Home » Accounting Careers » The Art of Picking your Own Top Accounting Firms to Work For

The Art of Picking your Own Top Accounting Firms to Work For

Some of my former college classmates, who were lucky and deserving enough to go work for some of the biggest CPA firms, have recently been venting about their frustration and disappointment as they relate to the lack of work and life balance associated with their professional obligations.  It’s has been little over a year since those friends in question started their careers in public accounting and here they are whining about the fact that they have little to no time to spare for some kind of social life. I would like to believe that many individuals, who once accepted an employment, can relate to the sentiments echoed by my friends. Very often, you accept a job offer only to find out a few months down the road that the job’s requirements and the company’s organizational culture were not a good fit for you. When you are just fresh out of college and are presented with the much sought after job offer from that big CPA firm, you often naively say yes to it without having conducted any meaningful due diligence at any point of the recruiting process.

Indeed, not even the summer internship at a CPA firm is enough to provide you with enough reasonable evidence to assess whether you are a good fit for both the job’s requirements and the firm’s organizational culture. Maybe you do love the physical environment of the job but they ask you to telecommute and use a cloud accounting software package, so your interaction with other employees is limited. In most instances, you are so focused on selling your skills to the prospective employer that you omit to objectively study the prospective employer’s business processes and work atmosphere. It should not then come as a surprise that you become all of sudden frustrated by and disappointed with your job within a few months or a couple of years of your hiring date. Most employees who find themselves in such a predicament  -The Lord knows there are thousands of them out there!- will blame it all on their employer. Let’s be realistic here, the source of your frustration stems from a concept called the expectation gap. In other words, the reason associate and junior levels public accounting professionals often get disappointed with their work life is because there is a sizable gap between their pre-employment expectations and the realities of their jobs. The best way to shield yourself from post-hiring disillusions is to do as much homework as possible on the prospective employer prior to accepting the much tempting job offer.  By now, you must be wondering how you should best go about screening out prospective/potential employers. It all comes down to harnessing the power of the Internet (the information super highway). Please read on to learn about three ways you can unearth precious insight on a prospective employer.

  • Glassdoor.com: In case you don’t know, Glassdoor provides salary surveys, employee reviews, and interview tips on over 78,000 companies. You will find quite an amount of information about all the Big 4, all national and regional CPA firms, and some other smaller CPA firms when you visit Glassdoor. All the reports you find on Glassdoor are graciously provided by actual current and former employees. Now this is no some hear said type of reviews. You are getting all the information right from the people in the trenches. There is a little twist however, you have to be a registered member of Glassdoor in order to be granted full access to the website database. For your information, glassdoor.com is a free service that requires free membership just as  Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn do. Because all reviews are anonymously submitted, it is very unlikely that you will find some politically correct reviews. Sometimes, you will come across reviews by angry current or former employees, it is therefore very important that you use professional skepticism as you browse the wealth of information available at Glassdoor. All in all, Glassdoor is a very powerful tool for screening out potential accounting firms and I would recommend every existing and aspiring accounting professional to add it to his/her job search tool box.
  • Jobitorial.com: This website is somewhat similar to Glassdoor in that current and former employees submit reviews on their overall experiences with the companies they worked or are working at. No membership nor registration is needed to dig deep into the data available at Jobitorial.
  • Facebook.com: The way I have used Facebook in the past is to conduct a search using a specific public accounting firm name. For instance, I would search for let’s say firm XYZ then I would narrow my search down to people. The final results will give you a list of Facebook members that are or were affiliated with that firm XYZ. Once you have that list, all you need to do now is send out private messages to several of those people to ask them why would somebody want to  work for firm XYZ. It’s very important  that you contact people living in different geographical locations or else you will sound suspicious. You won’t get a reply from everybody and when you do get a reply, it will likely be one that is politically correct. All you really need is 5 to 10 balanced responses and you will be well on your way to building a realistic profile of the accounting firms you are looking at joining.

Although deep in your heart you believe you are the perfect fit for a given public accounting job opening, the company offering the position might not be enough of a good fit for you. If you don’t want to fall victim to what I earlier referred to as the expectation gap, I encourage you do as much research as you can to find out what current as well as former employees think of the CPA firm you are considering joining. The three websites I just shared with you will certainly get you started.

Furthermore, the following is a list of sources where you can find potential CPA firms that you can target in your job search.
1) Accounting Today 2011 Top 100 Firms (Comprehensive and interactive rankings of US accounting firms on a national basis, regional basis, by services, etc…you are going to love these rankings)
2) Top 100 Accounting Firms (This is an “unofficial” list maintained by James Cave, CPA. Although the list is unofficial, most of the CPA firms featured in it are indeed among the largest in the country)
3) Practical Accountant Magazine’s 16th Annual Survey of Regional Firms (This list is somewhat similar to the previous one. You get a regional breakdown of the public accounting industry)
4) Accounting Today 2010 Best Accounting Firms to Work for (The list is not very exhaustive but it can be beneficial for those of you who want to work for an accounting firm that promotes work/life balance)
5) INSIDE Public Accounting 2010 Top 100 Accounting Firms (This might be one of the most authoritative sources you will find on public accounting firms rankings. INSIDE Public Accounting  is “the only publication to report and analyze the news, strategies, trends and politics that affect the accountant, his firm and the profession”)

I hope these resources help you locate your next employer. As you pursue your search for employment within public accounting, always keep in mind that only you can affect the level of success you can achieve.


  1. Comment by Olivia Nelson:

    I like your idea of using facebook to help you find a good CPA. I would imagine that if a company has a great online presence it would be beneficial. My husband and I are looking for someone to help us with our books so maybe we should find someone who has a good online presence.

  2. Comment by Bill Meador:

    As someone who has worked in public accounting tax departments for over twenty years, I do understand your frustrations. Even though this post was written a few years ago, it still applies to many tax staff today. It is one of the reasons that I created my new blog called Advice for Tax Preparers. The main purpose of the blog is to teach those working in public accounting how to make their life easier and more successful in a CPA firm. I even added a 10 page free tax guide and flowchart that shows tax preparers how to reconcile that returns that do no balance. Therefore, if you need some advice on how to make your life easier in public accounting then visit my website at https://profiles.google.com/102226550371121801684.

  3. Comment by Brian Huber:

    With so much demand for quality accountants, every CPA should follow this advice to find the right position. Job circumstances vary widely throughout the accounting industry.

  4. Comment by Baylen:

    Hi! I’ve been reading your site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out
    from Dallas Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the
    fantastic job!

  5. Comment by Charissa:

    I do agree with all the ideas you have offered to your post.
    They are very convincing and can certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very short for newbies.
    May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent
    time? Thank you for the post.

  6. Comment by Nora Longoni:

    Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is simply nice and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the rewarding work.

  7. Comment by Terrie McCall:

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it¡¦s rare to see a nice blog like this one today..

  8. Comment by Sim Dubrow:

    Hi my friend! I must say that your post is fantastic, wonderful composed including almost all the important information and facts. I have to see more posts like this.

  9. Comment by Sim:

    I am a fan, and always grateful of the care you take with the information you present–and I greatly appreciated your article.

  10. Comment by Dave:

    Thanks for this! Very helpful and informative. I'm currently enrolled in a Fast-Track MPA program and I'm going through the same recruiting process as we speak. I'm looking forward to more of your posts in the future.

    • Comment by Narcisse:


      Thank you ever so much for your words of encouragement. I wish you much success with your MPA (Master of Professional Accounting) degree and your career endeavors. I also look forward to reading more of your comments as new posts are published.

  11. Comment by Deborah:

    Thanks for the great post. (I too randomly found it via a google search)

  12. Comment by Mike Santana:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the fantastic work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Leave a Reply to Brian Huber Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *