Making up ideal recruits: Graduate recruitment, professional socialization and subjectivity at Big Four accountancy firms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of graduate recruitment in the professional socialisation and subjectification of Big Four professionals. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on documentary data and interviews conducted at one British university. It adopts an interpretive perspective and is informed by Foucault’s work on technologies of power and technologies of the self. Findings: The paper argues that the graduate recruitment practices of Big Four firms represent a series of examinations which produce the category of ideal recruits. It moreover suggests that this category serves as the ultimate objective of an ethical process whereby aspiring accountants consciously and deliberately seek to transform themselves into the type of subjects they aspire to be – ideal recruits. Research limitations/implications: The findings of the paper are primarily based on interviews conducted at one university. Future research could explore if students at other universities experience graduate recruitment in similar or different ways. Originality/value: The paper highlights the constitutive role of graduate recruitment practices and shows that they can construct ideal recruits as much as they select them. It also shows that graduate recruitment is an important anticipatory socialisation mechanism that can compel aspiring accountants to learn how to look, sound and behave like Big Four professionals long before they join such organisations. Finally, the paper discusses its implications for the future of the profession, social mobility and the use of Foucault’s work on technologies of power and the self in studying subjectivity at elite professional service firms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Early online date28 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Oct 2019


  • graduate recruitment
  • professional socialization
  • subjectification
  • Foucault
  • professional service firms


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