For accountants, no two career paths are ever quite the same. There are plenty of places you can turn for work, but for many accountants, the dream is to work for a major firm—if not one of the Big 4, then at least a larger CPA firm that plays on roughly the same level.

Getting hired by a major accounting firm comes with its own set of challenges, of course, and you can’t necessarily approach the application and interview process like you would any other accounting job. Let me offer a few suggestions for getting noticed and ultimately getting hired by a big firm, based on some experiences I’ve had with world-class accountants and firm managers.

Tips for Getting Hired by a Big Firm

Pass your CPA exam. Most firms do not require that new graduates have their CPA examination complete before they start work—and that includes the big ones. With that said, sitting for your CPA as early as possible will provide you with a significant competitive advantage.

Invest in properly formatted resumes and cover letters. These personal marketing documents are crucial for getting your foot in the door—and what matters isn’t just that you have good spelling and grammar, but that you have clear and organized formatting, as well. This includes some keywords that list your core competencies—those technical accounting skills that big firms want to see. If you’re not sure about proper formatting for your resume, consider hiring a professional resume service.

Make a list of targeted employers. Rather than waiting for a spot to open up at a particular firm, create a list of all your dream employers, and commit to sending your resume to each one, then following up regularly until you get a meeting. This may allow you to get a meeting before a new opening is publically posted.

Double down on fall recruiting. Note that most of the biggest accounting firms spend a lot of money on fall recruiting, usually during the months of September and October—so even if your efforts during the course of the year haven’t yielded any results, this season makes an especially good time to pour your energy into getting recruited.

These tips don’t necessarily guarantee you a job, of course—but they do provide a sense of how best to position yourself for a bright future. And if you need help preparing your technical skills, make sure to visit the ACES page!