A Complete Guide to KPMG's Application Process

KPMG

#1

Hello everyone! I’ve recently been made an offer for an Audit position in KPMG and since this forum has helped a lot, I have decided to write up a COMPLETE guide to the whole process. Now this post will be very long because I am trying to explain in as much detail as possible. Before I move on, let me first say that some of the materials I post will be what I gathered throughout my research during my application process (from wikijobs and other forums) and some will be based on my personal experience.

A few tips first:
-Before you apply, make sure you have a good idea of all the stages in the application. Now this doesn’t mean you have to be well prepared for all stages in advance, but you need to have a general idea of what to expect next. The reason I say this is because you don’t want to start preparing for the next stage after knowing you passed the current stage (For instance, my partner interview was 3 days after my assessment centre, and I was informed about passing the AC the next day, so I only had 1 day to prepare for my final interview. Luckily, I prepared in advance)
-Always apply early! This is stressed very often but people always tend to overlook the importance of this. The vacancies are first come first serve, so apply as soon as you can!

Stage 1 : Application Form
This is very straightforward. Make sure all the details are filled in as accurately as possible. Generally you would require 2:1 and above in your degree so make sure your results are within the academic requirements. When filling in job experiences, make sure you think of the upcoming stages (telephone and partner interview). How can your work experiences demonstrate the qualities/competencies needed? Do you have enough to talk about if an interviewer asks you about one of your jobs? How relevant are your job experiences to the role applied? Now the reason I say this is because some of you might have a lot of part-time jobs, like me. In this case you need to think about which few to include and which not to. If I remember correctly I included about 4-5 part-time and internship experiences. One thing you need to note - if you do get to the final interview, the partner will be looking at your application form when interviewing you - so think ahead!

Now I did not have to fill in any motivation essays/questions and I’m not sure if you have to for some other roles, but I completed some for other companies and my general advice would be for you to demonstrate your knowledge about the company. Don’t pick something someone can find out in 5 minutes from reading the KPMG website - That might work, but you want to be really confident in your answers. Talk about what makes the company unique and why you really want to join. As a general guide, try to avoid using answers that can be applied to other companies (say Big 4) as well.

Generally, if your academic results meet the requirements and you have some work experiences (doesn’t have to be directly relevant), and there are still vacancies for the role you applied to,you should be able to get to the next stage.

Stage 2: Online Tests
First tip is definitely PRACTICE. It’s been mentioned a lot in this forum that there are a lot of practice tests you can find online in websites like assessmentday as well as free practice tests online. For both tests, time yourself. Try to complete practice tests with 1-2 minutes remaining, to allow for tough questions/your nerves when taking the actual test. Another tip I find very useful is not to pressure yourself. You don’t have to score above 18/20 to pass the test - so stop thinking that way! Tell yourself this - if the questions are tough, other candidates would not score high as well. If I can remain more calm than others taking the test, I will perform better. Same goes with the more time you put into practicing the tests.

Numerical Test : Get used to your calculator if you’re not. Grab a piece of paper and pen to write down any figures. Some questions will be easy, some questions will be tougher, so don’t panic if you are taking longer to complete a question - but know when to give up and move on to the next one. You can always come back to the question once you completed all the others. For example if I am doing 20 questions in 20 minutes (1 minute each), the maximum time I would spend on a tough question would be 3 minutes.

Verbal Reasoning Test : What I do is quickly read through the paragraph, read the question, get the first answer that comes to my mind, and confirm my answer by going back to reading that specific sentence in the paragraph. If there’s no intuitive answer, I read the paragraph a second time paying more attention. Once again, time management is important here. Know when to move on and pace yourself.

Situational Judgement Test : These can be really hard to grasp at times. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the correct answers. Even for my SJT there were questions that I wasn’t sure at all about. Once again, do not set the bar too high, do not pressure yourself. 1-2 bad answers would not affect your whole test. There are a few things I think about when doing SJTs -
Firstly, am I being polite to all the parties (my colleague, my manager, my client)?
Is this solution effective? (Am I just passing the responsibility on to someone else? Am I delaying the whole process? Is this the best way to solve the problem?)
Am I choosing the option that benefits my company the most? (Least chance of upsetting the client/your manager, Best way to strengthen relationships, Am I causing extra workload to my colleagues/manager?)

Once again I should repeat, for all 3 tests - PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Stage 3: Telephone Interview

The work here is simple - the more questions you practice, the better you are. Use bullet points when writing down answers and try to use your own sentences. Best way to practice here is to ask yourself the question and answer (thinking of possible follow-up questions at the same time). I shall include all the questions I prepared and those that I was asked:

Why KPMG? Why not the other big four?
Why Audit? What will I do day-to-day in Audit? Explain more about the ACA qualifications.
Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple deadlines. (Explain how did you prioritize, what criteria you used to decide which tasks to do first, what was the result)
Tell me about a company doing well/not well and give me 4 reasons why. (Prepare 2 companies doing well/not well to be safe. Possible follow-up question - For the company doing well, what challenges might they face in the future? For the company not doing well, how can they improve? What are their opportunities?)
What are the factors affecting businesses in the UK in the past 2 years? What is the biggest problem and the sector most affected?
Tell me about a time you gave exceptional customer service?
Tell me about a time you followed an approach you didn’t agree with. Why did you agree to follow it? Was it the right decision?
Tell me a time you faced a challenge/overcame an obstacle. What would you do different? What was the hardest part?
Tell me about an achievement that you are proud of.
Tell me a time when you have to do repetitive/boring work.
Tell me a time you have to deal with an angry customer.
Tell me a time when you have had to show initiative on a project?
Tell me a time where you took lead of a project, the outcome?
Tell me a time you under-performed. Give a time when you have faced a setback. How did you deal with this?

Situational
Client wanted to see an incomplete report, company rules and regulations requires a manager to review the report before sending it out. (Follow up - What if you showed them and they disagree with the report?)
Colleague challenges your method during a client presentation. What would you do?
Important report to write by tomorrow close of play and also got a meeting tomorrow morning. A senior colleague emails to ask you to analyze some data by the close of play today. What would you do?
On a client site doing repetitive checking and you’ve almost finished when your boss emails to ask you to check them all again to make sure, how do you respond?
If a UK company wants to expand into another country, what are some issues they should look into/be aware of? How would you obtain the info?


#2

Stage 4:Assessment Centre

I had no retake of the verbal/numerical exercises but if you do, there is no need to panic. Once again, do not pressure yourself, perform your best, and I’m sure if you got to the AC you won’t have any problem with these tests as you passed them online. (They are not looking for you to perform equally well, as long as your scores do not deviate too far from the ones online you are fine)

Analysis Exercise
You are given 15 minutes to read a brief. After 15 minutes you are given a more detailed brief and 1 hour to complete a 1500 word limit exercise. The main tip I would give here is to really get ‘in-the-zone’ during the 15 minutes of prep. Treat it like a real day at work (which is what the exercise is intended for) and not a test. Think about the company as an actual company and not a fictional one (and do not use any knowledge you have apart from the information given in the brief). You will be using the same company throughout your whole day at the AC so the sooner you treat it like real work, the better you’ll perform.

There are 4 sections you need to cover in your report - it is up to you to structure it. I structured my report into - areas the company is performing well at, areas the company needs to improve yet (problems that are ongoing/happened in the past), challenges the company face (problems that are coming up/will happen in the future), recommendations of services to provide to the company. This exercise is weighted HEAVILY on recommendations (our assessor told us about 70-80%) so please allow plenty of time for that. This does not mean that you should skim past the first 3 sections - try to get reasonable amount of content into them as well. Do not be pressured by the word limit, I wrote 600-650 out of 1500 and I was aiming for 800 but I still passed. Quality is the key here, not quantity! As for the recommendations I would start of by identifying the main problem of the company and hence the first service you can provide, and then follow up by identifying other key issues that can arise and additional services you can provide. All the services provided will act as an integrated solution, using different service lines to tackle the company’s problems. Another thing here is - Sell your company, but don’t oversell! You can offer services they MIGHT need (even if it’s not likely) but don’t offer services that they WILL NOT need.

If you included some content into each section (I would say 100-150 words minimum) and wrote a good recommendation section (aim for 150 words and including multiple services (3 or 4) and explain how each of these services can tackle all the problems the company’s facing) you would have passed this exercise.

After this exercise (and for all the other exercises), you will have a few minutes to do a self-review. I will cover this at the end of this post.

In-tray/E-tray Exercise
Once again 15 minutes or so to read a brief, followed by a more detailed brief (including all the emails you receive and dialogues of voicemails) and one hour to complete 12 tasks. Two of these tasks (for me, the data checking questions) needs to be submitted before a time limit (for me, 45 and 50 minutes after time elapsed) so watch out for those. If I remember correctly, the tasks are:

2 e-mail responses (10 minutes each recommended) - One requiring you to obtain information from a client that is unhappy, another requiring you to respond to a colleague who needs help with her work.

3 voicemails - Two of them can be repeated but for one of them (a senior manager who is about the board a flight leaves you an urgent voicemail) you cannot repeat it - so check the brief (I did not do this as I thought the information wouldn’t be included(so I did it off the top of my head), the other people at the AC told me the dialogue was printed in the brief)

4 multiple choice questions - These are very similar to the standard e-tray questions giving you multiple response options.

1 recommendation question - Identify methods the business can use to tackle as well as the pros and cons for each method. I’ll give a simple example - Company does not have enough space. Method - Expansion. Pros - Problem will be solved easily. Adding of fixed assets can be a good investment to the company. Cons - Requires a lot of capital. Company might need to hire and train new staff.

2 Data checking questions - One gives you some tables/charts/figures and asks you about 5-6 questions on them. This is very straightforward. Most of the answers can be obtained by reading. For example, which country has the highest GDP? (You then see a table with all the countries and GDP values). The other exercise involves checking a table for errors. Once again this is not hard - it just tests your patience under pressure and how much attention you pay to detail. My advice here is to stay focused and check the table row by row. Pay attention and you will be fine.

For all the answers, you have 3 options - ‘BACK’ (NEVER USE THIS. It does not save your answers and when you come back you’ll be left with blanks!), ‘SAVE’ (Saves your answers so you can come back to check them before submitting), and ‘SUBMIT’ (Submits your answers. You cannot make any changes after answers are submitted).

Our assessor advised us to ‘save’ all our answers before ‘submitting’ them but I submitted my answers for each question as I went along. This is because I did not want to waste time coming back to check the questions and submit them. (This is entirely up to you, you might prefer doing all the questions first and checking them again, and this strategy can be good if you are good with time management but remember, if you saved all the answers for the 12 questions but submitted none - none will be marked. I prefer taking my time doing each question properly and then submitting them when I am done - since I will be fairly certain with my answers by then).

Once again, do not pressure yourself. I forgot to save one of my answers (the recommendation one) and had to retype it with a few minutes remaining. I also did not submit the voicemail one that cannot be repeated. That means I only completed 10 out of 12 tasks, and I still passed. Work fast and carefully, and you will be fine here.


#3

Client Roleplay Exercise
You have 10 minutes to prepare for a 15 minute (you will need to keep track of time) client meeting. The client will be unhappy because of the working relationship between the two companies in the past. The issues you need to cover in the meeting will be - Finding out about your client (this is the first time you are meeting him/her), so find out about her position in the company, the team she works with, etc.
-Identifying the working problems you had in the past (the reason why she is upset) and how you can change/improve so you won’t have similar problems in the future
-Talk about the solutions your company can provide (this will be related to the analysis exercise but use information in the brief provided. There will be additional information not given in the analysis/e-tray briefs)

Now, the client is upset and unhappy, but I always tell myself this - It’s only 15 minutes, there won’t be time for you to get nervous. The client can be angry, but if you be patient, smile and let her voice out her concerns, and then acknowledge them and promise her things will change in the future - there is no reason for him/her to continue to be angry. Remember, the client is there to test how you deal with a tough client, she/he is not there to fail you and make your meeting miserable. As long as you remain composed, be friendly and build the relationship, he/she will start to change their tone and attitude. Keep track of the time, plan your questions and make sure you cover them before the time runs out (say 15 minutes for 3-4 main areas, allow about 3 minutes each).

I made a mistake here - When the client asked me about news in the sector (fictional), I started talking about news in the real world sector. This is what happens when I become too immersed - totally forgot I was doing the exercise, treated my client as an actual one! Also speaking about this, ignore the assessor! Do not look at him/her during the exercise. The meeting is between you and your client, treat it as a real one. (And don’t get too immersed like me…)

Manager Roleplay Exercise
Similar format to the exercise above. 10 minutes for you to prepare, 15 minutes meeting (this time the manager will be in charge of time). First of all your manager will start off by inviting you to the team (assuming you are a new intern) and then he/she will require you to relay the information you discussed in the client meeting - The background of the person you spoke to, the past issues you discussed and how to improve your future working relationship, and the solutions you recommended to provide to them. Once again, do not look at the assessor - treat it like an actual manager meeting. This meeting would be easier than the previous one (the manager will have a good relationship with you) but make sure you relay all the information before the time runs out. In my case I brought up the mistake I made in the client exercise (telling her real world information instead of the fictional one) and told my manager I will give her a follow up call to apologize for that - my manager took it very positively.


#4

Stage 5: Partner Interview

If you manage to get to this stage, it is very likely for you to pass this. Most of the questions you can prepare for this stage is included in the questions I given in stage 3. Three main competencies are assessed here - Career Motivation, Awareness of/Seizes Business Opportunities, and Makes an Impact. Apart from the questions you prepared in stage 3, I would suggest preparing another 2-3 pieces of news you would like to talk about (don’t use the same example in the telephone interview) as well as follow up questions like:

How does it affect the UK economy?
How does it affect KPMG?
How can the company improve? What are their obstacles?
What is your personal opinion of how the story will continue to unfold?

A list of questions is hard to come up here with because the follow up questions all depends on which piece of news you plan to talk about. You can practice for these questions by reading expert interviews (getting their opinions) and try to read about the same piece of news from multiple sources/websites. You can get a broader picture that way.

The partner will be looking forward to find out more about you, your education, your hobbies, work experiences, and examples of you demonstrating certain competencies ( I was asked about teamwork). You will also be given situational judgement questions. I was given “When you are currently working with a client and work is coming to an end, you identified possible opportunities to provide other services. How would you go about this?”

You will be given the question on a paper to read as well - Do not panic. Take your time to compose your answer. A couple of minutes is fine, the partner does not expect you to answer straight away - take a sip of water if you have to. Just give a properly structured answer.

The partner interview is probably one of the easiest stages in the application process. Just be honest if there’s anything you don’t know and don’t try to use technical terms without exactly understanding what they mean (you can get questioned on them). I used a few technical terms like fiscal/monetary policies, tax cuts, real wealth, consumer spending etc but the partner did not probe further. I was really well-prepared though and I think he must have sensed that. Prepare some follow up questions to show your interest in KPMG. These questions can come from recent news about the company (I asked about the new audit methods and the data centre set up with Imperial College as well as working with Mclaren Group), or you can read the company’s annual reports (I asked why audit wasn’t growing as fast as advisory and whether there’s a chance advisory will be the main service line in terms of revenue), you can ask about work-life balance, or ask the partner about himself and his experiences with the firm - there are a lot of questions you can ask so I won’t try to include more of those.

After my interview he showed me around the office, told me about how they work and how working life is like. (My friends say this is a very positive sign that he wants to offer me a job). I received an email the next working day saying I got the job offer, the formal offer came 2 days later. I did not get a phone call because I was having a holiday and did not have roaming services which I already informed the partner during my interview.

I guess that brings my long and hopefully helpful post to an end. Please feel free to ask me any questions or drop me a personal message! Good luck with your applications.


#5

Hi cheesycake

This is fantastic, thanks very much for taking the time to write it all up! It’s so useful to have an overview from someone who has recently been through the process. I’ll publicise this thread on our social networks today, so more people know about it.


#6

Hello,

You are welcome. Which social network are you referring to? Just curious!


#7

Hi there

I was referring to WikiJob’s own Facebook and Twitter accounts (I manage them). Thanks again for writing such a great piece!


#8

Hi dear, tons of thanks for your informative sharing here. I have an AC coming up in 20 days and find your post really helpful. Can’t thank you enough :slight_smile: !!

I have a question regarding the fictional AAA firm. You mentioned that it’s advisable to cross sell the services, so are there information about AAA provided, or shall I know the services provided by KPMG by mind and apply this info to AAA?

Thanks a lot!