How to Recruit in Big 4 Accounting Firms

QUESTION: Mike, I have been sending out MPC emails to partners and CEOs of several Big 4 accounting firms. I just received a reply back from one of the firms, not from the partner, but an internal recruiter who responded with the following:  

Hi Gerard, 

Thanks so much for getting in touch. My name is Stephanie and I work with the recruitment team here at XYZ. I am happy to take a look at this candidate if you want to send on to me. I will need to know what level they desire.  

Many thanks.  

No contact number, no signature at the end of the email, nothing. So my question is what is a good approach to go back to the partner directly with to establish what needs they have, bearing in mind that he has already fobbed me off to his internal recruiter.  – Gerard

ANSWER: My experience, I have had clients, Gerard, that worked with the Big 4, and that is the process. I had a client a few years ago that was outstanding. She billed a million and half, maybe $2 million working with Big 4 accounting firms. She was doing it all through internal recruiters. However, she just had a process nailed down and was an approved vendor.   

A couple of negative things occur, not only with Big 4 companies, but with large companies in general, which is why I always advise to work with the smaller companies. Maybe there is a workaround, but if I am a recruiter in 2018, and when I was a recruiter in 1998 I did not want to work with big companies, and I am even more convinced now because of all the following reasons.  

If you submit this person, even though if they submitted a resume or somebody submitted a resume, or they have a LinkedIn profile, that somebody was thinking about, maybe, kind of, should have, a company like this can say, “We already have them.”  

So one of the things you need to do is if you are going to follow through with human resources is to say, “I talked to this individual. They have not submitted their resume to you.”  You probably want to double check that. You need to know that you have ownership of this candidate, that even if they submitted their resume 5 years ago. Honestly, I would not even give out the name because they can do a database search, especially if it is a unique name. That is the mess you are going to get into because here she wants you to send the resume. I am not saying they are unethical or they are going to lie to you, but if they have a system or if they are in the database, they are not going to pay you. You have been effectively now bird dogged for them.  

They can say, oh, wow, yea, this guy is in our database. We did not know he was active. Thanks Gerard. Now we will call him, but he is in our database.  We are not going to pay you.  

The managing partner, I have no idea if he or she has a need simply because they forwarded your email. They take all recruiters’ emails, I think, and forward them to internal recruiters. You might want to go back to the partner and ask, “Do you have a defined need for somebody with this skill set?”  I would copy the internal recruiter and the candidate on your reply. 

Again, the main reason I wanted to answer this question is – I would stay far away from the Big 4 accounting companies. I had a couple other clients that worked with consultants, and they were much more effective tiering down to the mid to smaller boutique consulting companies, because there you are going to work with a managing partner and you are going to find and identify what the managing partner’s real needs are. Then you are going to partner up with the managing partner and become his or her kind of talent ID person.  

In 30 years, I have not seen a process that works really well other than the one woman who self-admitted she ran a commodity based business, and all she did was she had a team of researchers and she had a process for surfacing consultants and a process working with internal recruiters, mostly via email, submitting resumes, and waiting 4 to 5 months for them to get hired.  

Now, if that is what you want, it is just a different business model than the one I teach. No matter what I did with her, and she was a really, really bright lady, so I am not saying she was stubborn, the Big 4 did not care, they did not care, and that is not really who I want to work with.  

I probably was not a lot of help, but I just thought when I looked at this question it was a great opportunity for me to evangelize on my philosophy of working with big companies. My target company is somebody from a startup phase to $250 million US in revenue. In the UK they call it turnover. They have HR, but it is less embedded, especially when you get closer to the zero to $100 million size organization. The whole thing has to be about value beyond the resume. I will just leave you with that. Thanks so much for the question. I appreciate it. 

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