An Exclusive Interview with Will Christensen, Deloitte Canada’s National Campus Lead for Recruiting
Author: Tony Ge, Senior Online Editor
Contributing Staff: Shindu Parameswaran, Managing Editor
Interested in an accounting career? Aspiring to work for one of the Big Four accounting firms? Want to learn more about the accounting industry? If so, then hopefully you’ve done your research about the different companies that you may wish to work for. To help you in your exploration of accounting careers, this Career Spotlight feature presents an Arbitrage exclusive interview with Will Christensen, National Campus Lead for Deloitte – the second largest professional services network in the world. The following interview will provide some insight and tips you need to know about starting a career at Deloitte.
We want to see people that are more than just grades or just work experience.
Deloitte, with approximately 182,000 employees in over 150 countries, is one of the leading professional services firms in the world. Founded in 1845 in London, England and now headquartered in New York City, Deloitte provides services in audit, tax, consulting, risk management and financial advisory to many of the world’s largest and most powerful organizations. Deloitte has gained several awards and achievements over the years, including “The World’s Most Attractive Employers 2010” (Universum), Canada’s “Best Diversity Employers for 2011” (MediaCorp) and “100 Best Companies to Work for” for 12 consecutive years (Fortune Magazine), establishing itself as one of the leading employers in the world.
1. When and how did you join Deloitte? What attracted you to Accounting in general?
I joined Deloitte in 1997, in Australia. I started with the firm there and came through much the same way as most students would come to work with the firm. I went to information sessions for the “Big 6”, and I connected best with Deloitte because they told me about their global opportunities and also spoke to me about the people that worked at the firm. Those are the two things that really appealed to me, and that’s why I decided to go work there.
Why accounting? Like most people, you kind of just “fall” into accounting, I guess. I was good at math when I was at school, and I took all the accounting classes when I was doing my bachelor of economics and commerce. I moved into accounting right after I graduated.
2. Can you take me through one of your typical workdays?
There used to be a typical workday when I worked in audit, because in audit you have a set of clients and a certain set of responsibilities, such as going into the field, working with the team, reviewing client files, and meeting with the clients. But in campus recruiting, there’s never really a typical day because there’s something different happening everyday. During recruiting season, there are a lot of things to organize and a lot of running around. Just this week, I have to attend multiple offer parties and recruiting events in Calgary and Vancouver. I spend a lot of time talking to people about why they should choose Deloitte.
3. So let’s delve into recruitment a little more. Can you tell me a little about the summer intern position; what can someone expect and hope to learn from such an experience?
So there are summer intern and coop positions in all offices across the country. The big “full-metro” offices in cities, such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, have the most number of hires. Essentially, a student intern would learn what it would be like to work at Deloitte full-time. Some companies will offer you an internship opportunity where you won’t get to work with clients or get any real experience; our commitment is to give you a clear picture of what it would be like to work here full-time. You will work in the field and you will be treated exactly as a first-year staff accountant. The only difference is that as an intern, we also want to put more emphasis on building relationships with the group that you worked with, so there are some team building activities, such as trips to Wonderland or a Raptor’s game.
4. What is Deloitte looking for when hiring students?
We want to see people that are more than just grades or just work experience. We want people that bring to the table good quality professional skills, people that are easy for our clients to work with, easy for our teams to work with, and those who fit in well with our culture. We would look at a combination of grades, extracurricular activities, and leadership. There’s no magic formula, and there’s no GPA cut-off. We look at each candidate based on their own merits.
5. The resume and cover letter. It arguably acts as the critical point of reference for any candidate. What advice do you have for students when writing their resumes?
A few things on the resume: no more than 2 pages, and make it clear and concise. We received more than 20,000 resumes last year, so you need to make it easy for us to find the information that we’re looking for. Start with your name and address, then education, extracurricular activities and so forth. Make sure the subheadings are clear, and also make sure you include a cumulative GPA. Also, no crazy font; you can be a little creative, but keep it professional and easy to understand.
6. The interview. Assuming one is qualified enough to make it this far, what tips do you have for students when preparing for an interview? During the interview?
Be yourself and don’t make things up! You should also be well researched about the firm. There should have been plenty of opportunities at networking events to get your questions answered. Also, don’t feel compelled to ask a question at the end of the interview; it’s perfectly acceptable to say you’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of different people throughout the process and all your questions have already been answered. When you’re answering the questions, take a minute and think about what the response should be and what the interviewer is looking for. All of our questions are going to be about you, so you are the expert of the field!
7. Networking. It can be a great way for students to learn more about the firms, as well as for the firms to get to know potential future hires. Can you educate our readers on the do’s and don’ts at networking events? What should you talk about when networking at an information session?
The whole hiring process is that, we’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing us. So you should definitely ask about things that interest you; if you’re interested in traveling, then ask questions about travelling, but if you have no intention of leaving Canada, then don’t ask about it! So think about what interests you about the firm or about accounting. Ask people what they did during the day, most interesting client experience they had, what they like about Deloitte, or even what they don’t like about Deloitte.
What you shouldn’t do is get carried away during a networking session. Always be polite and respectful. Give other people the opportunity to ask questions; don’t dominate the conversation. Don’t feel like you have to get a question in, listen to what other people are saying maybe your question has already been asked by other people. Do feel free to join in the conversation and ask follow-up questions.
8. How would you describe the culture at Deloitte if you could describe it in one sentence?
Deloitte is an organization that is never comfortable with where it’s at. So we’re always thinking about where the next opportunity is, and always trying to innovate and improve on what we already have.
9. All of the other top firms, such as E&Y, PwC, and KPMG, offer pretty much the same service, so how is working at Deloitte any different from these other accounting firms?
I would actually say that we don’t exactly offer identical services. For example, Deloitte offers consulting services which isn’t offered by the other firms. This does make us different and as a result, our clients can expect not just great accounting advice from us, but also great business advice as well. Even though we’re a very successful firm, we are also committed to the community for example, we have Impact Day where our professionals go and volunteer their time for a day in their communities.
10. From a seasoned recruiter’s point of view, what would be the top tips you have for students applying to Deloitte?
Spend some time doing some research on Deloitte; understand the things that we’re committed to, and the values that we stand for.
You should also meet our competitors and understand the difference between the firms. Get as much information as you can and make an informed decision, that’s the best piece of advice I can give to anyone thinking of coming and working for us. Many students regret their career choices because they didn’t take the time to fully understand what they were getting into.
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