Office Hours: Grant Thornton Shares Success Stories And Advice For Fall Recruitment Season

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On Tuesday, August 12th, TalentEgg hosted this season’s third summer Office Hours with the Grant Thornton team!

We chatted with Talent Attraction Specialist Sumira Duggal, Human Resources Consultant Adam Melnyk and National Talent Resource Manager Paul Peterson.

This expert team discussed what makes Grant Thornton unique, shared some new hire success stories and more. They also answered your questions about the application and interview process at Grant Thornton!

You can check out the transcript of our chat below.

Elias (TalentEgg):

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

Over the next hour, you can share your questions about career opportunities at Grant Thornton, learn about different student and grad roles and get tips for successfully hatching your career.

You can start submitting your questions now!

Many of you took the opportunity to submit a question in advance – fantastic!

Today, the team from Grant Thornton is going to address some of the pre-submitted questions, as well as a number of questions submitted live. We’re going to cover as many topics as we can, so you’ll learn a lot over the next hour!

Let’s meet today’s experts! Could you please tell the audience a bit about yourselves and what you do at Grant Thornton?

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Hello! My name is Sumira Duggal and I am the Talent Attraction Specialist for Alberta. My role is to find top talent for both students and experience hires. Thank you all for taking time to join us on Office Hours. I look forward to answering all your burning campus questions!

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Hello! My name is Adam Melnyk and I work in Grant Thornton’s Vancouver office as a Human Resources Consultant. I lead the campus recruitment team for Vancouver and Langley. I’m really excited to answer all the great questions the students have for me.

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

I am Paul Peterson and I work in our national office in Toronto. I am responsible for our Talent Attraction strategy from campus up to partner hires.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Thanks! Let’s kick things off with a question that was submitted by a student in advance:

Robert, a DAP student at UBC, asks:

Grant Thornton continues to receive accolades for being a great employer.

What is it about Grant Thornton that stands out from the rest?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

The short answer is that we offer a very different work experience than you will find at other Professional Services firms. This can be manifest in many different ways.

One example would be that our people work very hard, but we respect the fact that they have a life outside of work, which often requires flexibility.

Another example would be the large emphasis on developing our people at all levels.

I’m not talking about technical training. That’s the baseline.

All of our people have a personal coach to help them grow their career. In fact, by the end of the year our CEO (and dozens of other leaders) will be accredited professional coaches. Over and above his regular job, our CEO coaches three managers.

Our experience has been that all people like to work for a company that is serious about helping them grow professionally.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Fantastic answer, Paul! Let’s take another presubmitted question to get things rolling.

Liam, a student at Ryerson University, asks:

What are some challenges that new graduates have to overcome when they start their careers at Grant Thornton?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

We work hard to ensure that the transition from school to work is as smooth as possible, but one challenge that sometimes comes up is balancing work commitments with study commitments.

We try to be as transparent as possible with students that the demands on their time are very high until they pass the UFE and get the necessary hours. On the positive side, I like to point out that, in a sense, at least you’re getting paid to study now, unlike the previous 4 years.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Alex, a student at the Schulich School of Business at York University, asks:

I am very interested working in NPOs/Charities segment in Grant Thornton.

My question is: What is the most challenging part of working in this segment? What are some of the organizations that Grant Thornton is currently serving?

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Great question. One big challenge is that you have to change your way of looking at the big picture.

Accountants are trained at analyzing a company as being successful largely by identifying which ones make the most money or have the highest profit margin. This same analysis does not work in the NPO sector.

While a sound financial foundation is always important, success in this sector can be defined very differently. You really need to ensure you are providing advice that aligns with your clients’ definition of success.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Dorothy, a CPA bridging student at The University of Lethbridge, asks:

What changes have you seen in public accounting in the past five years? Where do you see change happening in the next five? How could a future professional prepare themselves?

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Hello Dorothy! The change that I have seen in the past few years is how the role of an accountant has transitioned from being your traditional “number cruncher” to becoming more involved with business development and advisory.

It is now the responsibility of an accountant to ensure they are arming their client with the correct information, research and foresight to grow their business.

As a future accounting professional, I encourage you to further develop your customer service skills. Customer service and being able to hear what a client needs is not a skill that can be taught.

At Grant Thornton, we are looking for business advisers to not only grow our practice, but enhance our client experience, by providing valuable and knowledgeable advice.

Kerry (4th year Accounting student, Ryerson University):

I’m very interested in speaking to Grant Thornton staff about their careers and upcoming opportunities. However, I attend a school that does not have any Grant Thornton events. How would you recommend I stand out to recruiters and firm staff in this case?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

I wish we could get to as many schools as we would like to, but it’s just not possible. That’s one of the reasons we do things like Office Hours.

As well, we have in-office visits in Ontario at many of our offices for people to come and meet us. I was at one today in Toronto. Our application process is also open to all students across Canada.

Every year we hire students from some schools that we have never visited because they made their applications stand out.

Grace Chun:

Given the size of clients at Grant Thornton, would articling students have opportunities to work with a file from the beginning to the end?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Great question, Grace. This is one of the best aspects about working for Grant Thornton.

An Accountant is expected to work on a file start to finish and even be available for follow up after the files closes. Although an Accountant might not directly work on each section they will see the sections completed by other team members, depending on the size of the audit.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Fantastic discussion so far!

Lucy Tong:

Which services segment is the most competitive?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

The short answer is Corporate Finance. I didn’t do that well in my finance classes so don’t ask me why it’s so popular…

Elias (TalentEgg):

Rachael, a Commerce student at UBC, asks:

How does GT maintain community involvement on a year round basis?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Community involvement is very important to all employees at Grant Thornton; it’s even part of the firm’s Vision Statement.

Outside of an employee’s personal volunteer involvement, Grant Thornton supports The United Way by fundraising in the office. The United Way will send a guest speaker to come into the office to explain how the fundraising money is used in the community.

I found this very beneficial as I’m not originally from Vancouver and I was curious to see how my money was being used.

We also participate in the Easter Seal’s 24-hour relay which is an excellent charity that fundraises to send disabled children to summer camp. We also support Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and the Breakfast Club program where employees go to a school close to Commercial Drive and serve the children breakfast before the school day.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Great answer, Adam!

Waheed Faizi:

I understand that Grant Thornton’s main client base are private companies. How do work practices or processes differ from firms that have a public company client base? Are there any differences at all?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

Yes, there can be lots of differences.

For example, with a private company you have the opportunity to work directly with the C-level executives. You get to have personal interaction with the CEOs and CFOs of some dynamic companies. Also the level of detail for a public company audit can sometimes require larger teams, so you may be 1 of 100 people on an audit for months at a time.

This leads to a very different day to day experience. Our average engagements are 2-4 weeks and the average team is 4-5 people.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Alison is studying Accounting at Mount Saint Vincent University, and asks:

What makes a student’s resume stand out to you? Is it academics? Volunteer experience? Or work experience?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

At all stages of the selection process, we’re looking to identify evidence of specific attributes in individuals. To be honest, those can come out in either academics, work experience or volunteer experience.

On our careers site, and in other materials like our brochure (you can download off our site), we try to be clear what we’re looking for. So my advice is, where possible, to draw emphasis on your resume (and/or in your cover letter) to your experience that specifically aligns with the core attributes we are seeking.

Rachael Reddy (BCom, Accounting, UBC):

Is it possible to take on projects/secondments in other service lines within the firm? It’d be interesting to learn new perspectives of the firm.

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Great question Rachael! We absolutely encourage our team members to take on projects in other services lines. A great example is in Alberta, we hire all CPA candidates into a pooled system. This way they get experience working in our Privately Held Business Group and within Audit.

Once you have experience working in both service lines, you can then choose where you would like to specialize and grow your career.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Want to learn more about professional development at Grant Thornton? Check out this video on their TalentEgg profile: http://bit.ly/1kDcbyG

Lilian, a BBA student from Laurier, asks:

What has been the biggest payoff or stepping stone that has come uniquely from your career at Grant Thornton?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

The biggest stepping stone at Grant Thornton is when an Accountant is promoted.

At Grant Thornton, Accountants aren’t promoted based on time spent at the firm; they’re promoted based on their performance and ability. I can recall one Accountant who demonstrated his ability to senior and lead jobs within his first year of employment. He was promoted to Sr. Accountant before he passed the UFE.

This is a unique situation that I am very proud to have experienced while at Grant Thornton. Currently that employee has passed his UFE and is in New York on a short-term engagement.

Elias (TalentEgg):

That’s quite a story, Adam!

Goki, a DAP student at UBC, asks:

What does the scope of client interactions look like for first-year associates?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Hi Goki, nice to see you attending office hours!

Client interactions are a crucial part of our business and we rely heavily on new Accountants to work with Controllers and CFOs.

When Accountants are preparing a working paper for the section they’ve been assigned, we are often performing analytics. They often need to discuss adjustments with the Controller or the CFO. It’s also a common request for an Accountant to request invoices to vouch, so again we talk to the controller or CFO.

This skill takes time to develop but it’s a soft skill that Grant Thornton evaluates in the campus interviews. Confidence and past experience working in a client service position is a great help when working on your first engagement.

Antonio DiLoreto:

Hello, I am a student from McMaster University, Can you please provide me with some interview tips for this upcoming recruitment season?

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Hello Antonio, great question. Here are a few short tips that may help you in an interview.

Make sure that you are presenting yourself professionally at all times. This includes wearing appropriate clothing, the way you interact with the interviewer and how you communicate.

Bring your personality! We like to hire people who are engaged in their work, team-oriented and are interested in expanding their knowledge.

Also, make sure that you bring a copy of your resume and you are familiar with what you have written. You do not want to be searching for answers in your resume. You want to respond in an authentic and confident manner. Lastly, come a few minutes early. It shows not only professionalism but eagerness.

Antonio DiLoreto:

Thank you Sumira!!!

Kiso Param:

I understand Grant Thornton offers amazing CKE, SOA and UFE preparation programs, however, I was curious to know how the training will differ now with the new CPA requirements?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Thanks Kiso. Our training won’t change in most areas of the country but now that the CPA is a National designation a few areas of the country will become more standardized.

Elias (TalentEgg):

This seems like a great time for our poll!

What do you want to learn about during Office Hours with Grant Thornton?

• How to stand out during the recruitment process ( 46% )

• Company culture at Grant Thornton ( 36% )

Grant Thornton’s support and mentorship ( 18% )

Melissa Tram:

This is my 3rd time attending Grant Thornton Office Hours here on TalentEgg. Thank you so much for taking time out of your days to provide us with an inside look into the firm – I have learned a lot about GT over the past couple of months.

Elias (TalentEgg):

Joanne, an Accounting student from the Sauder School of Business at UBC, asks:

What do recruiters look for in an applicant? How does an applicant show that he/she is a good fit for working at Grant Thornton?

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Good question, Joanne. I like to see an applicant who is interested in working with Grant Thornton and understands that our client base is difference from other national firms, and that we work primarily with privately-held businesses that operate locally. I want to see they’ve done a little research and now have more in-depth questions that aren’t answered on the website.

I also want to have a natural conversation where I answer some industry questions but can find common ground with the potential hire as well. Then I like to envision the potential hire working on a longer audit engagement with a team.

People at Grant Thornton are unique and come from all different backgrounds, but have a foundation of respect of one another that I need to see demonstrated before I feel comfortable making an offer.

Nana:

What would be some type of summer/entry-level work or volunteer experience that is valuable for going into Grant Thornton?

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Hi Nana, thank you for the question.

What is important to Grant Thornton isn’t that you have accounting-related experience, it is more that you are able to balance the demands of work and life. I would suggest finding something that is related to customer service.

There are some opportunities in the accounting world for summer internships that may or may not be directly related to accounting. Volunteering is a big part of working with Grant Thornton. We recognize individuals who give back to the community in whatever capacity they can.

It is a major value of Grant Thornton to make a difference in the community we work and live in. You can also volunteer for your university accounting or business club.

Elias (TalentEgg):

That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thanks for participating in Office Hours!

And of course, a big thank-you to the Grant Thornton team as well for answering all these questions! Do you have any final comments?

Paul Peterson (National Talent Resource Manager, Grant Thornton):

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Sumira Duggal (Talent Attraction Specialist, Grant Thornton):

Thank you all again for your time! For upcoming campus events that Grant Thornton will be a part of or hosting, please check our Students and New Graduates website at http://www.grantthornton.ca/careers/students

Adam Melnyk (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton):

Thanks to everyone for participating. I look forward to seeing BC students at the SFU ASA Summer Wrap up and UBC Sports Day next week.

Antonio DiLoreto:

Just want to say thank you to all the reps that took time out of their busy days to answer some of our questions. Good luck to all of you in the future, and I hope that one day we can be colleagues too.

Xueying Long (York University):

I really enjoyed this online Office Hours. Thank you so much!

Dorian:

Thank-you for your time!

Lucy Tong:

Thanks everyone!

Victoria Granova (Schulich School of Business):

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us! It was a very helpful event.

Adeel Yousu:

Great conversation 🙂 thank you so much for all inputs from GT’s team!

Sankalp Kochar:

Thanks for the valuable conversation. This will really help me out.

Bryce Co:

Thank you so much for the input!

Alana Marston:

Thanks a lot! Enjoyed following along.

Margaretc918:

Thank you so much for the insightful input. Looking forward to your recruitment opportunities!

Corbin Bailie:

Thanks a lot everyone. This chat was really informative :).

Rachael Reddy (BCom, Accounting, UBC):

Thank you for taking time out to talk to all of us!

Grace Chun:

Thank you so much for your time!

Sankalp Kochar:

I look forward to seeing you at future events! Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedules.

Jeremy Fong:

Thank you for giving us guidance through this process!

Alison Sutherland:

I really enjoyed following along, you provided some great advice! Thank you!

Belle:

Thank you all for your time, and thank you TalentEgg!

Opttie (DAP, UBC):

This was very helpful. Thanks for everyone!

Ran (DAP, UBC):

Thank you very much for sharing your experience and insights!

Elias (TalentEgg):

Egg-cellent! To learn more about Grant Thornton, check out their profile on TalentEgg and be sure to follow them on Twitter (@GTCanadaNewGrad) for insider info.

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

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