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BIG 4 INTERVIEW | Updated 2021 Process

The interview process for the Big 4 has changed dramatically since I last went through recruit. As a CPA Mentor and Coach to two new associates at a Big 4 firm, I had recently had the chance to ask my coachees what the interview process had been like for them, given they were hired in the middle of the pandemic. I was surprised at how different their experience was compared to mine 7+ years ago!

If you read my post on How I Got into a Big 4 Accounting Firm, I had went through 3 levels of intereviews, as well as two case assessments (one independent, another one in a team setting). I did believe the process was a bit bureaucratic and wasn't sure how the cases had assessed my competency. The good news is that they seemed to have gotten rid of the cases (but had implemented a different assessment instead). The three interviews also seemed a little redundant and put a lot of pressure on scheduling during the recruit process if you had multiple interviews with other firms. It seems like the Big 4 firms have now streamlined the interview process!

Today, I will be providing you with how new recruits go through the interview process in 2021 for the Big 4, based on my discussions with new associates.

Online Video Interview

Instead of a one-on-one interview with HR or a Manager, the firms have moved towards online video interviews. Though, it's not what you expect of a typical Zoom interview. Yes, you will be taking it in the comfort of your own home but you won't be interacting with a human being. Instead, you will be sent an online platform where you will asked to do the following:

  • Watch video clips prepared by the firm, which introduces you to the firm as well as providfes you with background.

  • Answer interview questions provided in the video, in which your answers will be filmed and recorded.

You can imagine that being recorded in your room hosts a new set of concerns, such as lighting, and whether your audio and computer is working properly. One my of coachees said instead of being interviewed in his room, he went the whole nine yards by borrowing a professional studio with lighting and backdrop!

Another thing you need to take into consideration is that you have only one chance to say your response, so all your bloopers and tripping over your words will be filmed and reviewed (whereas if you were being interviewed in person, you might be able to interact with the interviewer to make it less awkward.

Your advantages in a typical interview setting such as people skills might not be as much of an advantage during your video interview. In fact, other skills like talking to a camera naturally will help you in your interview, instead of your ability to small chat and woo the interviewer.

Now you may be curious what sort of questions are asked during the interview. The firm will not pull a quick one, but will ask typical behavioural questions. Some common questions are:

  • Tell me about a time you failed and how you learned from it

  • Tell me about a time you faced a challenge and overcame it

  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult team member and how you were able to resolve it

  • Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a supervisor and how you were able to resolve it

  • What are 3 words to describe yourself

You are only given one to three minutes, with only one take to answer the question. It will be especially important for you to keep an eye on the timer since you don’t want to be cut-off in the middle of a sentence. This may not be as much of a problem in a typical one-on-one interview setting, where time to answer a question is more lenient. However, computers won’t care if you have more to say!


There is also a simple problem solving skills assessment to complete as part of the interview process. This is also done online where you are provided 2 to 3 games of mental math questions as well as memory games, where you complete as many problems as possible in the given time limit.

The good and bad news is that you can’t prepare for this. As long as you know basic math and you have a decent memory, most people should do just fine!

Interview with Partner

Once you pass the online video interview as well as the problem solving assessment, your final stage is having an interview with a Partner. Provided we are still not completely over the pandemic, new recruits will most likely conduct the Partner interview online instead of meeting in person (though I can’t say for sure).

How your interview will go really depends on the Partner. Some partners are rigid and will stick with the interview format of asking questions based on your resume, and others are more laid back and you will end up just having a casual conversation. Most often than not, partner interviews are pretty casual, though I can’t guarantee how it will go, since it really depends on the partner!

The most important takeaway is that the Partner will try to see if you are a good fit with the firm. So, this would mean the Partner will need to walk away with a good impression of you and like you!

I know it may not sound super fair, but it’s life! You may be the most qualified person for the job but if the Partner doesn’t like you, you will most likely not get the job. At the same time, if you don’t have the top grades or the best work experience, but if the Partner really likes you, than the Partner’s say may play a big influence in whether you get hired or not.

This leads to my next bonus tip on how to get hired at a Big 4 and succeed at your interview.


I strongly believe in the power of networking. Even if you are not the most qualified, having people vouch for you can play a big part in you getting hired. I personally feel that networking does not play a small factor, but may have equal or greater weight compared to your grades and application. Of course, your grades and application will get you through the door but it is not the determining factor in you getting hired. The next big steps is to network and do well in the interview, and be likeable.

The work environment is different from school. In school, you are graded individually whereas at work, you can’t do everything yourself. You need a team to complete projects so you need to be likeable so you get along with team members and people enjoy working with you! You also need to be able to work efficiently and effectively in a team, so good soft skills (such as communication and time management) might help you accelerate in your career rather than straight up technical skills and brain smarts.

There are a few obstacles with networking online during pandemic times. Before, you can freely walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Nowadays, Zoom networking sessions require you to be split up into breakout rooms so you don’t have the option of approaching someone and have a meaningful one-on-one conversation.

This is hard to explain, but you also need to be a good fit with the firm. It’s not a matter of just trying to land a job, but do your values and personality go well with those of the firms? It’s a feeling you get, more of an instinct, since each firm and company have their unique feels. You will know what I mean once you start talking to the different firms.

One way to get started is to feel comfortable talking to people. You can start random converations with people in the street. You can also practice in front of the mirror or get feedback from your family and friends. You can attend random events to warm yourself up as well as reach out to people on Linkedin to organize one-on-one coffee (rather virtual) chats. The more you commit to the process and go beyond, the better results you will get. Remember, its always better to overdeliver than underdeliver.


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