Back from the meat sweat-infused Labor(less?) Day Weekend with the latest edition of “help me get my career out of the crapper,” a young accounting student is concerned that their “C” in Intermediate Accounting will derail their Big 4 dreams of fame and fortune.

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Back to our latest gradeobsessed recruit:

I’m currently a Senior at ASU, graduating in May 2011 and plan on enrolling in the MTAX program at ASU that Fall. I currently have a 3.52 G.P.A., but ended up with a C in Intermediate Financial Accounting (For the record, I took an accelerated 5-week course and was also working full-time). I have heard that many firms (mostly Big 4) use this course as a “weed out” of candidates. I have maintained all A’s in my other accounting courses but am worried that this C will turn off recruiters. If I plan on going into Tax, will this pose a problem? Any recommendations to counter potential problems?

Here’s the deal with grades people – they shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. There are tons of fine candidates out there who weren’t as naturally talented in the academic sense of double-entry accounting but have a lot more intangibles to offer.

Unfortunately, the current reality is that most Big 4 partners and those in recruiting are of the mindset that looking at a candidate’s grades is most efficient way to identify the best candidates. Is that bullshit? In the editor’s opinion, yes. Do you have to deal with it, anyway? Yes. Is impossible to have a low-ish GPA (between 3.0 – 3.5) and still land a gig with Big 4? No, but be prepared to sell hard why your lower GPA isn’t an issue.

In this case, while the “C” in Intermediate Accounting may rise an eyebrow or a brief mention from someone on the recruiting team, it is not the ‘weed out’ course that you are picturing in your head. Your 3.52 GPA is good enough that the Big 4 will give you a serious look and if you received “A” grades in your other classes, the “C” will look like an outlier that a partner may ask you about briefly, “What happened there?” in an attempt to be funny. You’ll give him/her the story and that will likely be the end of it.

Plus, since it sounds like you’re most interested in joining a Tax Practice, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. They’ll look at your Grad School grades and the classes you took in the program to decide where you’ll best fit into their practice. They likely won’t give your “C” in Intermediate a second look.