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Small Firm Associate Wants the Scoop on Jumping to a Bigger Accounting Firm

Has busy season made you question everything and everyone around you? Great! Email us your troubles and we'll marginally improve your life. 

I've combed through the many post on the site, but I haven't been able to find one about my situation.

Here goes…
I'm finishing up my second busy season at a small local firm and have been talking to a MUCH larger firm who would like to bring me on as an experienced hire/A2 between July and August as I will be CPA exam eligible at this point.  Can you help with the following:

– What is the general timeline of the hiring process, and how does it work for someone like me; i.e. phone screening, face to face, offer, etc.
– What is the average salary for an A2 in a larger market?
– What are the expectations of an A2 at the larger firms?

Any help would be appreciated!
Big Move

Dear Big Move,

Should you be a halfway competent worker bee, you’ll have no problem making the jump to a bigger CPA firm. It’s that time of year again when the mass exodus of staffies begins, and firms will look to potential new hires like you to plug the holes in their leaky sidewalls. 

The interview process at your level should be relatively efficient.  Depending on the firm, there will be a first round interview (either in person or over the phone) with a representative from HR.  This person’s job is to act as a filter before you meet with a partner of the firm.  Can you articulate your current responsibilities? What are you currently making and how are you ranked amongst your peers? Are you asking the right questions about their practice, both professionally and culturally? Once you make it past the initial screening, there should really only be one day of interviewing (probably with one or two partners in the practice).  From there, an offer could come in a day or a MONTH, depending on their timeline. Interviewing at a few places (and reminding each firm about your other activity) can help speed up the offer process. 

Bolster your candidacy by passing the CPA exam.  This might be an ambitious plan given that it’s already April, but there’s no reason why you can’t knock even a few parts of it out by your July/August.

Regarding your other questions…

What is the average salary for an A2 in a larger market? Larger like New York or larger like Atlanta?  The bell curve for second year associates (2010 grads) in New York is about $62K to $67K depending on audit practice. The Philly's and Atlanta's – still considered large markets – are 5-12% less than these numbers.  

What are the expectations of an A2 at the larger firms? There is the understanding that you've been through a busy season before so you better ask the right questions when necessary. You're expected to know what is expected of you, know how to perform test work, know how to budget your time, meet deadlines, etc.  Expectations are where they should be, in my opinion. How you go above and beyond that to impress your new bosses, well, that's on you.