PwC Assurance 2011

Tesco
#1

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.
Application Form
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.
Psychometric tests
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.
Application question
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.
First interview
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.
Assessment Centre
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.
Senior Interview
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.
Final thoughts
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! :slight_smile:
Additional resources
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.

#2

Oh, I can’t seem to edit my post any more but for the people with Assessment Centres/Interviews at 7 More London, don’t trust Google Maps with the postcode, SE1 2RT takes you to a wrong location in the middle of Newington. You want to use the street address 7 More London which is on the riverfront, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and opposite Ernst and Young. Two people in my assessment centre had gone to the wrong address and had to arrive late, don’t let that be you. I’ve contacted Google Maps to correct this but I can’t believe PwC haven’t done it themselves!

#3

Hi, some really helpful advice there. I’m in the proces of applying myself for an Assurance post in Public Services - IT Risk and Security, and I’ve gotten to the application question. Do you know if you have to make it relevant to the position you are applying to or just describe an ideal client and how PwC could help them. Because I feel I can write a better response for a business client than a public one.

Any help would be much appreciated,
Thanks.

#4

No, you don’t have to make it relevant to the exact service line you are applying to. In fact, they prefer it if you can explain how each service line within PwC can offer this client (so “Assurance can…; Tax can…; Consulting can…”). If you feel like you can write a better answer for a private rather than a public client then that’s fine, go for it. :slight_smile:

#5

Ahh thats great, because I was getting a little worried that I wouldnt be able to properly write about a public client as I dont have as much knowledge. Guess I’ll get working on my answer, thanks for the advice and well done on getting a job!

#6

@arthurmauk…Thanks for your advice which helped me a lot to prepare for the assessment day…I applied for Assurance…One thing I would like to know is :- I did 33 out of 40 diagrammatic questions out of which worst case scenario something greater than 28 should be correct…Is it enough since I heard they have individual cut offs in each of the four aspects ?..as far as other parts are concerned…I did 20 out 20 in numerical…and all of them should be correct…i managed to finish the report within 30 minutes…in a structured manner just as I planned…and had a super group exercise where I managed to match every checklist I had before for a perfect one…so, I am sure I will go through the rest 3…but certainly concerned about diagrammatic test …I totally understand that it might be tough for you to predict…but if you could do reflecting back on your own exercise, it will be great…:slight_smile:

#7

I don’t want to get your hopes up but if everything went as well as you say it did, then you should be through to the senior interview. :slight_smile: I’ve heard (just hearsay and rumours, not confirmed) that the cutoff mark is 60% for the tests, so 28 out of 40 should be enough to not drag you down. In the meantime, just do some preparation for the final interview so that you’ll be ready for it, you should hear back from PwC soon, good luck! :slight_smile:

#8

Thank You…Hope so

#9

@arthurmauk…Got through…Now partner interview…I will send you a pm here at wikijob…

#10

Congrats! Looking forward to it.

In the meantime, here’s another resource on specifically numerical tests: http://www.numericaltesthelp.com/

#11

Hello Arthur,
I am applying for RAS 2012 Apr. I have a senior/partner interview coming up on 15th of Sep. I know only two days left, but I am pretty nervous. Could you tell me about your experience, bad or good, hope good:) Thank you very much.

#12

Hey soorzhak, congrats on getting into the final round, it won’t be long now! I don’t want to just repeat what I said in my original post, so I’ll just copy and paste what I’ve PMed to some other people asking about the partner interview.

My particular senior did ask me quite a few commercial questions: “Tell me about a particular industry that you’re interested in” (you might want to draw from your 500 word application question if you feel satisfied with that) and “What do you think the future prospects for the UK economy?” But as I said in my post, it is almost completely at your partner’s discretion, so yours might be less commercial awareness-based. I personally don’t think I did very well on those (haven’t received interview feedback yet) but I did my best and tried to make a stand. One comforting point is that commercial awareness is something that A LOT of applicants lack, a friend of mine who got in for 2011 received feedback saying that she was also lacking in commercial awareness, but not any more than the average applicant so just brush up on it before entering work.

In addition to asking lots of unrehearsed questions that directly follow from what your senior is saying, be aware of the delicate balance between being persuasive and being stubborn. If the partner asks you for an opinion, make sure you have one, be prepared to argue for it but then be prepared also to back down in the face of overwhelming evidence. I actually think I went overboard in that I folded as soon as my senior made a strong counter-argument (this was about whether the MPC should increase interest rates) and that might have made me look like I don’t believe in my stance enough and cannot persuasively argue my point. But it’s a delicate balance I admit, since you don’t want to be seen as being stubborn either. Ultimately, just stay alert and try to sense how far you should push your point.

Other than that I don’t really have very much more advice. The 4 competencies they are supposedly testing here are Curiosity, Client service, Relationships, Courage and integrity (you might have been told this via phone already) but they don’t really stick to a script so it’s less easy to rehearse than the first interview. If you have time then do so anyway, get your family or friends to ask you those competency questions and explain your experiences back to them. Good luck, and let me know how it goes! :slight_smile:

#13

THanks arthurmauk
I had my assessment centre at More Place as well! And you are so right about the direction! The good thing was I asked ppl around so i still managed on time!

I passed the AC and now looking forward to the partner interview. I have heard partner interview is more easy than the initial! one of the pwc rep in our AC said they didnt talk abt nething apart frm football in his partner interview! Whats your opinion about it

#14

Well I don’t know if it’s meant to be easier, but I did find mine to be more interesting given the partner has much more discretion on his/her questions and doesn’t have to read off a script. As I mentioned my interviewer and I talked a lot about economics, but that would probably be very different with your interview. Don’t be complacent and not prepare - people have failed at the last hurdle before, and that hurdle is clearly there for good reason. Just prepare well and go in with a smile and you’ll be fine. :slight_smile:

#15

hi arthur - thanks for your post above - really helpful about the procedure!!!

i have a question - ive just had my telephone interview - do you know approximately how long it is before they get back to you? my interviewer said up to 10 days???

#16

The time they take to get back to you varies across the year, so I’d take your interviewer’s word. If they have a lot of interviewees to get through then they’d take longer to get back to you. Thankfully “up to” ten days is an upper limit, so you’ll probably hear back within 6-8 days. I know it’s difficult to do but just try to forget about it for now, prepare for your other interviews or the next stage at PwC (Assessment Centre, with some psychometric tests), good luck! :slight_smile:

#17

Hey arthur…do you think that the individual exercise for the assurance for everyone will be the same?

#18

well, it might be, might not be…there should be at least 2-3 sets…however, I think on a particular day, the same exercise will be given to everyone…

#19

If you’re talking about the written report at the assessment centre, Ronnie’s right. The same exercise will definitely be given to everyone to ensure fairness. I’d even go so far as to say that the same exercise will be given to everyone across the country and in the next few years until they change it, since I know someone who joined 3 years ago who was given the exact same exercise about water conservation solutions.

#20

thanks …im worried about how to write the report. Someone in careers at my uni said it should be paragraphs but you said bullet points but i guess youve done it. Can you also give me some tips for that water conservation exercise…do you think i should make a recommendation first…then argue other issues later on… and also what are we likely to be recommending… Also could you give me some poniters for the group exercise…what is it about and what do you do individually and any tips for that

Cheers