Office Hours: Learn About Student And Entry Level Accounting Jobs At KPMG

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Office Hours is an hour-long, live Q&A with an industry egg-spert for TalentEgg members only. Students and recent grads are invited to interact with a special guest, asking questions about career paths, recruitment processes and tips for success.

On March 14, 2012, we hosted our first official Office Hours event with special guest Stephen Novalski, Talent Attraction Manager, GTA Campus Recruiting at KPMG.

Stephen fielded questions about the accounting industry and career opportunities with KPMG, and provided excellent advice to help students and new grads navigate the school-to-work transition and successfully hatch their careers in accounting.

In case you missed the live event, you can read what Stephen had to say below:

TalentEgg Taryn:
Hi TalentEgg-ers! Welcome to Office Hours! My name is Taryn and I’ll be moderating today’s chat. Today’s egg-spert guest is Stephen Novalski from KPMG. You’ll have one hour to ask Stephen all your pressing questions about the accounting industry, recruitment, and tips for success.

TalentEgg Taryn:
Stephen, would you like to introduce yourself to the group?

StephenKPMG:
Hi everyone! Welcome to KPMG’s office hours with TalentEgg! I am one of the Talent Attraction Managers from KPMG in the GTA. So I deal with just about everything related to campus recruiting for KPMG for our Toronto office. Previously I did work on our National Campus Recruiting team so if you do have questions related to other offices I will do my best to answer those questions as well! I also started with KPMG in our Audit group and spent three years working there as well – so hopefully I should have all of the bases covered!

Comment From Guest
Hi Stephen, during recruitment what qualities usually stand out to you when you meet one of the students?

StephenKPMG:
When we are meeting students we really are looking for the complete package. So that means we do look at academics – as they are a strong indicator of one’s technical knowledge and experience which is very important. We also look at your work experience and extra-curricular involvement as well, as many of the skills you learn there are very transferrable to the working world.

Comment From Mohamed
Hello Steven, I was just wondering, with your many years experience at KPMG, does recruitment include students who are currently in university about to graduate in fields such as HR?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Mohamed – the majority of KPMG’s campus recruiting is for students who are looking to pursue a CA designation – into Audit, Tax or Advisory. We typically do not hire for HR or other roles in the fall season, however, keep posted to our website at www.kpmg.ca/careers for roles as they come up throughout the year!

Comment From Guest
Hi Stephen 🙂 What makes KPMG different from other accounting firms?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – this is a question we get a lot and it can be pretty tough to answer! Overall, the work you’ll do at any of the firms will be quite similar but what we think really differentiates us is our people. The people you work with really do make it enjoyable to come to work every day and are the key to your development once you start at KPMG. The interest they take in you and your professional development I think is a strong differentiator for KPMG.

Comment From Guest
Hello Stephen! Nice to meet you! I am currently a second year commerce student studying at UOIT. I am wondering what kinds of past experience is KPMG looking for from students? I have heard that Customer Service Preps is a good start. Is this true?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – we are open to a variety of experiences and the most important thing is the skills that you develop as part of your experiences. As one of the most important things we do in Audit is deal with our clients – any work in customer service is always great experience to have as those skills will be put to use right away.

Comment From Anisha K
Hi Stephen, For summer interns at KPMG, what is offered in terms of mentoring/coaching to ease the transition into the firm? Also, can you enlighten us on what you found was/is a benefit from being mentored/coached from any of your experiences?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Anisha – at KPMG as an intern you are paired up with not only a performance manager who works with you to set goals for your career and helps to ensure you achieve them but you are also set up with a mentor as well. Your mentor is only a few years ahead of you and is a more informal relationship and is someone to go to for other items. I had some great mentors when I was in Audit and had many partners who took the time to help coach me directly and I learned so much from them. I really felt the effort they made was something I didn’t expect as a junior accountant, but that I really appreciated!

Comment From Anum Arif
Hello Stephen, what opportunities and tools are available to a new hire at KPMG as they move through the firm?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Anum – aside from your PM and goal-setting we also have the KPMG Business School which has a wide variety of both online and in-class resources that you can take advantage. This helps with some of the technical skills and even the soft skills you might need for success in your role. Also, each year as you transition into a new role there is training for you to help you understand what new challenges you can expect as you progress through the firm.

Comment From Tahir I
Hello Stephen, I was just wondering what you as a recruiter look for in individual students and how students in your opinion can stand out from the crowd?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Tahir – if you’re looking to stand out the best advice we can give is to just be yourself! Come to events when you can and ask questions you are genuinely interested in knowing the answers to and you will come off in the best light possible. It can be difficult if you’re nervous but if you are comfortable with us you will probably also be comfortable when you are out working with the client!

Comment From Rafael Amaya
Hi Stephen, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. My question is, does KPMG prefer students aiming for a specific designation (example CMA, CA or CGA)?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Rafael – KPMG typically hires individuals who are planning on pursuing their CA designation. Our training programs are geared towards those who intend to write the UFE and although we do help and support those pursuing the CMA or CGA who work for us, the majority of our new hires are planning to do their CA.

TalentEgg Taryn:
Here’s a quick poll for the audience…

What designation do you want to get?

  • CA (73%)
  • CGA (13%)
  • CMA (7%)
  • CFA (7%)
  • not sure (0%)

Comment From Kawai
Hi Stephen, thank you for joining us today! I am wondering what are the opportunities for accounting students from the west coast to connect with recruiters and staff who are work in the Toronto office. I understand that each office deals with clients from very different industries and would like to learn more about their experiences in audit!

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Kawai – if you are interested in the Toronto office, you can let us know in your application in the Fall which office you are interested in and we will note that regardless of the school you may be attending. If you’re going to be in Toronto over the summer we will have many events taking place in our office that you can look forward to attending and meeting some of our KPMG representatives!

Comment From Guest
Hello Stephen, In terms of internships, are the candidates with previous accounting experience preferable to KPMG than those who do not have experience?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – this is another question that we get a lot and although previous experience in accounting can be helpful and relevant for the job it is by no means a requirement to work at KPMG. As I said earlier, skills that we are looking for – like customer service experience – are very important to the job and can be learned in a variety of ways from many different work experiences. So if you don’t have accounting experience it’s totally fine – just be sure to focus on the transferrable skills you do have from the experience you do have.

Comment From Steve
Hello Stephen, I was wondering how are clients assigned to me once I am in the firm? If, for example, I have an interest in real estate or public infrastructure, can I request to be put on those assignments? Or are you assigned at random? Thank you.

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Steve – KPMG in the GTA is set up into 6 industry groups which are a general indicator of the type of clients you will be on, although even within those groups there is some variety. For example, I worked in Financial Institutions and Real Estate (FIRE) but worked on banks, pensions, mutual fund companies, real estate and construction companies. You can choose the industry group you are most interested in but you are also welcome to make a switch if you find your interest in another area grows.

Comment From Guest
Hello Stephen, does one have to have an accounting background to be considered for a talent attraction role (intern) within KPMG?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – we have people working in Talent Attraction at KPMG who have an accounting background but also have individuals who have an HR background as well. Some of our Audit summer interns will help us out in campus recruiting over the summer but we also do often hire entry-level staff to our Talent Attraction team and typically look for those pursuing an HR degree for these roles.

Comment From Karen
Hello Stephen! I am interested in applying for the Fast Forward National Leadership Program this coming summer. I was wondering what experiences and skills KPMG is looking for in the students that will be applying. Thanks.

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Karen – Fast Forward is a conference focused on Leadership so we are looking for individuals who are leaders on their campus. The main area to focus on is your leadership experience and roles you have taken on in which you are a leader. These can be on campus or even in your own local community as well. The conference hopes to inspire and encourage these up and coming leaders to do bigger and better things on campus when they return from Fast Forward!

Comment From Guest
Hi Stephen, for the internship program, what do interns do specifically? Auditing, Advisory or Tax?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – KPMG’s summer internship program is actually a rotational program. So all of our interns will do two months of their summer in Audit and another two months in a non-Audit group as well. This might be Tax or Advisory but some also work in Marketing, Finance, Learning & Development or even Campus Recruiting for their other rotation. So not only do you get experience in Audit but you also get a chance to see where else your KPMG career could take you in the future!

Comment From Anum Arif
Hi Stephen, which students do you find stand out to you the most at a networking session? Are there key qualities in the questions they ask that make you remember them more?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Anum – as I said earlier, the most important thing is to be genuine and to be yourself. The most memorable individuals are the ones who seemed excited and enjoyed being there. If you stick to asking questions you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer to it will always come off better than asking “what you think you should ask”.

Comment From Team 4
What truly defines success at KPMG as an organization? What is the underlying philosophy you live by when interacting with clients day to day, and is it the same when approaching students through the full cycle recruitment process?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Team 4 – One of the most important things that our CEO Bill Thomas speaks about is taking a low self-interest when dealing with your clients and that was something I always tried to do when I was interacting with them. It is important that although you have a job to do that you should also make sure to understand the client’s situation and always put them as the priority. When working in recruiting I find it is the same way. I always have to think about the students first and try to do everything I can when planning an event or interviews to make sure they are done as well as possible to impress my new client – the students!

Comment From Team 4
An intern or staff accountant may think that their efforts early on in their career at KPMG may not contribute to the macroeconomic advancement of the firm. Can you give an example of how even something small can provide value for the firm and can go a long way in terms of KPMG’s overall mission?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Team 4 – that’s a great question! I think that even when I started, I felt like my efforts weren’t leading to much for the firm, however, it is often the youngest employees of the firm who are spending the most time with the client working face-to-face. The relationships that anyone at any level can build with a client are absolutely crucial to not only maintaining our current clients but also getting us new ones as well! If you as a first year have a great experience with a client you are dealing with, word can easily get up to the CEO of that company and can help KPMG maintain their strong relationship with that client.

Comment From Guest
Hello Stephen, What role do the majority of entry level students start working in? Do students just starting work at KPMG need to start as an Associate?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – our new hires will usually start as what we call Staff Accountants. You will begin working on clients right away, although the first work you will start with will be the less risky and simpler sections of the Audit. As you progress you will take on more responsibility and more risky and challenging sections of the Audit as well. Thankfully you will always have the support of the more senior people on your team to help you through the initial stages.

Comment From Netherlands
Hello Stephen from Amstelveen — the global headquarters of KPMG! My question is regarding secondments. What is the process and how long can you go for?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Netherlands – I have yet to visit the Global HQ of KPMG but it’s something I am definitely looking to do! Secondments usually are available to individuals who have completed all of their accounting exams and you can apply similar to how you would apply for a job through our internal Global Mobility site. You have the option of 4-6 month secondments and up to 2-3 year secondments as well. KPMG also provides opportunities for our interns to take part in a global opportunity as well with our Global Internship Program! This summer we will be sending interns to do one month of their internship in South Africa and New Zealand!

TalentEgg Taryn:
Stephen, some students receive offers from more than one firm – what’s the best way to figure out which one is right for them?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Taryn – when you have more than one offer it is important to really take a step back and think about where you feel the best “fit” – and that’s usually where people end up and that was why I chose KPMG. When trying to sense this “fit” it is important to really have ‘been yourself’ through the process – and you will really see the value of this once you really have the option to choose where you want to work. If you have been able to be yourself in your interactions with a firm and feel that “fit”, then chances are that’s the right place for you!

Comment From Guest
Hi Stephen! I was wondering if KPMG would still accept students graduating this spring because as far as I know, the recruitment has ended earlier last semester. Thank you!

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – KPMG does all of our hiring in the Fall (except for a few schools who are on a bit of a different timeline) and we will be accepting applications once again this coming Fall 2012 for positions starting in 2013. Until then unfortunately there won’t be anything available for our Audit groups.

Comment From Guest
Hello Stephen, many people are using LinkedIn to get to know people. Do you think LinkedIn is an effective way to network?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Guest – that’s a great question! I have definitely seen a huge increase in the amount of students who use LinkedIn, and I think it is a great tool although I am not too sure people really know how to use it to their best ability in terms of networking. Just connecting yourself with someone won’t make as much of an impact as any in-person networking might. I think it is a good start – but it’s also important to take part in events that the firm holds to really get a sense of the culture as well.

Comment From Karen Ng
Hi Stephen, in your opinion, do you think it would be easier for students that have had a previous co-op term at KPMG to obtain an entry level position after graduation over a student who hasn’t?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Karen – many of our full-time hires are individuals who have completed a co-op or internship with us in the past, however, we also hire many individuals directly from school to start full-time as well. That was how I started with KPMG as I had not completed a co-op or internship in advance of starting full-time.

Comment From Anum Arif
Hi Stephen, from your perspective do you find Twitter helps students in standing out as a prospective candidate?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Anum – that’s also a great question and I must confess I am pretty new to Twitter so I may not be the best at answering this question! But I would say it is probably a lot like LinkedIn. You probably can’t rely on social media for networking but it can’t hurt. I think one of the great benefits of Twitter is that you can get relevant information literally in real-time which is great for students who always have a lot on the go!

Comment From George
Hello Stephen! Can second year accounting students be accepted at KPMG? Are you focusing on 3rd and 4th year students only?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks George – that would also depend on your program – as with some co-op schools we do hire second years but generally the majority of our summer and full-time hires and for those who have just started their 3rd or 4th year in the Fall. We do however occasionally hire second years with great resumes and who really stand out above the crowd. I definitely recommend everyone to apply though, as the process of writing a resume, attending networking events and the whole recruiting process is a great learning experience for the next year!

Comment From Tahir I
Many students are going the non-traditional route and taking the CKE and SOA examination and then applying with a Big 4. In your opinion, would that be a desirable route for a student that does not land a job with a Big 4 right away?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Tahir – that is an option that some people take and I think is a good way to do something productive with your time if you have not been able to secure a job. It can be a bit more of a challenge doing it on your own but can pay off in the end so that you don’t fall behind too much. One of the challenges can be that the UFE is around the same time as some of the recruiting events in the Fall so it is definitely something to take into consideration.

Comment From Hamid Qaheri
Hey Stephen, hope you’re well. For 4th year graduating students, what would you recommend as key things to do during the summer months in preparation for September’s recruiting season?

StephenKPMG:
Thanks Hamid – I would definitely recommend trying to attend any of the firm’s events that are coming up over the summer in advance of September to be sure to meet as many people as possible. Although securing a job in the Fall might mean you can’t start until as late as Fall 2013 you can definitely look to get some other valuable experience for your resume, i.e. full-time employment elsewhere, that can really improve your resume above those of a student who is limited to part-time work during the year.

TalentEgg Taryn:
That brings us to the end of today’s Office Hours. If you have any more questions about KPMG you can check out their profile on TalentEgg. Thank you for joining us today Stephen, you were an egg-cellent guest!

StephenKPMG:
Thanks everyone for all of your questions! It has been a pleasure!

StephenKPMG:
As I said I am new to Twitter but you can follow me @SNovalski and also follow KPMG @KPMGCampusCDN! Have a great rest of the day and if you’re in Toronto enjoy some of this amazing weather!

Want to participate in future Office Hours chats? Become a TalentEgg member now (it’s free!) and we’ll keep you in the loop about upcoming events.

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About the author

Taryn Fahey is TalentEgg's Marketing Specialist and the Office Hours Moderator. Taryn is a recent graduate of UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Management, where she earned a Bachelor of Management with a specialization in Marketing.