August 11, 2022

Career Advice

Corporate Accountant With a Broken Shift Key Seeks New Career

(Only until Caleb stops hitting on hot Polish girls) Ed. note: if you have a career question for our team of accounting drop-outs plus the one loser who never took the CPA exam, get in touch.

I am a young professional, I have an undegrad [sic] degree in finance and am finishing a masters in accounting. I’ve worked for 2.5 years in corporate accounting and 3 years in accounting/finance for a university. I have no public accounting experience. I want to gain a role in transaction advisory or the like.

I was recently offered a job with a small/mid size public firm in a Senior Associate role for their transactions group. The offer is 60k. should i jump at this offer, am i lucky to get a senior role? Should i hold out for a public firm in an associate role?

Can i make the jump from the midsize firm as a senior to a big 4 as a senior in a few years?

Thanks!
[Name redacted for privacy reasons. Let’s call him Barnabus]

Barnabus,
I’m going to keep this short because the financial world might come to an end before I reach the fourth paragraph.

I suggest you heed the Blacksmith’s advice and strike while the iron is hot.

The transaction advisory groups across the public accounting spectrum are heating back up from their frigid days of ’08 and ’09, with hiring numbers up for both the experienced and entry-level channels. Although your degrees will serve you well in your career, your 5.5 years of experience don’t bring much relevant experience to the table. Would it be nice to wait and see if you can land a transaction advisory role at a Big4? Sure. But with the market down 200 300 400 OMFG 500 POINTS TODAY, unemployment spreading like viral Bieber videos, and the economy stuck in park with four blown out tires and an elephant sitting on its trunk, you take the open door and thank your lucky #*&@ing stars your particular iron is hot. You have an opportunity to make a move right now in your career that will put your career on the track you want.

Philosophy Major Considering a Big 4 Career Needs a Reality Check, Better Grades

(Acting) Ed. note: if you have a question for our team of highly knowledgeable monkeys, email [email protected] and we’ll be happy to make fun of you in front of your peers, superiors and the Internet-at-large, unless it’s a good question, in which case we will do our best to give you awesome information.

Hello!

I found the advice column on your blog so I thought I would ask you this question:

I recently graduated from a state school in the California State University system as a Philosophy major. My original plan was to go to law school, but I am now thinking I may want to go into accounting instead (due to the terrible job market for lawyers and the 150k debt I’d be faced with). Parike to work at a Big 4 firm. Is this change possible? I found a “Post-baccalaureate Accounting Certificate” at Portland State University (I’d like to end up in Portland if possible). Does that program have any chance of helping me land a Big 4 job, or does it lack prestige? If you’d like to suggest the best post-bac/master’s program for me you should know that the only math I’ve taken is statistics 1, and I’ve taken micro econ and macro econ, but aside from that I’d be starting from scratch. My undergrad GPA is 3.13, which I believe is a little low for the Big 4. Could I make up for that with a good post-bac certificate GPA, or perhaps a good master’s GPA if that is the route I should go?

Thank you for your help!

Listen, Ambulance-Chaser-cum-Capital-Market-Hero, you need to slow down and do a little more research on the Big 4 before you even attempt this stunt. The Big 4 don’t want some 3.13er who originally picked a different profession and then just kind of stumbled upon accounting as a more “viable” option due to the long-term (or even short) career opportunities. Sorry the law school plan didn’t work out but no allegedly prestigious firm is going to want you with your “certificate” (unless it is one of these) and low GPA. So if I were you and actually attempting this, I would be sure to spin those particular details into as much gold as possible. Don’t lie but don’t be so upfront about it either.

You admit that you’re new here so I won’t rail on you too but hard I will highly recommend you catch up on some advice columns (and especially their comments) we’ve done before. If we can sniff out your “well looks like you’re the only viable option” attitude via email, I can only imagine which method recruiters will use to avoid your emails and talk about you behind your back.

You still have a chance here if (and that’s a huge if) you actually want to do this, get yourself into a real program and not some funky certificate program, you might as well get a degree from some adult college advertised during Maury Povich for as much good as that will do you. And for Christ’s sake, at least try to pull a 3.8.

Fast track the CPA exam if you can but I get the sneaking suspicion that you are one of the candidates who will end up having to take BEC 7 times based on the fact that accounting is not your background and you don’t seem all that excited about the prospect of ticking and tying your good years away for “The Man,” but are instead focused on making a few bucks in an industry that’s still actually hiring because your first choice is a really awful one. In my experience, those who do best on the CPA exam are those who actually want to do it (shocking, I know). The ones who are forcing themselves because of the economy, their parents, their boss, etc are the ones who fail miserably over and over, usually with infuriating 74s. If you managed 4 years of philosophy, you’re probably too right-brained for the CPA anyway.

Big 4 recruiters do hit Portland State but you’re going to have a hell of a time explaining to them what you did with the last four years of your life and convincing them that you’re in it for the long-term and not just to have a job ’til the economy looks better.

We’re not going to do your job for you and recommend “the best” program for you, but nice try. We recommend Google, it’s a pretty helpful career tool. That’s how you found us, right?

I’m not saying it can’t be done but you need to be realistic here. The industry has already reached its quota of useless, mediocre assholes who don’t know which side debits go on. If you’re OK with being an AP clerk or working at a smaller firm I say go for it but with your “credentials,” I wouldn’t count on having to beat off the Big 4 recruiters with a stick any time soon.

An Accounting Director, Who Really Needs a Drink, Needs Advice on His Next Career Move

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Advice gurus,

I’m a Accounting Director (upgraded staff accountant really) at a small non-profit. I’ve been with the org since getting out of college 2 years ago. My firm loves me but I’ve decided to switch, mainly because I’m not liking the AD position. First because come close of the year and January, I pretty much want to drown my life in as many Guinesses as I can find. 80+ hours per week just sucks after a while and my org doesn’t let me drink. 🙁 Second is personal – I’m wanting to be closer to family and friends.

I took the AD job because I thought it would put me well on my way to a CFO job down the road. So my question is this, are there other good ways to get to that end without going AD, Controller, CFO or something similar? Do I just need to suck it up and keep being an AD for a few more years before I can move to a controller position? Finally, if I take a staff accountant position how does that look? Thanks.

-Can’t wait to drink again

Good afternoon Guiness,
If being a CFO is your goal, you need to assess the qualities and skillsets that CFOs in your industry possess. Consider a few things when doing so:

1. Get Your CPA – There’s no denying the importance of getting the three letters next to your name. As you progress you in career, having a CPA will keep doors open for you. Read up on Adrienne’s great CPA coverage if you don’t know where to start.

2. Lose the title – You’re still very young in your career, so my advice to you is to worry less about titles and more about opportunities that open doors and expose you to a variety of accounting responsibilities. This is meant as no offense to you and your career thus far, but a staff accountant at a large corporation most likely sees more complicated accounting issues than say, a charity bookstore. Roll up your sleeves and challenge yourself.

3. Location – before you have a spouse, kids and a mortgage, get back to where you want to be. It will be easier to find a staff-level job than a specialized, more technical job that you’ll be qualified for five years from now. And call your mother, she misses you.

4. It’s not like Mad Men but… – The liquor store sells the little nip bottles for a reason. It’s a scientific fact that whiskey helps ease the frustration of 80+ hour work weeks.

May the drink-at-work Spirits be with you,
DWB

First World Problem: When Does a Big 4 Tax Accountant Jump Ship for a Job at a Hedge Fund?

Ed. note: Do you have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Dear Going Concern,

I have been in Big 4 FS Tax for the past two years and recently was promoted to Senior. Headhunters have been calling me with great opportunities in the tax departments of Hedge Fund/PE firms. The pay increase is significant and the hours will undoubtedly be better. However, I’m worried about leaving Public Accounting too early in my career. My eventual career goal is to become a Controller or CFO at a Hedge Fund. The headhunters I’ve spoken with insist that HF/PE firms prefer candidates with a mix of Public and Private experience for those positions. I’m wondering if I should stick around until making manager at Big 4 or if, as the headhunters recommend, leaving now as a Senior is the right move for me.

Thanks,
First world problem

Dear First World Problem,


Alright, listen up. The most important thing to do when you want to start looking for a role is to find a headhunter or two that you trust (and hopefully can trust you to not tattle on them for $5 worth of Starbucks). Yes, we all loathe headhunters. They call, they email; some pester more than others. Sure, most are in the same pool with real estate brokers (an evil means to an end), but there are some that see you as more than a pay-day and will serve as excellent resources throughout your career. A good recruiter will send you a select handful of opportunities that fit exactly what you’re looking for, not a blast email with 17 write-ups all containing the same five bullet points.

That said, with two years into your career you’re just starting to see the wave of job opportunities. Two to four years is the window that many most staff roles fall into at hedge/PE firms, both on the fund accounting and tax side. This is because most asset management firms consider the Big 4 (and regional firms that have an alternatives focus) to be training grounds for their back office hires. Why hire an accountant off of a college campus to do fund accounting work when you can have the Big 4 train ‘em up and toughen ‘em, up for you?

However, the difference is that the number of tax staff positions in-house at a hedge/PE firm are limited. Example: a hedge fund running $5bil in assets under management through six separate funds needs a tax director (typically 7+ years of public/private) and a staff member to assist with work. The same firm would have Sr. Controller/CFO, 1-3 fund controllers and a small staff of accountants running the day-to-day. Because of this prime example in supply and demand, I’d encourage you to interview for any and all roles that interest you, but more important than when you leave is what you leave for. In your case, being a CFO is your ultimate goal – you should be looking at opportunities that are a blend of tax and fund accounting. These roles typically exist at less institutionalized funds, so do your due diligence on opportunities at the likes of Och-Ziff, Blackstone, Fortress, etc. Talk to your recruiter about your long term goals and the need to better position yourself by diversifying your professional experiences. Right now you know K1’s, wash sales and partner allocations; a good recruiter knows what it takes to get you on the Controller/CFO track. It might be the first firm you interview with, or the tenth. When you find it, you’ll know.

IRS Agent Wants to Know If There’s Life After Government Work

Welcome to the when-do-the-blackouts-start edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an IRS revenue agent is thinking about the future and wonders if there is anything to look forward to after a stretch inside the House of Shulman. Will he be greeted with contempt or disdain by potential employers outside of the Treasury Department?

Trapped in your job? Not sure if you can bottle up your rage during your upcoming compensation discussion? Need ideas for your next [email protected] and we’ll come up with something to bring everyone closer together.

Back to the Shulman Soldier:

Dear Career Advice Brain Trust,

I am currently a freshly minted IRS revenue agent in the Northeast right out of school. I’m the guy that audits the tax returns of small business and the self-employed (Schedule C’s and 1120’s). I’ve been at the job for about 10 months, and lately I’ve been starting to wonder: if this whole IRS thing doesn’t pan out, what are my options? Do public accounting firms of any size see any value in the experience gained here? From what I’ve experienced, employment at the IRS is a one-way street, either attracting grads with the ink still wet from their degree, or mid-career public accountants who value personal and family time more than money. Since I’m a young grad with no family to speak of, I feel like a lot of the non-monetary benefits are lost on me.

This job has its pros and cons. It’s probably one of the safest jobs in the country for anyone with an accounting degree, and it’s borderline illegal to work more than 40 hours per week because we’re unionized. Supposedly once you’re in for a few years, you can do “anything you want” within the organization, but I find that hard to believe because due to our reduced FY 2012 budget, we’re the last class to be hired for a while, so who is going to keep doing my job when everyone goes to do “anything they want?” Also, after 3-4 years, the salaries plateau big time, and we definitely make less than our public accounting counterparts throughout our careers. Furthermore, it literally takes an act of Congress to get anything substantial changed.

So my bottom line question to you (and the readers) is this: if I wanted to jump ship and go somewhere that my title carries a little less universal hatred, as well as advance my career prospects, what could I expect for opportunities, particularly in the public accounting sector?

Sincerely,
Agent Curious

Dear Agent Curious,

I’m happy to say that you’re first IRS agent to come to us for advice. Whether that means you value what we have to say or you’re simply desperate isn’t clear but regardless, thanks for reaching out.

Now then. Your problem. Personally, I feel as though the stigma associated with working for the IRS is a little overblown. Just because some of your colleagues chase down loose change and politicians call you names, that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that aren’t valuable for private employers. The knowledge you are curating about small businesses and their compliance issues are extremely valuable and many CPA firms would gladly talk to you about your experience and how it will work for them and their clients.

Furthermore, with your inside knowledge about the Service and how is picks and chooses returns for audit, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by saying, “I assure you this will result in a Young Buck-esque raid of your business.” This knowledge of the inner workings might even be more valuable than what you actually learn on the job.

Right now, your best opportunities would be with public accounting firms that specialize in tax compliance for small businesses. Just like any other job, if you are able to jump around inside the Service and see various types of returns (partnerships, larger businesses), your skill set will be even more valuable. A few more years doing Doug Shulman’s dirty work could pay big dividends down the road.

Any former/current IRS agents out there with insight? Drop your knowledge in the comments.

Big 4 Boomerang: Former Auditor, Bored with Corporate Gig, Wants to Join Advisory Group

Ed. Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Dear Going Concern,

I started my career in B4 Assurance, got the bump to SA relatively quickly (1.5 yrs), stuck it out for another year, then jumped ship for corporate goodness (Fortune 100 – double the money, half the hours). I’ve been doing that for 5 years now, and I feel like I’ve plateaued. I’ve been promoted 3 times in those 5 years, but I’m sufficiently elevated in the corporate ranks now that my next step is likely to be more a function of “serving my time” rather than continued innovation and stand-out work product; a war of attrition, if you will. I put in 40 hours in a rough week, don’t travel, and my comp is on par with (or slightly in excess of) a B4 Senior Manager in major markets (think NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc).

So, on to my dilemma: Am I crazy to be considering a jump back to B4? I miss the challenging work, and the energetic work-force, but I don’t necessarily miss working 80 hours a week. My primary driver is to be interested and engaged in what I do every day. Making partner and a seven figure income is a nice idea, but is just an afterthought in the context of this decision. I wouldn’t make this move expecting to become a partner (although if that’s how it played out, hooray for me). I’m looking for your candid feedback, criticism, blunt verbal beat downs, etc. I’m also looking for input from the GC rank and file – particularly those that have done what I’m considering: B4 -> cush corporate gig -> back to B4.

Let’s assume for the sake of this question that with my skill set, I could re-enter as the equivalent of an experienced Manager, or first year Senior Manager in one of the Advisory practices. Let’s also assume that I have partner friends at all of the Big4, that my experience and academic pedigree are top notch, and that I have a lot of corporate contacts that are ideal for selling new business. So essentially, the option is there – I just have to choose to do it.

Sincerely,

Glutton4Big4

Dear Glutton4Big4,

Crazy is a relative term, and we’re all a little crazy around here at GC. I find your confidence in both your Big 4 and private industry contacts to be refreshing and brazen. Who cares that the economy is still a sputtering engine block inside a car chassis that’s resting on blocks, you have connections! Of course you’ll get a job back in public! OF COURSE your private industry drinking buds will want to sever whatever pre-existing consulting relationships they have with other vendors and go wherever you are!

My advice is simple – play both fields. Look into the Big 4s and their needs for someone with your background and experience in addition to pursuing opportunities that might be with your corporate contacts. You are not necessarily locking yourself into a career in public should you transition into a Big 4 advisory practice, whereas returning to assurance would be moral and career suicide. The advisory lines are generally more fluid opportunities and can act as stepping stones back into a corporate world after a few years.

For those breezing the submission above, Glutton’s career has been as follows:

• 2.5 years in public (assurance)
• 5 years in private
• Potentially back to public (advisory)

Has anyone in the peanut gallery done this? Share your horror stories or little victories below.

Freaked Out Recruit Needs Fashion Tips for PwC Leaderhip Program

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Subject: Career Emergency

Well, not really. I’m just freaking out.

I have an office visit with PwC tomorrow. I’m doing a leadership program with them in two weeks. From what I’ve read online, office visits consist of interviews; however, the recruiter said dress for tomorrow is “business casual.” Can I really show up to an interview in khakis? I’m worried as small as wearing the wrong thing could ruin a potential internship offer. Gotta love the superficiality of public accounting. So do I rock a suit despite the recruiter saying busineisk underdressing for an interview?

Thanks in advance,
Freaked out junior

Dear Freaked Out,

No reason to panic, that’s what GC is here for. Since Caleb’s work attire is best suited for the pool these days (aka his “working office”) he asked that I respond to your message.

First off, congratulations on earning a spot in PwC’s two week leadership program. You are correct that there will be interviews at one point during the program, but you should also be viewing the entire two weeks as an interview. You will be evaluated throughout the period – how you interact with your peers; how you involve yourself in the group discussions; how you interview during the formal interview portion. The PwC recruiters will not only be making their own observations but they will also be soliciting feedback from the younger staff professionals who volunteer throughout the weeks. Be cognizant of the fact that every PwC professional you speak to could influence whether or not you receive an offer for the following summer.

Now – back to fashion. Unless you heard specifically from someone at the firm that interviews will be on the first day, you needn’t worry about suiting up tomorrow. They (the recruiters) want you to succeed, so they will tell you in advance about when the interviews will be. That said, it is always wise to make a positive impression on the first day. Below are a few tips on making sure you’re on spot for the first day:

Business casual: There is business casual and then there is public accounting business casual. The latter involves a wrinkled blue Oxford dress shirt and a pair of semi-pressed khakis. Sure, this counts as business casual, but…why? Do yourself a favor and avoid mimicking the Best Buy uniform on your first day.

My advice: If the recruiter said no suit, then don’t wear one (step 1 to receiving an offer is following directions). But it’s possible to have your business casual lean towards business professional without crossing the line. Go with either A) a suit (matching jacket and pants) or B) blue blazer with either grey or olive dress pants or khakis and then match with a pressed button down shirt. Avoid the plain white shirt if you can, as these are best paired with ties and you’re leaving yours at home for the day. The shirt you wear should work well with and without the jacket. These outfit options give you the ability to quickly “dress down” by leaving the jacket on the back of your chair during informal ice breakers but also allow you to quickly formalize yourself on the off-chance you’re meeting with a partner.

Additional tidbits:

• Brown/black – brown shoes and belts generally match with khaki better than black, but wear what you have and what you like. Also, make sure your shoes are polished.
• Suit/blazer jackets – double check to make sure the pockets and vents are open. Any string keeping a pocket closed is left over from production and is meant to be removed; it will come out rather easily. Also, remove the suit’s brand name tag from the sleeve if you haven’t already – only you should know your suit is Hugo Boss or JoS. A. Bank.
• Check the weather – if there’s a probability for rain, bring an umbrella. Don’t chance getting stuck in a summer storm.
• White socks: Just…don’t.

Any other advice from the peanut gallery? Share them in the comments.

Big 4 Newbie Wants the Scoop on Choosing an Industry

Welcome to the whose-missing-fingers? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. Today, a fall new hire is asking about industry placement at his Big 4 firm. How to choose, what to avoid, you know, the ushe.

Feeling violated? Is your firm’s macho culture cramping your delicate sensibilities? Need to get something off your chest and want a partner to be the one who hears it? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll share some magic words.

Meanwhile, back at school:

Dear Going Concern,

I’m going to be starting as a college [i.e. new] hire in assurance at a Big 4 firm in the fall (I was not previously a summer intern). I still haven’t heard any information about what industry I will be placed in. Which are the most desired industries, and which should be avoided like the plague? Do the firms have any methodology in in placing new hires in industry groups?

Thanks,

Procrastinating Exam Studier

Dear Procrastinating,

Why you felt the need to hint at your lack of CPA exam preparedness is curious but that’s AG’s beat, so take it up with her but prepare yourself for a verbal assault.

As for the question at hand, you have to look at this like you’re choosing from a lineup of people with whom you’ve gotten biblical to be your significant other. None of them are perfect but there are definitely pros and cons to each. It’s best to experience a few of your interests before you jump in head first with one particular option. Then, after playing the field a bit, you can determine: 1) Are you pursuing one possibility knowing that it’s a dead end? 2) Is one option hot for you but things aren’t mutual? 3) Is another choice easy but doesn’t have much going in the way of intellectual stimulation? You get the idea.

One other consideration is the city where you live. If you’re interested in the energy business, New York City isn’t going to have much to offer. Likewise, if you would like to explore things in the entertainment industry, you won’t find much in Kansas City. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Most cities will have the following industries: Financial Services, Consumer and Industrial Products, Information/Communciations/Technology, Healthcare/Public Sector/Governmental. Of course certain places have a higher concentration of these industries (e.g. NYC and Financial Services, DC and Governmental), so that will determine demand for particular areas. Lots of people get roped into F/S in places like New York and Chicago because there is lots of work, thus the need for warm bodies. That’s basically how firms decide who goes where – the need. Managers tell schedulers that they need a body and your name just gets thrown on a job. Unless you speak up, to your career/performance counselor. Be sure they know what you’re interests are, otherwise you’re just a new name that will end up wherever there is demand.

I’ll leave the “good industry v. bad industry” debate to the peanut gallery, as that varies by city but I will tell you that if you are in a market like New York, working in Financial Services is the best route simply because you’ll have many options when you decide to leave your firm. The work is hard and it’s competitive but it’ll be worth it long-term. Choose wisely.

Deloitte Auditor Wants to Know if Joining KPMG’s IT Advisory Group Is a Good Idea

Editor’s Note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at [email protected].

Hello C,

So with the new found (and welcome) love for Advisory on goingconcern.com I feel comfortable posing my question:
I am currently a 2nd year at D&T audit in Dallas, I am contemplating a move to KPMG’s IT advisory, I currently make $54k and KPMG has offered me $60k. I have some IT in my background and enjoy IT related stuff but don’t want to be stuck in Audit support as an IT Advisory Associate. KPMG has promised me the ability to move within Advisory…so here is my list of questions:

1. Would that switch be the right move for my long term career growth?

DWB:I cannot speak clearly on what your long term career growth can or cannot be without knowing what your goals are. Being that you’re two years into your career, I’m not expecting you to fully know either. That said, I suggest that you look at this in two ways: 1) what are you long term career options if you stay at DT, and 2) what are your options if you leave and enter the advisory practice at KPMG? Weigh these options with your roughly outlined career goals and take it from there. In your favor is the fact that Dallas is a larger market for both firms, so options are not as limited as they would be elsewhere.

2. Should I take the opportunity to progress towards specializing in an ERP and get more technical with IT or eventually switch to M&A/Forensics (another interest of mine).

DWB: Listen – playing first base for the Yankees is an interest of mine but it simply isn’t going to happen. I’m not saying you can’t bounce over to M&A or Forensic (drop the “s” from the name and realize they’re two separate groups at KPMG), but I am hinting at the fact that it is going to be difficult. Advisory lines of business are BOOMING right now for the Big 4, which means they have the ability to go to market and hire individuals with relevant talent. Also, should you move out of IT, that’s just one more position KPMG would have to fill as well. I’m not doubting your talents, skillset, and drive, but I don’t plan on batting clean up anytime soon.

3. What do I do after a few years of KPMG IT Advisory experience? would I be considered for Controller type (because of my Acct degree and Audit exp) jobs or only CIO career path (due to the IT tag)?

DWB: If the market dips again, prepare to fight for your current job. Advisory lines at Big 4 are the first to get slashed when the going gets tough (more discretionary lines of business, too dependent on an active client base, etc.), and IT Advisory at KPMG was slaughtered back in 2008/2009. Also, your two years of audit experience hardly prepare you to compete with senior staff and manager public accountants interviewing for the same controller roles.

4. Am I getting paid a competitive salary at $60k?

Honestly, I have no idea. Can someone in the peanut gallery chime in? What are experienced associates in Dallas making in IT advisory these days? If my gut tells me correctly, you’re a steal for KPMG. One more thing I want to harp on, although I touched on it above in #2:
“KPMG has promised me the ability to move within advisory.” This line is out of the Recruiting for Dummies. The different business lines in Big 4 advisory – as close as they may work together – are very specialized in their skill sets. Being an expert on SAS 70 reviews does not automatically make you an expert with regards to historical due diligence analysis and breaking down a company’s EBIDTA numbers.

How to Reject an Accounting Firm’s Offer

Welcome to the de minimis edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a young accountant wants to know how to reject a firm in the most professional way possible. Is it best to give them the Band-aid™ treatment or can you simply not call and hope they get the hint?

Are you surrounded by idiots? Worried your firm is morphing into something undesirable? Thinking of giving it all up for a shot a culinary immortality? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll help you become the next Ray Kroc.

Returning to the rejector:

Dear GC,

I have two FT offers from mid-size firms. I know which offer I want to accept but my question is what is the best/most professional way to “reject” the other firm? Is it better to call or email them and how should I word it?

These two firms are competitors and they both know I have interned with the other. My second question is should I try to leverage the firm I want to accept from and negotiate a higher starting salary? I’m not sure I even want to bother if there is a possibility of “burning any bridges” with either firm if I’d only get an extra grand or two. I just graduated and this is my first time in this situation. Any advice from you or the GC community would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Here’s the thing – rejecting a firm isn’t like rejecting a human being. They don’t have feelings so don’t be afraid to be honest. Sure the person you speak to may sound disappointed but trust me when I say that they’ve heard it all before. That said, sending them an email with an image of your photocopied ass attached is not advisable. Your message can be communicated by either phone call or email and can give as little or as much detail as you like. You can keep it vague, “I’ve decided to accept another offer,” decline any pressing by your rejectee or you can go into detail, “I chose Firm A because [insert reason],” as long as you don’t feel like this is your opportunity to share thoughts on everything that is wrong with their firm. The person listening to you will appreciate your honesty and you can feel good that you’ve kept a professional decorum throughout the process.

What you don’t do, is this:

I recently learned [a recruit] cancelled his second round interview with us- said he broke his ankle and went to the ER- but was seen out partying that same night by one of our former interns.

This was sent to Adrienne by an HR professional at a firm regarding a potential recruit. Granted, this person may not have gotten an offer to begin with but considering the tact involved with this rejection, the firm is better without this loser.

As for trying to use one firm against the other to leverage a higher salary, this is hardly the time in your career to play hardball over your salary.

Bottom line is that you can reject a firm in a direct. professional manner and who knows, the contact may serve you in the future when/if your current situation doesn’t pan out. Or you can be ‘fraidy cat and tell them your mother is sick and you’re re-examining your life choices. That will your professionalism somewhere in between toddler and pre-pubescence. Choose wisely.