In this particular episode, you will learn

  • About Accounting Careers
  • How To Get a Job

This is an hour long interview where Bobby and I go deep into what it takes to get hired in accounting. You will appreciate the brutal honestly behind the mic. My goal is that this interview will provide some insight into the accounting career world, which took us a long time to figure out. If this interview can save you some networking time and better your chances at a job in any way – then it is a success.

Moderator:     John Gillingham

Respondent:   Bobby Simon

John:

Hey, welcome to The Accounting Play podcast with me, John Gillingham, today we are talking career tips with the Accounting Super Recruiter, Bobby Simon from San Francisco, California. What’s up Bobby?

Bobby:

Thanks John, thanks for having me tonight, I am excited.

John:

Yes, just let me know, why we are here, where are we? And let me know a little bit about the firm you are representing today.

Bobby:

Right on, you are at 5 3rd Street, San Francisco, California, suite 1225, BVOH San Francisco.

John:

That’s freaking awesome, so before we get on, I just want to remind everyone, thanks so much for being here, check out The Accounting Play apps on I Tunes, leave us a review in the story really; really counts to me, you can also email me too.

So this episode is designed for anyone, looking and entering the field of accounting to improve their career, but here is the thing I actually met Bobby a few years ago when I was doing a lot of consulting work, and he is just amazing, he knows this business inside and out, and I have had the pleasure of seeing, many different careers developed with him. You go to LinkedIn, this guy he’s got 26 recommendations, and he is not asking for them.

You can see John Gillingham, I am one of them up there for him, so I just want to talk about the things that are going to help accounting students and professionals at every stage of their career. Bobby welcome to the show and thanks for being here.

Bobby:

Right on man, so I’d say half the reason why I am here, is to plug me and my firm and our functions here at the barrier is a boutique staffing firm, and the other half would be to answer all your questions John, what you got?

John:

That’s great, so how did you get into recruiting for accounting? And, if you could just tell me a little bit about your career path, that would be really amazing.

Bobby:

Someone once told me saying, good question is not the good thing to say because it degrades any other questions anyone ask, but John you nailed it man .How the heck did I get here? My recruiter, who is still here at the office working late, is he once asked me when I first met him, Bobby do you even like accounting. No, why are you here?

I said, well my accounting professor at my university said that students who graduates here, said that they get hired faster and paid more and so the light bulb went off, and he heard that and said, what motivates you, is time and money. Being a recruiter is all about the commission, this is a commission based job, but the silver lining is actually got to help people.

So, when he asked me if I got any ambitions of getting into recruiting, no I spent some long, hard hours in accounting courses dragging over my debits and credits. But at the end of the day, I got too much after sometime in public accounting, so I opt ship and got into the recruiting business.

John:

That’s great, so tell me a little about, real briefly, your school, your accounting path, because I think a lot of our listeners are either just starting developing, and so how do you see the progression of getting out of school, what school did you go to? What were your goals? What did you struggle with, and how did this eventually turn into what you are doing now? 

Bobby:

Okay, so when I left the United States Coast Guard Academy, I made my way into university in San Francisco. They had rolling admissions; I didn’t want to miss a minute in my school search, so with USF rolling admissions, a very compelling letter. I had a good start there, graduate USF got into PWC, two and a half years at PWC.

John:

So, Bobby tell me, what does it take to get into the big firm? Because, you know I feel like so many students are obsessed with doing it, and it is a story that I don’t tell very often as I work for Ernst & Young for a very brief period of time, and while I have a lot of respect for the firm, it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time. So, please tell me, like how did you get into that firm, and was that your goal? Is that something the goal standard? Because I know, I wanted to be goal standard.

Bobby:

As a recruiter, I wanted goal standard; as a student that was the life line. I changed my career, I am sorry my major into accounting, what does an accountant do after they graduate college? They get into the big four, that’s the launching pad. How do you get into the big four? You got to think of it this way, San Francisco; you got a bunch of tech companies, everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid; everyone is opt up on their company; everybody wants to be at Pin-interest; everybody wants to be their RMB; everybody wants to be a path defender. You know you can keep going, every single company

John:

And you work with some of the most amazing companies in the world, unlike that’s the competition

Bobby:

But the reason why they want to work at these firms because everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid, you get to the internal recruiter at BBLH, I am sorry ; you get to the internal recruiter at PWC, Deloitte and Touché, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Those recruiters, they’re happy to be at that firm; they want to see somebody who is happy to be there, so to answer your question, how do get in the big four? Show up on time in uniform and just excited to be there.

John:

But Bobby, you know that sounds, like just keeping your job, I mean, I feel like I applied to all the big four, and if I didn’t have an end; you know my old true story, the old partner at my firm called Ernst & Young, said he was part of some old club of some kind, and got me an interview and got me in. And I just, how does one go from random accounting student, coast guard guy to landing that interview? Because I know you are personal person but, how do get in front of that big job?

Bobby:

I will answer your question with a question, how did you get in front of a big job.

John:

I told you I had a direct referral.

Bobby:

You mean networking

John:

Yes, Earl was my natural network that got me in

Bobby:

It was your network that got you in, if you are not coming from a school that these big four firms recruit out of, then you are not going to get looked at. So in order to have your resume be submitted, have it submitted by somebody else, or recruiter that came from that agency or that firm. I mean I have gotten people jobs at the big four because I referred them to, who I knew as an internal recruiter at the firm; that I was referring them to.

John:

So tell me your story, what step by step, 5 to 10 steps, and you don’t have to name names; how did you land your job at the big four? And if you don’t mind disclosing; give me an approximation of your GPA because I have a feeling you are more of a people person.

Bobby:

Let’s just say when I had applied to PWC, I had stated my GPA requirement or GP not the requirement 3.0. I get into the person interviewing, the first thing I said was; I don’t have 3.0.

I said; I have a 2.7 but I spent the last 2 ½ years at the Coast Guard Academy and my GPA does not reflect that of any accredited university.

John:

Bobby that is amazing and I appreciate the honesty, and I know all of our listeners do as well. Now Bobby, how did you get in front of that person?

Bobby:

So again I applied online; I said I met the requirements, they liked what they saw; they sat in front of me. I gave them that speech right off the bat, and they said, hey you are here, let’s talk. We kept talking; we talked about my career ambition, why I got into accounting? What I liked about accounting, your name it, I said cookie cutter interview questions and I got in front of one of the partners at PWC who, let’s just say; his name is the author of a big; his name matches that of a big name author.

John:

Is he going up?

Bobby:

No, but we did talk about those books for the entire length of the interview and while I did not have the GPA requirement to get the internship, that I was applying for, he offered me a full time salaried position at the end of my scholastic endeavors at USF.

John:

Amazing, so what if I am a amazing accounting student, everything has gone right, I go to my big four interviews and I am shut down, well now what ; what’s your advice to me as a super recruiter let's say, or just , I am crying; I don't know what to do with myself .

Bobby:

A Scottish king, Robert Desire, said if you do not succeed, try; try again, keep in mind there is 3 other big fours; if you don't get into one. They all have seasonal recruiting periods where they have a start class, they don't hire every month, they hire every 6 months and you make it into that start class and you get trained in their audit program. So you have

John:

This is interesting knowledge, this is the internal

Bobby:

Yes you fail to get into WPC, first round okay apply ,delight the first round ; if you miss the time block there, okay next time you learn , apply to 3 of the big four right off the bat ,so you are not turning down people to interview you. You are actually getting the time of day because you can’t have 3 interviews in the same week, you will burn yourself out.

John:

So how do you network from the ground up? Because I feel a lot of typical recommendations is to being involved with the accounting club, to go out to the big nights on the town, go bowling. I have also heard ,you know never deny an opportunity to get involved with your accounting friends, I mean , you know it’s crazy out there ,people they spent 50 to 60 hours a week at the big four ,and then what they do for fun;  is they go out with the big four friends. So what can you do to break into that circle and what are they looking for?

Bobby:

I mean ask, just ask, when they say no

John:

Right

Bobby:

Just go on LinkedIn, go to advanced search, previous work history, you got 4 different firms in there, someone who worked at PWC in the past

John:

So, Bobby LinkedIn is a very powerful word and it’s a tool that I am sure, you utilized, how can undergrads and developing accounting professionals utilize LinkedIn, and what’s normal? We don't want to be stalking people online, how do you use that term.

Bobby:

Right as a recruiter I am always looking at who looked at my profile; but it’s not a popularity contest. 

John:

Bobby, how many times have I looked at your profile in the past 2 weeks?

Bobby:

I don't know

John:
Actually you didn't come up

Bobby:

Good

John:

Yes

Bobby:

Other people; other people are looking for

John:

So how can a student factor that in?

Bobby:

Fell shorter

John:

Look me up this time on LinkedIn?

Bobby:

People will know how to find you; we are going to have links in the show notes

John:

Okay, how as a student  in an aspiring accounting professional ,because I feel the hardest thing for people in their accounting career is that 1 to 2 years of experience. I see plenty of jobs open for Senior Accountant but no one wants to train from the bottom rungs, because even if $50,000 a year doesn’t sound like a dream job for a lot of people that’s a lot of money to train someone, and that’s really what these firms are doing. So, you know I think it’s a, so how do you get if it’s not the big four?

John:

Let’s say you don’t get into the big four, let’s say you go below (a) Payroll Administrative Accountant or you go (b) a AP Assistant Associate at company X, you learn computer skills; you learn the process of  Accounts Payable. 

Bobby:

What’s a 3 way match, do they ask you that in the interview, you will be able to answer that question if you do it for 6 months, 3 months or 2 weeks

John:

Bobby what is a 3 way match?

Bobby:

I can’t answer that question, right now John. I would say the process of matching an AP invoice to execute on payment.

John:

That sounds like a trifactor, in those pay 3 folds; it all depends on the odds, random question, honest answer. Would you rather have $15 an hour at a big name company such as a Zinger, Goggle, LinkedIn, any Fortune 500 recognizable? Or $20 an hour at a local firm, or something that is not recognizable for someone in their first 1 to 3 years of experience? 

Bobby:

In that field, or in life? 

John:

In that field, in both

Bobby:

You have people with mortgage payments, child care payments; you’ve got people coming in to

John:

Let’s say starting out, we are thinking age, early 20’s I need a job

Bobby:

Work for free and put that name on your resume for as long as you can.

John:

So are you saying, you want a $15 big name or the $20, no name an hour?

Bobby:

Big name

John:

Don’t matter with the dollar information is, so you are going to give job advice

Bobby: If you are a $15 person give it to me for 10; give it to me for 5

John:

You want the name?

Bobby:

I want that name so bad; I’ll work here double time and not charge you.

John:

Okay, Harvard, Goggle, keep naming, name association, Stanford, your name and company

Bobby:

You are asking me

John:

Like what are the names that, brand names that stick out on a resume that are amazing for you?

Bobby:

Amazing brand names for me, if you are asking universities.

John:

Universities, brands, associations, companies really

Bobby:

Okay

John:

So I am thinking Goggle, sales force, just what are you thinking, what would you like to see on a resume?

Bobby:

You know I have some interpretation about naming names here

John:

You don’t have to

Bobby:

Okay its fine; its fine I would say

John:

Fortune 500 companies

Bobby:

Brand names, you are here in San Francisco, California

John:

Anywhere

Bobby:

You are not in Ohio; you are not in Boston I don’t know enough about those industries or those locations and I know San Francisco.

John:

Right

Bobby:

You are talking here in the city, you have got; if you are a Financial Analysis and you want to be a Financial Analysis; and you want to have a leg up and be a Finance Manager one day, go work at sales force; go been in the Finance department sales force .

You want to be an Accountant, start at big four; start at an original CPA firm, start a CPA firm so, you can get CPA credential, it’s all about how many commons you have after your name in some people’s minds. Some people may not want to have the CPA, because they didn’t have one and they pull themselves off the boot straps.

Some people won’t look at you in an interview ,unless you have that accreditation, so if you are trying to get in accounting, if you kind of trying to break into the accounting professional, don’t worry about the company; get that experience in AP ;get that experience in AR; get that experience in payroll.

John:

But if you have the choice when I was interpreting from before that, the big name travels and that’s really been my personal experience because XYZ Company, you know hiring managers

Bobby:

Can I interject here?

John:

Please

Bobby:

I would say the personalities trails, you can get into these top tier places with good interview skill; like I said, we talked about; we talked about a character in a fictional novel for 1 1/2 hour at number 3 Barcelona Centre with PWC, and I didn’t talk anything about accounting but I got the job.

John:

Alright, Bobby brief conclusion on the CPA.

Bobby:

Okay

John:

In a few minutes or less, how important is it, and what sort of sacrifices should people be making to; either get their credentials or forget about it and just go for the money? So short term money versus the long-term sacrifice, because I advocate when I took; when I pass my CPA exams, I took unpaid time off of work. I am very realistic, I made almost, you know very little in the big picture but I got my CPA license for Long Term Investments.

How pun is it and what would be, certain time lines because I know people who struggle with the test for five years and all they show, on Accountingplay.com. You know just recommend blindly perusing CPA exams, because I know lots of great Accountants, maybe they peaked out at an $80,000 drop, I don’t know. But what’s the short term and long-term realities for perusing that license or not?

Bobby:

When working directly with someone who has got 20 years of experience, teaches accounting and he is making more than $180,000 a year without a CPA. You have what a CPA can bring to the table to a company; you know what a CPA can bring to someone who is filing in taxes but what your CPA can do for you is provide more visual, it expands your bandwidth. That’s what it does; it expands up your bandwidth, but is it required? No, you have big four in your back ground; you may not necessarily need your CPA, you already have the big four.

You have original CPA firm and you have your CPA but you specialized in energy and you are here in San Francisco and there is PGenie and Chevron, that’s two companies. There is more extra experience attraction and revenue here versus having a CPA, so get revenue recognition down path and you don’t need your CPA.

John:

So, Bobby my dad seems to think, that if I have a CPA I can make money, is that true? Are people blind to this certification because I feel like that’s not so?

Bobby:

Some of my Hiring Managers are blind to this certification.

John:

Okay

Bobby:

Some of my Hiring Managers won’t look at you unless you have a CPA, and I respect that; and I understand that; and I push back, but you can’t fix some things. At the same time as I have had Hiring Managers who have requested no CPA s or no big fours, and it is their own prejudice, so I think knowing your audience, is all about knowing what you need to be able to bring to the table.

John:

Okay, where you fit in? Bobby you are coming along so beautiful with these transitions, you mention interview skills. Now the thing about interview skills, it’s almost like common sense; where I feel you can’t teach it so well, maybe you can; maybe you can develop it, so I’ll like to maybe talk about as a Recruiter / someone hiring within the company, what are the real core things that you look for in interview skills? And maybe we can transition, to how a candidate can develop those skills.

Bobby:

Eye contact, taking notes and maintaining the conversation. So you have the ability to be flexible in what you are talking about, it could start from what you are doing this weekend ,to if you know your three way match. But if you are able to rebound off of certain flaws; or even catch yourself and call yourself out, it shows you are human and people want to be respected; they want you to respect their time.

So I’d say taking notes, if you asked me a question or more importantly if I ask you a question and you give me an answer and I don’t take notes, am I listening? Do I care?

John:

So, if someone is in an interview and they are, I actually, I won’t say struggle, but in an interview, sometimes I wonder if taking notes is a good thing or a bad thing; if I am talking to a Recruiter or a company because, it’s almost like at a restaurant where you get tipped higher; if you can memorize the order. What you think, is it okay to take notes in an interview?

Bobby:

I’d say you must

John:

Okay excellent, and so I will really add a personal story, there’s this guy who worked for an old firm of mine, and I would tell him a complicated order, and I am not talking about a burger with fries and a milk shake but complicated tax things, and he would not write stuff down; and I brought this guy to my side a couple of different times, and I said X,Y, Z; you need to have a tool in your hands, and what does the tool mean? I need a writing pad and a pen something to acknowledge that you are writing the stuff down because unfortunately I knew he wasn’t smart enough to remember it all.

There’s some people who do, but you always have a tool, if you are walking around a construction site, and you have a hammer in your hand, you’ll not going to get called down. So stay engaged no matter how smart you are, and that guy was laid off after taxes; and he did not made the tax uncut. Which is basically?

Bobby:

What

John:

He was not

Bobby:

That’s great, let’s talk about somebody who did not make the cut

John:

He got hired, sort of on a sob story, to be honest

Bobby:

So, it’s an internal network

John:

Well, yes he had a good start and he had a good heart

Bobby:

I had a good story; I talk about James Bond my entire interview

John:

Bam, you know be kind, know how to chop it up with people because a lot of other sourceable tier, it’s not the 4.0 that’s going to sell it? Now the difficult thing is, it was hard to teach this person to; write down notes, engage with people and don’t be awkward, these are lifelong skills.

Bobby:

Those are also in my interview tips when I prepare candidates.

John:

They are still what, let’s hear them.

Bobby:

Take down notes, don’t be awkward

John:

Right

Bobby:

Read the newspaper, have something to talk about.

John:

Read the newspaper

Bobby:

Yes

John:

So someone who is like, say a junior year in school, or otherwise somebody who really truly wants to improve themselves. What we are not talking about like a weekend course that cost $99.00 available at Accountingplay.com, that’s a joke but; what does it take to convert a very smart nice person with a lot of heart ,to get them in the business world which is not always about been very smart or having a big heart like

Bobby:

It’s just like in that interview makeover

John:

Sort of

 

Bobby:

Okay

 

John:

Like long-term, get this person, let’s say they failed out of all their big four interview because they had an awkward thing, and we all know

Bobby:

Maybe they ate cheese and brush their teeth, and put polish on their shoes, and did they get a haircut the night before?

John:

Yes they did

Bobby:

Okay

John:

But they were awkward

Bobby:

But they did, but they were awkward, how?

John:

Smart and they were sweating

Bobby:

But I was sweating in my interviews

John:

Okay

Bobby:

But I bounced often

 John:

You talked about bouncing, and I think that is a very

Bobby:

It’s more about ningeral than a bounce John.

John:

But ninjas are developed over a long time Bobby, and so for the non ninjas I would advocate for example, to throw themselves in a difficult environment; that could be a social party, where people are very clicky, it could be a bar if you don’t drink; it could be a scenario that you are not comfortable with because interview are very uncomfortable.

Bobby:

So call yourself up, I don’t know where three way match is, it’s been five years since I have had an accounting job, and let me do the math; seven years since I have an accounting degree.

But you know I ask people this question all the time, actually no; I am not in the recruiting world anymore but I have my recruiters asked this question all the time and its more sort of seed if they respond. And this question is more specific towards what an AP Accountant is, but if I ask a Revenue Accountant about a waterfall calculation or if I asked a SEC Accountant about specific white papers they have written or any ten case they have actually, you know been part of reporting for. If no is your answer, that’s awesome; but own it.

John:

I am sorry; I am hot; this room is hot, you know I I’m sweating.

Bobby:

Great, fine, call yourself out; but be yourself and as someone who is calling themselves out and been themselves. They are human; they are showing their humanity; they are owning it; and when it’s time to hit, when the rubber hits the road and we’ve got a year-end that’s close, I want someone to own what they own. And to be as, let’s just say as trustworthy as possible, integrity; that’s it, integrity.

John:

Bobby you owned it, when you were working side by side with people for 12 hours at a time, they don’t want just to shine shoes; they want someone to be real with and that they can work for

Bobby:

Are you kidding me, I jumped in a puddle of water with my managers’ kit, when we had a Friday, you know after the quarter end, kind of drink up, and it didn’t matter, but they destroyed my shoes. But I wore those same shoes, the entire; last you know two years I was working at the firm.

But what matter was, I showed my humanity, I gave myself a little bit up, this is who I am. I don’t care.

John:

So, Bobby that’s grand and it resonates even with me, with Accounting Play; my career, putting a face to the brand, owning it, wanting to help people showing our humanity. And when I got into my career, my early twenties I thought people were adults, and they were going through all the same stuff and so ,you’ll have a to be able to relate to them and it’s not just small talk.

How are you doing? What’s going on? The stuff is significant and guess what, it’s not all about getting a100% on your exams and I think, you know Bobby leverages his success in one way and other potential people can in another. So I know my audience and I know people going to want a little bit of step by step, because they are listening not because they have the perfect job right now but they want to grow and they want to be better.

So, maybe you can take me through what I called the process of cold to sold, and that’s from; no one knows you all the way to signing an employment contract, the resume. Everyone wants to talk about the resume, and you know there are books written about resumes and you read them a thousand times a day. So, let’s maybe talk resume on a 1 to 3 years career track and then after that, what pops out? How long you look at these things?

Bobby:

I like to look at them for a brief minute because I have I really met the person, and they know me, they know, I know them and I don’t need their resume to, I hate to say the word, sell them to a company I am trying to place somebody, but you know you are saying, what’s the best step? I’d say

John:

So, we are talking, Tony doesn’t know you and you see their resume and you’re I like, I got to talk to this person, what stands out from a ,like a 1 to 3 year candidate even though it’s quite been awhile since you have worked with them and then, you know allowed to meet him to high experience level 

Bobby:

I will call; I will see 6 resumes that show up in my search, I will call each one of them. I would rather call them and let them answer the phone. Are you personable? Do you speak up? Are you waiting for me to talk or are you finding out why the heck I am calling you?

My time is valuable, if someone says that to me, I’d do like, okay you are hired; can I please meet you. There is certain character trait that I would look for versus what’s on a resume, but on your resume, less is more; so I don’t need to know your physical address. The last time you mailed your resume in was probably 1992, you know, put your city, your zip code, your phone number, your email, start with your professional experience. Leave what’s relevant to the search you are looking for, include your education when you are graduated, include dates, keep everything constant.

If you are leaving, put a line somewhere, keep that same line ever where else if you are going to, list a date at a certain column, keep that date column for every singular dates in the rest of the resume. And you would still be easily digestible; it needs to be friendly, and open; and personable and honest.

John:

Bobby what about the little motivator statements at the top, like I want to be seeking position

Bobby:

Captives

John:

Thank you, if I had a tally mark for captives, I would delete it off resumes I submitted

Bobby:

All right:

John:

You know skip it, okay absolutely, I want a job, so the resume is the objective and stuff, that’s great. Tell me about some resumes that went straight into the trash can, some funny ones. Let’s hear some story about these.

Bobby:

What color are we talking about? We are talking about pink font because I have thrown all those away.