Are auditors currently in demand

"Resilience and ambition are required in the Big Four"

The Big Four are a career springboard for graduates. In an interview, personnel consultant Stefan Stieger explains what requirements the four largest auditing companies have and what makes Big Four employees interesting for industry. The so-called Big Four, the largest international auditing firms (EY, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte), have not had to worry about new talent so far. How is it currently?

Stefan Stieger: The Big Four companies still employ a large number of graduates. Since for some years now they have not only given preference to master's and diploma graduates, but also employ bachelor's degrees, the number of potential applicants is even growing. After completing their Bachelor's degree in business administration, many graduates do not yet know exactly what their future career should look like. Starting a career at the Big Four offers a good basis and the opportunity to get to know many different industries, company areas and the real world of work. In addition, the major auditors have perfected the topics of employer branding and graduate recruitment and are represented at universities and in alumni networks.

2016 | OriginalPaper | Book chapter

Accounting Firms Between Market and Profession: A Case Study

Auditing firms find themselves in the field of tension between the logic of the market and the logic of the profession. The previous part of the thesis has shown that this is expressed in management-oriented and professional practice-arrangement bundles.

Nevertheless, the shortage of skilled workers is also finding its way into this branch. The reasons for this are the unwillingness of the younger generation to sacrifice themselves for the job as much as it used to be. A lot of people are put off by high workloads and constant travel. In addition, nowadays applicants are well informed about a wide variety of job profiles - the job profile of the auditor is currently losing interest.

What skills and characteristics do the major auditing firms look for when it comes to recruiting candidates?

Resilience and ambition are required in the Big Four. If applicants already did internships or working student activities during their studies, this shows that they are willing to do more than others. For the big players, it is a good indicator if applicants did not make it too easy for themselves during their studies and worked on the side. They appreciate it when they gain their first professional experience and insights into company processes, because that makes it easier to get started as a consultant more quickly. Important hard skills are a degree in economics or industrial engineering and a certain basic understanding of the interrelationships in finance. However, a particularly good university degree is not a must for a career with the Big Four.

What makes auditors interesting for companies in the industry?

You are resilient, well organized and structured. As they are used to switching from one mandate to the next in auditing, they are able to quickly familiarize themselves with new issues. The fact that they already know different areas, departments and industries and can be deployed flexibly makes Big Four employees even more interesting for industrial companies. Another plus point is their ability to communicate on an equal footing at different levels of the hierarchy.

What do companies have to offer Big Four employees in order to be attractive as an employer?

Companies that offer intensive training are interesting for such applicants: onboarding, mentoring and coaching. The more specific the induction plan, the better. This helps at the beginning of the activity to understand all processes in the company and to get started quickly in day-to-day business. In addition, the future employer should show opportunities for further development and career prospects and be able to keep them. A healthy mix of interesting tasks and challenges plays a decisive role when choosing an employer. The possibility of combining work with family and leisure time, for example through flexible working hours, also play a major role for auditors when deciding for or against a company.

In which areas of activity are Big Four employees mainly deployed when they switch to industry?

The classic case that I often come across in practice are employees who switch from auditing to classic financial areas in industry after around three to five years - into accounting, controlling, internal audit or also in staff functions in finance and accounting. The reason for switching to these areas is that Big Four employees already know the legal requirements very well and can also build on the fundamentals of finance and accounting that they learned during their studies. Although they lack operational experience in accounting, their audit experience allows them to familiarize themselves with the operational accounting business very quickly.