If you are looking to get a place in a Big 4 firm you may have heard that financial services firms have a reputation for hiring and firing their graduate recruits. This post answers the question; is getting fired from a big 4 firm so common in 2021?
Do graduates get fired from Big 4 firms?
To put it bluntly, yes I have seen graduates get fired.
That said, it is only a very small proportion of a graduate intake which do actually get fired. Aside from one reason (which I will cover shortly), it is actually quite difficult to get fired. There are three main reasons why a graduate may be fired:
- Poor performance
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Failing exams
To be fired due to poor work performance requires consistently poor performance. If it is clear that a certain employee is indeed underperforming, it is likely that they will be given a talking to by the employee’s ‘people manager’ and possibly placed on a performance improvement plan prior to any potential further action. It is only if the performance is consistently below what is expected that potential dismissal may be discussed.
Aside from poor performance, inappropriate behavior is another reason you people can potentially be fired. By this I mean doing things which are outright against company policy, such as turning up to work drunk etc.
The third reason and by far the most common way that employees get fired is by failing professional exams. Most Big 4 firms have a policy of terminating a training contract if ACA exams are failed twice or if an exam is failed by more than 10% (i.e. a bad fail). I have seen over recent years that this is not always implemented, and it appears that this rule is becoming less strict.
Is the culture of firing graduates changing?
I have seen first hand how the culture of firing graduates, specifically for failing exams, is changing. This is certainly a step in the right direction, as I always felt that failing an exam twice is such a huge pressure on graduates when a training contract is on the line. This is also not at all helpful to the mental health of the workforce.
What if you fail an ACA exam twice (or bad fail)?
There is certainly no shame in failing an ACA exam twice – many successful people have double failed exams and gone on to complete the ACA and have successful careers upon qualification.
Should this happen to you, a meeting with HR will likely be arranged to discuss what exactly went wrong and how this can be addressed. There will then be a discussion around whether an employee is to be let go or if they believe a third chance is warranted. As part of this discussion, previous work performance will also be evaluated.
How to avoid being fired from a Big 4 firm
The answer to this should be fairly straightforward, ultimately high performance in both a work and exam situation, along with behaving professionally and not doing anything stupid will put you in good stead to have a successful career in a big 4 firm and ‘out of the firing line’.
The key here is just to try your best in both work and exams and this should not be an issue.
What happens if you get fired from a Big 4 firm?
I know several people from my original intake whom did not complete their training contract due to being let go by the firm.
The vast majority of these people have since gone on to complete the ACA with other, generally smaller, accounting firms. In most cases they also found it relatively easy to pick up another training contract when they were let go.
In summary, do not panic. If you are let go from a big 4 firm, chances are another firm will take you on and you will still be able to complete the rest of the ACA.