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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So I Have An Offer, Now What?

Hiring in the public accounting industry has definitely picked up steam, and firms across the country are in the process right now of hiring hundreds if not thousands of new college grads, interns and experienced professionals. It's happening here at McGladrey for sure, and my peers at our competitors are confirming this as well.

Last year, on college campuses across the country many students were left out, not receiving offers when the would of in year's past. Even the best students at the best schools were not getting same the number of offers that they were getting in the past. This year it's a very different story although we still have a way to go to catch up to the hiring volume of 3-4 years ago. Its surely a move in the right direction however.

So whether you are a college student or an experienced professional, what are some of the things that you should be considering when evaluating new offers of employment? Let's break it down by college and experienced:

College Students
  • Training and development - How will you be developed in your first year? What training will you receive prior to your first busy season? How much structured training is available compared to on-the-job training? Does the firm have career paths mapped out that are easy for you to understand? How easy will it be for you to complete your CPA Exam studies and take all four sections of the Exam within your first several months of employment?
  • People, teams and responsibilities - Who will you get to work with? What type of access will you have to Partners? What type of access will you have to key decision makers at your clients? Will you have a single primary responsibility on engagements, or will you have a variety of responsibilities? Will you work on one client, or multiple clients?
  • Hours, travel, and flexibility - Everyone works long hours during busy season, but how long on average? What are hours like when it's not busy season? What percentage of travel can you expect? What flexibility options are available and when are they available?
  • Total compensation - In addition to salary, sign-on bonus and incentive bonuses, what is the value of the benefits package? How much do health and welfare benefits cost per pay period? What does the hourly rate look like (base salary divided by average number of hours that you will be expected to work)

Experienced Professionals

  • Is the grass greener? Every public accounting firm has had their share of challenges over the past couple years, is working at another firm going to be any different? If yes, what are the specific differences, and are those important to your short and long-term career goals? If you left public, what is it about coming back to public accounting that appeals to you?
  • People, teams and responsibilities - Who will you work with? What is the size and scope of the team you will join? What types of clients will you serve? Are you expected to bring in new business? If yes, how soon and how much? Is this a step up in scope of responsibility, or is a lateral move OK? Will you work on a single client or will you have multiple clients?
  • Opportunities for growth and development - How quickly to people move up the ranks? Are career paths mapped out? What does the path to Partner look like and how long might it take to get there? Will you be expected to specialize in a particular function or industry? If yes,what are the benefits of specializing and what development opportunities are available for you to gain expertise in that speciality?
  • Flexibility - What flexible options are available? What resources are available during challenging or stressful times? Can one advance while using flexible schedule options? What options are those after hours or for those who may have an interest in community service?

What it really boils down to is the following, what are your short-term and long-term goals? If you are a college student, how do offers from different firms match up to those goals? If you are an experienced professional, how do these goals match your current job and a new job you may be considering? Make lists of your goals and the pluses and minuses of offers (and your current job if you have one), and compare.

Evaluating a job offer is a complex activity. Think about what is going to make you happy, successful, and on a path to a great career. There's a lot of great opportunities out there, make sure that you take the time to evaluate and select the one most appropriate for you!

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