Since wikijobs has been instrumental to my success I feel I have to give something back to the community and share my experience. Who knows, someone might even find it helpful.
First, if I were to give only one advice it would be this – prepare as much as you can. Your preparation is essential for your success. Here’s how I did it:
1.Online Application: this is a fairly standard application form. Just fill in all your details and where possible try to tailor it for your position. The only latitude you are given is at the past work experience and the description of your achievements – make sure you highlight what you did and how that helped you build the skills you need for the job.
2.Psychometric Tests: This stage is somewhat tricky. The key is to practice…a lot. For the logical reasoning test I did a shit load of tests on shldirect.com. Here’s a tip – when you sit for a test the website prompts you to fill in some details about your education and professional experience. Plug-in the highest possible answers – masters degree + 15 yrs of experience in finance. I found out that the tests the system generates are harder this way.
In addition to shldirect.com I bought the test package from assessmentday.co.uk. I think it was around 30 pounds but it is well worth it. I assume you will be applying to other firms as well and they all have slightly different tests – sjt, e-tray, verbal reasoning etc. Assessmentday has all these tests so I think it is a good investment.
I did not attempt the PwC tests before I managed consistently around 3.6-.3.8 scores on shl and around 70th percentile from the tests on assessmentday. PwC is using SHL but the tests are more difficult than the ones you are going to attempt. However, the format and the style of the questions is almost identical to assessmentday.co.uk and the ones on the SHL website so you will definitely know what to expect.
IMPORTANT: when you sit for the PwC tests DO NOT aim to solve ALL the problems. The test is designed is such a way that it is almost impossible to solve all questions. Accuracy here is the key – there were 18 questions to be attempted in 25 mins. (if I remember correct) I never managed more than 13-4. Of these I think I got around 11-12 right. That was enough.
- Phone interview: after you pass the tests comes the phone interview. It is very structured and completely based on the competencies. By now you should have done a decent amount of research and know the competencies by heart. You should also sit down and list under each competency examples from your past experience which demonstrates the competency. Do not worry about the type of examples you give – just make sure you follow the STAR technique (Situation+Task+Action+Result) and be concise in your answers.
For commercial awareness read the FT, accountancyage etc. – the basic sources. I personally am an accounting major so I have been following what’s up with the profession and regulation closely for a long time so this wasn’t really something I had to prepare for. Do read the FT regularly to keep up with recent news and the general state of the economy. Prepare 1-2 stories which you would like to discuss and have an opinion on. Whatever your story do relate to PwC – how it affects or if it is a company how PwC can help.
I cannot remember specific questions but all questions were competency based: tell me about a time when you “insert competency” ? then the interviewer might ask you how you felt about or what did you learn from the experience.
Also, know the professional qualification you are going to study for.
Other than the preparation just be calm on the phone, take your time, and smile. I know it sounds weird to smile over the phone but it is very important. It changes the tone of your voice and you sound not only more enthusiastic but also more confident. The person on the other side cannot see you – he is evaluating you on what he hears and how he hears it. Keep that in mind.
Assessment centre : after the phone interview you will be invited to attend an assessment centre. The assessment centre consists of the following activities:
Psychometric tests : again, your old friends the psychometric tests, this time on paper. Nothing much to tell here –solve a few tests before the day you have the assessment centre and just go for it. Same techniques apply. Bring your own calculator – the folks at PwC will provide you with one but I recommend bringing the one you are used to – time is scarce and the last thing you want to do is lose time working with an unfamiliar calculator.
Written exercise: a lot of people stress about this for no reason. You got 30 mins to write a very brief recommendation based on information given. You will be given too much information which is the whole point – you have to skim through the file and filter the important bits. I divided my time to 10-12 mins reading the material and the rest writing.
I finished before the time was up. The structure of the report has to be clear – Short intro (tell what the topic is and what you are going to do), Body (I used bullet points for the pros/cons of each argument), Conclusion (recommend one option and briefly explain your reasoning). This is all you have to do here.
3.Group exercise: once you are done with the written exercise you will be moved to another room and do a group exercise together with 3 or 4 other candidates. The assignment itself is fairly straightforward – you are given some info about a client and some options he has and you as a team have to recommend something. The most important thing here is to be aware of the dynamics of the group. You HAVE to talk. You are evaluated on what you say and how you behave – if you say nothing you cannot pass…Just keep good eye contact with your teammates, include those who appear too silent and be professional. Smile.
- If you pass the assessment centre you have only 1 stage left – the partner interview.
It is hard to give advice here – again, PREPARE as much as you can. I had to wait for my partner interview a little more than 2 months – a long time. Once I had a date I took 1 week to prepare for it. This included 3-4 hours everyday reading the financial press, going through all the competencies and my examples, preparing a few answers about some specific questions. I read inside out all info on the PwC website – the annual report, all the bulletins, surveys, and reports they have. Whatever you do be prepared for two questions : Why PwC? Why the position you applied to? – These are very important questions and you have to answer them well! This includes understanding what the firm is all about and what your role entails. Give the interviewer a description of what you believe your day would look like. Tell them why you are excited to work with them – what excites you about the role. This is a question which you should answer not only for the interview but for yourself – you have to know why you are doing this.
The next tip is somewhat extraneous at this stage but I’ll nonetheless write it – ASK QUESTIONS. I find it weird that some people actually walk away from an interview without asking any questions…This tells the interviewer that you are simply not interested in the job… And it is kind of weird. The interview is a 2-way process – you are there to provide as much info as possible but also to extract as much as possible. You are presented with a great opportunity to speak with a senior member of the world’s biggest professional services firm. There is no way you got nothing to ask this professional. Do not be afraid and ask questions.
My interview lasted for 1hr 30mins because it just happened to be a genuinely pleasant conversation. I got asked a few (4-5) competencies and to provide examples. This lasted for around 30-40 mins. Apart from this it was just a very nice conversation on various topics – the profession, the firm, the role, the clients, the economy, the experience of the interviewer. I got interviewed by a director at PwC who has been with the firm for 16 years. My interviewer was an excellent communicator and a very pleasant person to talk to and really put me at ease from the very beginning.
I got offered the job on the spot. That was the only part I was not ready for ha-ha-ha.
DO NOT expect that your interview will be the same. Be ready for everything.
Relax, smile, and be professional. Etiquette and manners.
All in all the application for PwC was a challenge, but it is a challenge which you can prepare for and which you can ace as long as you put the effort. Along the way the student recruitment team was there for me to answer whatever stupid question I had – always professional, always with a smile.
Hope someone finds this and other posts like this useful. I sure did.