Got offers from PwC and BDO Audit 2015, happy to help

EY
BDO
ACADEMICS

#1

So, as the subject line says, I got two offers for Audit, one Big4, the other Top 10. I’ve also been invited to an assessment centre with EY, but I reckon I’ll give it a miss, as I’m pretty satisfied with my PwC offer.

Firstly, I’d like to dispel some common myths.

  1. Myth: Big4 pay more.
    Not in my experience. BDO offered me 22,500 for East of England, while PwC offered 20,000 for Northeast. Once you factor in the difference in cost of living, and the £650 pa benefits PwC offer, the two salaries are practically identical.
  2. Myth: You’re too old.
    Nope. I’m 30, and with no background at all in accounting (academic or otherwise).
  3. Myth: You need to have graduated from a top uni.
    No again. While at PwC’s assessment centre there was definitely an over-representation of top uni students/grads, my degree is from a fairly mediocre overseas university, and I still got an offer. What firms care about academically is that you meet a minimum standard that will make it likely you can at least scrape through the ACA. Otherwise, they’re not really interested in your academics. They’re much more interested in your performance during the recruitment process, esp. with regard to the assessment centre.
    On that same note, BDO’s assessment centre attracted far more applicants from mid-tier universities.

Now, some tips for the process:
Application:
It depends really on the format. PwC’s doesn’t require much other than filling in grades, work experience etc. Other applications, BDO’s included, also feature essay questions. If that is the case, do your best to give well-researched answers that show a genuine understanding of the work and the firm, and make sure you sound enthusiastic about the position. It does make a difference.
Psychometric tests:
Not much to say here, just make sure you at least scrape through. Practice, practice, practice. No need to pay for practice tests, the free ones should be good enough. Also, if you haven’t done numbers in a while, it could help with your speed and accuracy if you started doing problems with basic calculations on an everyday basis. Keep in mind, you don’t need ANY advanced math. People say it’s GCSE level, but really, it’s more accurate to say it’s primary school level. The most complex thing I was asked to do was calculate percentages, lol. It’s mostly about logically thinking through the task, speed, and accuracy, and all of those improve with practice. You do NOT need to be a math wiz.
1st interview:
Again, this varies. At PwC and EY, the 1st interviews are conducted by HR people (PwC over the phone, EY in person). Even though EY’s is in person, it’s still very very structured and impersonal, and frankly, off-putting (just like PwC’s of course, but you kind of expect that with a phone interview). BDO, on the other hand, have the 1st interviews done by managers from your chosen service line, which makes for a much better experience, which is much more like a chat, and allows you to actually build rapport with the other person, and get some actual insight into the firm and job. You’re still asked competency questions, of course, but your interviewer can even be helpful in answering them, again, as opposed to HR drones.
As far as the competency questions are concerned, people will suggest to have two examples ready for each competence. I did not need more than one, to be honest, but it never hurts to be over-prepared. Also, I would suggest thinking in general of situations where you think you have done well, and try to fit those to the question being asked. So, basically, rather than having a list 2 or 3 examples per competency, what I did was have 5-10 examples of doing a good job in general, and just match them to the questions being asked. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate your own role or how successful something was. I expect most people do. It’s about selling yourself at this stage.
A pointer for PwC’s commercial awareness question: the main point of this question is not really to see whether you keep up with the news, or even whether you understand the issue you’re discussing. The main point is whether you can use the news to spot business opportunities for PwC. So, whatever topic you choose, make sure you have thought about the kind of opportunities this provides to PwC to pick up new business. Obviously, if, like me, you have applied to audit, you can’t just get away with “PwC could audit them”, lol :stuck_out_tongue: . Try to spot opportunities for PwC to do consulting, or get involved in restructuring the company, or whatever. Do take the time to familiarise yourself with the services PwC offers. I’m not saying ‘learn them all by heart’, obviously. But do have a broad understanding of what the company does besides audit, and do be able to quote 3 or 4 specific examples.
One thing I really want to emphasise here is not to get discouraged if you fail the first 2 or 3 interviews. I know I failed in my first attempts. Competency interviews can take some getting used to if you haven’t had one before, especially when they are conducted in the robotic manner that HR recruiters seem to prefer. Your 3rd or 4th attempt will be much better than you first. After all, a rejection is not the end of the world. You can always re-apply in 3 to 6 months (varies with each firm).
So, overall, just do your best to relax, be prepared, and sound as knowledgeable about the job and enthusiastic as you can.
Assessment centre:
For PwC, you get a repeat of the psychometric tests. Don’t stress too much about these, just give them your best shot. I didn’t prepare at all for these before my AC and got through fine, although a little practice would probably not hurt you. The tests are not really being used to assess you, they’re just a safety measure to ensure you didn’t cheat during the online tests.
For BDO, you have to prepare a presentation. Standard advice for presentations applies: whatever you do, don’t read from your notes, lol. Maintain eye-contact with your audience as much as you can (by the way, your audience will be a manager from your chosen service line). It’s nice to prepare a small handout, since you don’t have access to PowerPoint. It’s not absolutely necessary of course, but I think it shows some extra effort on your behalf, and personally, I also found having a handout helpful for structuring my presentation. But it’s really up to you.
Do expect follow-up questions, and not just on the topic of your presentation either. The manager is likely to use the opportunity to try to get to know you better. Think of this like an informal mini-interview.
Both PwC and BDO (and I expect most firms) have a written task for you to do. With PwC, this was writing a report for your manager. Structure it like a report, with To: From: Subject: Date:, headings, subheadings, bullet points, basically as to-the-point and business-like as you can. Make sure to include an introduction and recommendation. BDO, on the other hand, ask you to write a letter to a client, based on a pack of documents relating to the client’s case. Make sure to be formal, but also make sure you try to empathise with the client and try to create and maintain a good professional and personal relationship with them (this is one of BDO’s core values). Both for PwC and BDO, be selective with the kind of information you include in your report/letter. Think of the needs of your audience, don’t swamp them with lots of info they have no use for.
And finally, the dreaded group task. Really, just relax here and give it your best shot. There’s not much you can do to prepare. Make eye contact with the people in your group. Remember and use their first names. In BDO’s task you all have access to the same info, but in PwC’s each candidate has info only s/he has access to. When your partners present this info, make sure you note it down on the scrap paper provided, to show you’re listening and being involved. And of course, do actually listen and be involved.
It’s very important you understand the task and the options available. And it’s very very very important that you present your opinions. This is the most crucial part of the task, really. Chairing the task, being the time-keeper etc are fine and well, and could help overall, but if you don’t have well-thought-out opinions that you can back up with solid arguments, you’re screwed. Bear in mind that it’s not wrong to change your opinion, but it is definitely wrong to flip-flop back and forth and be very easily swayed by the other members of your group. It’s also wrong to give the impression you hadn’t quite thought things through before giving your opinion. On a related note, in PwC’s task, each of you is given a possible solution to the problem you are discussing. There is absolutely no need to support your own solution. You can very well argue for somebody else’s solution, if you have solid arguments in its favour and you genuinely think it’s better than yours. In fact, this is what I did. However, do make sure you fairly present your own solution and explain why you think it’s no good.
Once again, if you fail the assessment centre, and especially the group task, don’t lose heart. You’ve done very well to get that far, and you probably have the necessary potential. If you’ve never done a group a task before, it can be a bit overwhelming on your first attempt. The 2nd or 3rd time will be much better.
Partner interview:
Honestly, if you’ve gotten this far, the firm already wants you. The interview itself can vary a lot, and really depends on the partner you get. It can be highly informal and more of a general chat about yourself and your motivations (still, make sure to sound enthusiastic and build rapport), or it could be a structured affair with competency questions, or anything in between. In any case, it is definitely much more relaxed than your 1st interview (esp. if you 1st interview has with HR), and it’s unlikely you’d get a grilling. At this stage, it really is your job to loose.

That’s about it, really. If you have any questions, please do ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

Regards!


#2

Damn this is useful. A big thank you for taking the time to post all this here :slight_smile:


#3

No worries, this site was massively helpful to me, so I thought I’d give something back. :stuck_out_tongue:


#4

Congratulations on your offers. Can you share with your PwC’s first round interview questions? Thx a lot!


#5

I’ll do my best.

There’s the classic commercial awareness question, discuss an item from the news, whether business or economics. The follow-up question is how PwC could get involved in that and generate new business. You’ll also be asked what you do to keep up with the news. There I basically just name-dropped some newspapers etc, like the Financial Times, the Telegraph and so on.

Another question that always seems to get asked is ‘describe a time when you built a relationship with someone outside your usual circle’. Follow-up question will probably be ‘how exactly did you start the relationship’, ‘how did you maintain it’, and/or ‘how have you benefited from it’.

The other questions are standard competency-type. As near as I recall, it’s stuff like ‘a time when you had to change your approach to something’, ‘a time you had to solve a complex problem’, ‘a time you asked for feedback’, ‘a time you were given negative feedback’, ‘a time you had to do something with no supervision’, ‘a time when you had to work with a difficult person’, ‘a time when you had to report someone’, ‘a time when you were asked to lie’, things like that.


#6

Congratulations on your offers!

In regards to your AC at BDO, what was the timing like for the written exercise and the group exercise? Did you find that it was time pressured and if so, do you have any tips for this? Also, what was your partner interview experience like for BDO?


#7

The written wasn’t too bad for time, but you do have to be quick about getting through the relevant documents.

The team exercise was probably worse in terms of time constraints, in terms of getting through the relevant documents during prep time.

In both cases, I definitely advise that you move through the material very quickly, and try to identify the key information that is relevant. In both tasks, there’ll be lots of info you don’t really need. So you really have to practice at speed-reading, and also, before you start reading the material, make sure you really understand the task, so you can pick out the info you’ll need for it.

With the group task, you’re given about 20 minutes (if I recall right) to prepare. Make sure you leave at least 10 minutes to go through the 10 options at the end of the material. So, basically, use the first 1-2 minutes to carefully read the task and understand what you have to do. Then about 8 minutes (roughly) to go through the background info (you won’t have time to get through it all, but don’t worry about that too much), and the last 10 minutes for the options. This is by far the most crucial aspect. Also, the figures given for the options are annual, but the project has a 4-year time frame, so you will want to calculate what the savings from each option are over the entire 4 years.

As for my partner interview, it was super relaxed. He was very friendly, and didn’t do any of the competency questions he was supposed to, lol. He just asked me some standard questions like “tell me about yourself”, “why BDO” etc, as well as some general chat about himself, myself, the firm and so on. Of course, this really depends on the partner, so YMMV.


#8

Thanks so much for the tips! Also, approximately how long did your presentation last for?


#9

Thank you very much for your tips and hints jackblack


#10

I planned for 20’, but the manager started with a lot of personal interview-style questions, and used up most of the time, lol. So I ran through it in maybe 10-12 minutes. Anyway, just plan for anything between 15 and 20 minutes, but be prepared for the unexpected :stuck_out_tongue:


#11

No worries mate.


#12

Very detailed tips =) Thank you so much and congratulations!!


#13

Congrats on your offer!
Can you share the questions you were asked in PwC’s partner interview? Are they different from the old competency based ones (i.e. before July 2014)?


#14

It was a rather funny interview, in that he didn’t ask questions. He just read the behaviour I was supposed to demonstrate, and waited for me to give a relevant example. I re-used a lot of the examples from the phone interview, as it was obviously the same competencies.


#15

Congratulations on your offers!

im having my AC next month and am just wondering what does the in-tray exercise consist of. Also do they give u the presentation topic prior to the AC?

thanks!


#16

The in-tray was really straightforward. They give you a background (you’re helping out a colleague with a specific case: the client has died and his daughter wants to claim some VAT returns), plus a lot of documents relating to that (invoices, letters from the bank, rules on VAT returns, listed buildings, a letter from her bookkeeper, etc). All you have to do with that is write a letter to the client updating her on the progress of the case, asking for anything you may need from her, etc. You don’t need to refer to any documents specifically, or prioritise actions, or anything like that (I guess they’ve removed that part, because it did use to be part of BDO’s AC in the past). But you will need to look through all the documents and spot all the relevant info to form an idea of what has been done, what needs to be done, what you need from the client, when by, and anything else that is relevant for the client letter. Your tone should be professional, but remember also BDO’s values: Professional and personal client relationships. Do show a personal interest for the client, but keep it appropriate. Remember, you haven’t actually ever met her before.

As for the presentation, the topic should have been included in your invitation email. Mine read:

“Discuss a business or industry of your choice, include who they are, the challenges they are currently facing and how BDO could assist them. The business or industry does not need to be a current BDO client and your presentation should last no longer than 20 minutes. You will not have access to powerpoint facilities, so if you wish to use any form of visual aid or handout you should bring these with you.”

This is the standard topic they give for their ACs. If it wasn’t in your email, you may want to get in touch with your recruiter to see what’s going on.


#17

Hey there,

I just had my interview for assurance department with one of the directors so can you tell me how soon they will revert?


#18

Hi, which office was it with and could you please tell me the kind of questions they asked as Ive got mine on 28th of May. Thanks.


#19

Personally, with BDO I heard back next day, with PwC in two working days.


#20

thanks for all the details!! Ill go and practice a bit.

just received an confirmation email from them today with the same topic as you did. Did you use any visual aid?
I heard from the previous candidates that you can present with a piece of A3 paper as your visual aid, but this was 3,4 years ago. just wondering if it has been changed now.