Dress and "interviewing/testing" at accounting STAFFING firms...

Discussion in 'Accounting' started by xyzer@hotmail.com, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. Guest

    Today I called the local branch of a major (nationwide) financial
    services staffing company about any open entry-level positions in my
    area, temp or permanent. I specifically asked about jobs for which
    their clients didn't expect accounting work experience, since I have no
    accounting experience. The recruiter said he wants me to come in just
    so he and his associates can talk to me in person. That's completely
    expected, of course. But, they also want to "test me in relevant
    skills, such as excel, and other accounting skills." Besides excel, I
    guess that could mean showing an understanding of debits and credits,
    the accounting cycle, and maybe some basic tax concepts... ? By the
    way, I have an accounting degree. Obviously, I was not one of the
    better students, even though I did well in certain key classes like
    intermediate FA two, and cost accounting, and I have even passed a
    section of the new CPA exam.

    Anyway, the job I get out of this, assuming I do, is likely to be a
    relativley low-paying $10-13/hour job temp-to-perm (assuming I do well)
    job. Basically, I either have an idea of what I'm doing, or I don't,
    and they'll find that out when they test me most likely. I guess the
    problem I'm having is I'm not sure really how to treat this, since my
    accounting skills are also going to be tested. If one is going to be
    tested, is it ok not to wear a suit? I'd personally be more
    comfortable testing in casual business clothing, but it's not like
    wearing professional wear would have a drastic negative effect on my
    performance or anything...Obviously, some of you are probably wondering
    why I even care enough about dressing to impress a staffing firm, but
    it's not very costly to ask on here, so I'm asking.

    If none of you know the social norm to follow in this case, is it
    acceptable to call an interviewer/tester to see what's the norm? Or
    would that be a "no-no"?
    , Jun 2, 2005
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  2. R Guest

    Actually, it is fairly common to be tested on the basic software
    packages by staffing firms. A lot of people will say that they know
    Excel, but they really don't know much more than how to key in data.
    Same for Word; they may be able to type, but don't know how to save
    the file to a network directory. Along with 10-key speed and maybe
    basic math, that is what the staffing firms are looking for. Don't
    sweat the test. If you graduated from college, you'll shine.

    On the dress, yes, dress professionally. You've got to impress the
    recruiters enough to have the confidence to put your resume in their
    client's hands. You'll be a reflection on the staffing firm when
    you're in the client's office.

    Good luck,
    Russell Tuncap, CMA, CPA
    R, Jun 3, 2005
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  3. Probably they're checking to see if you ~know~ excel.

    What they are doing in the testing is to know, for themselves, where you are
    at, so they can present you to their clients at the appropriate level.

    I wouldn't bother with the tree piece suit, and definately not along the
    lines of a "blue jean fridays", but a dressy casual should work well. A
    jacket for sure, but if you have a shirt that doesn't need a tie, I'd be
    leaning that way.

    You can always call the agency and ask.
    Paul A Thomas, Jun 3, 2005
  4. Ron Todd Guest

    (1) Wear your best suit, clean and trim your nails and have a good
    hair cut. Be on your best formal behavior. Appearance counts a lot
    more than any of these people will ever admit. If you doubt this,
    pick up a copy of one of the business magazines and look at the top
    executives, notice the striking similarities.

    (2) For an accounting graduate the accounting tests are a cake walk.

    (3) The Excell test will probably be through using a pivot table.

    (4) Since most of them model after RH Accountemps and advertise they
    are furnishing "over qualified" temps, you are most likely looking at
    $10-$13/hr, when work is available.

    (5) The assignments will be with "problem children." It should be
    obvious to most folks that if a enterprise needs a temp, it almost
    assuredly has a significant management problem.

    (6) You might want to run up a business plan for a bookkeeping and tax
    shop while your playing around with the temp service. I use the word
    playing because the temp agencies are the bottom of the employment
    barrel, the only thing lower is giving services away.

    Good luck.
    Ron Todd, Jun 3, 2005
  5. I am in a similar situation, but reluctant to start a business because I
    am not sure how and what to bill clients. I am retired and just want
    some part time work. Friends have suggested simply pinning a card up in
    building supply stores where contractors shop. So a contractor calls
    and asks how much? I am unsure how to price these services.

    By the way, I concur about wearing a suit. Dealing with rural and small
    town people, you can wear a shirt with a collar and slacks if you are
    sure your client is no better dressed, but anywhere else I would wear a
    jacket and tie.

    mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
    Robert Eldon Taylor, Jun 14, 2005

  6. That's like the questions during tax season, where they walk in, hand over a
    stack of records, and ask you how much of a refund can they expect. I
    generally pick up the stack of papers, bounce it in my hand as if to be
    weighing it, and tell them it feels like they're going to owe this year.

    Pricing services is difficult. In addition to your time, there are actual
    out-of-pocket costs that can be quite high, and never seen or appreciated by
    the client. Licenses, liability insurance, education, and on and on. If
    you have experience doing accounting and tax work you should be able to cook
    it down to a basic formula, as them some questions, and then be able to say
    "based on what you are telling me, your fee would run......".

    Jacket and tie are quite different than a suit (which is more formal).
    Dress up, but don't look like "IBM Guy".
    Paul A Thomas, Jun 14, 2005
  7. Ron Todd Guest

    Hard question, and there really isn't a one size fits all answer. You
    have to charge enough to recover all of your costs, plus some return
    on you investment in tools, and then your personal profit. The limit
    of changeability is a combination of your local market prices and the
    client's perception of value.

    Basically, you figure out how much you will have to invest/spend to do
    what you want to do. Then figure how many hours of your labor you can
    sell. Then add on what you want in earnings on those hours. Don't
    forget the self employment tax. That would give a very basic starting


    Once upon a time there was this fellow named Malloy (?spelling). He
    wrote a book called "Dress for Success," or something like that. He
    wrote the book after doing paired comparison research. His finding
    was you always hurt yourself if you wear anything less than the
    standard two piece blue suit. more or less.....
    Ron Todd, Jun 15, 2005
  8. I guess I didn't make myself clear. My concern is not so much with
    costs, which are mostly my labor, but with what to charge. I assume the
    prospect wants to know what my services will cost him each month. You
    can of course renegotiate it in a few months if it turns out to be too
    little, but my experience has been that if you quote a price much below
    what the client is expecting, it makes you look bad. On the contrary, a
    too high price may impress clients even if they look elsewhere for a
    better price.

    Bob Taylor
    mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
    Robert Eldon Taylor, Jun 21, 2005
  9. As a professional you should have a reasonable idea of what standard
    firms in your area are charging for similar work. In general, in a
    similar situation although not accounting, I price services at about 75%
    of small/mid-size firms although that may be as much as less than half
    what large firms w/ doing almost entirely government contracting may
    charge. Those firms will have overhead and G&A + fringe multipliers
    that may well exceed a factor of 3x hourly rates.

    Then comes in the question of how badly do you need/want the work and
    how much competition you have locally to attract it...

    As an engineer, I have a good understanding of competitive rates in
    fields associated, but not much feel at all for accounting. In most
    cases, engineering work is on an hourly fee arrangement w/ a "not to
    exceed" clause, altho there are occasional cases of "fixed price"--these
    rarely actually save a client in real $$ as the cost estimates are
    invariably elevated to cover contingencies.

    I know this doesn't answer the direct question but hopefully will aid
    your thought process...
    Duane Bozarth, Jun 21, 2005
  10. Ron Todd Guest

    Among other things it depends on location. Around here, central
    California, you might be able to get $25/hr for bookkeeping, maybe
    $150 to $300/month depending on how much data you have to process,
    etc. If you fall into a special niche, you could charge a lot more.
    I met an accountress a few years ago who consistantly billed little
    old ladies $240/hr., but it was a highly restrictive niche.

    Usually, for accountants and bookkeepers, you can not. Just about
    every other profession and trade can stick it to their clients with
    all kinds of extra costs. For some reason, people seem to take it
    personal when an accountant tries to recover unexpected costs.
    Maybe where you live, but from what I've seen around here I wouldn't
    bet the farm on it.

    best of luck
    Ron Todd, Jun 21, 2005

  11. You can possibly recoup some of your "too little billing" in fee hikes in a
    year. My clients expect an annual increase. They know that costs go up in
    all kinds of expenses and I have to pass my increased costs along or they'll
    have to find another accountant because I close my doors. But, I do agree
    that new clients will not always disclose the "true picture", either on
    purpose or in my opinion, just out of shear ignorance. An example would be
    when you try to gauge the amount of work to be done, you ask about the
    number of checks they will write and you're told "Oh, about 10 a month"
    which you know is about 5 times smaller than what it will really be when
    they get up and running.

    As far as the unexpected fees, I have an engagement letter that spells out
    pretty specifically what I'm doing for the fee, and that anything outside of
    that work will be billed at $X per hour. Most expect an extra bump in
    billing for those extra tasks. I also try to invoice those types of work
    separately from the regular bookkeeping so things are clearer.
    Paul A Thomas, Jun 21, 2005
  12. Gee, I am sorry that I am so unclear, but let me try a different tack.
    A few months ago I had to have an electrician visit my house (main
    breaker fried, a problem you don't want). While he was here I asked him
    about some work in my kitchen. He quoted an hourly rate but seemed to
    have no clue how much it would cost. What do I care what his hourly
    rate is? I don't want to do the work myself, but I won't have someone
    come in to do some work having no idea how much and whether I can afford
    it. I was not impressed with his business skills, if not his
    electrical skills, and he will definitely not do the work. More
    recently I had a guy come look at my gutters. He took measurements,
    discussed some details, sat down and drew a diagram with precise details
    what was to be done and wrote down a total price. I have no idea what
    his hourly rate is, nor care, but the price seemed reasonable and I will
    undoubtedly have him do the work. If he had quoted a third the price,
    or even half the price, I think I would have questioned whether he knew
    what he was doing, and whether he would actually get it done.

    A third example and then I will let you get back to work. I had a
    fellow work on my computer a while back. He seemed very competent and
    knowledgeable and I was pleased with him till I got the bill. It was
    ridiculously LOW. It was quite apparent he had no idea how to bill his
    services and was not keeping up with his time properly. He gave me an
    invoice which didn't have his address on it. Since this was a side
    business for him, it probably didn't matter whether he got paid or not.
    I have tried to help him out, but he needs to work for someone else
    because he is no businessman.

    Bob Taylor

    mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
    Robert Eldon Taylor, Jun 21, 2005
  13. Robert Eldon Taylor wrote:
    How would he be supposed to know off the cuff if it's more than a <very>
    simple repair? Did you ask for a bid for the work or just try to sponge
    a consultation while he was engaged in another piece of work? If the
    latter, which is what it sounds like, I'm not surprised he didn't
    This is the antithesis of the above--you asked for a bid, he came and
    did same...
    If you'd asked the other guy the same way you might well have had a
    similar experience...
    I don't think you can make the conclusion from the data...he's obviously
    getting what he wants. I don't suppose you were so insulted as to have
    given him what you would have been pleased for the invoice to have been,
    by any chance??? :)

    As I noted above, I can't see how this can be such a big decision--pick
    an hourly target rate, add in any required cost of doing business,
    divide by the billing hours you expect and voila! -- you have a
    necessary rate to generate the revenue you require. Now the hard part
    is can you sell yourself at that rate?
    Duane Bozarth, Jun 21, 2005

  14. Well, yes, I think out of ignorance and not so much dishonesty. But is
    there anything wrong with saying up front, "since I'm not sure what it
    should be we will have to revisit this after a few months"? This is
    one thing which has been suggested to me
    Now, this is an excellent idea.

    Thanks for the suggestions.
    Bob Taylor
    mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
    Robert Eldon Taylor, Jun 21, 2005

  15. Just say as I do, the estimate is just that, an estimate, and the actual fee
    may be more or less if the actual work is more or less than what you have
    told me (or what you have brought in).
    Paul A Thomas, Jun 21, 2005
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