What It Takes to be an Accountant

Informational interviews are a great way in which one can gain knowledge about almost anything that they aspire to learn about. This certain type of interview is a great way for a person to practice talking in interviews without the pressure of having it be an actual job interview. These conversations should be formal but relaxed. Informational interviews can add great value to a person and should be practiced throughout a person’s life to gain knowledge and at the same time practice for different interviews that you may incur in the future.

Name: Heather Schumacher

Title: Tax Manager

Company: Grant Thornton

Industry: Accounting

Questions about the Contact

What is a typical day for you at Grant Thornton?

Everyday seems to be different from the previous day. There may be a lot of the same routine, but from a work standpoint there is nothing the same. Every day you will come across things that you may not have seen before and this is a regular occurrence. In the accounting industry as you will find out, you learn new things every day. That is part of the reason why I chose this field of work.

What route did you take in order to get to such a well-respected CPA firm?

Well I went to school at UW Madison where I majored in accounting and finance. A recruiter from Grant Thornton gave me a call and set up an interview with me where I eventually got the job. I am currently on my eighth year working here.

What do you look for when you are hiring new employees?

One thing that Grant Thornton looks at when they are hiring new employees is if the applicant meets the qualifications. This comes from both the resume and the cover letter. They are looking for employees with previous experience in the accounting field. Another area that Grant Thornton takes into consideration is previous communication jobs. As an employee you are always in contact with clients, so it is very important to have strong communication skills. The last piece that Grant Thornton takes into heavy consideration is if the applicant has or is planning on getting their CPA license.

What has made you so successful in the accounting field and at Grant Thornton?

I believe that the main reason I have become successful in the accounting industry is my will to learn. As I stated earlier, you learn new things every day. What separates me from others is that I am able to retain that information that I learn. Another area that has really helped me over the years is my work ethic. Accounting can be a time demanding job, and you must be willing to put in the work to be successful.

Questions about Communication Practices and Writing

Can you please describe the typical kinds of writing you do and tell me about each?

Both verbal and written communication skills are relied on heavily in accounting. There are times where face to face (verbal) communications happen. This comes from visiting or having meetings with clients or co-workers. However, sometimes I need to communicate with clients and co-workers through email. Like I stated above, one of the qualifications when hiring new employees is previous communication experience and these are both examples of why that is a qualification.

What do you find most challenging about your day-to-day writing? What challenges do recent graduates face as they move from “academic writing” to “workplace writing”?

The most challenging aspect of my day-to-day writing is making sure that I communicate my message effectively via email. I usually have a co-worker read my message before sending them if I feel necessary. It is much more difficult to make sure that the receiver receives the message the correct way via email or written communication. One challenge that I have noticed in the accounting field about recent graduates when writing is that they tend to write overly long messages. To be effective when communicating with others through my experience is to make the message as simple as possible. This will help the receiver understand the message more clearly.

How would you describe the balance between written and oral communication in the workplace?

I believe that this really depends on the message that needs to be communicated. If you are going to be communicating a lengthy and complicated message, it is more common to use oral communication. The reason for this is because it is easier to give guidance throughout the message using oral or face-to-face communication. However, if the message short and simple, I usually communicate via email. These messages are easier to understand and email works well and is more efficient.

Questions Seeking Advice for You

What advice can you give me about taking the CPA Exam?

The main piece of advice that I can give you about taking the CPA Exam is to take it as soon as possible after graduation. I found that helpful because the information that I learned while taking my college courses was still fresh in my mind. However, with that being said, make sure that you have studied and feel confident about taking it. The CPA Exam is not something that you can just rush into. So take your time to study, but take it as soon as you feel ready.

When job searching, how do I know that I have found the right job for me?

What I found helpful when searching for a job in the accounting fields is to think about what you like in accounting. If you like outside communication and traveling outside the office it is important to look for an auditing job. This will allow you to work outside the office. When I did auditing her at Grant Thornton, I was out of the office around 50% of the time. So the main piece of advice that I can give you is to think about what part of accounting interests you, and find a job with the correct job description for you.

What advice can you give me while creating a resume and cover letter for a specific job?

The first and most important part about this is to read the full job description and job qualifications. In your resume and cover letter it is very important to show the employer that you match what they are looking for. So in both of these items, make sure you show that you fit what they are looking for. Also, with your resume it is important to bold important aspects of it. Employers first skim your resume, so make important items stick out. Lastly, when writing your cover letter give examples of how you fit their needs. This will show that you are qualified for the job that you are applying to.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed my interview with Heather Schumacher. I was able to learn many important aspects about the field of accounting and what will help me be successful in my future career. The most important aspect of this informational interview for me was the advice that she gave me. This will be the foundation of my success in the accounting field and will be something that I will always think about and refer to. Thank you Heather for your time and all the great information and advice that you have shared with me.

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