November 29, 2020

(UPDATE) Future Big 4 Advisory Associate Wants to Negotiate a Better Salary

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

Caleb –

“Long-time/first-time, love the show.” I was hoping you and the gang could help; I have received an offer from Big 4 Advisory as a Senior, and considering the current market, and that firms are expanding advisory quickly and trying to capture market share and increase revenues, I am wondering if I would be able to negotiate my salary north. I did not receive a signing bonus, but I know the Big 4 can be touchy about your salary, so maybe I should look into getting a signing bonus? I wanted to get your expert panel’s opinion, as well as your millions of readers. Thanks for your help.

Signed –
Sleeping well in San Diego

San Diego Napper,

Welcome to the show. It’s great to see that Caleb is getting more advisory professionals reaching out. We’re all one underpaid, overworked professional services family so keep the emails coming.

Regarding your question, the timing is probably too late for you to maximize your bargaining power, both with your firm and in the greater job market. Being that you’re a senior (now a newly minted graduate) the window of opportunity has probably passed. You most likely received your fulltime offer either after completing a summer internship in 2010 or during the fall semester of your senior year. Then would have been the ideal time to “shop around” to the other Big 4 to see if you could earn yourself a competing offer. By this point in time, both the Big 4 and the major players in the consulting market have met their entry level hiring needs.

Similarly, without a competing offer in your back pocket, asking for a sign-on bonus now is the equivalent of looking for a free hand out. From browsing this website you know that’s generally not the way things work. Not to mention the fact that your firm wants its new hire class starting at the same monetary level; should you receive a sign-on, they’d be inclined to throw something to everyone. Why? Because all it takes is a team happy hour and you drunkenly blurting out, “I called up HR, spoke my mind and landed five grand, suck on that,” to stir up all kinds of angst within your practice.

Unless new hires are reneging on their acceptances and jumping ship for much lucrative (and last minute) offers, they will not be shelling out additional cash prior to your start date. The best thing you can do is work your tail off during your first year, positioning yourself well for the first year-end reviews in order to scoop up the heftier of the raises.

UPDATE: Blame the sun.
Apologies for missing the mark on this one, ladies and gents. As I sat in my corner office parents’ basement enjoying a nice Cuban Phillies Blunt cigar, I debated which way to take this piece. Let’s look at the experienced hire route – like many of you have commented, there is definitely wiggle room for SWiSD to negotiate.

There are number of intangibles in play here: where SWiSD is now; what practice line they are in; if the firm they are moving to is an “upgrade” in market position for their practice line. Generally speaking, SWiSD should be receiving a bump in base from their current salary; a conservative estimate would be 4% – 10%. When negotiating for more $$$, SWiSD would be better off asking for a sign-on bonus. HR would prefer to position compensation as a one-time lump rather than have a new hire be significantly above their established staff in salary.

Great feedback everyone. Has anyone recently made the jump from one Big 4’s Advisory line to another firm’s? Tell us below.

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

Caleb –

“Long-time/first-time, love the show.” I was hoping you and the gang could help; I have received an offer from Big 4 Advisory as a Senior, and considering the current market, and that firms are expanding advisory quickly and trying to capture market share and increase revenues, I am wondering if I would be able to negotiate my salary north. I did not receive a signing bonus, but I know the Big 4 can be touchy about your salary, so maybe I should look into getting a signing bonus? I wanted to get your expert panel’s opinion, as well as your millions of readers. Thanks for your help.

Signed –
Sleeping well in San Diego

San Diego Napper,

Welcome to the show. It’s great to see that Caleb is getting more advisory professionals reaching out. We’re all one underpaid, overworked professional services family so keep the emails coming.

Regarding your question, the timing is probably too late for you to maximize your bargaining power, both with your firm and in the greater job market. Being that you’re a senior (now a newly minted graduate) the window of opportunity has probably passed. You most likely received your fulltime offer either after completing a summer internship in 2010 or during the fall semester of your senior year. Then would have been the ideal time to “shop around” to the other Big 4 to see if you could earn yourself a competing offer. By this point in time, both the Big 4 and the major players in the consulting market have met their entry level hiring needs.

Similarly, without a competing offer in your back pocket, asking for a sign-on bonus now is the equivalent of looking for a free hand out. From browsing this website you know that’s generally not the way things work. Not to mention the fact that your firm wants its new hire class starting at the same monetary level; should you receive a sign-on, they’d be inclined to throw something to everyone. Why? Because all it takes is a team happy hour and you drunkenly blurting out, “I called up HR, spoke my mind and landed five grand, suck on that,” to stir up all kinds of angst within your practice.

Unless new hires are reneging on their acceptances and jumping ship for much lucrative (and last minute) offers, they will not be shelling out additional cash prior to your start date. The best thing you can do is work your tail off during your first year, positioning yourself well for the first year-end reviews in order to scoop up the heftier of the raises.

UPDATE: Blame the sun.
Apologies for missing the mark on this one, ladies and gents. As I sat in my corner office parents’ basement enjoying a nice Cuban Phillies Blunt cigar, I debated which way to take this piece. Let’s look at the experienced hire route – like many of you have commented, there is definitely wiggle room for SWiSD to negotiate.

There are number of intangibles in play here: where SWiSD is now; what practice line they are in; if the firm they are moving to is an “upgrade” in market position for their practice line. Generally speaking, SWiSD should be receiving a bump in base from their current salary; a conservative estimate would be 4% – 10%. When negotiating for more $$$, SWiSD would be better off asking for a sign-on bonus. HR would prefer to position compensation as a one-time lump rather than have a new hire be significantly above their established staff in salary.

Great feedback everyone. Has anyone recently made the jump from one Big 4’s Advisory line to another firm’s? Tell us below.

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