KPMG Application: Assessment Centre

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Civil Service Fast Track
#1

Hey everyone!

Firstly I want to thank the Wikijob community for helping me to get this offer from KPMG! I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help and valuable insights. As such i’m gonna write about the assessment centre that I had yesterday. I’m not sure if it’ll be 100% useful but hopefully it’ll help give you an idea about what to expect. Knowing what to expect was my greatest tool in preparing and overcoming nerves. To some extent…

BASIC LESSONS LEARNT:

Firstly though I learnt a few lessons along the way which fortunately didn’t affect the outcome but could have been avoided:
Lesson 1: Don’t be late
Lesson 2: Bring everything they ask you to bring
Lesson 3: Don’t say “Deloitte” when you mean to say “KPMG”.
Best to avoid such mishaps…

Moving on, everything that people have said about the application process has been pretty accurate. I’ll just give you my version of events.

E-TRAY EXERCISE:

Same description as everyone else. You sit at a laptop and are covering for somebody who’s taken ill at a different office. The exercise is made up of two parts.

In the first part you have 70 minutes to answer 24 emails. The emails come in an MCQ format, requiring you to choose an answer from four possible answers by looking through information already given or from the information in the emails (plus attachments to the emails) or a combination of both. Take a few minutes to skim through the info you have so you know where most things are (although the emails tend to tell you where to look anyway) and then begin. Answer them one at a time. You may have to find info, make minor calculations given preset formulas or make judgement calls. After the 70 minutes you move on to the “written” exercise.

In the 2nd part you have 50 minutes to reply to two emails. These replies have to be longer written recommendations. First go through the information you have, make some notes, and answer the emails directly, remembering to be formal and always remember to address the issues mentioned in the emails. Take 30 minutes for the first and 20 minutes for the second because the first is a bit longer.

Preparation:
Try PwC http://www.pwc.com/uk/en/careers/student/interactive-challenges.jhtml (very easy but they give you an idea about what it’ll be like; do all three challenges); Then try the Civil Service Practice E-Tray. Kinda helpful although it doesn’t tell you how you did so in that way it’s not great.

TRAINEE LUNCH:

NOT assessed so don’t worry. At the beginning of the day they handed out menus and told us to tick what we wanted. Make sure you choose something hearty because you have plenty of time in between the e-tray exercise and the next session of tests to digest. More importantly, use the time well to talk to the trainees and get an idea about what they do, whether they like the job, etc etc. Just chatting with one of the lovely trainees helped make me feel confident that I was making the right choice about joining KPMG. And confidence is definitely one of the biggest factors in having a successful interview. If you consider it a learning experience and remember that you’re not actually going to die during the company presentation or interview (contrary to what your shaking bones and butterfly-filled stomach say) you’ll do fine!

GROUP EXERCISE:

At the beginning of the day they’ll let you know how your group is to be divided, ie, whether you do your group exercise first or your company presentation and partner interview first. I did the GE first.

You’re given 10 minutes to read through a booklet (concerning one of the firms from the E-tray exercise). Skim and take quick notes.
Then you have 30-35 minutes (i forget) to discuss. I must say I was very lucky. I was in a group with four wonderful young candidates, all of whom were fantastic team-mates. None were the bossy, overbearing type that I’ve heard about. Try to start off deciding on how to structure the discussion.

We all gave each other opportunities to speak, nobody spoke over anyone else, we all contributed valuable points, we all agreed on the final outcome. Somebody should also keep time to help move the group along. We used the last 5 minutes to decide who was going to say what.

10 minute presentation (not to be confused with company presentation to be made to partner later): best to let everyone in the group speak about a section. Divide it as equally as possible but let people speak about what they’re comfortable with as they won’t have much time to prepare for it and will be flustered if they talk about smth they’re not so familiar with, ie, let people talk about the points they brought up themselves, if possible.

COMPANY PRESENTATION AND PARTNER INTERVIEW:

Final step. You’re taken to a room by your partner. My partner was a really nice person. Other candidates and the trainees agreed that the partners are all nice.

You’re asked to prepare a company presentation beforehand. 10 minutes to talk about your firm making suggestions for how they can improve/expand their business. You should make a handout to give to the interviewer for him/her to take notes on. After I was done talking (for roughly 10 minutes, no pressure on that, it can go to 12 or 8 if you want) I was asked some questions about it. Make sure you’re prepared to back up the points that you feel will get the most queries, ie, if you suggest something for a firm to take on that hasn’t been done before, then you need to back it up because there’s probably a good reason why it hasnt been implemented already in real life.

After that (lasting about 15 minutes in total really), we get on to the interview part. Now, i was very surprised at this point. I was asked a few basic competency questions: Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough decision; when you achieved a goal; when you refused to listen to somebody’s advice and so on. Not many questions, 6 or 7 main ones with follow up questions about how i felt, how i acted, what others said of me, etc. What surprised me though was that I wasn’t asked anything about why I wanted to join KPMG, what’s affecting audit, etc. Nothing! The interview ended after around an hour and i got a chance to ask some questions and that was that.

I then got a call later that evening from the partner who said KPMG were going to offer me the job. I was so impressed that I was called that very day. It really meant a lot to me and I knew that among the people who deserve my thanks, the whole Wikijob community deserves much of it.

Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions if you want and best of luck with everyone else’s respective job hunts!

#2

Hi.

Thanks very much for posting your experiences, it’s always useful to hear another perspective regardless of how many have already been posted!

Although everyone says not to worry, I cant help but be worried about the partner interview! May I ask which firm you decided to present on? And, if you dont mind, briefly what you proposed?

Thanks very much, and congratulations on the offer!

#3

Hey there,

I totally understand. I was shi**ing myself for much of the day. But the only way to cope is to prepare as much as possible beforehand. Practise interview questions and answers and practise delivering your presentation (you can sit in front of him/her, put your handouts down in front of you, read bits out, refer to it if u need to, etc. so it’s very low-key and informal) as much as possible. That’s the only way to stop your nerves from taking over you.

With regards to my presentation, I chose a uk supermarket chain (I apologise dy but i’d rather not say which one exactly) and made suggestions along the lines of expansion across the UK, purchasing a different chain, updating the supply chain system, etc. It’s important to choose a company and stick to it early on so that you don’t waste preparation time at home flitting between different choices. Analyse what it does currently and what you think it should do to expand further (it can be as obvious as going abroad, concentrating on cost efficiency/product diversification or acquiring/merging with another firm). Many candidates chose small firms so that external questions from the interviewer about the firm could be kept to a minimum; they could then also suggest things which larger firms do as a rule making it easy to make suggestions. I and others went with a relatively big firm and although I found areas I could talk about, I nearly drowned under all the information. Choosing such a firm also meant that I left myself open to lots of questions. I was lucky in that respect though as I wasn’t asked too many questions afterwards and anyway from all my research (15+ hours worth) I knew lots about the firm.

MOST importantly regarding the interview, be yourself and try and relax. And the best way to relax by far, is to have examples ready of experiences that actually happened to you; that you enjoyed and remember clearly so that your enjoyment in relating the story can be seen in your expression. I spoke about fun incidents from my past that actually answered the question and therefore showed him that I was the kind of person who would fit in well with the rest of the people.

Earlier upon chatting with the trainees and realising what they’re like I found that they’re all (of the 3 i met) young and fun-loving. One of them mentioned that KPMG is like uni in that it has societies for everything! Thinking about that helped me relax prior to the interview.

Best of luck. And thanks for the congrats!

#4

Thanks for your reply.

I think the trouble is, a lot of the firms I’m looking at doing are quoted, and publicly state their strategy and goals; I therefore find it hard to come up with anything original. Perhaps I should look at some smaller, private firms? Obviously I can add in my own thoughts etc, but I dont want to feel like the basis of my presentation has just been lifted from their accounts!

I’m worried about the competency bit too - I don’t have an amazing amount of things to speak about to be honest!

Yeah the culture at KPMG sounds awesome, I don’t think anyone has a bad word to say about it!

Thanks again

#5

Try and choose a firm about whom you can think of something original/different to say, or at least, one which doesn’t talk about its strategy/goals so openly. That’s exactly why some of the candidates choose smaller firms. But it’s totally up to you. Choose a firm that you know about and are actually interested in. The partner will also ask you why you chose it.

Well, note that apart from work, studies and work in official societies, you can still speak about anything you’ve been doing over the course of your life. Sports, extracurricular stuff, your pastimes, anything you’ve learnt like music or languages, travelling, any society you were part of at uni, etc. These interviews really force you to do some self-analysis, something I was uncomfortable with to start with but then got used to.

#6

Hey thanks for the advice, my assessment centre is next week and i’m really getting scared now. I didnt realise there was another presentation after the group exercise.

dy - out of interest when is your assessment day?

#7

I’m getting scared too! I still cant decide on a company! I’m well too indecisive…

Mines on the 23rd mate. When’s yours? You know what company you’re presenting on?!

Cheers

#8

Hi to ThanksEveryone - that was very informative. Congrats on the offer - getting a job at KPMG is a job in itself. LOL.

So, the part where you get to ask questions, what kind of questions did you ask? I always get stuck here.

#9

Hey Candice thanks a lot for the congrats.

At the question-asking point I was actually very interested in knowing about what the partner really does everyday. Therefore first question should be along the lines: “So can you tell me a little bit more about the business unit that you work in?”

Other questions can include:
“Have you ever worked on secondments with KPMG?” Showing interest in wanting to go abroad, travel and learn about new cultures as part of the program.
“Where and what did you study?” Showing curiosity in how people with different academic backgrounds do at KPMG.
“Were I lucky enough to be chosen, would I be able to move to different departments after my training scheme is over?” Showing desire to work with KPMG beyond initial 3 years.

Ask some questions that you were actually preparing to be asked, if he/she doesnt ask you them, eg:
“How has the current economic climate been affecting the firm?”
“How have incidences of fraud affected KPMG?”

These should be enough questions to start with for sure. From there you can play it by ear and ask questions within questions. It’s BEST to ask about issues you are actually interested in. They’ll see that interest and be impressed by your curiosity in the firm.

Hope that helps!

#10

Thanks! Soon I’ll be dispensing advice like you from the other side of the KPMG fence too!

#11

Thanks! Soon I’ll be dispensing advice like you from the other side of the KPMG fence too!

#12

I’m not playing the two up against each other, but between EY and KPMG, what distinguishes the two? I love what I’ve learned about KPMG. The culture. The work. The way they do things there. I’ve spoken to people who worked in the office I’d work in and they’ve loved it. So EY would have to be pretty revolutionary to redirect my affections, as it were.

So, what are your thoughts?

#13

Well, for me personally that’s a tough one as I never applied to EY and so didn’t do much research into them. I was looking more at PwC and Deloitte after KPMG. As for the top two, i firstly felt, from the interviews, that the people were not really as open and friendly as in KPMG. The Deloitte interview wasnt very involving and the questions were neither here nor there. The interviewer didnt seem too interested. At PwC the interviewer was a bit brutal at times, catching me offguard and making me feel the heat, basically.

The trick is that, depending on which firm you’re applying to, u should take the “What differentiates our firm” question as an opportunity to just talk about things you’ve learnt about the firm, not necessarily what differentiatesi it completely from its competitors. As we know, there’s not always a huge difference between what the firms offer their employees. U can for instance talk about how u like the culture, the testimonies u’ve seen, the opportunities, etc, plus u can talk about any awards that that company has won which the other hasn’t.

Sorry if I’ve been rambling, but as u well know, it’s a tough question to answer and requires some real research on your part to decide what to talk about.

If u can see that EY offers the same sort of things but has won awards for something else it’s done (CSR awards for instance), then that’s a differentiating factor.

#14

Alright - thanks ThanksEveryone. :slight_smile:

I’ve been in contact with a few people who might be able to give me inside info on EY’s company culture, but I’m pretty much still poster girl for KPMG.

Do you mind me asking when you will start at KPMG and in which division?

#15

Gonna be starting Audit next October. Am really looking forward to it!

#16

Nullis secunda, my friend! So, KICK ASS! WOOHOO!!

Thanks for all your help - much appreciated. :slight_smile:

#17

Hey,

Thanks everyone for all the tips and advice, i have my AC on Thursday and i am getting very nervous!

I’m just wondering does anyone have more tips on the partner interview and what type of questions you maybe asked? Also, and this may sound like a stupid question but do you know where you go for the lunch? Its just i currently work around the corner from KPMG and i am afraid i will be spotted!

Thanks!

#18

So the group assessment and the partner interview happens on the same day. They booked me in for a two hour slot. Is it really that short?

#19

Well my AC is a full day, and I’m pretty sure most other peoples are. Is this not a first interview?

#20

I did the questionnaires and then got invited to an interview, after which I did the online reasoning test. It was after this that I was invited to an “Assessment Workshop” scheduled from 12pm - 2pm. So, no it can’t be a first interview.

Oh hat. lol