An informational interview is an interview conducted to obtain information about a job, career field, industry, or company. An informational interview is not a job interview but rather a way to learn about a career that one is interested in learning more about. This is very valuable for individuals that are seeking to enter the job market. It allows the interviewer to get a deeper understanding of a position, company, or industry to see if that is really something they are interested in pursuing. It is also valuable for creating a new connection with a professional and expanding ones network.
- Name: Richard A. Wiethorn
- Title/Position: Partner, Business Consulting Services
- Company: Froehling Anderson
- Industry: Public Accounting
Questions about the Contact
1) Can you tell me about Froehling Anderson? What types of clients do you usually have? What markets do you serve?
Mr. Wiethorn explained to me that Froehling Anderson has been around for over 60 years and has been a top 25 CPA firm for the last ten years. They serve clients in a large number of industries and work a lot with closely-held companies. They also serve non-profits, manufacturing companies, construction companies, real estate, and some venture capital businesses.
2) How did you get your job and how did you become a partner?
Mr. Wiethorn told me that he grew up in northeast Iowa and attended Iowa St. University. He graduated with a finance degree and got interested in accounting around that time. His first job was at Silverman Olson and he was an audit manager for 9 years. After Silverman Olson he went and worked as CFO for a small start-up .com business. After the small start-up didn’t do so hot, he got hired at Froehling Anderson as a senior manager in the business consulting services department. He has been a partner now for 7 years.
3) As a business consulting partner, could you describe one of your typical workdays?
Mr. Wiethorn said that he never really has a typical work day because it depends on the project that he is working on at that time. However, he said that generally, he is keeping projects on track and interacts with the clients and staff on a very regular basis. Because he is a partner, he is also responsible for some of the administrative duties within the company. He explained to me that about 50% of his time is billable to clients. The rest is dedicated to billing, administration, and hiring decisions.
4) What skills set you apart and are required on a day-to-day basis?
He told me that communication skills are essential if you work at a public accounting firm and even more so if you are a partner. He said that he is always meeting with clients and staff and writing professional documents. Another really important characteristic that set him apart was his willingness to dive into the meaty details. He told me that it is crucial for him to fully understand a client’s financial statements and processes. This allows him to find the root of the problem or provide the outstanding advice that Froehling is known for.
5) What parts of your job do you find the most enjoyable and the least enjoyable?
Mr. Wiethorn said that the most enjoyable part of his work is all the hands on work with clients and staff. He said that the size of their average client makes things different all the time which, allows him to see the impact of their work relatively quickly. On the other hand, the part of his work that he enjoys the least is the administrative work. Especially the billing.
6) How do you keep yourself fresh and energized to keep growing professionally and personally?
Mr. Wiethorn explained to me that in public accounting things are always new and unique based on the individual client. He also said that spending time with the client and the diversity of their clients makes his work quite enjoyable. Mr. Wiethorn explained to me that in public accounting things are never monotonous.
Questions about Communications Practices and Writing
7) Could you please describe the typical kinds of writing you do and tell me a bit about each?
There’s a wide variety of writing that Mr. Wiethorn does. One is email correspondence with clients. He said that those emails need to be clear and succinct. They should be just like a professional letter. He also needs to review the staff’s development of footnotes. Another type of writing that Mr. Wiethorn does are free flowing reports. These reports are generally for a client’s specific business problems. Mr. Wiethorn also has to write engagement letters to his clients
8) What do you find most challenging about your day-to-day writing? What challenges do recent graduates face as they move from “academic writing” to “workplace writing”?
The biggest challenge about his day-to-day writing is remaining succinct. This is also the biggest challenge for recent graduates as they enter into the workforce. He said that to have really good documents recent graduates need to gain an understanding of the company.
9) How would you describe the balance between written and oral communication in your workplace?
Mr. Wiethorn told me that he has a relatively even balance between his oral and written communication. He has to talk with his clients and staff all the time, and he is also frequently creating documents.
Questions seeking Advice for you
10) What do you think the biggest key for my success is? Which type of skills will I need to master if I want to become a partner for a CPA firm someday?
Mr. Wiethorn told me it is extremely important to have put in the work into learning the fundalments of accounting. He also said that getting good grades in school is important. He told me to look for a good quality firm and once I’m in, to put in the extra diligence and hard work. It is important to ask good questions and do everything I can to understand everything that is put in front of me. He told me a key skill will be the ability to relate previous material that I have learned and encountered to new materials. Another thing that is crucial is continually developing relationships. He also suggested that I join some organizations such as the Minnesota Society of CPA’s.
11) My advisor has told me to take some management information systems courses to get a better understanding of databases and computer systems. Is this important?
Mr. Wiethorn told me that MIS knowledge is not something that they would typically look for in a new candidate. However, he did say that there are definitely opportunities out there that incorporate both accounting and information systems with larger organizations.
12) When looking to get a job in the public accounting industry, are internships and professional experience necessary to get hired?
He explained to me that an internship is critical for aspiring public accountants. This allows them to get a feel for the industry and to get comfortable with a company. I also asked him what he thought of the VITA program. Mr. Wiethorn told me that the VITA program is a good little resume booster but it could be more professional. He said that if there were two candidates that were equally qualified and one had done the VITA program and the other had not, he would hire the one who had completed VITA.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed the whole assignment. Mr. Wiethorn was a pleasure to talk with and I learned a lot from him. I also learned a lot about Froehling Anderson and the public accounting industry. Something that I did not think much about prior to conducting the interview was the administrative nature of being a partner at a CPA firm. Mr. Wiethorn did a good job of explaining his administrative responsibilities. I was also surprised to learn that only about 50% of his time is billable. I always knew that having an internship was important but hearing it from Mr. Wiethorn solidified it even more. Now and in the future I am going to seek out opportunities to make connections with professionals in the public accounting industry. I am also going to continue to put in a lot of work at school to maintain my high GPA. this will ensure that I do not limit myself as I enter the job market. Overall, it was a great experience for me and I was really grateful that Mr. Wiethorn was willing to talk about himself and his career.