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Image of Brian Burns, Accountant at Peterson Sullivan LLP

Brian Burns
Class of 2009
Major: Accounting
Current Position: Accountant
Employer: Peterson Sullivan LLP



How did you get your current job position?

I watched the Career Center job listings and applied to about seven different accounting firms through the Career Center. After doing a round of interviews, I was able to get a second round of interviews at three firms that were based in the greater Seattle area. Peterson Sullivan LLP gave me an offer and I took it because I liked the people I met during the interview process and knew it was a good fit for me.

What Career Services did you utilize with our office and why were they beneficial to you?

I brought in my resume to have it looked at. I thought I had a good resume and that we would make a few minor changes. However, once I went over it with a counselor, we made a lot of changes to the structure and content of my resume that was a great improvement over what I had previously.

The other thing I did at the Career Center was a mock interview. I had never done an interview with more than a few basic questions, so I decided to try the mock interview session. Not only was it nice to get tips about how to improve my interview, it was great practice. Often in interviews you are asked similar questions, and after you have done it enough it is easy to rattle off a clear and concise answer. Many of the questions I had in the mock interview also showed up during my real interviews.

What interests you most about accounting and why should a student consider this field?

I chose accounting because I felt that it would be the best way to learn about business. I think that anyone interested in getting a job in business or opening his or her own business should have a strong understanding in accounting. A lot of people think of accounting as boring, and that it revolves around number crunching, but we do a lot of writing, documentation, working in teams, and collaborating with clients and coworkers. There is much more analysis and a lot less bean-counting than many people think.

Describe the importance of preparing well for an interview- what did you do to prepare?

The first thing I did was make a list the different qualities that an employer is looking for, for example: communication, leadership, customer service, time management, etc. I then identified an instance in my life where I effectively demonstrated this quality that I could elaborate on. I was then prepared for a question and was able to give a well-thought-out answer instead of thinking of something off the top of my head. Before an interview, I would review the company website and become familiar with the company. I would then make a list of questions, some general, but some unique to that particular company that I would ask the interviewer. This made the interviews more like conversations, and I was able to learn a lot about the company I was interviewing with. It was also good to show the interviewer that I was interested in their company.

What were you involved in when you were in college that positively contributed to your resume? Please explain.

I had different jobs all through college and had them all on my resume, which I think is very positive. It showed that I was able to handle my classes as well as work a job and may have put me ahead of other students with similar GPAs that did not work while in school. I was also involved with Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Society for about three years, which showed I was involved in the industry beyond what I did in the classroom. While in Beta Alpha Psi, I ran the MoneySense program for two years which dealt with teaching financial literacy to high school and college students. My work with Beta Alpha Psi and MoneySense demonstrated leadership, communication, and organization, which are qualities that companies are looking for.

Looking back on your college career, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

I think that I would have liked to spend more time in office hours with my professors. The professors were very helpful the few times I visited them in their offices and I was able to understand difficult issues much better with a quick explanation rather than trying to figure it out on my own. It is also good to get to know the professors and continue that link back to WWU.

What skills should students be preparing now for the future (as they prepare to graduate with a degree)? What makes a candidate strong for a business position today?

I think that being able to communicate with people is essential. In public accounting, we are collaborating with multiple people simultaneously. Often there are multiple jobs that a person is scheduled on and he or she must be in constant communication with the other co-workers on the job, as well as the client. Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with a client is very important in building and maintaining customer relationships. Employers are also looking for people that will get along well with the other employees and are a good fit for their company.

Job tips in this tight economy?

My best job tip would be just to get your name out there. Everyone is searching the internet for job postings, which may work, but it does not put you in a position that is better than anyone else. Do as many networking events as you can, even if you feel like you would be out of place. It is in these places that you meet employees of firms you may be interested in as well as recruiters. Everyone has heard the saying "it is not what you know, it is who you know." Now that I am a business professional and am on the other side of the recruiting process, this is even more true than I originally thought.




Services utilized at the Career Services Center:

  • Viking CareerLink
  • Resume advice
  • Preparing for interviews



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Page Updated 05.14.2013