You might think that all the big professional services firms’ recruitment processes would be more or less the same, as they’re largely fishing in the same talent pool and looking for the same skilled personnel. According to posters on vault.com, however, there are differences, and some of them are fairly significant. 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 questions of PWC
Your interview with PwC might not take place face to face – according to a recent candidate “Virtual [interviewing] is being used more and more”. 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 really, really, really likes competency interview questions. These are some of the other questions you might get there.
- 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.
The interview questions of Deloitte
Deloitte is also a user of virtual interviews, and according to one current employee, it “relies on either in-person or virtual interviews in which candidates (primarily current accounting or masters students) respond to behavioral questions”. These might include “What is the most meaningful experience you've had in your life?”, “How do you solve problems that arise on a team?”, “When have you worked with time constraints to meet a client's expectations?”, “Tell me a time when you've been proactive in soliciting performance feedback from a mentor or client” or “Tell us about a time where you enthusiastically led a work team through a major change initiative”.
There seems to be quite a bit of variation in candidates’ experiences with Deloitte, possibly because, according to one current employee, “Each office hires based on a ‘need’ basis”. So one recent candidate felt that “Interviews tend to be casual (more of conversations than an actual interview)”, but another one met a real tough-guy and got asked “What makes you better than all the other candidates?” and “Your GPA is less than other candidates for the same job, care to share any reason why?”
These are some of the other questions you can expect:
- Describe your role in a piece of work you’re particularly proud of.
- 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 KPMG
KPMG seems to adopt a fairly informal style. One recent campus recruit even says “there were no formal interview questions”. This probably isn’t true – just because you don’t detect the interviewer’s focused questions doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t there – but it does suggest a more relaxed and conversational approach to extracting the information. “Tell me how you manage your school, life and extracurriculars” was one such question, with “Tell me about a time that you didn’t work will with someone and how you resolved that”.
From the other side of the room, one current employee with recruiting responsibility suggested that “We do not have a very good interview questions/case questions. We only allow behavioral questions and do allow any technical type questions. This is very different from other firms that we compete with that actually ask technical questions and have candidates complete case studies”. In context, this looked like a gripe but in fact there’s a quite well respected school of thought that holds that technical skills are not easy to assess properly in interview contexts and that behavioural questioning is much more informative. Apparently KPMG (or at least some of its offices) believes in this.
Interview questions include:
- What makes KPMG different from the rest of the Big Four? Why do you want to work here?
- What’s the difference between an internal auditor and an external auditor?
- What do you think this job will involve exactly?
- Talk about a time you’ve managed multiple tasks to finish a project for a deadline.
- Talk about a time you worked in a team where there were communication problems. How did you help resolve them?
- Can you talk about a time you’ve had to deal with a difficult customer? How did you diffuse the situation?
- 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?
- Can you talk about a business that’s doing well? Which three things do you consider key to their success?
- Can you talk about a business that’s doing badly? Which problems does it face?
- Can you talk about a time when you’ve motivated a team to work together? What did you d exactly?
- What are you most proud of?
- 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?
- What are your two biggest accomplishments in life?
The interview questions of EY
There are surprisingly few up-to-date reviews of the interview process with Ernst & Young; this might be a firm policy. What is available suggests that there are “Lots of behavioural and situational questions”, and “Very fast, informative interviews”. 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:
1. What are you good at?
2. What do you most enjoy studying?
3. What gives you a buzz?
4. Are you a starter or a finisher?
5. Are you into big picture or detail?
6. Describe a successful day you had recently.
7. What do you love doing in your spare time?
8. When are you happiest?
9. When you do you feel most like yourself?
10. Do you find there are enough hours in the day?
11. Have you ever done something differently the second time around?
12. Tell me about your friends.
13. Which three words would you friends use to describe you?
14. What’s your biggest weakness?
15. Have you ever wanted to stop doing something?
16. Do you think you need to be an expert to lead a team?
17. Would you say you’re organized? Would your friends?
18. Do you enjoy hard work?
19. Why do you want this job?
20. Give an example of a time you asked for more responsibility.
21. If there was a family member or friend sitting next to you, what would they tell me were your top 3 strengths and top 3 weaknesses?
22. Which books do you read?
23. Tell me about something that's not on your resume.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: email@example.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available. Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)