Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Can You Get a Big 4 Job If You Didn’t Go to a “Brand Name” College?

Today we hear from a Big 4 dreamer and their frustration with the firms’ penchant for “brand name schools,” and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Have a question about your career? An inter-office love triangle? How to interpret the partner’s passive-aggressiveness attitude? Email us your query to [email protected] and we’ll level with you.

Back to our reader:

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to go onto the Deloitte Job Board and see positions with schools next to them, indicating the spot is only for a graduate of Notre Dame or some other brand name school. I turned down Notre Dame to go to a small liberal arts school in Chicago and now I have no idea how to get into the recruiting cycle for the Big 4 or regional public accounting firms. There were no accounting firms at the job fairs or on-campus interviews held at my school.

I graduated cum laude last December (a semester early and with my 150 credit hours). Desperate not to move back home, I took a private accounting job, but it didn’t work out and for personal reasons I moved up to Wisconsin. Now I am studying for the CPA and searching for a job. My question: how can I get in on this recruiting season? Is there even a way?

Unfortunately, this is just the way it is for public accounting firms. Unless an influential partner has a personal connection to a small school (Alma Mater, children are students there, etc), they are typically overlooked. The factory-like recruiting machines that are public accounting firms look for the same attribute in their target schools; where can they get the most bang (candidates) for their buck. If you think about it, it makes sense:

Recruit at Notre Dame – meet 100 qualified accounting students
Recruit at small liberal arts school – meet 15 qualified accounting students

Of the 1-2 students a firm would hire out of the small school, those numbers can be made up at the larger universities. This saves on expenses (travel, lodging, premiums, etc). Dollars and sense.

All that said, the issue is not that you’re from a small school, it’s that you’re now graduated and part of the workforce. Being a recent gradutate is more difficult; you’re not part of the campus recruiting scope and you’re too green to fit the typical experienced hire mold.

The best thing you can do is reach out to the firms directly. Use your network to find out who the HR contact is in the city where you live or want to live and call or email them. The most crucial thing with recruiters is getting them to know your name and face.

You’re cum laude so they’ll like that and if you are legitimately interested in the firm, they will take an interest in you. It will take some footwork on your part but it can be done.