The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the recruitment processes at the big professional services firms. The so-called Big Four of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC are all looking for similar talent, but their interview processes and questions can differ a lot. Looking through reviews of interviews from the past twelve months, we’ve compiled some notes on interviewing style and sample questions for the Big Four to help you ahead of the recruitment round.
The interview process at Deloitte
Deloitte switched all of its recruitment on-line following the UK government’s most recent response to the Omicron variant. Simon Hallet, Resourcing Director says the firm takes a hybrid approach to its assessment and selection activities. "Hiring Managers can also be keen to meet in person, however we will listen to what the candidates feels comfortable with whilst also being open to in-person interviews at final stage," Hallet says. "For assessment centres, we are exploring the option of giving candidates the choice between a virtual or in-person event. The assessment exercises and elements are the same.”
Hallet says Deloitte’s interview questions are designed ‘to explore relevant experience, what motivates the candidate, and learn more about their strengths and subject matter expertise. For more technical roles, there might be a skills assessment to better understand the level of their proficiency in a given technology. Case studies can provide candidates with a useful job preview and enable them to demonstrate their subject matter expertise in the context of a work situation.”
Hallett says Deloitte asks a variety of competency, strength and scenario style questions. Some examples of questions that could be asked during the process include;
- At Deloitte, we’re at our best when we look out for each other and put each other’s well-being first. How would you describe your own approach to supporting those around you?
- Tell me about a time you had to work collaboratively with others to achieve a goal.
The following questions are also known to crop up in Deloitte's interview process:
- Describe a time you collaborated with others to achieve a goal.
- Give me an example of when you have dealt with a difficult character
- How would people describe you in three words?
- Why Deloitte?
- Why audit?
- Talk me through a long term project you’ve been involved in.
- Why did you study a university degree if you want to work in accountancy?
- What’s good about you?
- Describe a time you defended a friend.
- How would you sell yourself?
- Which other companies are you applying to?
- Describe a time when you had to settle upon the right course of action. What were your thought processes when you made this decision?
- How do you try to be the best you can be?
- Tell us about a time you led a team.
- What can you bring to Deloitte?
- How do you handle stress at work?
- Tell me about a time you adapted to an unfamiliar situation.
- Why are pot holes round?
- How many pens can I fit in this room?
- Why should Deloitte invest in you?
- What is your leadership style?
- What are you reading right now?
The interview questions of EY
There are surprisingly few up-to-date reviews of the interview process with Ernst & Young. What is available suggests that there are “Lots of behavioural and situational questions”, and “Very fast, informative interviews”.
EY recommends candidates prepare by thinking about relevant work experience, and your view on current market trends and sector developments.
The interview experience may be a combination of in-person, phone and video and the firm says it may also ask candidates a written assessment, either online or at a testing centre.
As well as having a somewhat more structured and less conversational approach, EY apparently believes in case studies as an interviewing technique and focuses on “personality and match with the firm”. A question which is often asked, apparently is “Tell me about a situation in which you had to exhibit leadership”.
Past questions include:
- Why do you want to work for EY?
- Describe a time you contributed to a high-performing team.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone's point of view and how you managed that.
- Tell me about a skill you have that you haven't yet talked about.
- What are you good at?
- What do you most enjoy studying?
- What gives you a buzz?
- Are you a starter or a finisher?
- Are you into big picture or detail?
- Describe a successful day you had recently.
- Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
- Tell me about your friends.
- Which three words would you friends use to describe you?
- What’s your biggest weakness?
- Have you ever wanted to stop doing something?
- Do you think you need to be an expert to lead a team?
- Would you say you’re organized? Would your friends?
The interview questions of KPMG
KPMG’s recruitment process for graduates is a virtual one from application through to securing an offer. The four-step process begins with an online application form. Pass that phase and then it’s onto a 90-minute series of hypothetical questions on transforming a small business (you’ll need a calculator). Then there's a 60 minute written and video assessment relevant to the business you’re applying for. The final stage is known as the virtual launch pad, a three-hour virtual exercise in which you’ll learn more about the firm, meet staff and take part in virtual assessment activities.
You’re likely to come across a slew of behavioural questions during the virtual launch pad.
Interview questions include:
- Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment?
- Tell me about a stressful situation and how you dealt with it?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Do you prefer working in a team or working along?
- Why did you choose your major/degree subject?
- Tell me about a time you had a poorly performing team member?
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work. How did you handle it and what have you learned?
- What’s the difference between an internal auditor and an external auditor?
- Talk about a time you’ve managed multiple tasks to finish a project for a deadline.
- What’s good about you? What’s not? What do you need to learn?
- Can you give an example of a time when you’ve had to communicate an idea persuasively in writing?
- Can you tell me something interesting you’ve read about KPMG in the news?
- Can you tell me about a time when circumstances changed? How did you adapt?
- Can you tell me about a time when you’ve had to overcome a setback? How did you overcome it?
- Which opportunities can you see now for KPMG to develop new business?
- Which skills do you think you’ll need in the role you’re applying for at KPMG?
- Can you tell me about a time you felt bored at work? How did you make the job more interesting?
- Can you talk us through the way you evaluated a challenging situation in the past?
- A company wants to relocate overseas. Talk us through the problems it faces?
- How do you manage your time?
The PWC interview and questions
Like its Big Four rivals, PwC has adopted a hybrid approach to interviewing, with some taking place digitally and later stages taking place face to face. The digital stage includes a fairly unpopular psychometric test.
PWC's Interviews include “Lots of behavioural based questions” such as “Tell me about a time you took a leadership role” or “Tell me about a time you failed”. PwC uses case studies extensively – one candidate’s interview was mainly taken up answering “What are the issues you see in this case study?”. Graduate applicants might be asked “How do you stay current on events happening in today’s world”, while more experienced recruits get experience-based questions like “What has been a challenging case you worked on?” or “Tell me about a time when it just wouldn’t work for a client?”
PwC offers candidates for following guidance for their technical interviews:
- Listen carefully to what the interviewer is asking you; ask for clarification if you are unsure.
- Take time to consider your answer if necessary.
- Express yourself clearly and concisely.
- Be as specific as you can.
- Answer the question that was asked and be careful not to go off the point.
- Support your answers with real-life examples from previous experience.
- Express your motivation for applying for the role coherently.
- Ask considered questions about PwC and/or the area you will be working in.
The firm also likes behavioural questions, with the following being among the most popular:
- Tell me about a time you had to correct someone’s mistake
- What do you think this role involves?
- Describe a time when you had to improve a piece of work after criticism?
- What have you read about PWC in the news?
- Can you describe a time when you have worked in a team to deliver a piece of work? – What was your role in the team? What did you do exactly?
- Describe a time when you’ve successfully managed a project for example coursework or organising an event. What challenges did you overcome? Who supported you? What was the outcome?
- Can you tell me about a piece of recent financial news you’ve read? Why did you find it interesting?
- Give an example of a time you failed to accomplish something.
- Give an example of a time you built a relationship.
- Why audit?
- Give an example of a time you worked with someone with a different style. How did this differ to your own?
- Give an example of a time you said something unethical.
- Give an example of a time when you weren’t given enough guidance.
- Why PWC?
- Give an example of a time you overcame conflict.
- What do you know about the ACA exams?
- Give an example of a time when you worked with people outside your usual network.
- What’s the most difficult thing about working with you?
- Give an example of a time you solved a complex problem.
- Give an example of a time when you had to complete multiple different projects to a short deadline.
- What would you do if you heard one of your co-workers releasing confidential client information?
- Tell me about a time when you were given vague instructions for a task and had to figure out what to do.
- Give an example of a time you dealt with a team member who didn't pull his weight.
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