I have just been offered a position for the 2011 Performance and Technology programme in Advisory. Like many others, I found the information given by previous applicants within this forum invaluable, so I have provided a walkthrough of my own experience.
Application – Make sure you have read every single part of the KPMG graduate website and have watched all of the relevant videos. Only this way will you be fully prepared for answering the three questions which they ask:
What attracts you most to the position you have applied for?
Why do you want to work for KPMG?
What do you think you will be doing in your first year at KPMG.
When answering these, make sure you answer the question. Don’t edit an answer you have used for another application, as this just doesn’t work. Another obvious point, check your spelling and grammar! Some people have said that they didn’t get up to 100 words. In my opinion, there is a lot of write about, so ask yourself if you’re missing something if you can only write 50 words.
Online Tests - I submitted my application on a Sunday, and received the links to the online tests on the following Thursday. Ignore anyone on here who says that if you don’t hear within 24 hours, you haven’t made it through. That’s rubbish! It just depends on how busy they are. If I remember correctly, the PAPI questionnaire is first. This is fairly simple, just answer truthfully. Don’t bother trying to guess what they want to hear, as there are so many questions which ask similar things, you’re bound to end up contradicting yourself. I personally found the verbal reasoning test more difficult than the numerical test. I took out a few books from the library for practice, and bought the package available on the Assessment Day website. This really helped me get into the right mind set, and to get used to answering the questions under pressure.
The numerical reasoning test wasn’t too bad. You have 20 minutes to answer 24 questions. Make sure you have a scientific calculator that you are familiar with. I managed to answer 23 questions, however I know of people who answered 15 and got through. You have to be in the 30th percentile to pass, so practise beforehand and you’ll be fine. This is where I would again recommend using Assessment Day. Their tests are roughly similar, and will allow you to make common mistakes when it doesn’t matter, rather than in the real thing. By this I mean things like misreading the units on a graph, or missing the fact that the results on a graph are cumulative.
When it came to the verbal reasoning test, the text was more complex than I had expected. This threw me a little and probably cost me a minute or so, so be warned. Just make sure you concentrate for the whole time, read the paragraphs carefully, and don’t worry if it looks like you won’t complete it. It was a while ago now, but I think there were 40 questions to complete in 20 minutes. I didn’t finish and still did fairly well, so just don’t panic when you start running out of time.
First Round Interview - At each stage of this process I searched through the whole of wikijobs to find information on that particular stage. This proved particularly useful for the telephone interview, as I trawled through the forum and noted every single interview question I could find. It’s fairly time consuming, but if you really want the job then it’s worth it! By the time the interview came I had prepared two examples for each question (though I didn’t learn answers for each as this would have taken far too long). I wasn’t asked a single question in the interview, that I hadn’t already seen and prepared for, so it definitely pays off.
As other people have said, the interview is competency based to begin with, and the questions will be on the competencies listed within the email which they send you. As others have mentioned, this is not a trick! You will be asked questions on those areas , so make sure you are well prepared. They will then move onto questions regarding KPMG and the current business news. The questions ‘Why KPMG?’, ‘Why you chosen service line?’ and ‘Why KPMG and not one of the other big firms?’ WILL come up. You’re missing easy brownie points if you haven’t come up with answers for these. Regarding questions on current affairs, all you can really do is put the time in and read the news. I personally read the economist each week, the Times and the odd Financial Times. If you’re short on time, buy them anyway and just read the articles that interest you/articles that you want to focus on in the interview. I prepared examples of companies that are doing well and companies that are doing badly, as advised on here.
Assessment Day - Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying I enjoyed this experience, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. The staff are very friendly (including the partner) and they will make sure that you’re as relaxed as possible. As soon as I arrived I tried to start talking to the other candidates (8 of us in total) so that the day would be slightly more enjoyable. Remember, you’re not in competition with any of the others (no-one at my assessment day was even applying for the same service line, some weren’t even applying to the London office), you’ll be judged against a benchmark which KPMG set. There is no benefit in an aggressive or competitive manner. If anything, this will ruin your chances.
First up was the e-tray exercise. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting this to be so difficult. As I said earlier, make sure you read everyone else’s experience of this part to get an idea of what’s involved as I won’t go through the details here. Regarding the first part, where you have to answer 24 emails, I would recommend just skimming over the text to begin with. As others have noted on here, you can jump straight into the questions as a lot of them tell you where to find the information, but you may miss a key point which is in a different part of the booklet. It’s worth browsing through the booklet for 5 or so minutes, noting roughly where the information is for each of the three projects which you have to deal with. I would highly recommend concentrating on one project at a time. There is absolutely no point in answering them in date order (i.e going between different projects). Once you have a grasp on what a particular project is about, you may as well stick with that while it’s fresh in your mind. The questions are multiple choice. Practise the e-tray exercise on the Civil Service website, as the format is exactly the same.
The second part of the e-tray exercise involves answering two longer emails. Definitely start with the opening and closing paragraphs as this means that your email will look ‘finished’ once you run out of time. Make sure you check your SPAG. Try and allow 25 minutes for each part, otherwise you might panic if you’ve only left yourself ten minutes to answer the second email.
Having read everyone else’s thoughts on the group exercise, this was by far the easiest part. All you have to do is read through the booklet for ten minutes and then come up with four recommendations on how to improve the customer service of a company that’s essentially like Play.com. The booklet is long, but mostly graphs (results from a customer survey) so it should be possible to get through the whole thing. The discussion is then easy (especially if you’ve been chatting to the others all day). Obvious point: don’t interrupt, make sure you contribute, keep your eye on the clock, be polite, note down possible improvements as you read the booklet. Don’t really worry too much about the ‘presentation’ at the end. Very informal, and no one cares what/how you make the points, the focus is on the discussion.
My partner was really friendly. I initially tried to learn my presentation, but soon realised that there was absolutely no point. There is so much else to prepare for, and you won’t lose anything by having some notes with a few bullet points. You’ll be sitting down, and you won’t be able to use powerpoint/flip chart paper. I didn’t even make any handouts, as I didn’t feel that they would add anything to the presentation. Don’t make some just for the sake of it, as there really isn’t any need. If there are some numbers that you could perhaps put into a graph, you could make a handout, but only if it is relevant to what you are saying. My structure was: Basics of company (what it does, when it started, competitors), two recommendations, and conclusion.
You’ll then be asked some competency questions. These are very simple to prepare for if you created a list of possible questions at the telephone interview stage. Answer truthfully, and just demonstrate that you have experience in the relevant areas. I personally wasn’t asked any business related questions, but I know others have so be prepared anyway. I got a call the following day with an offer.
Hope this helps. Feel free to ask any questions…