How to Get an Accounting Internship: 3 Early Planning Steps for Landing Next Year’s Opportunity

Preparing to land the right accounting internship involves lots of work — and beginning your prep early, during a summer break from classes, will give you a leg up once the academic year starts again in the fall.

Here are three simple but important ways that you can invest in your future accounting internship — and career — success.

  1. Begin to Collect People

Even if networking does not come easily or naturally, you can work your way up, over and through the obstacles with practice. Start small by connecting with one or two recent accounting graduates who you know, even casually. Ask them if they could take a short (15 min) call and share some accounting internship advice. 

Recent alums can share insights about recruiters and tell you how they targeted their internship search. Learning why someone else made a choice between a Big Four, regional or corporate accounting internship might help you focus your efforts when the time comes.

Another resource might be an executive in residence working with your college. Summer might allow that accounting executive a little more wiggle room for a morning coffee or short zoom meeting. Try to craft a short, clear agenda for the call. For example, maybe you want to better understand the choices around professional accounting certifications — tell the person you have narrowed down your consideration to three certifications and would like to hear their insights around what makes someone a good fit for each path.

  1. Rehearse the Interview Game

Accounting internship recruiters increasingly rely on behavioral interview questions when evaluating candidates. Behavioral interview questions focus on how you’ve handled various situations in the workplace and work on the theory that a person’s past experiences predict future behavior, character traits, abilities and skills. While a savvy accounting internship recruiter will likely smoke out someone who has over-rehearsed these questions, a little bit of familiarity with the behavioral interview process will level the playing field some when you step into the interview. Brevity is key, and that’s where rehearsing with a friend or family member might provide good feedback. It’s storytelling, only with as few words as possible.  Keep in mind that you may be interviewing over zoom — and will want to learn a little about using your voice and projection. A good resource is a renown voice coach, someone like Patsy Rodenburg who coaches the world’s top stage and screen actors, 

  1. Do Your Research

Accounting firms vary by size, location, reputation, type of business and clients and culture. Just as they will put you through a rigorous process of evaluation, so should you do your research and decide what firms make for a possible right fit.

Big Four firms will offer the greatest prestige and potential starting salary, but know that the accounting internship cohorts for such firms gather the most type A of accounting students. Do you want to pursue that path for the long term, or do you want to merely prove that you can compete with the top dogs for the short term? 

Ask your circle of recent alums and current accounting peers how they evaluate the options. Research firm’s client lists and learn if you have connections with accountants at these firms. You might find something in a Linked In post or profile that makes for a natural ice breaker — like a shared interest in a non profit group or cause.

Along with size, culture and people — learn more about the investment that each firm makes. Some firms simply recruit accounting interns, while other firms invest in robust and successful internship programs. Learning the difference between the two might be the first step toward finding your right fit.