Ask A Recruiter - Andersen Tax

Lorenn Swesey: My name is Lorenn and I work at Andersen.  I support our northern California region, which includes two offices. We have one in downtown San Francisco and one in Silicon Valley. I work as part of the HR team, but I focus primarily on campus recruiting.  I go to all of our northern California schools and promote our entry level positions, which includes all of our internship programs - both winter and summer as well as summer leadership programs and the associate level positions.

Career Services: What makes Andersen a great place to work?

Lorenn Swesey: I would say that the culture at Andersen is probably the number one thing. I think that Andersen is very intentional about creating connections for our associates and new hires in terms of making sure that everyone has a buddy as soon as they arrive.  Somebody that they can talk to and can show them the ropes from day one, introduce them to people at the office as well as act as a career advisor to some extent that's going to be looking out for their professional development, as well as provide their own take on their previous career path and provide guidance and also help manage the performance review process. And then about three months into your employment you also have an opportunity to choose a mentor. So somebody that you can see yourself aligning with both personally and professionally and talk about that intersection of personal and professional and discuss any challenges that you might be facing and talk about ways to manage those pitfalls and just make your work experience better.

Career Services: What are some common opportunities that are available for students in the forms of internships or entry level positions at Andersen?

Lorenn Swesey: So in terms of internships we have both a winter and a summer internship in both of our offices.  Both the winter and summer internship provide the interns with a lot of opportunities to engage in actual client work.  They’re staffed on client engagement and they're provided with a lot of one-on-one training on assignments and get a lot of exposure to what we do at Andersen day-to-day. They also have a lot of networking opportunities to get to know our professionals at every level and really get a taste of what the culture is like so they can figure out if it’s a place that they want to work long term.  With the winter internship it's much more like what an associate would be doing just because that is one of our busier times just based on the tax deadline so they really jump in headfirst and get a lot of great experience. And then in the summertime there's a lot of client work to do as well. We also take a trip, usually to a conference center just outside of Chicago, so that all of our interns can meet each other from all over the nation and also hear from our leadership to understand what it is that Andersen really values and what the trajectory of the company is, what opportunities exist for people who want to stay with the firm.  At the entry level we hire for all of our different service lines in tax, which includes working with ultra high net worth individuals, maybe startups from the Bay Area, or hedge funds or private equity, you kind of start to specialize as an associate and learn how to do returns for the different client base that you serve.

Career Services: What experiences can really make a candidate stand out during the application process?

Lorenn Swesey: I really like to see a very clean, edited resume that has covered your educational experiences if relevant. What kind of coursework you've taken.  I'd like to see any type of leadership experiences that you've had, any employment opportunities, whether it be relevant to tax and accounting or some other type of work experience, especially as it relates to customer service too - that is one thing I'm looking for. And any other skills and interests, whatever makes you stand out. I love to see it on paper initially.  We also still require a cover letter, which is probably a departure from the norm for most firms, but for me it's really important because I like to see how you can demonstrate your interest in tax.  Specifically, tailor your experiences to what it is you feel like you could bring to Andersen particularly.  In terms of the interview process, what I'm really looking for is somebody who can demonstrate a team player attitude, someone who clearly likes a challenge and has applied themselves previously and can show that they have a history of applying themselves and having a good work ethic.  Somebody who has a good attitude as well.  A lot of the technical skills that we use at Andersen are very specific and so my professionals here at Andersen always say that they can teach you the technical skills if you're a quick learner.  But we can't teach you how to have a good attitude and work well with a team and just exude helpfulness and fit in with Andersen culture. So, those are the things I gauge for in the phone screens and initial interviews that I do.

Career Services: What is the first thing that you notice when you review resumes and what can applicants do to make their resumes better overall?

Lorenn Swesey: The first thing that I notice on the resume is just the formatting in general. I look at probably 50 to 100 resumes a week, and so I want to be able to see at first glance that you've compiled and been thoughtful about the way you presented yourself on paper. Usually it's pretty easy to gauge just by the way you organize your resume, so that's the first thing that I'm looking for. I'd like to see that people have been sure to put it all out there. You want to be concise in your resume in terms of not spending too much time talking about one particular experience that you've had. But also to make sure to cover all aspects of your personal experiences, thus far in your educational life and your professional life, just so that I have a really complete picture of what you're capable of doing. Even if it may not be relevant to the position that I'm hiring for it's helpful for me to see what you've been exposed to previously.  If you've been involved in many different things through the course of your education or work experiences, it shows me that you have adaptability and have the ability to learn quickly so I like to see it all, but not in paragraph form - in a more concise way where you're telling me about the action items that you did at a previous position.

Career Services: Do you have any tips for students interviewing over video conferencing or over the phone?

Lorenn Swesey: I do a ton of phone interviews. My number one tip for those who are screening via phone interview would be to make it conversational, and make sure to give a lot of depth to the answers that you provide. You want to make it more of an open-ended discussion and to be thorough in your answers so that it doesn't feel like the conversation is really stilted. I would like to have it be something where it feels more casual so it doesn't feel really uptight and people hopefully that have nerves can kind of shake off the nerves a bit.  Just really be yourself and try to be thorough in your answers so that I really get a good impression of your communication skills and your ability to carry a conversation.

Career Services: What types of activities would you recommend that students do to add to their resume if they aren't able to do an internship over the summer?

Lorenn Swesey: Try to engage in some other type of employment opportunity. It is helpful to join different associations and clubs and take on other volunteer opportunities, but I think the thing that will help people most in the future in terms of getting a career is to start to gain some professional work experience, whether or not it's involved exactly in the type of career that you’re trying to pursue. And I think that it's helpful to just put yourself out in the professional world and start to gain those skills.

Career Services: In hindsight, what advice do you wish you'd been given or what do you wish that you had known when you launched your career as a new graduate?

Lorenn Swesey: Think that I'm a bit of an exception because I didn't start a career as soon as I graduated from college, which is in contrast to most of the people that I'm hiring. And so the advice that I would probably give myself, is that going into your first career, you don't need to know everything. You don't need to be self conscious about the things that you may not know that are relevant to the job that you want. A lot of the skills that you need will be taught on the job.  I think the main thing is to be confident in yourself and the things that you have learned and know that you can contribute as long as you're willing to learn, willing to make mistakes and move forward towards meeting your goals. So that's what I would tell myself.   I didn't go for the job that I wanted, because I was self-conscious about it. And I think people can probably relate to that. So, just kind of fake it till you make it.

Career Services: Any final words of advice or insights about Andersen that you want to share? 

Lorenn Swesey: I've really enjoyed my transition to Andersen. I wasn't previously working in this industry, nor was I working in recruiting and so over the past year I have really learned a lot. It's been a very steep learning curve, but I feel really supported at the firm. I don't work on the practice side, but I do see a lot of similarities in the way that us as practice management people as well as our practice professionals are treated. I feel like our leadership really takes the core values at Andersen seriously. They're not just lip service.  That we really are transparent about making sure to be good stewards and pay it forward. Everybody has a lot of opportunities at Andersen. I feel very taken care of and I feel like there's a lot of opportunity at Andersen - we're growing a lot right now. And even in the midst of what could be a recession the leadership at Andersen has really been forward thinking about how to position the firm and they also have entrusted me with a lot of responsibility too. And so I see that happening all the time. If you're willing to take on more, you can be given the opportunity and really succeed so that's something I really like about Andersen.