Everyone should be familiar with the weird Google/Microsoft interview questions like "why are manhole covers round?" and "how many golf balls can fit in a school bus?" but how many times have you heard about the difficult interview questions asked at Big 4? Go ahead, take your time answering that.
When Vault was busy putting together its latest Accounting 50, it also asked survey respondents to share questions they've been asked in either the intern or full-time interview process. Here are a few notable highlights from Vault's list of 21 Big 4 interview questions:
What are your thoughts on the increase demand of quality by the PCAOB and how would you implement such demands in your audit?
Tell me about a time when you had an idea but your team was not willing to accept it. How did you go about presenting this idea and trying to persuade them to accept it?
Describe some situations where you’ve had to use technical writing skills.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
Why do you want to work at this firm specifically?
Having done my fair share of hiring in my day (completely unrelated to accounting, of course), I'll say that there are no right or wrong answers. It isn't necessarily what someone says but how they say it. Case in point, I once interviewed someone who overshared about their drug charge in response to a completely unrelated question. The drug charge itself wasn't a big deal and wouldn't have disqualified this candidate but the fact that they spent 5 minutes telling a story that had nothing to do with what I'd asked showed a lack of judgment. What if I sent this person to a client and they launched into telling the story of a backpack that didn't belong to them and the weed contained therein? Yeah, no.
For purposes of nailing a Big 4 interview, you should probably be prepared to answer the "why this firm" question at a minimum. As much as they want warm bodies in the chair, they also like to hear why you would choose their firm specifically. If you want to impress them, do a little research ahead of time about their major clients and specialties (protip: if you're interviewing at Ernst & Young, don't mention Repo 105) so you have an educated, genuine answer.
I and probably every would-be Big 4 intern-turned-high performer reading this would love to hear what questions those of you currently or formerly wrapped in Big 4's loving embrace got asked during the interview process. Besides the usual "give me an example of a time you failed" nonsense that nearly every job applicant gets.
Check out the full list at the Vault blog for more.