Do CPA Exam Scores Matter in the Job Application Process?


There’s been some recent discussion as of late questioning whether or not CPA scores should be included in the job application process. Should it be bulleted on a resume? Are employers interested in seeing your passing number or could they care less? Is having a lower score going to put you at odds with someone vying for the same position with a higher score? Is my potential employer going to check my scores through the AICPA and also ask for a blood sample and the name of my first born if I just dont provide them with the information up front?!

Okay, we know the answer to that last question is a resounding no. But its completely understandable how many of us would have these types of inquiries when it comes to finding a job as a newly licensed CPA. After all, many of us probably included our GPAs on our resumes alongside the name of the university we attended and the degree we were conferred in some of our previous jobs. Coming out of high school, all the colleges we applied to ask for our scores on the SATs and how we did on all of our AP courses. So when it comes to whether or not CPA scores should be included in the job market landscape, theres a few things to take into consideration.

Your resume 
Your resume is an important tool employers use to get an overall overview of your work experience, transferable skills, and potential to fit into their culture and expectations. If theyre looking for someone who is already CPA licensed or who is in the process/planning to get their CPA, this is where they would find that information.

Let’s say you already passed all 4 exams. If you decide to list your scores for each section, it would appear that it could either help or harm you. If you passed all 4 with scores that look consistent across the board (such as mostly in the upper 70s or low 80s, etc.) then that consistency is a good indication that you studied adequately for all parts and have a pretty good handle on all the concepts tested. However, if you list your scores that seem inconsistent (and maybe, in some parts, drastically inconsistent, such as a 75 on FAR but a 92 on BEC and a 81 on REG, etc.) then this can conjure a red flag in the employers mind. Sure, you passed all 4 sections, which is great, but there could be some hesitation on his/her part that asks whether you put as much effort in one area versus another, or if one area was more difficult for you to understand and grasp than another.

Similarly, let’s say you’re done with two of the CPA exam sections and youre in the process of studying and testing for the other two. If you put down your scores for both the sections you passed and then don’t pass one of the other sections or scored the 75 minimum, this can also do you more harm than good. Your potential employer may have questions regarding these types of gaps in time or numbers.

We know that you worked especially hard on passing the CPA exam, and if you passed with flying colors, you will be tempted to show that off because the passing rate is already in the low 50th percentile. In addition, you may think that putting down your score (especially if its higher than most) will set you apart from the other candidates applying for the same position, thereby putting you ahead of the curve.

But here’s what employers are thinking
While your potential employer is sifting through hundreds of resumes for internship opportunities or hiring for the busy season, they’re not tacking every candidates FAR, BEC, AUD, and REG score onto a bulletin board and ranking them from lowest to highest. Because they’re going through so many resumes, the last thing they’re looking for is a numerical value for the sections that you’ve passed and you definitely don’t want to come off as arrogant or obnoxious if you put down your scores amongst a sea of applicants who didn’t. All they really want to know is whether you passed or not. And here’s why.

It’s no big secret that the CPA is by far one of the most difficult tests in the nation. Passing the CPA exam isn’t just a requirement to be at the top of the accounting field that can be done overnight; its definitely one of the most difficult processes that candidates face. And not just the candidates themselves, but also their family, friends, and loved ones. Committing to take the exam requires a huge sacrifice of time and money, and passing the exam carries with it more than numeric value; it speaks to your ability to overcome challenges, your ambition for career advancement and job security, and your dedication to education. Your CPA license already sets you apart from the rest. Your scores don’t need to speak these volumes for you.

In the off chance that you do get an employer who asks for your scores, then yes, by all means let them know. Use your discretion to see whether or not the employers just curious or if there is a hidden agenda, which, in the latter case, you may want to rethink your desire to work for that employer at all.

The Bottom Line 
Employers understand that CPA candidates are hard-working and ambitious people. But more importantly, they’re also looking for who you are as a person, what you can bring to the table, and what value you can bring to their company. What does your past experience say about your work ethic and goals? What does your current job search say about what you’d like to achieve or accomplish in the future? How can they see you contributing your knowledge and talent for the betterment of the team? And they aren’t going to be able to discern all of those things through your scores. Your chance for an interview or for hire isn’t based solely on passing the CPA exam, let alone what you got on each section. They’ll take into consideration your background, extracurricular activities, skills/abilities, education, and whether or not you’d make a good cultural fit with the organization. This means that you can have the best CPA scores of all time, but if you’re not a great people person or haven’t had that much experience in the field, they may pass you up for someone else who is and does.

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