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November 17, 2012

The graduate recruitment process


The graduate recruitment process can seem really daunting: even if you survive the initial application sift, you can still look forward to a further two or three stages before you reach the final hurdle. But the key to success lies in preparation and understanding what the interviewer is looking for, so I caught up with Claire Jones, Student Recruitment Officer at PwC, to ask for her top tips to beat the odds.

Whichever opportunity you're applying for at PwC (or anywhere else), there are some things that you should be thinking about so we've put together some hints and tips:

Do your research

We'll expect you to be able to talk coherently and confidently about PwC, the position you're applying for, the business world in general and yourself. The more you know about these things, the more prepared you'll be, so you'll have to get researching.

Think about investigating the following sources of information:

  • Our brochures and website (careers and corporate)
  • The financial media (press, television, internet)
  • Relevant professional bodies (especially if they offer a qualification you're interested in pursuing)
  • Anyone you know who works for PwC (or a similar firm)

Don't just give them a quick glance the day before your interview. Examine them, understand the issues and keep yourself up to date.

Completing your application form

Remember first impressions count so the application form is a major opportunity to sell yourself. Before you complete the form, you may find it useful to gather accurate details of your university and secondary education exam results, work experience and employment. While completing the form, remember to:

  • Read and follow instructions carefully.
  • Proof read everything you write including checking grammar and spelling.
  • Be concise as you can elaborate at interview.
  • Don't repeat statements you've read in our brochures and website.
  • Don't be vague or lie about your results as we will check your academics at a later stage in the process.

Taking the tests

These tests help to determine your numerical, logical or verbal reasoning ability.

  • You can practise taking the tests before you sit the real ones.
  • The test will be timed and you should work as quickly and accurately through the questions you're presented with.
  • Ensure you read each question carefully and that you understand what's required before committing yourself to an answer, especially where multiple choice answers appear similar.

We'll also ask you to complete an Occupational Personality Questionnaire and you may be asked to complete a Student Talent Questionnaire.

Preparing for interview

Interviews can be nerve wracking, but the more prepared you are the more relaxed you should feel. Ensure to:

  • Do thorough research prior
  • Remind yourself of the things you've done that can help you demonstrate the skills and qualities we've listed
  • Think about the questions you're likely to be asked and your responses
  • Come up with questions you want to ask

We'll be looking to find out:

  • Why you want to join PwC
  • What you understand about the work we do
  • What you think about the vacancy you've chosen

During the interview

Be truthful and concise, answer the exact questions asked and don't ramble about irrelevant things. Our interviewers are not given a set list of questions to go through but you can expect most to be in relation to our 'Global Core Competencies' such as:

  • What do you know about our business?
  • Why have you decided to apply to us?
  • Are there any issues or current affairs that interest you?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
  • When have you worked in teams?
  • How are you able to juggle your commitments?

Remember, we're not expecting you to be perfect but preparing for some of these questions will certainly help you to feel confident that you've given it your best shot.

At the assessment centre

  • Prepare what you're going to wear beforehand - if in doubt, dress conservatively.
  • All materials required such as paper and pens will be provided for you. You can bring your own calculator but if you choose not to, one will be provided for you.
  • Make sure you bring all necessary additions eg reading glasses, inhaler, prescribed medication.
  • You'll undertake numerical, logical and verbal reasoning tests (depending on your business area) so prepare yourself for these and work through the practice information sent in advance.
  • During the written exercise, you'll be required to read the briefing materials and prepare a written report on the given subject.
  • You'll participate in either a group discussion or individual exercise so ensure that you speak clearly and audibly so that the assessors can hear you.
  • There'll probably be at least one and up to 11 other participants attending the same assessment day but remember you're not in competition with them but judged on your own, individual merits.

And finally - good luck!

November 12, 2012

Making the most of your internship

Klara KanFinal year student Klara Kan reflects on her recent internships with PwC and HSBC and shares her thoughts on making the most of your work experience...

Career choice is a tough decision to make. Internships can really help you make more informed decisions, and potentially secure a graduate position at the end of the internship. Over the summer, I had the valuable opportunity to complete two internships at PwC (London) and HSBC (Hong Kong) respectively. While both offered me totally different experiences, what is common is that I have learned so much from the internships that I would not have been able to acquire from my formal studies alone.

Be proactive

Most large companies nowadays offer internships to penultimate year students. As in my case, they are often very structured and tailored to university students. Both organisations I worked for valued interns’ personal development and were greatly supportive. So it is important that students take on as much as they can. During my internships, I was proactive in asking for extra work. I wanted to make the most out of my time and I was glad that I did. It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to observe others around me. There is only so much I could learn from the company website and brochure. The way my colleagues interacted, talked or even dressed, told me a lot about the organisation’s structure and culture, and what made them successful in their careers.

Set objectives

At the beginning of an internship, I set a list of objectives and discussed them with my mentor. For example, for my internship at the professional services firm, I set my objectives as follows:

  • Understand the firm’s structure and different lines of services; the team’s structure and operation.
  • Acquire and apply new skills, business and technical knowledge.
  • Understand the different stages of an audit, the work involved, responsibilities and methodologies.
  • Perform assigned tasks in line with the firm’s documentation standards and methodology; proactively seek feedback to improve performance and incorporate feedback into actions.
  • Contribute to the team to the best of my ability and be proactive in helping the team.
  • Network and build relationships with other interns, team members and staff in my business unit.
  • Be proactive and curious in all my work and throughout my internship.
  • Bring a fresh insight/ suggest new ideas to clients/ teams.
  • Understand the market/ sector and clients’ needs; serve clients.
  • Make best use of my free time; find sectors I am interested in and be proactive in seeking opportunities for work shadowing or work in those sectors.

I also had regular meetings with my mentor and the HR to talk about my progress. I found this to be extremely beneficial because not only did they discuss my performance with me, they also explored my long term career options and goals with me. The business environment is dynamic and rapidly changing, what employers look for in graduates now is an agile mindset and flexibility. At both professional services firms and banks, it is very common for employees to change departments at different stages of their careers. I was very open during those meetings, discussed my options and aspirations with them and sought their advice.

Take responsibility

I carried out unsupervised work most of the time during my internships. After rigorous selection processes, it makes perfect sense that companies have high expectations of their interns. The work that I performed mainly consisted of what a new graduate joiner would do, so the internship gave me a real taste of what it would be like if I were to join them upon graduation. While it was essential for me to perform tasks under minimal supervision and to a high standard, it was equally important for me to make sure I asked for clarifications when areas were not clear to me. In advance of taking up work, I also did pre-reading to get a grasp of the context. As an intern, I had to pick up complicated subject matter quickly. Interns may make mistakes and errors, but what is crucial is to learn from them and improve continuously. Proactiveness is highly valued.

Another aspect of my internships that I really enjoy is networking with different level of staff across the firm. I make useful contacts and also become very good friends with some interns. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my internships and I would encourage students from all disciplines to apply for one. It is never too early to start.

*Klara is a final year management student and careers rep for WBS.

July 31, 2012

My internship with the FSA

Andy Waters

Andy Watters, MA student in International Political Economy, tells us about his internships with the FSA; how the experience helped him secure a graduate role and where it could take him in future.

What was your work experience?

In the summers of both my second and final years I worked as a summer intern at the Financial Services Authority. Both internships were 12 weeks long. For the first placement I worked in a Managing Director’s Office and for the second I worked in the organisation’s international division. I secured the first internship by being successful in the organisation’s 7-stage application process, and I was subsequently invited back for a second summer.

What did you learn and achieve?

The internships helped me develop in several areas that have since proven invaluable both with my academic work and further professional applications. It taught me how to stay motivated when working on projects with long time horizons, how to quickly and accurately identify relevant stakeholders for a piece of work, as well as how to be flexible and adaptable in my approach to work. In addition, the unique position of the FSA as the sole UK regulator provided me with a comprehensive overview of the British financial sector, and indeed how it fits into the larger economy, neither of which I was knowledgeable about before.

How will you market this experience to employers?

Ultimately I am striving for a profession in government along the lines of economic policy analyst or consultant, so the fact that I now understand how financial policy interacts with monetary and fiscal policy will definitely help me stand out in the future. In addition, I worked on projects that directly contributed to regulatory streams at the international level, and well as those that have since been distributed throughout the organisation to working level supervisors and senior level executives alike, which I am particularly proud of. However, more valuable than all of that is the sense of professionalism and confidence that I have acquired through working at the FSA; that has definitely been the single biggest gain for me.

What's next?

Once I finish my Masters dissertation I’ll begin a graduate post at the Bank of England in their Markets Division. That’ll last for at least two and a half years, at which point I’ll apply to rotate somewhere else within the Bank. After that, who knows? Regardless of where your career eventually takes you, I would 100% recommend work experience to other students. It’ll develop your business acumen in the field you’re interested in, help you to build on your oral and written communication skills and probably involve learning to operate effectively as part of a team too. Ultimately, work experience will give you the confidence and independence you’ll need to pursue and secure the graduate job you want.

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