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Regional CPA Firm Rescinded Offer for DWI? Is That What Really Happened?

You just call on us brother, when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on, I just might have a problem that you'd understand, we all need somebody to lean on. So go ahead and call on us brother with an email, I just might have a problem that you'd understand. And if not, we'll try not to mock you.

To whom it may going concern,

To get the basics out of the way: I am a midwestern Macc student in the second year of my program, I will graduate in May 2013, I have a 3.9 accounting GPA, I am active in all of the important accounting student organizations (I currently hold an officer position in one), I network very well, blah, blah, blah.

I went through the recruiting process this past season and interviewed with numerous firms on campus, regional and Big 4.  I am personable enough and, combined with my other achievements, a very attractive candidate.  On campus interviews garnered several second interviews and, when all was said and done, I received two offers from Big 4 and one from a large regional.  Both Big 4s were out of town so I chose the regional in order to stay close to family.  Game, set, match, right?  Wrong.     

I recently got a call from the recruiting partner at the regional telling me that as result of my background check, and the DWI conviction it shows, I am no longer offered the position.  This is WAY after I turned down my Big 4 offers.  I now have zero options.  To my credit, I disclosed this (careless indiscretion, I know) on the regional's employment application.  Also, for reference, this DWI was five years ago so it's not like it happened last month.  I thought that since I was upfront with this and they offered me a position, I was fine as long as I didn't do anything stupid in the future.  I was mistaken.       

My questions:  If I could go through another recruiting season (sandbagging a class and taking it next fall), could I interview with the Big 4 again knowing that I turned down a couple of their offers for a job that was rescinded because I don't have a spotless criminal record?  Alternatively, if I graduate in the spring and pass the CPA next summer, do I have any hope of landing a decent job in the public sector?  Is my professional career over before it has ever started?

After realizing my earning potential (regional paid very well), I don't think I could take an A/R job at some tiny firm for half of my "rescinded" salary.  I'm pretty disgusted with myself.  I feel as though no matter how hard I work, or how well I do academically, my past is going to keep haunting me.  My confidence is pretty much shattered.  I'm seriously considering dropping out of my program with one semester left.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

-Need to be talked off the ledge

I am assuming my esteemed colleague insisted I take this question due to the state of my liver and/or my Midwestern roots so let's just go ahead and apply our extensive knowledge of both boozing it up and the consequences thereof to hit this one point at a time.

First of all: can we see a show of hands how many of you out there have similar charges on your record? Be honest now.

Second: the part that seems harder to swallow than a warm can of Icehouse is the fact that you disclosed this matter (which, by the way, is not careless indiscretion, it's the right thing to do) and it came back to bite you. Are you sure there is nothing else that could have done it? Did you, by chance, kill anyone while you were cruising around wasted? What else are we missing here?

A 5-year-old DWI – absent dead victims, major property damage and/or additional DWIs on your record after the first one – is generally not enough to stand in the way of an illustrious career in public accounting, especially if you disclosed before receiving the offer. So I admit I'm completely baffled here and feel we're missing out on a large piece of the boozy puzzle. Maybe you were drunk when you wrote this and forgot to tell us.

Anyway, while you're busy calculating your "earning potential," you're forgetting that, uh, if you're being totally upfront with us here, you were rejected by a regional firm. Whether that was for your DWI or something else, you're not exactly the kind of candidate the firms are fighting hand over to fist to have on their teams apparently. So the whole earning potential thing is moot for now unless the regional firm rescinded your offer over something else dumb on their part like realizing too late you just weren't going to fit in their culture, whatever that means.

Did you also disclose this matter to the two Big 4s who extended you offers? And did you politely reject said offers in such a way that leaves the door open for you to come groveling back with your drunk tail tucked between your legs?

Honestly, I have a difficult time believing your 5-year-old DWI is really haunting you. There's something else you're not telling us that's really at work here; either you're a big douche nobody wants to work with, one of those high-maintenance "very attractive candidates" or just acting really paranoid about this ancient mistake of yours and over-explaining. It's hard to say without sitting in on your interviews personally and no one here has time to do that.

Is having your charge expunged from your record an option in your state? Do that if you really think it's that big of a deal. Having spent as long as I have on the fringes of the profession getting humiliated by accountants drinking me under the table, I have to believe your record isn't the problem, especially in the Midwest where we spent an entire day at Sears Driving School talking about how to avoid drunk tailgaters on football Sundays.

I don't want to hear this "woe is me I'm going to drop out of my program" crap, do it if you want and let us know how working at Jiffy Lube as a Senior Lube Technician works out for you in a few years. A DWI, on its own, is not that big of a deal. Is it stupid? Sure. Will it limit some of your opportunities? You bet your drunk ass. But is it a career-ruining mistake? Please, I am willing to bet a sizeable number of GC readers have at least one under their belt; two if they too are based in the frozen tundra of the Midwest like you.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and hit the pavement. You are – as you pointed out – a good candidate on paper, even with the DWI. So use that to your advantage and stop feeling victimized by your own poor choices.