Welcome to the Animal-Kingdom-to-Win-in-the-Preakness-edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a former Big 4 intern who turned down a full time offer wants to know how best to explain this snub to his new prospective employers without dragging his old firm through the mud.
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Back to the Big 4 snub:
I interned at a Big 4 tax recently and got a full time offer. My internship experience consisted of little work aside from fighting boredom and trying to find work. I was very disappointed with my experience, and to an extent, felt cheated. I was not expecting much as an intern, but I was expecting to learn at least a few things. Long story short, against the advice of people who say they have my best interest in mind, I turned down the offer.
I have a bad habit of not using my rear view mirrors when I drive, so I am not seeking advice as to whether I should beg for my offer back. My question relates to how I should approach recruiting in the future. Rule #1 is not to speak poorly of a past employer. Not sure how to get around that. Advice? Also, would saying that I was not happy with my internship hurt future opportunities due to the fact that it seems that few people full time seem to be happy (proven flight risk)? Should I leave this experience off my resume? My mother always told me honesty is the best answer, but then again she has been telling me I am special for the last 22 years of my life. Depends how one defines special perhaps.
Anyhoo, I am confident that I will land interviews in the coming season and I have connections with many firms who had extended me internship offers. I am just unsure how to go about explaining this little snag in a beneficial and professional way.
Thanks for any help.
Dear Momma’s Boy,
This is the first instance that I can recall hearing about an intern turning down a full time offer without another one in place. Your confidence in your decision is impressive but we can’t help but think that you had a slightly itchy trigger finger. But as you said, we’re not looking back. Onward!
You are correct that you should not speak poorly of your previous employer. Slamming your former firm for asking you to spend all day at the copy machine will make you sound petty, unprofessional and any prospects will immediately wonder how you’re talking trash about them once you’re out of their presence. Rather than get all mysterio about the experience, you should listen to your mother and be honest about it. But don’t focus entirely on the negative aspects of the internship; there has to be something you took away from it. Once you’ve described something positive (no matter how petty), you can explain why you turned the internship down. Just be careful to not make the situation personal. “It wasn’t a good fit” or “It wasn’t what I expected” is a far better than saying, “I was bored” or “I was smarter than everyone else” OR “I should be running that firm.” Keep it constructive and thought-provoking in when discussing it. Also, I would not leave the experience off your résumé simply because that misrepresents you. Best to go with honesty all the way.
So just keep your ego in check; did you turn a prestigious firm? Yes. Why? It was a decision made based a variety of factors and it wasn’t an easy one to make (even though it might have been). You’ll come off as contemplative and your integrity will be intact. Those aren’t bad qualities to have.