Office Hours: Grant Thornton Gives Advice On Recruitment, Career Planning, And More!

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On February 4th, four of Grant Thornton’s experts from across Canada gathered to answer your questions in an online live-chat.

The questions were diverse, but Rebecca, Jennifer, Satoru, and Adam combined their experiences and expertise to give students and grads an inside look at Grant Thornton’s work culture, their hiring process, and more!

Don’t worry if you missed the event – we have the full transcript of this event below. Check it out!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Hey TalentEgg-ers, welcome to Office Hours! We’re super excited to have you with us today for this event – I know lots of you have been signed up months in advance. In the next hour, we’re going to be answering all your career questions!

Now, some of you have submitted your questions in advance. If you’re just joining us, don’t fret! Send us your question live, and we’ll work on getting it answered.

Without delay, let’s meet our GT experts! Could you all introduce yourselves?

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Hello. My name is Rebecca and I am a member of the People & Culture team. I work with Attraction in Atlantic Canada.

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Hi Everyone, my name is Jennifer Berman and I am a People and Culture Consultant, Attraction for the Southern Ontario Business Unit of Grant Thornton. I am really excited to be here! I’ve been with the firm for just over a year now, and would love to provide some insight into what we are looking for when we are hiring for our team!

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hello everyone, thanks for joining us and I look forward to getting to know you guys today! My name is Satoru, a co-op student in the South Coastal BC office working in the audit department. This is my 3rd co-op term and I hope to share what it’s like working at GT as a junior staff!

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
Hello, my name is Adam and I’m the People and Culture Consultant for South Coastal BC. I have been with the firm for over 4 years and look forward to campus recruitment each year. Thank you all for attending.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Thanks – let’s get right to the questions!

Abhiijeet, a Business Intelligence Infrastructure student at Algonquin College, asks:
“What types of job opportunities do you offer at Grant Thornton?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Hi Abhiijeet, with Grant Thornton being a full service firm who prides itself on being trusted business advisors to our clients, we offer job opportunities in many areas. The majority of our students join us as co-op students or new grads through our audit stream in Assurance. That said, we also have opportunities to work within Tax or Advisory. Not only do we consider students who are in Accounting programs; for some of these roles, we also look for candidates coming out of Finance, Science and Business Administration degree programs. In addition, we have many internal opportunities to work within Finance, Marketing, HR, Communications, to name a few!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Cammi, a Business major from Ryerson University, asks:
“What’s the most common mistake people make in an interview with Grant Thornton? How can we make sure we don’t make the same mistake?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
One of the most common pitfalls that candidates make is not being prepared for your interview. Typically, Grant Thornton sets situational-based interviews where we are looking for specific examples in the answers our candidates give us. Instead, we often get general or hypothetical answers, such as “in this situation, I probably would….”. There are many sample questions accessible through the internet to help prepare you to answer situational-based questions, so for your next interview, try to think back to some recent examples and demonstrate how you have proactively used your skills!

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
A lot of students come to interviews and aren’t authentic. A student needs to remember that an interview should be a reflection of how they conduct themselves on a daily basis. It’s fairly easy to see when a student isn’t being themselves and this doesn’t translate to a successful interview.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Navpreet, a Business (Accounting) major at Kwantlen Polytechnical University, asks:
“How can I get an entry level position in accounting?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
How can I get an entry job at Grant Thornton? Exceptional client relationships are what differentiates Grant Thornton from other firms so I find that volunteering/working at school or other organizations where you are exposed to people from different industries would be a great quality to have as a student.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Waheeda, a Management and Organizational Studies/Accounting major at the University of Western Ontario, asks:
“How would you suggest new graduates with little or no experience overcome the “no experience no job” cycle?”

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
The most critical quality we are looking for is an exceptional ability to build meaningful relationships. We’re not initially overly focused on hard skills, per se. We know that today’s graduates are very smart and will quickly learn the requisite technical skills. But having the ability to connect with people and a desire to want to make a difference every day, is something we actively seek. It sets people apart from the crowd.

Rachel
Hi Grant Thornton team and thank you for your time this afternoon! What makes students stand out to you at campus networking events?

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
A student can standout in an interview by understanding the difference between Grant Thornton and the other firms. What type of clients does Grant Thornton focus on is something I really like to hear. Wanting to work with privately held businesses is a clear indication that a student understands Grant Thornton’s brand.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Beemorana, an Honours major in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Ottawa, asks:
“How would you describe the company culture? And, other than learning the ropes what are key areas to focus on if employed by Grant Thornton?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Beemorana! I find that we have a very supportive culture as any time I have a question, I can ask anyone and they are all willing to help me out. Also, no matter where you are in your career, everyone respects you for who you are.  I don’t feel that I am treated differently just because I am a co-op student.

Stan, Business major from Mount Royal University
Hey there I’m wondering what kind of career path can a business major start off as (entry level) position at Grant Thornton?

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Thanks for the question. It depends on what you are studying in school. If you are a business major and intending on taking the CPA, then there are opportunities. If you are studying business and are not intending on undertaking the CPA, occasionally we have opportunities in our Advisory service line. We post all opportunities on our website as they become available. An easy way to check for opportunities is to sign up for career alerts on our website. If a job matches your criteria, then you can be notified via email

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Geri, a student at the University of Windsor, asks:
“Why did you choose to work at Grant Thornton?”

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
Great question Geri. I chose to work with Grant Thornton for 2 reasons. The first being, it’s a fantastic company with a global presence. This was very important to me as I wanted to have the possibility to work globally later in my career. Secondly, the people who interviewed me seemed to be like me. They were easy going and welcoming. I wouldn’t fit in at a company that was overly aggressive and competitive with their colleagues.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Aderoba, a Management student, asks:
“What kinds of courses should I take in school to get a job with Grant Thornton?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Aderoba! Of course, the accounting classes will help but other than the simple debits and credits, you would have to learn on the job so don’t worry, you won’t have to remember the journal entries for complicated accounting transactions. However, you would be surprised how much writing you would have to do as an auditor, from writing emails to the client and documenting the audit procedure, etc. Therefore, if your respective universities have a business writing class, I highly recommend taking those prior to your full-time/co-op term.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Terri, a student from the University of Vancouver Island, asks:
“If we want to follow up after an interview, how can we do it without bugging the recruiter too much?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Great question – it is a nice touch when students follow up with us after an interview…and trust me, not all candidates do it! To be quite honest, we receive many emails during our busy recruiting season, but I can certainly say that even if we don’t respond to your email right away, we do read each message we receive! It’s always nice to hear from a student, especially when they personalize it by recalling the interviewer’s names, or something specific they discussed in their interview.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Martha, a Finance student from the University of Toronto, asks:
“Does Grant Thornton have internships? What kinds of roles are available?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Martha, I’m currently doing my co-op term (internship) with Grant Thornton right now. Grant Thornton does not use the term internship, instead we are called co-op students and we get paid for our work. At the Vancouver office, you can typically start in the audit, tax and advisory department. However, most positions are offered in the audit department.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
We’ve got a great resource for aspiring accountants. Check out our career guide! http://bit.ly/1CA7tJj

Matt asks:
“What’s your dress code like? Is it suits every day?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Hi Matt, typically our dress code is business casual and often we try to take advantage of casual Fridays too! That said, our rule of thumb is when you are on location with a client, we expect our people to dress accordingly (or same as the client) but at a minimum, business casual.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Ryan, a Business student at the University of Western Ontario, asks:
“What’s the growth potential like at Grant Thornton? How does the company support its employees?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Ryan! GT supports its employees in various ways but I find that a close relationship with your coach (mentor) is truly in the best interest of your career development; it really is the best support I have. For example, I asked my coach if I can take more responsibility on engagements. Even though I’m just a co-op student, just a few weeks ago, I was put in as the in-charge accountant of this small public company file while overseeing another 1st year accountant. I was really lucky and it doesn’t always happen as you wish, but every coach is always trying to do what’s best for their students.

From Jin P.
Thanks for answering our questions today! What would you say the number one reason is to choose to Grant Thornton over other firms?

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
Hi Jin. Grant Thornton is the perfect size for an Articling Student. You aren’t going through the CPA program alone, which is a great support system. You also aren’t going through it with 100 other students in the office so you don’t get lost in the crowd. An Articling Student also has the opportunity to work on smaller engagements and take on more responsibility then the average student would. The student sees more of the file, much sooner in their career, if they are working at Grant Thornton. We also need our Articling Students to be agile and work in multiple industries. The student gets exposed to a lot of different clients before they decide which industry to focus on.

From Scott
Hi Satoru, What has been your favourite part of working with Grant Thornton as a co-op student so far?

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Scott, this is a tough question to answer as I have too many favorite moments working at GT. If I had to choose one, it would be the 24 Hour Relay where I was fortunate to be part of the organizing committee. We had a lot of people joining us from partners to other junior staff and we spent overnight camping at the Swanguard stadium in BC!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Kyle, a student at Western University, asks:
“I’ve been at companies before where I’ve worked really hard and never been acknowledged. My question is how does Grant Thornton recognize top performers?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Kyle! In the Vancouver office, we have a monthly employee recognition program where you can get acknowledged for your hard work with a $50 Gift card. Although I personally find that continuous encouragement from seniors, managers, and partners through day-to-day feedback on my work helps me to be more motivated! Also, our partners take us out to appreciation dinner if we do a great job!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Jay, an Accounting Specialist at the University of Toronto, asks:
“What type of personality traits make someone a good fit with this company?”

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
This is a great question. As a firm, Grant Thornton focuses on the attributes a candidate has. Being able to build relationships, demonstrating initiatives, and being a critical thinker are attributes that we look for in a candidate. We understand that graduates have excellent skills obtained through coursework and we have programs in place to successfully on board new employees.

From Sumaid.
How much importance do you give to an applicant’s Linked-In account?

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
While having a LinkedIn account is a great way to build your personal brand and expand your network, it isn’t something that we typically take into consideration when recruiting at the junior level. That said, if you do manage an account, my advice would be to ensure that you regularly maintain and update your profile. As well, a recommendation would be to not blindly send out requests to people you haven’t met. Try to remember to use LinkedIn as a tool to stay connected with people you have already met through networking events, school, work and other activities.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Xhina from the University of Toronto, asks:
“What is Grant Thornton doing to ease the transition of students from the classroom to the workplace?”

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Xhina, before you start your full-time/co-op, you will get an opportunity to go to a level 1 training where you learn how the audit theory (what you learn in school) applies to the procedure you will be doing at work! I was lucky enough to fly to Toronto from Vancouver and I met roughly 50 other co-op students across Canada!

From Jade
Hi GT team! Where do you see Grant Thornton growing in the next five years, especially in Alberta?

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Grant Thornton is actively pursuing a growth strategy. This happens organically and also by merging with other firms. We already have offices in four cities in Alberta and, with respect to opening an office in a new city, growth often depends on seizing opportunities as they arise in the market. Basically we’re always on the lookout!!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Lance, a Business Management/Accounting student at Ryerson University, asks:
“What do you wish someone had told or taught you from your first day at the firm (or on the job)?”

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Hi Lance. That is a great question. I am relatively new to the Grant Thornton team and I have had a great experience so far. What attracted me to work at GT was it being a Best Workplaces in 2014 (and has been for the last 7 years.) The one thing I wish someone would have told me the first day about GT is that the firm is welcoming and really committed to developing employees. I was nervous before my first day and had I known how welcoming my colleagues were, I would have been less nervous.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Ana, a Finance major, asks:
“Does it make a difference if you went to University or College?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
No, it doesn’t necessarily make a difference if you are a university or college student; as long as your institution is recognized by the governing accounting body and you meet the 51 credit requirement for entry into the CPA program, you will be considered!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Ben J., a Commerce major from the University of Windsor, asks:
“How likely is it that a student in one of your internships or co-ops will get hired permanently?”

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton
Great question Ben. It’s very likely that we will hire a co-op for a full time position. When I hire a co-op I ensure that I have an available articling position available for the same year as the co-op’s expected graduation date.

From Stan
Hey Jennifer how did you start off at GT?

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Thanks for asking! I joined our HR team in January 2014 and, having a professional services background, I was looking for a similar role. What attracted me to GT versus other firms was our culture! I have been to 12 of our 14 offices in our Southern Ontario Business Unit and can honestly say that our people (no matter what level), are collaborative, open, respectful and they love to work hard, but play hard too! I wanted to work in an environment where they recognized and appreciated what I had to offer, and allowed me the flexibility I needed to balance both work and my personal life. As well, our Partners are invested in the growth of their business and therefore, are invested in the growth of their people…so there is a lot of support at the leadership level! All of these reasons resonated with me and made GT an ideal place to work!

From David Perez
You mentioned that when interviewing candidates you are looking for specific answers based on previous situations in a professional context. What if I cannot recall being part of such situations (such as a conflict)? As a recent graduate I may not have much experience as well. Is it then acceptable to answer the question in a hypothetical way?

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Hi David. We have all had experiences in interviews when we could not relate the question (perhaps because we have not had that particular experience.) Oftentimes, we think we have to provide professional work examples, but if you have examples you can share about a situation in a group project for school or with a part-time job, that often helps. If you still do not have an answer, then you can let the person know you have not had that experience, and let them know the actions you would take should you be in that situation.

From Josh
Do co-op students do mostly corporate or personal taxes?

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hi Josh, as a co-op student, you get an exposure to both corporate and individual tax as well as tax on trust fund. Even though I work in the audit department, I had the opportunity to work on corporate and individual tax as well!

Andrew, Ryerson University
How important is it to have a strong social media presence when applying for an accounting role with GT?

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Having a strong social media presence would probably fall under the category of ‘nice to have’. It’s certainly not an essential requirement.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
We’ve got time for a couple more questions, everyone!

If you’re looking to start an accounting career with Grant Thornton, here’s a great article featuring two grads who did just that! http://bit.ly/1Dv4K2s

Josh
Hi there, I go to Waterloo University. What’s a good interview question to ask?

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Hey Josh, I don’t know if it’s a “good one” but this is what I actually asked Adam when I had the interview. I asked, “What is the expectation of a co-op/junior staff and what I can do to achieve beyond the expectation?”

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Amin, a Financial and Business Economics major at York University, asks:

“As an undergrad student, what are some steps that I can take in order to improve my career opportunities upon graduation. In other words, what are some qualities that employers look for in a fresh undergraduate student?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
One of the most important things you can do to improve your career opportunities upon graduation is to associate with as many people as possible, making connections and building meaningful relationships. This ability to do this well is at the top of our list for desired qualities. But we also look for individuals that are full of optimism, who want to make a difference and take responsibility for all that they do. Those who are successful at Grant Thornton typically possess broad perspectives and experiences.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
This seems like a great time for our poll!

What are you hoping to learn from Grant Thornton today?
Training and mentoring provided to students and recent grads
( 11% )
Insider tips on how to stand out during the application process
( 56% )
Insight into who Grant Thornton’s ideal candidate is
( 33% )

Emma asks:
“I’ve participated in debate clubs in school, but I don’t know if I should put it on my application. What kinds of extra-curriculars will help me be considered at your company?”

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Great question Emma. At Grant Thornton, we are looking for well-rounded candidates who will be comfortable building relationships not only with their co-workers but more importantly, with our clients. We are business advisors, which means that we want people who show an entrepreneurial spirit and who want to take on an active role in providing advice to our clients to help them see their business’ growth potential. As mentioned in a previous response, any type of experience gained through part time jobs, being a member of a club or organization, joining a sports team or even involvement with your community, charitable organization or church can be an asset. What is more important than listing these extra-curriculars on your resume would be to demonstrate how the skills and experiences gained from these activities make you an ideal fit for our team!

From Nick M.
Do you always check references and if so, who would you recommend using as a reference when you’re a student that doesn’t have extensive professional experience just yet?

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Thanks for the question, Nick. We do check references as part of our hiring process. Some examples of references used by other new graduates are: a manager from a part time job, a professor that he/she worked with, or a manager from a co-op. We always work with the candidate once we get to the reference stage to provide more details and support through the reference check process.

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Jordan asks:
“Do you guys do group interviews?”

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
We don’t currently do group interviews for students. Typically an in-person interview would be done by two individuals. We’re not looking to increase that size and make you any more nervous than you might already be!

Veronica (TalentEgg):
That’s a wrap, everyone – thanks so much for participating in Office Hours!

We had a great time answering your questions… GT team, would you like to say anything before we go?

Satoru – Grant Thornton
Thanks everyone for your time and we look forward to more questions at our next TalentEgg Office Hours

Jennifer – Grant Thornton
Thanks so much for including me! I hope that I was able to give students valuable insight into our world and what we look for!

Adam Melnyk – (Human Resources Consultant, Grant Thornton)
I want to thank everyone for attending the Office Hours with Grant Thornton. For those students in South Coastal BC I encourage you to seek me out at recruitment events and say hello.

Rebecca – Grant Thornton
Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate. There have been great questions and I look forward to the next session. Thanks, Rebecca

Veronica (TalentEgg):
Keep your eyes on TalentEgg for all the latest jobs – including Grant Thornton positions!

Speaking of jobs, click this link to see all of Grant Thornton’s latest job postings: http://bit.ly/1bMLNwJ

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Want to work with Grant Thornton? Explore their amazing career opportunities here!

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About the author

Veronica Yao was a Marketing & Community Manager at TalentEgg, and a Journalism graduate from Ryerson University. She spends her days surfing social media, sharing cat photos online, and watching cartoons on Netflix. Connect with her on LinkedIn.