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Accounting, networking, and…calvinism?

June 1, 2009

I was thinking about this past semester of school…and with everything that has happened…I guess some of it has been rather interesting. Interesting enough for me to make a deluded and  far-fetched analogy between the world of accounting and calvinism. Perhaps this is just a sign that I desperately need sleep.

We’ve had a few run-ins with Calvinism — it seems Mormons just can’t get enough of the stuff they love to hate — and I’ve been always interested enough in the idea, because it’s a bit different. After all, see my blog’s title. So, I guess it’s only natural that I keep coming back to it. Maybe, it’s irresistible.

Just to let everyone know…if I’ve seemed to be less frequent about posting regularly, it’s because of a combination of things. Yes, writer’s block has been one of those things. Yes, lack of material has been another. But probably the most pressing thing has been I’ve been fishing for an internship. And this process entails recruiting, networking, being wined and dined, visiting offices, interviewing with multiple people, and so on. Ah, it’s the highlight of the accountant’s life.

During the process, there is always an asymmetry of information that goes both ways. So, each candidate (like me) is trying to sell himself to the firm so he can get job offers…but each firm likewise is trying to sell themselves to us so they can entice us that working for them will be the best option. Theoretically, the best case scenario is that, with limited information, both firm and candidate can come to realize an employee/employer fit, so that the firm gives an offer, one accepts it, and one becomes a terrific and prolific intern and then long-term employee.

This employee/employer fit is teased out through the previously mentioned recruiting process. I don’t know how it works for most schools, but for us Texas A&M students, we start with a rather abrupt set of presentations from the firms…and then we are rushed into a week of dinners at night and interviews during the day. For our program, everyone is guaranteed interviews with the Big 4 (plus Grant Thornton) and can then look into applying with certain other local or middle market firms. But even as early as the dinner or the interview, one can start making distinctions. For me, it was incredibly interesting to be at the same dinners with the same people, but I came out with different opinions of the firms than some of my friends.

And the firms, of course, are doing the same thing. So, they will say, “We like these candidates, would like to continue recruiting with them, and maybe would like to extend an office visit to them.”

And from there, things get really fun (tiring, and busy too). With recruiting, each firm tries to throw their best to expose, expose, expose. It’s like becoming best friends in two weeks, with the hope that each student won’t say no to their true best friend. But of course, the firms are still evaluating each candidate too.

The office visits are after the recruiting process…but the time to accept the office visits, in general cases, is before recruiting has even begun (because the interviews, remember, were at the beginning of the process). So, the interesting thing that can happen is a candidate can be impressed by firms based on pre-interview dinner and interview, accept the office visit, but realize after continued recruiting that he doesn’t really like the firm that much after all. Or maybe, during recruiting, the firm might realize something similar about the candidate.

So…you go into the office visits…and theoretically, what could happen is that the decision of whether to offer or not is already finalized, because of the firm’s process. Perhaps this is not how it works, but when a partner at one firm pulled me aside and said, “I’d like to tell you not to worry; we decided we wanted to give you an offer before you got here while others will not leave today with that knowledge,” then that gets the gears going.

In such a case, you wouldn’t know if you were one of the offered…or let us call them…the elect. Your job, for the office visit (which we will say is analogous to life), is still to sell yourself one last time, since after all, you do not know if you are elect. So, while you think your performance at the office will have some effect for you, what could be the case is that your election was unconditional and predestined (at least, back at some point during recruiting). Perhaps way back when in recruiting, the firm decided that you simply did not fit the culture, so they wouldn’t be extending an offer even though they invited you to the office…but because you don’t know and they aren’t telling you, you stumble through the visit, thinking you have a chance.

Since the ideal is to look for an employer/employee fit…this is where irresistible grace comes in. Each firm said, “It’s all about the people.” And this didn’t make sense to me at first…What about the people?

As I went through the process…I began to realize it more. Just being around and interacting, I could be more comfortable with some groups than with others. So, I was naturally drawn to certain firms based on the people and their firm culture. This isn’t to say that all offers of grace were irresistible…just that in the end, the firms I was meant to like, I liked.

To be sure…all of us students are scrubs. We don’t know stuff about accounting. We are totally depraved, from anything we can do, to be naturally inclined to be perfect fits for the firm cultures.

Each firm can’t hire everyone. Limited atonement.

I’ll stop here…even I can see this is a ridiculous comparison…and probably really obscure (How many people can appreciate the recruiting side..? and how many accountants can appreciate the theological side?) And I realize a gaping problem…perseverance of the Saints. The P of TULIP. Big 4 accounting has notorious attrition. Oops. Not to mention, the unique accounting recruitment situation depends on asynchrony of information…does God (since Calvinism does not fall back on open theism) have this problem?

In the end…this idea sounded a lot better than it reads. Oh well; I’m posting this anyway.


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  1. I know very little about the acounting world, but do know more than I’d like to about interviews and finding the “fit” between employer/employee. Quite a process.

    It’s intriguing to me why we dislike Calvinism. It’s not just a social thing among Mormons either. I abhored Calvinism and their God before I knew others felt the same way. It’s not just Mormons though. Two of my friends (a Catholic and a Zen Buddhist) both have quite a bit of distaste for Calvinism.

  2. I don’t think people like the ideas very much…predestination is a hard pill to swallow, especially combined with things like limited atonement.

    For me, what really got me was when someone told me, “We had decided to extend an offer to you before you got here, but some others won’t have that luxury.” That freaked me out…because I believed that every person’s efforts at every step of the recruiting process would be efficacious in some way…but to hear something that suggested that for some, it didn’t really matter what they were doing because they just wouldn’t be going forward…yeah, I resented that. It would be a WHOLE lot more understandable if some of the firms that ultimately rejected me said, “We paid attention to your actions up to the very end, but ultimately, you did not reach our standards,” instead of the implication that perhaps it could be something like, “Well, after x point in time, it didn’t really matter. We had already decided there was no job offer for you.”

    That’s I think what get people theologically about calvinism. The x point in time is presumably QUITE early due to the nature of God, and we really don’t know that our efforts aren’t meaningful.

    And even from a nontheological standpoint, we make a lot of the judgments we do based on the character if adherents of the theology. So, I’m not saying that all calvinists are jerks, but…I’ve met a few calvinists who are jerks and I’m wondering if I just didn’t get the freak lottery.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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