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Recruiting Season: Going Concern’s Guide to the Cultures of the Big 4 and Other Public Accounting Firms

Welcome to Tuesdays with More Anxious Accounting Recruits. Have a question about recruiting season? Email [email protected] with "Recruiting Season Questions" in the subject line.

Just a friendly reminder – if you have received an offer from a public accounting firm, by all means, share your excitement with us. We've received a fair amount so far, but we're definitely are looking to compile a wide sample. Please include your firm, office, practice, starting salary, bonus (if applicable) and any other information that you feel like oversharing.

This week we received a request that warranted its own posting, so we'll return next week with a full slate of letters.

Helen Keller:

You should do a rundown on the cultures of the Big Four and McGladrey, GT, and BDO. It would be great hearing a realistic yet humorous summation of the public accounting world. Us students are blinded by the free Chick-fil-A and coffee mugs.

You're right, Chick-fil-A and its plethora of delicious condiments can be quite distracting. What you need is a "Hater's Guide" of sorts for these firms. This I can do. Since I only worked at one Big 4 firm, I'll have to do my best to come up with a description of each culture based on hearsay and other evidence that I've cooked up in my own grey matter. These are over-generalized characterizations that should be taken seriously and with a grain of salt simultaneously. Here goes:
PwC – They're the best and they know it, thus, they never miss an opportunity to remind you. Even if you find this off-putting at first, you'll gradually acclimate to the pretentious attitude and, eventually, your obnoxiousness will outpace your superiors. P. Dubbers can barely bring themselves to utter the names of their "competition" as if they were ethnic slurs. When you tell them where you work, they look upon you with pity if your answer is anything but "PwC." Everyone hustles, not because it's their nature, but they are competitive to a fault and they genuinely dislike everyone else. So by "best" I actually meant "worst."
Deloitte – Always a bridesmaid. They couldn't be more insecure if they tried. This is the only firm that didn't spin off their consulting business after the fall-out from Enron and then they strut around like they got so big because they work harder than everyone else. They also aren't ones for feedback since they told the PCAOB to fuck off IN WRITING and then, after realizing that wasn't the best approach, promised they would improve, but in the end, they just blew it off (and it shows). That, my friends, is chutzpah. 
Ernst & Young – NERDS! This is abundantly clear since they attract nerdiest clients. Typically, you could handle this but everyone that works there also happens to have the charm of a Craftsman™ ratchet set. If you're dying to have an interesting conversation during the work day, you'll wind up talking to the plants. At least they aren't wasting the oxygen. Oh, and Lehman Brothers
KPMG – The lovable losers. Minus the lovable. People work hard here because they have no choice and are gluttons for punishment. Then they have the audacity to wonder aloud "WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?" It wouldn't be so bad if they were on the same level as their three rivals but they aren't even close. Think about it this way, this firm has to use Phil Mickelson to help them stay competitive. That guy has more chokes than a Bonefish Grill. In other words, he's the perfect person to shill for this firm.
Grant Thornton – You know how throughout life you've encountered people that try really hard to be cool but it comes off completely unnatural and awkward and all you want to do is shake the shit of these people and say, "STOP! IT'S NOT WORKING! JUST STOP!" and they never listen? That's Grant Thornton in a nutshell. 
McGladrey – This is a firm that has been waging war with itself the last few years. RSM McGladrey? McGladrey & Pullen? H&R Block? McGladrey? Christ, what is the name of this firm? And what's with all the golfers? Yes, some accountants like golf but they are losers and really, you need to spend a little more money on nerdy guys in khakis and collared shirts who audit because the guys who are doing it now sure don't deserve it.
BDO – People who know, know that not even the partners like working here. Captain Jack had the wheel of this ship for so long that this firm should be called Titanic and judging by all the lawsuits in recent years, it will undoubtedly endure the same slow death. 
If you didn't find this helpful, you can also compare the firms to various college football teams. I realize some of you only speak sports. Good luck, everyone.