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


X

xyzer

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"?
 
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R

R

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"?
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
www.tuncap.com
 
P

Paul A Thomas

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... ?

Probably they're checking to see if you ~know~ excel.


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.
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 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.
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.
 
R

Ron Todd

Today I called the local branch of a major (nationwide) financial
services staffing company about any open entry-level positions in my
(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.
 
R

Robert Eldon Taylor

Ron said:
(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.
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.

Regards,
Bob
mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
 
P

Paul A Thomas

Robert Eldon Taylor said:
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.

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......".



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.

Jacket and tie are quite different than a suit (which is more formal).
Dress up, but don't look like "IBM Guy".
 
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R

Ron Todd

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.
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
point.

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.
....

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.....
 
R

Robert Eldon Taylor

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.

Regards,
Bob Taylor
mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
 
D

Duane Bozarth

Robert said:
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.
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...
 
R

Ron Todd

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.
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.

You
can of course renegotiate it in a few months if it turns out to be too
little,
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.
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.
Maybe where you live, but from what I've seen around here I wouldn't
bet the farm on it.

best of luck
 
P

Paul A Thomas

Ron Todd said:
You can of course renegotiate it in a few
months if it turns out to be too little,

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.

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.
 
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R

Robert Eldon Taylor

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.

Regards,
Bob Taylor

mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
 
D

Duane Bozarth

Robert Eldon Taylor wrote:
....
...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.
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
bite"--he probably didn't said:
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.
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...
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....
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?
 
R

Robert Eldon Taylor

Paul said:
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.

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
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.
Now, this is an excellent idea.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Regards,
Bob Taylor
mrretaylor at mindspring dot com
 
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Paul A Thomas

Robert Eldon Taylor said:
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

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).
 

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