

Hello Paul, Andrea and Sumira. Are there any upcoming Grant Thornton events or conferences that I can attend?

Paul Peterson:

There are events throughout the year. The best place for event updates is the student section of our careers site. We post all events there.

Comment From Derek Chu

Hi everyone! My name is Derek Chu and I am a third-year aspiring CA student at Wilfrid Laurier University. I was wondering if the company will be hiring any summer interns for 2013?

Paul Peterson:

Yes. Most of our summer intern opportunities will be posted in January or February. We’re still recovering from our fall hiring. 🙂

TalentEgg Hayley:

Thanks Paul! Let’s take a look at a question that was submitted in advance:

Michael McGuire, an Accounting student at the University of British Columbia, asks: When you were going through recruitment, what was the one piece of advice you wish you had received?

Paul Peterson:

Hi Michael,

One of the best things to do is to look for opportunities to meet people from the firm, both at events and through people you may know. They can give you the best advice about what it’s really like.

Comment From Helen

Hello Paul, Andrea and Sumira. My name is Helen Chen, and I am a student at UBC Vancouver. I would like to know: What are some qualities that you look for during recruitment but students often overlook or are lacking?

Andrea Forbes:

One of the things we really prize is the ability to build meaningful relationships. It is great to come prepared to speak about the networks you have built and your extra-curricular activities in addition to your academic qualifications.

Comment From Daniel Yim

Which designation is more preferable to Grant Thornton: CA, CGA or CMA?

Andrea Forbes:

Hi Daniel, great question! We support all designations at Grant Thornton, but it comes down to what type of accounting work interests you. You should pursue the designation that will help you meet those goals. As a CA Firm, we certainly support a large number of employees through the CA process.

Comment From David Belcastro

When entering into a firm for the first year, how do you choose if the new employee will be in audit, tax or advisory? Does the new employee have a choice?

Paul Peterson:

David, we give you the flexibility to make that decision. It’s your career.

TalentEgg Hayley:

Here’s another question that was submitted in advance:

Sultan Lalani, a Finance student from Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, asks: What is Grant Thornton doing to try to recruit from less well-known universities?

Paul Peterson:

Sultan,

That is the beauty of technology today. We can accept applications from everywhere in the country. We are using alternative methods, such as this live chat session, to reach students in the areas of Canada that we are not able to visit.

Comment From Saira Sheikh

Hi Andrea, Sumira, and Paul! During my third year at Wilfrid Laurier University, I had the opportunity to speak to a Grant Thornton representative. She told me about the great mentors she had. How are mentors selected at the firm and matched to a CA student?

Paul Peterson:

Saira, each new employee has both a coach and a mentor. Mentors are matched by people’s compatibility and general career goals and interests.

Comment From Elaine

Hi Andrea, Paul and Sumira, I am an accounting student at the University of Waterloo, and I have been told of the importance of attending networking events. What is your advice about meeting and speaking with representatives with Grant Thornton?

Sumira Duggal:

Hi Elaine, that is a very important question. One thing I found is that students are bringing personalized business cards to events. It is nice to have a physical representation, but more importantly, bring your full personality to the table and create a memorable interaction between the recruiter and yourself.

Comment From Helen

I’m from Vancouver and am interested in working in Eastern Canada. From the firm’s perspective, is it preferable to hire locally or cross-nation?

Paul Peterson:

Helen, we do hire people from one city to work in a different location, but it is rare. One you are within the firm, moving from office to office can be done with relative ease.

Comment From Laura

Hello! I’m wondering what Grant Thornton thinks about recruiting through social media? Some firms place an emphasis on getting to know potential applicants through Twitter. Is this a way that Grant Thornton would like to connect with students as well?

Andrea Forbes:

Hi Laura! That is a great question and we are very active in the social media space. Two places in particular where you can connect with us and follow Grant Thornton’s activities are on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Comment From Elaine

Grant Thornton stresses that they are looking for candidates that fit into their culture. What kind of personality traits should a candidate possess to fit best with Grant Thornton?

Paul Peterson:

Elaine, we are looking for people who are adaptable, can build relationships and think critically, and who like to make a difference in what they do.

TalentEgg Hayley:

Here’s another question that was submitted prior to the event:

Elaine Li, an Accounting student at the University of Waterloo, asks: Do most candidates that Grant Thornton hires have public accounting experience?

Paul Peterson:

Elaine, the majority of students that we hire do not have previous public accounting experience. It’s great if you do, but it’s certainly not a prerequisite. We’ll train and give you the skills you need to be successful.

Comment From Saira

I am looking forward to the next recruitment event from Grant Thornton. I want to be a strong candidate for employment. How can we best utilize our time until the recruitment period to be better prepared for the CA field at Grant Thornton?

Andrea Forbes:

Working hard and achieving great marks in school is really important, but – going back to my earlier comment – it is working on developing a broad range of relationships that is the best way to make you stand out from your peers. For example, demonstrating outside interests through volunteering and school societies helps to highlight your ability to effectively build relationships.

TalentEgg Hayley:

Thanks Andrea!

I think this is a great time for our poll:

Accounting students: what is most important to you in an accounting firm?

Great company culture (32%)
Work/life balance (16%)
Challenging and diverse work (47%)
Salary (5%)

Comment From Aaron Fernandes

Hi everyone, I am Aaron Fernandes, a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga specializing in Accounting and majoring in Economics. Do you hire American CPAs into your firms in Canada?

Paul Peterson:

Yes, but there is generally an expectation that someone would still pursue their Canadian CA. There are other great career options if you are interested in the direct tax path, if that interests you.

TalentEgg Hayley:

Let’s throw in one last previously submitted question:

Scott Zhou, a student at the University of British Columbia, asks: How can Grant Thornton help me accelerate in my accounting career?

Paul Peterson:

Scott, Grant Thornton is in 108 countries in the world and currently we have more offices in Canada than any other professional services firm. That translates into huge opportunities. Also, with Grant Thornton you will have greater access to senior leaders and clients than other places. As well, since our audit teams are smaller, you will be given more responsibility sooner in your career and work on more aspects of a file.

Comment From Yilin Chen

Hi everyone, it’s Yilin from University of Toronto. I recently finished MMPA and passed the UFE. I have a question regarding how the applications are processed when I apply online for a specific position. Will the application be reviewed by the local office or the regional Hiring Manager?

Sumira Duggal:

Hi Yilin, all applications are considered through the local office either via a prescreen from a recruiter or through an interview with our Service Line Leader. Our employees are engaged in the recruitment process at all levels, especially during campus recruitment.

Comment From Saira 

I always look for a diverse environment whether at work or in extra-curricular activities. How diverse is Grant Thornton and in what ways?

Sumira Duggal:

Hi Saira, that is an important question. I will cover a cross section of what diversity means at Grant Thornton: Diversity at Grant Thornton means a work environment filled with employees from different countries and with different life experiences. Diversity means inclusiveness initiatives and a Women of Grant Thornton Leadership Counsel. Diversity also applies to our clients, which span many different industries. Diversity also applies to all of the community initiatives that we support and are actively involved in, both as a firm and as individuals representing Grant Thornton.

TalentEgg Hayley:

That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thanks for participating in Office Hours and a big thank-you to Paul, Andrea and Sumira for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions! Do you three have any final comments?

Paul Peterson:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. We hope to connect with many of you at campus events throughout the year. Please point out that you participated in this session.

Sumira Duggal:

Thank you all for taking the time to chat with us today. You all brought some very important questions to the table. I hope that we have been able to give you reasons why Grant Thornton is the firm for you.

Andrea Forbes:

Thank you all very much for joining us online today!

TalentEgg Hayley:

If you’re looking for more information on careers with Grant Thornton, check out the firm’s TalentEgg profile!

Thanks again for joining us today TalentEgg-ers! Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed for upcoming Office Hours events!

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About the author

Hayley Mullen is the Community Manager at TalentEgg. After receiving her BA in Philosophy and Postgraduate Certificate in Advertising Copywriting, she worked as Content and Community Manager at a mobile software startup. She loves travelling, celebrity gossip blogs and any kind of dog.