Auditors' Career Transitions: Three Studies on Auditors' Recruitment into Public Accounting, Transition to Industry, and the Long-lasting Effects of their Auditing Experience
In my thesis, I investigate the career transitions of auditors. In the first study, I explore students’ experience going through the recruitment process in public accounting. I conducted 51 interviews with undergraduate students and I performed observations of 14 recruitment events in Canada, in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. At the theoretical level, my analysis builds on Bourdieu’s scholarship. I find that students’ construct the desire to work for Big Four firms, and learn to develop the proper habitus—a way of conducting oneself—and to convert their cultural capital into social capital—a network of relationships. However, several students expressed a sense of dissonance following the process because their expectations about the nature of the job and the lifestyle were not met. My second and third studies are based on 37 semi-structured interviews conducted with ex-auditors in Canada. In the second study, I investigate auditors’ exit from accounting firms and their identity reconstruction in a new position. My empirical analysis was guided by key insights from the literature on memory and auditors’ social identity. I find that ex-auditors, while remembering the wrong of the past, primarily about their treatment by the firms, also attempt to restore their professional self after leaving accounting firms. They reinvent a positive identity and a glorious period during which they forged invaluable connections, earned high recognition for their expertise, and became part of a professional elite. In the third study, I investigate former auditors’ enactment of their role of auditees. I use theories of expert knowledge and social capital. I find that auditees with a working experience in auditing influence auditors’ work by using three different strategies: 1) Setting the ground by filtering in advance the production of auditing information while bonding socially and emotionally with the audit team; 2) Training staff auditors by teaching them technical knowledge and developing coaching-style relationships; and 3) Regulating staff auditors’ professional judgments by questioning their opinions and monitoring their conduct. Overall, my dissertation contributes to our understanding of three major themes in the accounting literature: auditors’ identity, auditors’ social capital and the commercialization of the profession.