I recently got offered a job with Grant Thornton in the service line of corporate tax. I thought some information on the process I went through might be helpful. Please bear in mind that I was interviewed during the 2007/2008 round so the set competency questions may well have now been changed.
Why Grant Thornton?
Why did you choose your uni?
Why the degree subject?
When have you worked as part of a team?
- details of the role of each team member?
How do you prioritise your time?
How do you balance your work and social commitments?
(I can’t remember exactly how these questions were worded but I got asked 3 questions which were all almost identical about how I prioritise my time - I found it really hard to not repeat myself with each answer)
When have you used your initiative? (I think this is a really stupid question because if you use your initiiative, half the time you aren’t aware that you’re doing so. I used a really really trivial example which compared myself to someone else who was unable to see the logical solution to a really simple, practical problem)
What skills have you obtained from the work experience you have completed (all work experience; not just relevent to accountancy, ie waitressing etc)
The rest of the questions were very standard competency based questions.
My advice would be to make sure you know as much about the firm as you can find out (they made a comment during the interview that I had obviously researched the company well) and also have some good reason why you want to do accountancy. At the end of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions so make sure you have a few ready.
I was absolutely petrified about this and so was amazed when I found out the team exercise was to make “the longest and most creative” paper chain! The exercise is timed so my advice would be to make sure someone is keeping an eye on the time. Also make sure you know everyone’s name and if someone isn’t saying much ask their opinion. Don’t be overbearing but don’t sit in the corner saying nothing. Make sure that everyone is clear on whatever process has been decided and is happy with any decision that has been made.
Lunch at the assessment centre is a chance to ask a couple of trainees questions. I have no idea if the trainees give feed back on their impression of you. I asked loads of questions (mainly because I can’t stand any awkward silence) so by the time it came to my 2nd interview I had didn’t really have any questions left to ask about GT.
This was pretty similar to the telephone interview. The HR ladies are really nice and I was amazed at how relaxed they were able to make me feel. I was asked again why GT, why tax, why the particular service line?
What do you think you will be doing?
What do you think the biggest challenge you will face will be?
When is there a goal you haven’t achieved?
When have you had to deal with conflict within a team? What role did you take? How did you resolve it?
Tell me about a story in the news that you find interesting? Why does it interest you?
Why GT and not one of the Big 4?
What other firms have you applied to?
What qualities do you look for in team members?
This was entirely competency based - the manager had a sheet of paper in front of her and was reading off the questions.
I was again asked why GT, why tax.
What do you know about GT?
What do you know about the exams?
Give an example of a problem you haven’t been able to solve.
Tell me about when you’ve lead a team.
When have you been challenged?
When have you had to overcome difficulties to achieve a goal?
When have you had to alter the way you communicate to get a point across?
When have you had to make a compromise?
This interview addressed drive, motivation, communication and leadership.
This was much, much more informal, with no structured questions and far more spontaneous. Although some of the questions were more challenging than in the previous interviews I actually preferred this because I felt that I was able to show what I was capable of to a much greater extent.
Tell me about yourself! (I was warned about maybe being asked this question but stilll didn’t have a clue what to say). Why GT?
I was asked a few questions related to my CV - about committees I was on at uni etc
In terms of commercial awareness questions I was again asked about stories I was following in the news. My advice would be to know 3 or 4 stories really well and make sure you have an opinion on them and be aware of their wider economic impact and the winners/losers of whatever it is you’re talking about. Be prepared to answer some fairly specific questions (I talked about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and was asked who funds them). I think they just want to make sure that you really understand what you’re talking about.
Did either of my parents train as accountants? What do they do now?
What was the last film I watched? (my answer was Bridget Jones!) What was the last book you read?
I was surprised not to be asked any specific questions about the work experience I had done (made me very glad I hadn’t spent a whole summer holiday doing an internship).
Grant Thornton was the first and only company I applied to so I can’t compare to anywhere else but from my experience I would say to make sure you are really clear in your mind why you want to train to be an accountant, be aware of the intense work load involved, know why you want to work for GT (know stuff that is specific to the company - eg mention Bradenham Manor). These interviews were the first I had had since applying to uni so I was really nervous before hand but was amazed at how friendly everyone was and how relaxed I was made to feel. In respect to questions about Big 4 and applying to other firms I told the truth - I said that at the moment GT is the only place I have applied but I have other application forms waiting to be sent off when their application process opens. I made the conscious decision not to apply to the Big 4 - the reason for this was that from all the people I had spoken to the impression that I overwhelmingly recieved was that job satisfaction was greater working for a mid-tier firm. I want a job for enjoyment and fulfillment and not prestige. The range of clients you work for is much greater at a mid-tier firm (Big 4 you will be working with clients from 1 sector and I believe that the whole point of trainig in something is to get a broad range of experience whilst also working with top clients - a balance I believe that GT (BDO etc) offers. Also at a mid-tier firm you are given responsibility at an earlier stage.
Hope this is helpful