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"Can you explain the "forced ranking" system (e.g. GE style) that the Big 4 use to weed out employees. I'm about to join a Big 4 and want to know how to survive this."

Good question. There are really three factors that come into play here -
a) CPA - This is huge. If you don't have it after 4 years at your firm, you're in the red zone. Try and get it out of the way as soon as you become eligible to take it. If you are not a good test taker, then it is even more imperative to begin the arduous process asap. If you are an audit superstar, but still don't have your CPA by this time, you're in danger. Why? Because it is a numbers game, and since firms have to cut a certain number, they just look at stats and don't look at each individual's particular scenario.
b) Performance Reviews - Don't aim for an average rating. In this economy, it's not good enough. Yes, if people know you're good, you might end up getting put on horrendous clients. But that's just a risk you have to take. Take more responsibility for what you do. Help your senior associate/manager in any which way you can. Trust me, he or she will really appreciate your willingness to help (assistance, not brown-nosing). If you go below average w/ different reviewers, update your resume.
c) Hours - If you're sitting around in the office "on the bench" and not working much for days/weeks, don't wait for somebody to assign you to certain clients. Go seek out your managers/senior associates and ask to be put on clients. This is a very easy metric for HR to measure, and if they notice that you're not being used effectively, you're expendable.Then again, if people start leaving the firms, then they'd go back to the pre-recession days of their economic model, i.e. constantly be short of auditors instead of having an excess to carry around on their books.


Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Seek out work?!?! Screw that! Auditors are underpaid and overworked compared to their commerce counterparts (in Australia). When you are benched and have downtime, milk it for all it's worth.

Surely with the natural attrition rate in audit, your job is safe.
Anonymous said…
I would agree. It's interesting that at our firm there are so many people that are concerned about losing their jobs. That's why you become an accountant! The job security! I mean, sure, you might get thrown off of the Big 4 bus, but to think that you'll be forced to join the ranks of the unemployed for any significant period of time is delusional.
Anonymous said…
i agree! i would be out of my mind to tell the staff planner i am free. that's so crazy. i can imagine, once they hear that, work will get piled on you so much that you will regret ever offering help.
notfordisplay said…
Good luck trying to stay under the radar. Given that it's a numbers game, your chargeable hours also play a role in your survival at the firm. Roll the dice.
Anonymous said…
I am glad I was fired from Big 4 auditing. You learn nothing applicable to real businesses and even so your knowledge is limited. Auditors do not even know how to make up the companys records because they cannot use bookkeeping software or many of the entries made which is shameful. This is not practical either. Small firm accounting is less hours, less stressful and more knowledgable. You are more marketable out of a small firm than a big firm. Not bitter, just saying. Everyone is brainwashed. Bigger is not better.

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