Helping CPAs Get a Life

PricewaterhouseCoopers' recruiting efforts take into account recent college grads' desires for a better work-life balance

Will accountants finally be known as the hipsters of the business world? Probably not, but thanks to Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' recruiting Web site, young CPAs can act their age. Interactive features, bright colors, stories from all types of recent hires, and youth-oriented lingo—which is catchy, but not over the top—dot the site.

"We do a significant amount of research on the next generation of people we are hiring, to find out what their passions are and where their interests lie," says campus recruiting manager Christina Fitzpatrick (see, 6/4/06, "They Love It Here, and Here, and Here").

Fitzpatrick should know what candidates want. For the past seven and a half years, she has been involved in campus recruiting at PwC, and before that she worked for a year in marketing and public relations.

Fitzpatrick recently spoke to reporter Julie Gordon about PwC's hiring tactics and culture. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

The company's current slogan or campaign is "Your Life. You can bring it with you." What does that motto represent?

We are all individuals, we all have diverse backgrounds and interests, and we all come to a place where we can bring them with us. On the Web site, a guy is highlighted who is in a band and is a surfer out in our LA office. He tours with his band a portion of the year. So it talks about how he has been able to bring that passion to PwC.

There is a girl who is involved in soccer, there is a guy who is a martial arts expert. We have seen students feel that PwC is a place where they can be themselves and at the same time have a very robust and challenging and successful career.

What are major priorities for students entering the corporate world and how does PwC respond to those needs?

Certainly, work/life flexibility is a big one (see, 5/4/06, "Hello, Mickey"). I am finding this next generation wants successful careers and to be professionally challenged, but they also want to have a life outside of work.

There are unique things PwC is doing. One of them is flexible Friday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, if you can get your work done in a four-day period—we all run kind of a 40-hour workweek minimum—you take Friday off. PwC has also shut down over the holidays.

Professional service firms are not doing this, and our firm has come out and said, "Our people work hard and it's important to take time off, to charge our batteries, and that we have an opportunity to connect with family and friends and focus on whatever it is outside of work that we want to focus on over the holidays." Usually it's a few days before the Christmas holiday, and then it will go a few days after New Year's. The entire firm is taking that time off. Doors shut, elevators locked, no one at the main desk when you get in.

In some states, people are required to take 150 credit hours before getting their CPA licenses, while many undergrads get their degrees with as little as 120 credits. How has that affected recruiting and hiring?

It's really a state-by-state issue. We take a strategic approach to our recruiting and hiring in each situation.

In the states that do require it, are you doing the undergraduate recruiting as heavily?

It really just depends on the situation.

Once people are hired, are they assigned to specific clients?

They will be assigned to clients. The idea is that from Day One they have an opportunity to interact with our clients and be a part of our client service team or multiple client service teams.

How are clients chosen for new hires?

It's usually a collaborative process. We reach out to employees, we certainly want to know what is important to them. That goes through all of our hiring and in terms of what fits our employees.

What is the interviewing process like?

Your normal college student goes through on-campus recruiting. Beyond that, they will come into our office, which is typically the second round of the interview. The purpose of that is to give them an opportunity to get to know PwC and our corporate culture and values, which are leadership, teamwork, and excellence. At the same time, we want to get to know them.

Are there more informal recruiting sessions?

There can be any number of opportunities students have to interact with PwC professionals. It can be dinner, it can be other social activities. That would be certainly something that is common. The point of that is to give the candidate a chance to get to know PwC and for us to have a chance to get to know them.

What is an approximate starting salary?

We pride ourselves on being competitive, but we can't disclose the exact numbers (see, 5/30/06, "Puffed-Up Paychecks").

Accounting is a very popular field for business majors. Have you seen an increase in terms of applications lately?

I have definitely seen an increase in applications and I attribute that to the great things PwC is doing as a firm. I think it is becoming a very attractive place for people to be, learn, and grow as professionals.

Do entry-level candidates usually stay at PwC for years, or is there more movement?

We've definitely found people sticking around, whereas in general, 20 years ago, I wouldn't say it was the same way.