Rumors and Realities in Big Five Recruiting Practices

Rumor has it some Big Five accounting firms have delayed the start dates for 2001 graduates, and this is causing concerns on college campuses. The rumors have created quite a buzz on the Internet, inspiring web site cartoons and stirring up controversy on job-related message boards. But are they true? This article tries to separate out the rumors from the realities.

Concerns on College Campuses

According to the Wall Street Journal, the concerns on college campuses are real. (Some 2001 grads are still waiting to get started at their new jobs, February 19, 2002.). It said some colleges are changing their recruiting programs in response to the growing risks of delayed start dates and rescinded job offers. Examples:

  • The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia has decided to amend a policy that bars students from further campus interviews as punishment for changing their minds about accepting a job offer. This policy won't apply, if the offer has an altered start date. Darden has also begun posting information on its intranet whenever an employer delays or rescinds an offer.

  • Harvard Business School has decided to penalize firms that impose long delays on its graduates' start dates and/or rescind job offers. It places these businesses on recruiting probation, meaning they can be banned from campus recruiting for a certain amount of time (up to two years) if they commit another recruiting infraction during the probationary period. In addition, the school places the names of all companies that have been banned or placed on probation on an internal Web site.

Web-Site Cartoons and Message Boards

Job-related message boards and cartoons have picked up the theme and implicated some of the Big Five accounting firms as the culprits causing the collegiate concerns. Examples:

  • Cartoons. Indenture.ac was one of the first web sites to pick up the trend. It featured a cartoon of a recent grad who spends all his sign-up bonus on furnishing his new apartment, then finds out his start date has been postponed for a year. This same site mocks the use of new hires for difficult consulting assignments in a lively song entitled Accidenture.

  • Message boards. The message boards on Vault.com indicate at least three of the Big Five (Andersen, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG) have delayed start dates or rescinded job offers. Some excerpts:

    Andersen. Despite what their HR folks say, they do rescind offers at the last minute - it just happened to me. No signing bonus, no nothing! A word of advice for those considering recent offers with AA: Before starting, get in writing the length of time that they will pay severance, will that include COBRA, and will you be able to keep your signing bonus and relocation expenses. Archjohn, Feb. 1, 2002.

    PricewaterhouseCoopers. To all of you 2001 hires who got deferred by PwC Consulting... Do you not feel cheated that PwC failed to assume ownership for its actions? Responsible firms... gave their deferees/pending rejects some sort of pecuniary compensation... whereas what did PwC do... nada! If enough of you report this to the career services department of your alma mater, it can very well be that PwC will be denied future spots on campus for recruiting purposes. Scarlet knight, Feb 16, 2002.

    KPMG. Heads Up. I found out last week that my offer was being rescinded. I was told the economy and Enron debacle were causing major concern. Has this happened to anyone else? gerry1234, Jan 30, 2002.

Statements from Big Five Firms

Because some of messages posted on vault.com may be conflicting and/or less than 100% authoritative, the public relations offices of the Big Five were asked directly, “Are you delaying start dates or rescinding job offers?” These were their replies on February 20, 2002:

  • A spokesperson for PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting acknowledged, “We have had to stagger or delay start dates. Some June 2001 grads have still not started.”
  • An Andersen spokesperson said, “We are absolutely honoring our commitments to people to whom we have extended job offers. We have not and will not rescind job offers. This is a longstanding policy that goes to the heart of the integrity of the firm. We stand by employment offers, despite the changing economic conditions which no one can predict. In the economy we're in, we have had to defer some start dates, but we are paying a stipend during the deferral period to assist people until we can bring them on board.”

  • A spokesperson for KPMG LLP clarified, “Consistent with past KPMG practices, full-time employment of our recent college hires began in early October, the beginning of our fiscal year. We have had instances where, at the student’s request, deferments have been granted until mid-November so that a student can study for the CPA exam while not encumbered by work.”
  • A spokesperson for Ernst & Young, said, “We stood by all our campus commitments despite the economic downturn. We have not delayed any start dates or rescinded any job offers, and we’re very happy we haven’t had to do that.”

A spokesperson for Deloitte & Touche was not available for comment.

-Rosemary Schlank

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