I just got an offer from PwC Assurance, and as with many of the other members here, I wanted to give something back, since this website has helped me so much. So here’s what I went through, or as much of it as I can remember. I’ll try not to repeat the same information that the main Wikijobs PwC page has, and list some other resources that may not have been mentioned before.
The first thing you’ll go through is the application form. This includes just the standard personal/contact details, education and employment information. There are some “Additional Information” spaces where you can sell your extra-curriculars or prizes but really not very much space at all, and there are no “why PwC/why Audit/what do you think you’ll be doing in your first year” questions, as opposed to the other Big 4 firms. Being the initial stage, they won’t screen anyone out unless you’re not expected a 2:1.
The second stage is the SHL psychometric tests you’ll take online. PwC Assurance tests you on Numerical and Diagrammatical (Inductive Logic), but not Verbal (other service lines may differ). Practise practise practise! Find as many resources as you can, there are plenty of free ones all over the web. The best are the SHL practice tests given that it’s the actual system PwC uses. I’ve also found http://www.assessmentday.co.uk/ really useful, and I haven’t seen it listed elsewhere. Wikijobs runs its own practice tests, and you can try Cubix and Saville Consulting which are the systems used by the other Big 4 firms.
The online SHL tests do not allow you to go back to previous questions, so time yourself appropriately. It’s also in painfully small font so be prepared to squint. Don’t worry too much if you run out of time, it’s somewhat expected.
Then you have two untimed tests: a Student Talent Questionnaire and a Personality Questionnaire. The Talent Questionnaire asks you various questions about work situations and asks you to choose which option you would undertake, such as when you don’t understand something would you A) research it yourself B) go ask your colleagues C) go ask your boss D) go ask your client. I don’t know what they’re really looking for here so just be honest and write what seems like common sense to you.
The Personality Questionnaire is about whether the Assurance lifestyle would be a good fit for you. For example, they would give you 3 options such as A) I detest mundane tasks B) I am optimistic about future prospects C) I change my persona depending on whom I am with. Then you would have to select “Most like me” for one of them and “Least like me” for one of them, leaving the last one to be neutral. Here I don’t know what they’re looking for either so just be honest, though I do remember Least Liking “I detest mundane tasks” quite a lot. You will be given something like 102 sets of 3 options, and most options will just be some altered iteration of the same personality trait. Don’t worry about it, they’re just trying to build up a consistent picture of your personality.
They do screen people out based on the Talent and the Personality Questionnaire, but I recommend honesty for the simple fact that, worse than getting rejected for a job would be getting accepted for it and then realising your personality really doesn’t fit the lifestyle, and quitting after a year and having to pay for the ACA costs.
The third stage has changed since the last time the main Wikijobs PwC page was updated, and is now a long 500 word application question:
“Imagine you are working at PwC. If you could choose an ideal client to advise, who would it be? Your ideal client does not have to be a current client of PwC.
In answering this question please provide us with answers to the following:
• Who is your ideal client and what services do they provide?
• What services and advice could PwC offer this client?
• What commercial/industry issues are affecting this client in the business market that should be taken into account when a providing them with advice? (500 words max)”
Do your research well, and write at least 450 words. Get your family and friends to proofread it for grammar and punctuation, tone and content. Write about a client that you’re interested in enough that you would be confident discussing in an interview. It can be anything from Tesco to ASOS. If you really haven’t been interested in a brand for a while then find a new one and do even more research. Use numbers and figures if you can, they always stand out in a paragraph and make your answer look more professional.
Your first interview can be face-to-face or a phone interview, and with an Assurance Manager or someone from HR. It will be a competency based interview, specifically structured around 6 of the Global Core Competencies: Coaching, Communicating, Team success, Project management, Agile with Change, and Commercial Expertise. There are example questions all over this website but some of the more challenging ones that I got were: “Tell me of a time when you received negative feedback and how did you respond to it?” “Tell me about a piece of business news that has interested you recently?” followed by “What would you advise this business if it were a client of PwC?” Be specific, concise and conclude by going back to the same phrasing used in the question to ensure that you’re answering the question, otherwise your interviewer will have to repeat themselves and ask you to deliver the exact point.
As with the psychometric tests, practise as much as you can. First copy and paste all the example questions you can find on this site into a Word document and then prepare answers to each question in short notes form. Get your family or friends to test you on them, force yourself to explain your experience to others in a way that they can understand. If you’re doing a phone interview, one advantage you have is to lay out your notes and your CV in front of you or on a laptop screen, so that you can refer back to them during your thinking time.
The new assessment centre includes 3 things: a written report, a group exercise and paper psychometric tests. The briefing for the written report isn’t difficult to absorb: different measures to tackle water conservation, but given that you only have 30 minutes to read and write the report, time is a serious constraint. I left myself 15 minutes to write the report and couldn’t finish it with a justifiable conclusion, so maybe read quickly for 10 minutes and leave yourself 20 minutes for writing it. Write the report in short bullet points of pros and cons, not paragraphs as it’s meant to be a report instead of an essay. Start with a short introduction and finish by concluding with your proposed measure and explain why.
The group exercise is surprisingly fun, you have 20 minutes to read a general briefing that is available to everyone in the group, and an individual briefing that is private information to you, which you will have to deliver to the other members within the 30 minutes of your discussion time. Identify the key goals and always refer back to them (usually profitability and sustainability), watch the time and keep track of the budget. Remember that your role is to inform others of your private briefing, not to persuade others that your briefing is the best. This is very different from a sales pitch at a banking group exercise, so don’t get too attached to your randomly assigned private briefing. The worst thing is to dominate the group and not listen to others. Actively include others when possible, and make new suggestions when available (e.g. why not consider PR in addition to just profits?) Halfway through the exercise you will receive new information such as a budget cut, and they want to see how you respond to that.
The paper psychometric tests are also supplied by SHL, so the content and difficulty will be the same, but with the advantage that you can go back to previous questions so feel free to leave long-working-out questions or difficult questions until the end to go back to. Time is again quite tight, 20 questions in 20 minutes for the numerical, and 40 questions in 20 minutes for the diagrammatic. Given that this is the only part of the assessment centre you can realistically practise for, I’d recommend practising for it lots, maybe going back to old practice tests and going through them again to increase speed.
The last interview will be with a partner or a director of the firm, and will focus on the last 4 PwC global core competencies: Curiosity, Client service, Relationships, Courage and integrity. This will be much less Question/Answer structured than the first interview, and really will be at the discretion of your senior. Mine was very nice and also came from an Economics background, so we talked a lot about the UK economy; maybe they try and match you with a similarly-minded senior. Be probing and ask a lot of questions, both prepared ones and spontaneous ones. Try to grab on to points your senior is making and ask him/her to elaborate further or follow up with a question that is directly related to what he/she is saying, to signal that you’re actually listening and understanding. If the interview flows like a conversation, and your senior is doing a fair share of the talking then it should be a good sign.
The application process for any big company is long and arduous, but surely worthwhile. Just keep at it, perhaps complete stages of the process at different companies at the same time: Week 1 Application Form, Week 2 Psychometric tests, etc. For me, PwC’s HR department has been absolutely fantastic in getting back to me promptly, but this will vary depending on the time when you’re applying. PwC will also provide feedback for you after the first interview and the assessment centre, make sure to listen to them and compensate for what you’re lacking. Personally I really enjoyed the group exercise and the partner interview, and I hope you will too! Smile, be confident, and be patient. Even if you don’t get it it’s not the end of the world, there are plenty of other jobs out there and ultimately you only need one. Good luck, and feel free to post any questions, I should be checking back until September at least!
http://www.assessmentday.co.uk/ Second best to only SHL in practising psychometrics.
http://www.accountancyage.com/ Premier accountancy magazine, great for researching a piece of “recent accountancy-relevant news”. Popular right now is “audit reform”: the Competition Commission investigation into the competitiveness within the audit industry, but know your stuff if that’s what you choose since it will be highly scrutinised.
http://www.accountancyprofession.com/ Collates all the accountancy-relevant news from around the web.
http://www.economist.com/ Great for researching a piece of business news, no paywall like the FT.
http://www.pwc.com/uk/en/careers/student/about-pwc.jhtml Obviously. Read everything, the global core competencies and then go back to the main (non-careers) page and see it from a non-careers perspective. Order a free brochure.
http://www.youtube.com/user/careerspwc Fairly useful videos, more for gaining insight into what different service lines do.
http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=262 Talk to other students going through the same process.