I remember sitting through “Recruiting Boot Camp” a mere 3 months ago. Up in front of the classroom were some of my peers telling about their experiences going through recruiting for internships. “Be careful,” they said, “going through recruiting is like a full time job.”

Oh how I should have heeded those words. I thought I would be okay since I cut back my hours at work to three days a week. I was only taking four classes, after all, right? However, after resume workshops, mock interviews, application deadlines, on-campus interviews, pre in-house dinners, in-house interviews, after-interview lunches and dinners — I can safely say that I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into. Thankfully my work has been blessedly flexible, allowing me to work an average of two days a week – and often skipping out early on those meager days.

For all that, I wouldn’t change it for the world. The recruiting process is your chance to stand up and show yourself off. It’s a great learning experience that teaches you as much about yourself as it does about the firm. It lets you answer those nagging questions like “how would I act in in a room full of people I don’t know,” “what am I going to say when they ask all these behavioral questions,” and, eventually, “what do I value in a firm that I want to work for?”

I was surprised in a couple of my interviews when the interviewer confessed that they didn’t believe that the standard interview told you much about a person. After going through them, I agree. It’s a lot like dating:

  1. You chat someone up amiably (Meet the Firms) and you get their number (business card)
  2. You fret anxiously as to how long to wait to call and what to say (application/cover letter)
  3. You call them and (invariably) get voice mail (that interminable wait until you get the on-campus invitation)
  4. You put on your Sunday best and double and triple think every possible thing that could happen and go on the first date (on-campus interview)
  5. Round 2 (of many) of fretting anxiously to see if you can get another date (after on-campus interview).
  6. You get a second date (in-house) and are told that this will be longer and harder like the first. You’re meeting her friends and family, so you have to be on your best behavior.
  7. You survive the test and are rewarded with a kiss for your success (post in-house lunch).
  8. She calls you to see if you want to do something (offer letter). At the same time, hopefully, you’re getting calls from her three other drop-dead gorgeous siblings that want to take you out too.
  9. ???
  10. Accept offer.

Step 9 is where it gets murky. At this point, you’ve been wined and dined (although you’ve probably got more coming), and the ball is in your court. In my example, there are four ladies after your heart and each of them are similar (being of the same heritage) but different (being of different character). How do you choose?

No matter how you chop it, it’s a pretty good situation to be in. Having multiple offers makes it tough to choose, but it’s always better to have the choice than to not have the choice. It gives you power; not necessarily the power to negotiate a higher salary or anything like that, but power to choose what’s right for you, not what’s right for them.

My decision was agonizingly difficult, then surprisingly easy. The thing that mattered to me in the end was where I think I would be a good fit. For me, that was KPMG. It was an easy choice. However, if you ever find yourself in my position, here are some things that helped me (and may help you too):

  • Take any notion of “pro” and “con” and throw them out the window. I can’t count how many people told me to do this and I refused. It’s worthless – I’ve never seen or heard of anyone that was able to write out pros/cons and make their decision based on it. Anyone that does ends up regretting it and second-guessing their choice. You’re weighing arbitrary attributes with arbitrary values and end up with an arbitrary rating that will just further confuse you.
  • Reaching out to people is all well and good, but the decision is up to you in the end. A ton of people will ask you what’s going on in your head. You’ll want to ask a ton of people what they think you should do. Trust me, it won’t help. You know what helped me? Finding someone that knew nothing about Accounting or the Big Four and explaining the whole situation to them. For me, that was my dad. I went through and told him about the whole process, the industry, and described the firms that I had gotten offers from. By the end of the discussion – even before any back-and-forth about what each firm offered, he said “Well, it sounds like you’ve made your decision. Let me know if you change your mind.” I hadn’t told him which one I wanted — or even that I hadn’t chosen one, yet he knew just from my descriptions which one I really wanted.
  • Realize that any choice that you make, it will still be up to you to make it a place you want to be. The firm does not cater to you. Trying to change the firm to your tastes will be like Sysiphus all over again. Try to choose the firm that will make the best fit for you, but realize you’re still going to have to work to make it a place you enjoy working.
  • Once you realize that a logical decision (pros/cons) isn’t going to make you happy, and that you’re still going to have to make yourself fit the firm, the choice really boils down to what will make you happy. This is different for everyone, but for me it was the people. I walked away with every interaction with KPMG people with a smile on my face and an aura of excitement that I didn’t feel anywhere else. I’d like to say that it took a lot of introspection and reflection to figure that out, but it didn’t. KPMG — and the thought of working for KPMG — put a smile on my face. Easy peezy.
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