I finally made it through the full application process the other day, and since this forum has been really helpful to me throughout, I thought I’d share my own experience.
Application form-wise I found the walk through on the wiki very helpful, and likewise the many posts on the forum.
- Please provide us with your understanding of the services offered by the firm and in particular, the work undertaken in your chosen line of service (maximum 150 words).*
This should be fairly easy to answer with information from the PwC website. You can also look at the audit and tax pages on this wiki to get further ideas of what these services actually involve. Don’t forget to go into more detail in the area that you’re applying to!
- From a business perspective, if you were to join PwC, which organisation would be your ideal client and what services do you think PwC would be providing to enhance the organisation’s continued business success (maximum 150 words)? Please note the organisation does not have to be a current client of PwC.
Personally I chose a company which is audited by PwC, but er, I thought it was another of the Big Four and didn’t bother to double check til just before my AC, which was a good thing as it came out in my partner interview, and in quite a bit of detail! Things like size, whether they’re multinationals, US listings and the attendant Sarbox issues are probably the obvious factors to look for.
The 3rd question is on teamwork, and that’s going to be an entirely personal example, so there’s not much point elaborating on that one!
Anyway, they got back to me in 6 working days, and asked me to complete the online tests.
PwC differs here from the other Big 4 companies in that they don’t have a verbal test, they have a diagrammatic test instead. I personally found this more challenging than the numerical test, though arguably more fun. The questions, if taken individually, are not all that bad, but doing 20 in a row with a time limit does rather make your eyes cross by the time you get to the end! The easiest way I’ve found to tackle the questions is to look at each component individually and watch how it moves, and eliminate the answers accordingly. Practice is key for both the tests, and I did the SHL practice tests as well as the numerical tests on here and on efinancialcareers. Be aware that the diagrammatic test in particular is harder than the practice test given on the SHL website, or at least it was in my case!
I had a telephone interview at this stage. I took all the usual advice about telephone interviews, dressed up, had water nearby, smiled a lot to myself etc. I found I was pacing back and forth through the room rather than being able to sit down and answer questions though, so do whatever makes you feel comfortable. I also had notes open on my laptop, though I didn’t really refer to them, as I felt that it would make an obvious break in the conversation. They were useful in one case though, where I completely blanked on the ACA format, so there’s certainly one advantage of the phone interview.
Questions I got asked were:
- When did you provide feedback to someone?
- When did you receive constructive feedback from someone and how did you respond and deal with it?
- What do you do in your free time to unwind?
- Describe a time when you failed at what you wanted to do.
- What is your understanding of audit?
- Talk about recent events in the business world.
I talked about the effect that Obama’s election was likely to have on the business world, in terms of his opinion of fair value (audit), his anti-tax haven stance and possible protectionist stance. I also talked about the Ford/GM/Chrysler crisis, and their asking the US govt for a bailout, and she went on to ask me what I thought had brought them to this point, and what I would recommend if I were in a position to advise them.
- What is the structure of the assurance department in PwC London.
- What do you know about the ACA
a. Have you spoken to anyone who has taken the exams?
- Do you know how your time is split between studying and work?
- Describe a time when you worked in a team
- What did you do to resolve differences within the team
- How was the team structured, and what was your role?
- Was there a time when a team member didn’t perform in a team and how did you deal with it?
For the teamwork questions, she mentioned the example I had given in my application form and then asked me for another one, so have at least two examples prepared!
My interviewer was a HR manager, and she was very professional, so much so that it was difficult to really build a rapport, and I had little idea of how I was doing. She wasn’t unfriendly, but it wasn’t really a proper conversation, however thankfully the next morning I got an email saying that I was through to the assessment centre.
I was contacted a few days before the AC with some feedback from my first interview, which I thought was a very nice touch. They seem to really want you to be as prepared as possible. The assessment centre followed the format on the wiki very closely, and there were no unexpected surprises. I’ve heard that some people have had to take verbal tests, but everyone on my day only did the numerical and logical reasoning tests. They are in the same style as the online ones, and with 20 questions in 20 minutes for the numerical and 40 questions in 20 minutes for the logical reasoning. For the latter, the chart appears to change every question, but there are in fact 3 or 4 questions per chart, just spaced out through the booklet. You might want to deal with all of the ones for one chart first then the next, but personally I think that would waste a lot of time flipping back and forth, and that right at the test is not the time to experiment and discombobulate yourself. Don’t feel like you have to finish every question, I missed 6 of the numerical and 6 of the diagrammatic and was still in the 70+ percentile range for both.
Then you do either the partner interview or the group assessment.
The group assessment is nerve-wracking, and my group did not quite achieve the goals they set out for us, and I’ve not heard of one that did, but I felt overall we did a good job in collaborating. You get 20 minutes to read the information before the group discussion, and I found that ample time to read through everything, make some notes and draw up a framework for the plan, with a few minutes at the end to continue stressing out. Try and keep an eye on the time, notify people when there’s 10 minutes left or whatever, maybe keep a running tally of the budget (calculators are available for this purpose). Don’t forget to allow others to speak, or ask for their opinion if they seem to be keeping quiet. Apart from helping your personal cause, everyone has essential information that you need to draw out to do well in the assessment anyway. I think that if you are able to make yourself relax a bit you’re much more likely to do well in this section. If people seem to be going off track, try to summarise the decisions taken so far and direct discussion toward what else needs to be done.
The partner interview was the part I was most worried about, but turned out the best of the 3. I have quite an extensive amount of work experience, part time and holiday jobs and the like, and was asked in detail about a few of them, and the competency questions were sort of woven into those. It was much easier to answer them like that than when they ask point blank “Give me an example of a time when…” type questions that aren’t really related to anything. As I mentioned, I was asked about the company I talked about as an ideal client, and we went into some detail, both on the conglomerate level and the level of their subsidiary, and areas of risk during an audit in the current economic climate. However, I’m from an accounting background, so perhaps that’s what led to the rather more technical questions.
Some of the questions I remember were:
- Tell me about a situation where you needed to raise an issue, say where someone was doing something not quite right. How did you approach this, and what was the end result?
- (Related to the above) What sort of system do you think you could implement to prevent this from happening again?
- You mentioned x company in your application, what risks do you think you would look for these days when auditing them? What items on their balance sheet would you pay particular attention to?
- What do you think are the issues strongly affecting PwC at the moment?
All in all it was a much more laidback interview than the first one, and it flew by, I was quite surprised when he said time was up. By this time you shouldn’t really need to think of questions to ask them, there should be loads just bubbling up, and it’s great to have someone who can answer them in detail.
And I got the call the next day in the morning telling me I got the offer! Also giving me a lot of feedback for each section. They’re really rather efficient, and I think they try and get back to everyone within one or two days, though officially it’s 5. PwC on the whole has gotten back to me in a much more timely manner than any of the other 3, EY took weeks to send me a rejection, Deloitte has been dragging its feet about the first interview since early November, and KPMG took quite a while to arrange a first interview as well, and then 2 weeks to get back to me about that interview, though I must say that KPMG has on the whole impressed me regardless.
Anyway, that’s that, (and goodness knows it’s long enough). If there are any further questions, do ask.