Learning the right approach from day one is vital for any young accountant, which is why major firms stress their commitment to providing comprehensive training and practical experience for all new joiners.
The financial crisis has pushed clients towards accountancy firms to offer value-added services that go well beyond the scope of the formal annual audit.
"The business world is dynamic, and people now look to an accountant more as a business adviser on things like tax, restructuring and how to improve internal control systems," says Peter Kung, FCPA (Aust), senior partner at KPMG in Shenzhen.
"It is a challenge for us, but also good for recruits. It means they don't just do the routine work during their core training. There is now more on-the-job exposure and opportunity to learn other financial advisory skills, which might not have happened in the old days."
In this respect, Kung feels that KPMG's client portfolio also gives a certain advantage.
In Hong Kong, it includes most of the major banks and transportation companies that are generally subject to a wide range of regulations and have an international dimension to their business.
"It gives the trainee a solid background to learn how the big companies operate and do their internal controls," Kung says.
"If you know how they work, you can also train up your smaller clients."
Concerning recruitment, he says the firm always looks to the long term and therefore continues to need a good number of graduates each year. The plans for this year point to an intake of well over 1,000 for the mainland, including 200-plus in Hong Kong. The total depends on final offers and acceptances, but will be more or less the same as last year.
"We like a good mix of graduates and tend to have a reputation for taking on the best and brightest students, including both accounting and non-accounting major graduates," Kung says.
He stresses that the firm's record for getting recruits through professional exams is second to none. Trainees can expect support with exam leave, study leave, in-house courses and, if necessary, one-to-one tuition.
The usual pattern is for new recruits to start in August or September with an orientation programme followed by auditing work. However, graduates returning, for example, from Australia can begin earlier on a form of extended internship, which gives them a range of relevant experience.