How to Write a Great Application

So you’ve survived the cocktails and recruiting/networking events, gorged on a great deal of free food and drink and now face the prospect of applying to a firm.  Well, we’re here to help.  The application you put together is crucial because it must communicate your strengths to the firm so that they chose to interview you.  In my experience, there are three things firms want to see when reading through piles of applications:

1-Good grades.  This is especially true for the Big 4, which from my understanding tend to use GPA as a cutoff in order to make the torrent of apps more manageable.  There is not much you can do here, and if you are an undergrad, this is one of the few things the firms have to gauge your ability to do the work and perhaps pass the professional exam.  With hiring as strong as it has been, I would say that anything above a 3.0 will give you a good chance, while over a 3.2 is probably ideal. 

2-Leadership and Teamwork.  Whether it is through work experience, extra curricular activities or sports, you must demonstrate to the firm that you are a potential leader.  Keep in mind, within 2 years they will have you running small teams of junior auditors, so this is an extremely important skill.  This doesn’t imply that you had to be the captain of the football team, anything really goes for this.  You could have been a yearbook editor, helped with charities/political campaigns or been active in student life.  Elaborate on this type of activity and clearly state how you were an effective leader.  Also, show how in the past your activities have acclimated you to group work, whether through group projects or sports.  Considering the fact that you will rarely work alone in accounting, this skill has become a necessity.

3-Well roundedness.  Whether or not roundedness is a word, the accounting firms want it.  They want people who are active in their community, who have outside interests and are essentially the kinds of people they would not mind spending 14+ hours cooped up in a conference room in the day before a financial statement needs to be completed.  Again, this can be demonstrated by anything from your outside interests (i.e. travel, sports, etc.), ECs, sports and work in the community.

Next time, we will deal with the dreaded interview.

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