GT and BDO General Firm and Interview Information

Grant Thornton
EY
BDO
#1

Hi,

I thought I’d put some information up about Grant Thornton and BDO for anyone who is interested. I didn’t get offers from either of these companies so bare this in mind as you are reading through!

These companies typically attract smaller mid-tier clients than the Big 4 who are sub FTSE 350 and are often AIM registered. They both have around three FTSE 350 clients each but I think that only one of these is an actively trading company. Needless to say, the work you would be doing at these firms would be different than at a Big 4 firm.

Many people, including myself, would prefer to complete their training with a smaller firm for numerous reasons including greater autonomy at work, varied across-sector clients and the chance to develop a closer relationship with the owner or director’s of the client firm.

That said many people feel that training is superior at the Big 4 due to their history and experience with professional exams, the limitless international career opportunities when you are qualified and the opportunity to work with huge clients which is simply not possible outside of the Big 4.

Now, it is no secret that GT and BDO are in the shadow of the Big 4 with regards to clients. Directors of both companies have been quoted in saying that they would love the opportunity to work with larger clients but don’t get the chance. This is often a very touchy subject with mid-tier firms (like the audit oligopoly is with the Big 4) and could make or break your chances with the firm. No matter who you have applied to – do not mention a Big 4 companies name in an interview with GT or BDO unless it is to say why you have not applied to them. The interviewer will be keen to know why you would prefer to work for a mid-tier firm so have a good think about what they offer that the Big 4 don’t. Talking a little about my admiration for the GT and Tenon training academies went down very well with the interviewer and I would suggest mentioning this.

GT use a telephone interview as the first round of screening which I hate and subsequently failed. My advice here is to try and practice an actual telephone interview and do your research – they can’t see you so you could have pages of model answers in front of you. The questions explore your academic and vocational decisions to date including why you chose you’re A-Levels, why you chose your University, why you want to join GT and the service line you have applied to. You also get the typical questions about teamwork, leadership and client focus. They seem to choose around 10 questions from a list of a possible 15 and a particularly strange question I was asked was “How do you organise your day”. The worst part of telephone interviews is that they have as much information as you do so when you ask them to explain the question or ask in what context they would like the answer – they just ask the question again. The whole situation feels very forced and awkward for both parties and it is impossible to gauge how well you are doing, digress slightly to hit a competency or achieve any kind of flow with the interview or report with the interviewer. Practice, practice, practice – be confident, coherent and talk clearly.

Unfortunately, I also failed the BDO interview in the first round so if anyone else has any more information on assessment centres or final interviews at either of these companies, please add this to the post.

At Tenon, my interviewer actually trained with PwC and could not stand it whereas my friend at EY absolutely loves it so it. It really comes down to personal preference and what you want out of your training and where you see yourself in 5 years time.

#2

Great post. So true as well a lot of that. I’d say from my experience, the training is never going to be fun. How much you enjoy the firm you work for largely depends on the office you join, your clients and your managers - i.e. two experiences in the same firm are not necessarily alike.

I would say if you were going for Financial Services in Big 4 in central London you are setting yourself up for a tough time! A middle market firm out in Surrey should be more relaxing!

#3

This is a great post and very much appreciated! Cheers :slight_smile:

I agree with you about telephone interviews. Lots of very good candidates can do very badly here because they are not prepared or not used to talking in a professional manner over the phone.

Practice is necessary, especially if you haven’t even ever worked in an office situation that required you to use the telephone to talk to clients. If you can, you should get friends or family members to actually call you and ask you interview questions. With practice comes confidence. The candidates who don’t think they’ll have any trouble with this style of assessment and don’t prepare are usually the ones that stumble at this hurdle!

Many candidates also find it tough to properly get in to interview “mode” when talking to interviewers over the phone - but you need to be as professional and presentable as you would in a face to face situation. Candidates who would never use colloquialisms in face to face interviews often use slang on the phone by accident without even realising, because they are so used to using the phone to talk to friends.

It may sound strange but I recommend putting on a smart suit before your scheduled telephone interview. You need to put yourself in a professional mindset, something you will not have if you answer the phone to JP Morgan in your dressing gown in front of Neighbours. Find a quiet place (a study with a desk is best) to answer the phone and put yourself to work studying some relevant material on your company or industry beforehand so that your mind is already focussed. Last of all; make sure you smile when answering your phone. Again, it sounds strange, but if you force yourself to smile, you become more relaxed and as a consequence your voice will sound more relaxed and friendly. This is a technique Sales people use to make a better impression when they make phone calls. If you do this, you will come across much better when you talk on the telephone.

Ed

#4

Nice posts, thanks a lot for the info! It is quite valuable for me as I am completing my application to BDO.

#5

I also enjoyed the posts, but I have one comment. I recently attended a first round interview with BDO, and the interviewer asked me which other firms I had applied to. I mentioned having applied to Big 4 firms. The interviewer did not seem to take a negative view, and a few days later I received an assessment centre invitation. So I believe BDO will not rule you out for mentioning a Big 4 firm at interview.

On a slightly different note, does anyone know what the starting salary is for audit at BDO Stoy Hayward. I ask because I am considering an offer from a Big 4 firm, and I am unsure if I should attend the BDO assessment centre.

Good luck to all!!

#6

Don’t rate a firm on your starting salary, choose it only on where you want to work. If you are not serious about working at BDO and are serious about accepting your offer, do that.

Salary is pretty irrelevant as it will change as you progress.

Working for Big 4 is quite different to working for GT/BDO, especially in London.

#7

Hello S-J-H,

First of all congratulations to you on your Big 4 offer! Success at this level is no mean feit - well done!

Regarding your query, I would suggest that you do attend the BDO assessment centre. The worst case outcome for you if you do this would be to discover BDO’s just not for you, in which case you have your Big 4 offer to fall back on. The best outcome is that you find out you like BDO a lot more than your Big 4 firm, in which case you can turn down the Big 4 if you get an offer from BDO.

It’s a great situation to be in because whatever you do, you win - if it was my decision, I’d want to explore all possible opportunities available to me and go to BDO. After all, you’ll probably be spending at least the next three years at the company you choose, so you need to make sure you like it.

The starting salary at BDO will be fairly similar to that at the Big 4 firms. I’m not sure exactly, but I would presume £25,500 - £27,500 range. I know there are people who are aware of this in the forum so I’ll leave it up to them to give you an exact answer!

If you feel like contributing information from your application, interviews and accomplishments at the Big 4 firm you’ve been successful with, either in this forum, or within the WikiJob company profiles here - List of Accountancy Firms - WikiJob - it would be much appreciated!

:smiley:

ED

#8

Having received an offer from GT after talking candidly with all 3 interviewers about my applications with the big 4 I would have to disagree with the comments regarding mentioning competitors.

As much as you may only want to Grant Thornton or BDO, only a fool would put all their eggs in one basket, especially when so many good candidates have to get rejected due to the intense competition.

The interviewers can tell if you are lying, so don’t think that you should pretend that you haven’t applied for anywhere else, even the big 4, especially as there are only really 3 middle market firms (GT, BDO and Baker Tilly).

Rather than risk being caught out, I would suggest using this opportunity to show your understanding of the market as a whole. My answer to why I had applied to other firms was that I really wanted the support and training that only the big 4 and 2nd tier firms are able to offer, and as there are only 6 or 7 of these firms in total I thought it was wise to have backup options in case my GT application wasn’t successful. I also stressed that although the training was similar, I preferred GT because of the wider variety of clients and potential to meet higher level personnel in client firms, so GT was my 1st choice.

Other reasons could be the interview practice these applications provide, or that you were keen to meet graduates and staff in each firm in order to make your mind up.

My advice for ths question is to be honest, and give explanations which show that you have really thought about your career prospects and done your homework on the firms in question. That way this question can help your chances rather than ruin them.

#9

Thanks for all the advice to everyone who posted a message.
I have a GT Assesment day coming up next week and everyone is telling me that it quite a relaxed enjoyable day which makes me feel a lot more relaxed about the day.

I was just wondering if anyone can tell me what sort of commercial awareness questions they are going to be asking and what the best topic to talk about is… Wat the best current issue is to talk about. I am applying for audit ACA. So will they ask me a question about tax?
This is my dream job so I really want this so i would appreciate any help.

Many thanks

#10

What happened sk27? …did you get a job offer?! What happened on your assessment day / final interview, etc?!!

#11

I have worked in audit at GT for two years. I think the starting salary this year was something like £26k - £26.5k but am not totally sure-- it goes up pretty quickly though, I started on £23k 2 years ago (it increased alot because of the merger last year) and am now on £29k, plus we get paid overtime.

The training at GT is excellent-- they have a training centre in the countryside in Buckinghamshire and have trainers there who used to train people/work at the Big 4 firms too, they are very skilled and good at teaching! The training centre is quite fun, relaxed though work hard during the day and socialise at night, it’s abit like being on holiday!

As for the ACA when I’ve compared notes with my friends who work at Deloitte and PwC it all sounds fairly standard. We all go to the same college (FTC) and are taught by the same tutors, and our firms expect the same from us. One slight difference however is that GT don’t instantly sack you for failing exams-- though the London office is notably more strict. It all depends on the individual circumstances and what your reputation at work is like (ie do you take the mick or work hard!)

I definitely felt more comfortable in my GT and BDO interviews than say PwC. I had an assessment centre coming up with BDO when GT offered my a job so I took that; I would have liked to have seen more of BDO though as they impressed me. The key difference I felt between GT and BDO and the Big 4 was the people-- GT/BDO everyone wa really genuinely nice and friendly, whereas I found some people at the Big 4 had an air of arrogance about them. I really like everyone I work with, and I’m not just saying that, there’s no-one you can’t get on with (or maybe I just haven’t met them yet!) Hope that helps.

#12

Hi, 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 questions might have changed for this year.

Telephone Interview:

Why Grant Thornton?
Why Tax?
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 pretty much the same about how I prioritised my time - I struggled because I’m never really that aware of having to prioritise my time - I just get on with it)
    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, so 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 and also have a good reason that 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 2 or 3 ready.

Assessment centre

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.

2nd Interview

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. The questions were very similar to the telephone interview questions. I was asked again why GT, why tax, why the particular service line? Also what I thought I would 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 I look for in team members?

Manager interview?

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?

Partner interview

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 - just waffled a couple of points and then said “I don’t really know what you want to know” great start!?)
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 the 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

Charlotte

#13

Hi ,
I have an interview with Grant Thornton on Thursday. Has anyone had a recent interview with them who can give me any tips?
Thanks

#14

Hi,

Without sounding nosey, can anyone tell me what their graduate salary offers are/were outside of London for audit/assurance with anyone of the top 6 or 7 accounting firms? Not only do I think it would answer ALOT of people’s questions, including mine, I think it helps to know what to expect when going through applications with various different firms, especially if an offer is made by a firm while other applications are progressing.

Thanks :wink:

#15

Hi,

I was just wondering which numerical and verbal tests do GT use, e.g SHL etc…

Thanks

#16

Anyone sat for the GT tests this year? How are they in terms of difficulty? Are they as tough as KPMG since they are from the same test provider (GTIOS)?

#17

I’ve sat them and got through, they are nowhere near as tough as KPMG. Took them a few weeks ago though so cant really remember any of the questions, sorry!

#18

tests are pretty standard across all the firms IMO, GT do verbal reasoning instead of logic which is pretty tough so id practise those but numerical side is straightforward enough

#19

Well, I’d personally feel that my life is most definitely not fulfilled in any way, shape or form using your criteria for a fulfilled life.

#20

Hey Guys! So i know when it comes to Salaries, all of you have questions but no information seems available online-So i thought i would help everyone by giving some appoximate figures. I have an offer from BDO which I will be taking, and a few friends of mine have offers from the big 4, so the sources of info is reliable :slight_smile: :

  1. The salaries in most accounting firms are graded according to location and line of service
  2. If you are working outside of london, your monthly salary takes a hit of approximately 10%
  3. Most of the big 4, offer a starting salary of 25-27 for london for external audit
  4. Big four outside of london offer about 23-25 starting…like I said, outside of london takes a hit of about 10%
  5. Mid tier firms(BDO and Grant Thomton)-most offer app 1-2 k lesser than the big four but you get paid for overtime, so end up making as much(so ive heard)

Hope that was helpful!