Office Hours: Grant Thornton Recruiters Offer Advice On Hatching Your Accounting Career


March 6th 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.

Four egg-cellent representatives joined us for what was now our third Office Hours event with Grant Thornton! Paul Peterson, Andrea Forbes, Sumira Duggal and Adam Melnyk were on hand 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.

TalentEgg Hayley: Welcome to Office Hours, TalentEgg-ers! My name is Hayley, I’m the Marketing Manager here at TalentEgg and I’ll be moderating today’s chat.

We have four representatives from Grant Thornton joining us today! Please welcome Paul Peterson, Andrea Forbes, Sumira Duggal and Adam Melnyk.

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

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

Sumira Duggal: Hello, my name is Sumira and I am a Talent Attraction Specialist. I have the privilege of recruiting fantastic talent for our Alberta offices located in Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Camrose and Calgary. I have been with the firm for nearly one year and I have to say, Grant Thornton has the BEST people!

Andrea Forbes: Hi everyone! My name is Andrea Forbes and I’m the Manager, Top Talent Attraction in Atlantic Canada. I am part of a team in Atlantic Canada that manages all of our campus recruitment activities where we strive to find the best and the brightest to join our firm!

Paul Peterson: I am the National Talent Resource Manager at Grant Thornton LLP. I am responsible for the firm’s strategy for our campus and experienced hire recruiting in Canada. I work out of our national office in Toronto.

Adam Melnyk: Hello! My name is Adam Melnyk and I am the HR Consultant for South Coastal B.C. A large part of my role is campus recruitment for the lower mainland and Fraser Valley. I’m excited to chat with the best and brightest from across Canada.

TalentEgg Hayley: Thanks everyone! Let’s kick things off with a couple of questions that were submitted in advance:

Marium I., a Psychology/Accounting student from the University of Windsor, asks: How do you approach students from unconventional backgrounds when it comes to hiring?

Adam Melnyk: Our clients are as diverse as they come and we like to have our people reflect our diverse client base. Finding an unconventional common ground with a client can be a great help on engagements. Many people who work at the firm currently don’t come from a strict Commerce background and that’s what makes Grant Thornton such a great place to work.

TalentEgg Hayley: Frank S., an Accounting student from York University, asks: How would you describe the culture of Grant Thornton? What type of people thrive, and what type don’t do as well?

Paul Peterson: Frank, I’m glad you asked about culture as it was something that attracted me to Grant Thornton. In short, the culture here is very entrepreneurial. I think those who thrive are intellectually curious, exceptional critical thinkers and intent on making a difference in everything they do. Using these attributes to execute on our brand promise—to help our clients unlock their potential for growth—typically ensures success at all levels.

Comment From Andy
Hi all. First, I’m pretty stoked for the Wilfrid Laurier Case Conference but unfortunately I’m off for a work term (WLU student here). Will there be any events during the summer months?

Adam Melnyk: Hi Andy. There are events happening all over Canada and in Vancouver. UBC hosts summer beach BBQs where the National and Midsize firms attend to meet prospective students. There is also frisbee football in the Toronto area. You can check our campus events for the most up-to-date schedule.

TalentEgg Hayley: You can also check the events section on Grant Thornton’s TalentEgg profile for upcoming events!

Comment From Jasdeep Sidhu
What is the minimum GPA that Grant Thornton will accept?

Andrea Forbes: As a general rule, we are looking for a solid B+ average. However, we really look at the full picture of a candidate and consider more than just their marks.

TalentEgg Hayley: Let’s hear from some more students who submitted a question in advance:

James, an Accounting student at the University of British Columbia, asks: What skills differentiate successful candidates from unsuccessful ones, both at the beginning of the recruiting process and in the final stages?

Adam Melnyk: We are looking for the “total package.” Someone who wants to make a difference and will take advantage of the career opportunities that Grant Thornton presents them. We’re looking for individuals who can do more than “crunch numbers.” We’re looking for people who will develop into business advisers that help our clients in growing their business.

TalentEgg Hayley: Jessica K., a Commerce/Accounting student at Queen’s University, asks: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the accounting field and lacks professional working experience?

Sumira Duggal: Great question Jessica! I would encourage you to take part in extra-curricular activities, such as working on community boards as a treasurer, and volunteering with tax clinics supported by community organizations and universities. It is a great way to get a taste of the “busy season.” I also encourage you to compete in case competitions to strengthen your strategic and problem solving skills using real accounting scenarios. Use the time to network! Accounting is a very competitive field, so your presence within the accounting community will help solidify your impression to key players in firms and the industry. Strengthen your presence on LinkedIn, join accounting groups and attend relevant events put on by your local accounting association. If you can, take temporary assignments through agencies to assist small firms looking for assistance, especially during busy season.

Comment From @sim_ss
Hi Paul Peterson, Andrea Forbes, Sumira Duggal and Adam Melnyk! I want to thank you guys for taking the time to speak with us today! This is Sim Singh, an Accounting major from York University, graduating this April. I am very interested in applying for audit but am also wondering if Grant Thornton hires recent grads for tax/assurance/consulting/etc.?

Andrea Forbes: Yes, definitely! We hire students in all streams however our primary focus is students entering into the audit stream.

Comment From Yibo
What kind of industries will first-year associates work in?

Adam Melnyk: In the Vancouver office you would see clients from the mining industry, film industry, not-for-profits, manufacturing and development, brokerage firms, publicly traded companies, and many other sectors. The best part about working for Grant Thornton is that you aren’t placed in a certain sector. You are a shared resource for many Partners who will expose you to their diverse clients.

TalentEgg Hayley: Savneer, an Accounting student from York University, asks: What is the recruitment process like for successful candidates?

Sumira Duggal: Thank you for your question Savneer. At Grant Thornton we work hard to ensure that our recruitment process is enjoyable, interactive and educational. Campus has precise guidelines, set by the provincial accounting association, to ensure an equitable process for all candidates. After applying online, successful candidates will participate in both first and second interviews. Usually there will be a meet and greet event, where the candidates have an opportunity to interact our employees and Partners in a social setting. Once offers are made and accepted, we work with the candidate to find a mutual start date and prepare them with an excellent formal orientation process, pairing the candidate with a mentor and coach.

TalentEgg Hayley: Yibo S., an Accounting student at the University of Toronto, asks: What are some common mistakes that people make on their resumes and cover letters when they are applying to a position? What are some things we should definitely include?

Paul Peterson: Today’s students and new grads are really smart and I can’t honestly say that we see a lot of “common” mistakes on resumes and cover letters. For a cover letter, be concise and to the point as to why you are interested in our firm, what makes you different from others and, where possible, demonstrate how your attributes and experience line up with who we’re looking for.

Comment From 1Marium_Imtiaz
Hello Paul, Adam, Andrea and Sumira. Thank you so much for being here today and answering our questions! What is the mentorship program like at Grant Thornton? How are the employees supported?

Paul Peterson: In order to make sure that as many people as possible pass the UFE the first time, each UFE candidate is paired with a UFE Buddy who is a recent UFE graduate. They meet regularly, one on one, to ensure that you are sufficiently prepared to write the UFE. Along the way, there is paid time off with formal UFE case studies marked. We also retain Densmore Consulting (professional UFE trainers) to help you pass the UFE. We do whatever we can to support our people. We work hard to set our UFE writers up for success.

Comment From Subbu
Hi all. I have a question about the summer. As most clubs around school are not very active in the summer, how do we make ourselves stand out from the rest during these four months? I know you can get internships and work experience at accounting firms, but is there anything else we can do as students to make an impact?

Sumira Duggal: Hi Subbu, great question. Grant Thornton is active all year round. In Alberta, we participate in numerous local community events, sending teams of people to represent the firm. I would also recommend staying connected with your post-secondary business students’ association for summer events they will be holding. Often firms will send representatives to attend these events.

TalentEgg Hayley: Mark F., a BBA/Accounting student at St. Francis Xavier University, asks: What qualities and attributes does Grant Thornton value most in recruiting potential CA students?

Andrea Forbes: Beyond strong marks, we are really looking for students who demonstrate great interpersonal skills and the keen ability to build meaningful relationships. We want our people to go beyond the role of technical advisor and really help our clients to see the big picture and grow their business, so we look for students with a positive “can-do” attitude and the ability to think outside of the box.

TalentEgg Hayley: Ruth B., an Accounting student at the University of Waterloo, asks: What’s the first thing recruiters notice about students at networking events?

Andrea Forbes: Making a good first impression is really important and there are a couple of things you can do to help set yourself apart. Campus recruiters take notice of the students who demonstrate the confidence to come up and introduce themselves. Don’t worry about running through your resume when you meet a recruiter—we are just looking for students who are friendly, confident and have a genuine interest in learning more about our firm. Before campus recruitment events, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at our website and talk to any friends who work here, so you can come armed with a few questions. That really shows us you are interested and can help set you apart from other students!

Comment From Frank Savonarota
Hi everyone, I want to start by thanking everyone at Grant Thornton for taking time off their busy schedules to answer our questions. My question is: Seeing how CSR has become such a big aspect of the corporate world as of late, what kind of volunteer opportunities have you been given with Grant Thornton?

Adam Melnyk: Making a difference is a part of who we are and we encourage all employees to volunteer their time. The United Way is one of the main organizations we encourage people to volunteer with, but Grant Thornton encourages all employees to volunteer their time with the organization of their choice.

Comment From Lily Wu
Hi Paul, Andrea, Sumira, Adam: What is your favourite part about working with Grant Thornton?

Adam Melnyk: Being surrounded by professionals.

Paul Peterson: I have a huge variety of work that I do.

Sumira Duggal: The people, hands down, are the best part of working here. It is an absolute treat to work with the teams across Canada.

Andrea Forbes: Great question Lily! For me it is really the people. We have a great work culture with people who really love what they do!

TalentEgg Hayley: Andrew C., an Economics student at the University of Victoria, asks: What is Grant Thornton looking for when recruiting summer students and recent graduates. Will the CPA merger affect the type of qualities you’re looking for?

Adam Melnyk: I believe that the CPA merger has the potential to present a wider variety of prospective students to Grant Thornton, but the base qualities that we look for in all Grant Thornton employees will not change. Whether for a summer or permanent position, we select people based on their ability to deliver our brand promise, which is to help our clients unlock their potential for growth. Key attributes include: Intellectual curiosity, exceptional critical thinking abilities and an ability to build relationships.

TalentEgg Hayley: Mingyuan Z., a Finance student at St. Francis Xavier University, asks: What kind of opportunities are available for new Finance graduates who don’t have an Accounting focus?

Andrea Forbes: We hire students with varying degrees and majors. It is really the fit with our firm culture and core values that is the most important factor in our hiring decisions. However, in order to start ASCA as a CA student here in Atlantic Canada, students are required to have a number of core courses from their undergraduate degree. You can find the list of required courses for ASCA through this link. It differs by province and the requirements for the three other Canadian programs can be found on the CASB, ICAG, and ICAO sites. Most of the students we hire do start in our audit practice. However, once you have been with the firm for a year or two there are many additional career opportunities internally to move into different service lines, including tax and corporate finance.

Comment From Shan Nawaz
Thanks for joining us for Office Hours, all the information we receive here is very helpful. Does Grant Thornton consider applications from people who don’t reside in the area that is hiring? For example, would an application from a student in Toronto be accepted for an opening in Nova Scotia or PEI?

Andrea Forbes: Absolutely! We are really looking for the right people who have a genuine interest in that particular area. Just make sure when applying that you apply separately to each office you are interested in working for.

Comment From @gurvisd
What would you say differentiates Grant Thornton’s culture from other accounting firms?

Sumira Duggal: Grant Thornton advocates a balanced lifestyle as a key to a productive workforce. Our best assets—our people—go home at night. We have smaller engagement teams which allow for diversity in our clientele and engagements. Grant Thornton gives you the opportunity to see the entire process of a file and engagement and how it impacts the operations and efficiency of our clients’ business. We work hard and play hard!

TalentEgg Hayley: Thanks Sumira!

I think this is a great time for our poll! Here we go…

Why are you attending Office Hours with Grant Thornton today?

  • I want advice on navigating the recruitment process (19%)
  • I’m looking for resume and application tips (13%)
  • I’m looking for insider information about a career with Grant Thornton (69%)

Interesting results! Let’s check out another question that was submitted prior to the event.

Colin B., an International Business student at Dalhousie University, asks: I’m interested in consulting positions with the firm. Are there opportunities available at Grant Thornton for non-Accounting graduates?

Andrea Forbes: We do hire non-Accounting candidates as well, especially within our Advisory practice, but at the present time the majority of our campus hires pursue a focus in Accounting.

TalentEgg Hayley: Maokai S., an Accounting student at the University of Toronto, asks: What is one mistake that you see students make during the recruitment process, and how can I make sure to avoid it?

Adam Melnyk: Good question, Maokai! Know which firm you’re talking to. I think this is fairly easy to avoid, but I’ve been surprised how many students ask me, “So what’s it like working at ABC Accounting Firm?” when they are attending a Grant Thornton event.

Comment From Vidur Pathak, York University
Hello Peter, Andrea, Sumira and Adam. My name is Vidur Pathak, third-year student at York University. I was wondering if Grant Thornton encourages further studying such as studying for the CFA/MBA while working?

Paul Peterson: We support and encourage people from a variety of service lines to further their education. It really depends on what appeals to you and what is believed will help you offer greater value to our clients as well. But there are always people that are getting additional degrees and designations as well as many who are just fine with the first one. It’s a very personal decision.

Comment From Beiley Qin
I am a fourth-year accounting student at Saint Mary’s University. I am really interested in the summer position at the PEI office. How would this job position help students succeed in the CA program?

Andrea Forbes: It is great to get experience in a summer position for a couple of reasons. It gives you first hand exposure to the type of work you will be engaged in in the audit group. Also, the hours can often be put toward the required hours needed to obtain your designation if you do decide to join the firm full-time as a CA student.

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, Sumira and Adam for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions! Do you four have any final comments?

Paul Peterson: Thanks for everyone’s patience from the slow typer who was missing his spell check. 🙂

Sumira Duggal: Thank you all for your questions. I hope that we were able to provide you a little insight into why Grant Thornton is such a great place to work.

Adam Melnyk: I want to thank everyone for the great questions. I really look forward to meeting the top students from B.C. and across Canada in 2013!

Andrea Forbes: Thanks for attending and we hope you all enjoy the rest of your day!

TalentEgg Hayley: Thanks everyone!

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

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

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.