Informational Interview

The purpose of conducting an informational interview is to better understand the career path that you are interested in. This is a great opportunity to speak with somebody who has experience with the line of work. Taking the time to meet with them can be beneficial in multiple ways. First, you have the opportunity to ask questions about the career and the company itself. Second, it is also a  great way to network with others that can lead you in a direction to finding a job.

The Contact

  • Name: Kyla Hansen
  • Title: CPA Manager
  • Company: John A. Knutson & Co., PLLP
  • Industry: Audit

Questions About the Contact

Kyla is from River falls Wisconsin and commutes to Falcon Heights for her job. The reason for living far from her job is because her husband works in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She started her career in the accounting field working for Clifton Larson Allen (CLA) for three years, while working towards her CPA certification. However, she did not enjoy working for a large firm, and found a position as a junior accountant at John A. Knutson & Co., PLLP. She has worked for this company for five years and, in that time, she was promoted to senior accountant and later CPA manager. Currently, she enjoys working for the company, as it is the right size for her and she plans to stay with the company for the foreseeable future.

Questions About Communications, Practices, and Writing

Could you please describe the typical kinds of writing you do, and tell me a bit about each?

Kyla was responsible for many different types of writing. She said email was the most common. Throughout the day, she would receive anywhere between 50 to 100 emails. The other two types of writing included memorandums and reports. The memorandums were very simple because they were short and to the point. On the other hand, reports were very time consuming. The reports were written out for the clients in a manner that had to show all of the data from the accounts along with an explanation of what was done correctly and what needed to be changed.

What do you find most challenging about your day-to-day writing? What challenges to recent graduates face as they move from “academic writing” to “workplace writing”?

 The most difficult part about writing is being able to manage your time. With the amount of emails Kyla would receive in a given day, she would have to rank the emails by importance and respond to them in the given order when she found extra time throughout her day. Being that emails were not the only part of her job, she had to finish her reports within a given period of time. The reports were due between a few day and up to a month, depending on the size of the client’s company, but she could not wait until the last minute to work on the reports. These were some of the struggles she faced as she found a job recently after graduating. She also mentioned that another challenge recent graduates face is being able know your client. The main difference between a professor and a client is how they respond to the message. Professors judge the writing based on if it has all of the required material included. Clients respond a little differently, being that their business can be influenced by the reports. They are much less lenient when there is missing content.

How would you describe the balance between written and oral communication in you workplace?

Written communication makes up most of the work, but it cannot be solely relied on. It is used to maintain a relationship with the client and to keep them updated on the reports. Oral communication is also important in the workplace to meet with new clients. It is more common with some clients than others as they would rather speak on the phone or meet in person instead of emailing back and forth.

Questions Seeking Advice For You

I wanted to know what strategies Kyla used to earn her CPA certificate and what she would have done differently. She took all four tests and only failed the audit portion on her first try. She believed it was because she did not put in enough studying for the first exam as recommended. After failing the first test, she put in the extra effort and passed the four exams. She recommended two ways to approach the exams. First, when searching for a career, companies want to know if you are going for your CPA. By taking the easiest test first, you have a better chance of passing to prove to the company that you are working your way to becoming a CPA. There is one drawback to this approach though. Once you pass the first exam, you have 18 months to finish the other three exams. If you fail an exam, you have to wait three months to retake it. So, the second approach she recommended was to get the hardest exam out of the way, because if you fail the first exam, the 18 month period does not start.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

I found the informational interview to be helpful for me to prepare for the workforce and my CPA certification. Kyla was a great resource and was even able to give me a tour of the building. She also introduced me to some of her coworkers. It was a great opportunity to network with others that I were outside of the Duluth area, which may lead to other connections.