Applying to PwC is similar to applying to other Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y) accounting firms. The application process is as follows:
Online application form
Online aptitude test
Online Application Form
Tricky to fill out, there are a lot of questions that need fielding, and your answers have to be quite well focussed. You need to use as much of the word limit given as possible, to maximise the amount you sell yourself. You must use proof read and spell check your work; you are guaranteed not to get any further by submitting an application form with errors. Realistically, set aside a whole day for filling in the application form.
Make sure you print a copy of your application form so you can refer to it before interview.
Online Aptitude Test
I can’t actually remember if there was an online test for PwC or not, although I did quite a few as most of the accounting firms, both Big 4 and middle market require it. The tests are sat at home through a web browser and are timed. They are split into verbal and non-verbal sections. The verbal section tests your understanding of text; for example you will read a section of text and then answer questions upon. The key thing here is to infer nothing from the text; base your answers on exactly what the text said, and not anything that you can logically conclude or assume from the text but isn’t actually mentioned.
For the non-verbal you will need a calculator and a piece of paper. The questions mostly relate to percentages, fractions and interpreting tables and graphs. Although not everybody is mathematical, if you find you seriously struggle with the maths in this section, you will find the subsequent accounting training too much.
Your first interview will be conducted by a member of the PwC graduate recruitment team. Make sure you are prepared for this. Big 4 interviews, although similar to each other, are not ‘conventional’ interviews, so you will not be asked to talk about previous experience or qualifications. Questions you are almost certain to be asked are:
Give two examples of situations where you have performed in a team
Give two examples of situations where you have been a leader
Why PwC specifically (as opposed to e.g. Deloitte) - My answer to this question would be “Why not, it’s No 1”.
What can you tell me about audit?
What will you be doing in your first year?
Are you aware of what the qualfication involves?
What recent developments have affected PwC and the accounting industry? - The answer to this usually involves a discussion on Sarbanes-Oxley and Enron.
At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have questions for them.
You should also:
Re-read your application form before the interview
Practice answers to the above questions- know what you are going to say before the day arrives
Make sure you are aware of PwC contributions to the community and charitable work
Make sure you are aware of opportunities that are available to you, e.g. secondments, participation in charity work etc, and that you discuss and ask questions about these at the interview.
This interview is a one-on-one interview and the key aspect here is chemistry. You must strike up a professional yet friendly rapport with the interviewer. Coming across too strong, too weak or too cocky will be ultimately suicidal. They are looking for two key ingredients:
Commitment to career - do you know what you are getting yourself into and what is your motivation?
Respectability - are you the kind of person that PwC would want to be represented by to clients.
The Assessment Day
If you made it this far, you are doing well. The assessment day is broken down into four main sections.
Written aptitude test
Team work exercise
The written aptitude test is difficult. It is extremely time pressured and the questions are not easy. It is designed to test your ability to solve problems in a logical manner. My advice is to practice with the practice ones they give you online, and just do your best on the day. Take a calculator, pencil and rubber with you. It is not designed to be completed so you are highly unlikely to do so within the time allowed. The girl next time, a history graduate, wasn’t very good at maths, and she was crying by the end of the test. Don’t get beat down, PwC hires people of all sorts.
The team work exercise consists of a simulated board meeting in a company. You are given some information to read prior to going into the meeting, and then further information when you arrive at the meeting. Each person has a specific role in the company, and the scenario is designed to achieve an objective by agreement. The team will be made up of around 8 of the applicants on that day. The exercise lasts about 30 minutes, and you are observed by two members of recruitment.
They are looking for good teamworking skills. You want to be showing a convivial attitude, not too dominating, and not too introvert, i.e. balanced. You sohuld speak when you feel you should make a point, and let others speak when it is their turn to do so. It is absolutely not a competition and treating it as such will probably compromise you.
For lunch you are likely to be taken out for pizza. The PwC favourite is Pizza Express. You will be having lunch with PwC first years, and they can help answer your questions about what it’s like to work at PwC. When they tell you the training is hard, and people with first class degrees fail the exams, believe them. It isn’t like university, it’s much more challenging. Don’t drink anything because you may still have to do some thinking on the spot, and you may still have the partner interview.
The partner interview is an interview with partner in the firm. These people are extremely senior, and have the final say on whether a candidate will join or not. They are not interested in technical stuff, the rest of the process should have done this. They are trying to see if you are likely to fit in with the rest of the firm, and whether you are quality enough to be entrusted with clients. You should not try hard to show off, this will backfire. You should be professional yet friendly. Ask the partner what his/her role is, and how it came to be. Make sure you thank the partner for their time.
If you get the job
I got a phone call the day after the assessment day to offer me a position.
See the advice on the WikiJob profile, here: