Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: I'm not getting any replies from the Big Four

WE have experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as careernomers Ė experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So If you have burning questions, send them to dearcareernomers@

This week, we have Salika Suksuwan, who led the resourcing team of PwC for more than eight years before taking up a secondment to TalentCorp where she is leading various projects in partnership with employers to optimise Malaysian talent, and Claudia Cadena, director, strategic human capital management, president and group CEOís Office, SapuraKencana, to answer Meliaís question.

Dear Careernomers,

I am a fresh graduate with an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) degree. I have started sending out my resume to the Big Four accounting firms in August but I am still waiting for their replies.

Iíve been telling myself to be patient but Iím afraid Iím losing my self-confidence. I am currently working in a small audit firm in Penang.

It is tough but I think at 21 years of age, I am prepared take on the challenges of auditing.

I have no problems with my current firm be it dealing with colleagues or the working environment, but I do not see myself being in this job for long.

In addition, many of my seniors told me that auditing provided good experience and exposure, although I am interested in finance as well.

I believe I deserve greater things after finishing ACCA and my current employer does not offer career prospects. How can I attract the attention of the big firms?

Should I send in my resume again after the first attempt? Please advise if I should seek opportunities outside of Penang or remain patient.

Thanks and best regards,


Dear Melia,

Your seniors gave sound advice by encouraging you to take up the challenges of audit training when youíre young. Youíve sent in your application and have not had a favourable response, but donít let this erode your confidence.

I can assure you that youíre not alone Ė professional services firms receive a high volume of resumes and only a small percentage gets shortlisted.

I would encourage you to resubmit your application and make the effort to do better in your second attempt.

1 Find out why you werenít shortlisted

Try to get in touch with the human resources (HR) team by sending them an email and following up with a phone call. Be sincere in explaining that youíd like to know your areas of improvement.

Itís also useful to understand the hiring timeline and process, as some firms have specific intake dates for the year. You may have to wait for the next cycle if youíve missed these dates. 2 Resubmit your application

You can consider some of these suggestions in preparing to resubmit your application:

> Do some research

Find out what professional services firms look for in their candidates. I would encourage you to visit which has relevant articles and videos with content from leading employers such as PwC, EY and Accenture.

Check out a section called ďBuild Your ResumeĒ which has tips from recruiters and hiring managers who point out some of the common pitfalls in the resumes they receive.

You will also find short videos featuring corporate leaders and young graduates working in these firms under the ďMeet the PeopleĒ section which will help you prepare your application.

> Enhance your resume and cover letter.

Get help to proof read your resume and cover letter. Itís common to receive cover letters which are addressed to a different organisation or resumes with inappropriate photos, email addresses or salutations.

Another common roadblock is incomplete information, which will be a put-off for recruiters.

In your case, you should attach your detailed ACCA transcripts and also include your current work experience.

> Be open to various options within the organisation.

You can highlight in your cover letter that youíre prepared to consider various options, for example a position in Kuala Lumpur.

To cast your net wider, be open to take the road less travelled and consider opportunities in other lines of service.

Iíve seen young graduates who were brave to opt for the unconventional route and excelled in other departments like taxation, systems and process assurance, internal audit and risk management.

Itís also worth mentioning in your cover letter that youíre prepared to start at entry level.

Many candidates with experience in smaller firms have expectations to be given an audit senior role, but this may not work to your favour as youíll need some time to understand the methodology in a big firm and adapt to a new environment before youíre ready to lead junior auditors.

It is evident that youíre determined and are proactive in seeking guidance.

With persistence, optimism and the spirit of ďKaizenĒ, I believe youíll stand another chance. I wish you all the best and I will leave you with this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

ďLet no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.Ē

Salika suksuwan

Dear Melia,

Thanks for your question. Please consider my views in your quest to find the right career path.

1 Are the Big Four the only option?

Being part of the Big Four is perceived as a prestigious opportunity and a testament of your caliber.

However, donít limit yourself to them, and donít think that because they have not called you, it is a sign that you are not worth being employed by them.

They may have other priorities. They may be looking for people with a different background or experience, so it may not be you who is the issue.

Perhaps follow up with a letter stating that you have sent your employment application a while ago and have yet to receive a reply from them.

This may help to get you an answer about the reason why you have not been called by them. If you still donít get a reply, I believe it is best to move on for the time being.

2 Letís talk about auditing

I know of many successful professionals in finance who started their careers in an auditing role.

As you said, you are young and this is the time to learn as much as possible and take on many challenges.

An auditing career will provide you with the following opportunities:

> You will have the chance to learn about a variety of businesses, as you will most probably be assigned to conduct audits for a variety of clients.

> You will be in contact with people from different backgrounds and levels as your audit job will require you to interact with clients.

> You will learn important non-technical skills like attention to detail, project and time management and negotiation skills.

3 Should you work in Penang or move somewhere else?

Penang is a vibrant and progressive city. I donít see why you should not consider remaining in Penang and still be able to have a successful career.

I believe what is most important is for you to understand what organisations have operations in Penang, and the type of career opportunities that are available for people with your qualifications and experience.

Do your research first and then make a decision about what your preferred work location should be.

4 Your current employer

You have mentioned a variety of very positive things about your employer and work. Not everyone in your position can say the same.

You also mentioned that you donít see the career prospects that you desire being offered by your employer. It is perhaps too early for you to come to this conclusion.

You have been in the job for a very short period of time. You most probably donít know how the organisation operates well enough, and how they promote/develop people. Do more research, talk to your colleagues and the senior members of the team.

Start by performing and delivering to the firmís expectations. You may be surprised how far you can go if you give your best.

If after doing your best, and understanding how things work in the firm, you still feel that you wonít be able to get what you want professionally, then you may want to consider moving to a different job.

Give this company and yourself a chance, donít rush into conclusions.

5 finance as the ultimate objective

As for your interest in finance, it is worth noting that auditing will certainly give you opportunities to enter into the finance arena.

You will be able to go deep into balance sheets, profit and loss, and other fundamental financial matters which organisations manage in their regular course of business.

This is clearly a very good way of entering into the finance world, understanding it and perhaps determining if what you thought it would be in theory is really what it is in practice.

Seek these opportunities within your current job scope and organisation. Good luck!

Claudia Cadena

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or