Congratulations! You are one step away from working with the largest accounting and professional services firm in the world. What keeps you from this monumental achievement in your career is the final stage of the recruiting process: the interview. Most students, if not all, find this to be the most intimidating and challenging ordeal faced in the recruiting process. Scratch that. I can guarantee you that it is the easiest and most comforting step in the process.
The interview process begins with you and ends at you. You are directly in charge of how prepared you are for the process. I can tell you from my experience that the students that walk out of the interview room with a smile on their faces are the ones that walk in with one because of how prepared and confident they are. Stop for a second and ask yourself, “If I were to walk into to my interview right now, how prepared am I?” If you answered, “Very prepared,” I admire your confidence. If you answered, "Not as prepared as I should be,” I admire your honesty and you know what? You are at the right place at the right time because I am about to dissect PwC’s interview process piece by piece so that you have all the information you need to be prepared. Thank me later when you bump into me at the office!
Before the Interview
Know the Firm
Preparation is vital for the success of any meeting, networking session or in this case, interview. Familiarizing yourself with the most important PwC facts, figures and concepts will not only add value to your conversation with the interviewers, but it will place you miles ahead of your classmate competing for the same position. We have a saying around the office that I find unique to any other firm: “teach, don't tell.” Instead of telling you what you need to know about the firm to make you stand out during the interview, I will teach it to you. This will not only make you walkthrough your own train of thought, but it will force you to answer a question that I am sure a lot of you have at this time and will unquestionably be asked during your interview: “Why PwC?”
Fact #1: What do you think is the benefit of having a client listing in your first year as an Associate with the firm that includes (to name a few) Canada’s largest public construction and infrastructure development company, one of North America’s largest energy suppliers of electricity and natural gas, and a large Toronto-based hospital? A whole lot of experience is the correct answer! Because of PwC’s distinct non-specialization program, I am able to gain exposure to diverse industries (as you can tell from my client listing) early on in my career! Why is this of interest to you? Don’t forget to search for the following industries PwC caters to on www.pwcbrilliantfutures.ca (CIPS, TICE, FS and PCS).
Fact #2: Having only spent about a week and a half at the office, I have already heard of first year Associates geared up to travel around the world to countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Zambia! Why do you think PwC promotes traveling in the firm? The Global Mobility Program is definitely something I am looking forward to taking part in as it ranges from long-term secondments to short-term secondments. Where do you want to travel in this world?
Fact #3: Why is personal and professional development in and out of the workplace important? For starters, professional development is important in the workplace because it allows your career to propel in the right direction through the guidance of senior colleagues and timely feedback on client engagements. At PwC, this routine falls under the Performance, Coaching and Development (PC&D) Program. Every individual is assigned a coach from day one and is required to set personal career goals for the following fiscal year. Every individual is also required to submit a performance appraisal of his/her work performed at a client. This information is reviewed by the senior on the engagement and he/she gives you a rating of either below, meeting or exceeding expectations.
To perform optimally on the job, you need to be mentally and physically fit. That is why PwC supports your personal development through benefits such as the Fitness Allowance where you are able to expense a certain amount per year ($500 for Associates) to any fitness related purchase (ie- running shoes, WII games, scuba-diving lessons, golf lessons, gym membership, gym equipment, etc.)
Now that you are familiar with some key PwC terms, you can connect them to you and your passions. In order to do this, you need to know yourself. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. You need to know why you are pursuing the CA designation as this question will definitely be asked. The format of the interview, which I will discuss later on, is as such where you need to know how to elaborate on previous work/extracurricular experiences.
Know Your Interviewers
If you received interviewer profiles over the past week, use them to learn about the interviewers. I took my time to learn about who was interviewing me and what topics I could possibly discuss to keep a conversation going that both interests me and the interviewer. I would strongly suggest that you list questions that you would want to ask the respective interviewer beforehand so that this can serve as conversational points if you are faced with an awkward moment of silence! Bring this sheet of paper in with you along with your resumes just in case!
During the Interview
The “Holding Room”
If you are on-time to the interview, you are late. If you are ten minutes early, you are on-time. Be sure to come to the interview location ahead of time so that you can relax and talk to other students and more importantly, PwC representatives in what I like to call the “holding room.” Just because the Partner, Recruiter and/or Manager is not present in this room, that does not give you the opportunity to completely let loose.
If you are applying for a summer position at PwC, you will be interviewed by a Partner and a member of the Recruiting team. If you are applying for a full-time position, you will be interviewed by a Partner, a member of the Recruiting team and a staff member. Each individual is looking to test different competencies. The Partner is looking for you to elaborate on leadership qualities, the Manager/Recruiter is looking for excellence and a staff member is looking for your teamwork capabilities.
Leadership + Excellence + Teamwork = PwC Core Values
Do not feel intimidated at all. Walk into the room with a smile on your face and shake the Partner’s hand firmly. Let the Partner see the passion and lust you have for working at the firm! What the Partner is looking for is to see if he/she can see you as an Associate for one of their jobs. He/She is looking to see how confident you are and in turn, how best you can represent not only the firm, but also yourself.
What I strongly suggest is to initiate conversation. Partners love talking about themselves and their career paths as everyone can learn from them! Use that to your advantage and ask about it! If you can get off to a strong start in the first twenty seconds of the interview and can engage in a conversation/find your comfort zone, you are set! Remember the 80/20 rule I mentioned in a couple of my previous blog posts? Nonverbal communication is just as important, if not more as verbal communication. Remember to sit up straight, keep your hands on the table and maintain eye contact at all times. Most importantly, relax. Show your enthusiasm for working at the firm by passionately talking about who you are and why you see yourself as the perfect fit for the firm. Showcase your knowledge of the firm. Prove to the Partner why he/she should have you on his/her audit engagement team!
The Recruiter (and Staff member if applicable)
This is what I thought was going to be the most challenging part of the interview; however, it was probably the easiest because of how I prepared for it. The Recruiter’s main goal during your interview is to extrapolate your past experiences through asking behaviour based questions.
Take a second and open three word documents. In the first document, write “CONFLICT” in big bold letters. In the second document, write “LEADERSHIP” and in the third, write “TEAMWORK.” These are the three topics that will be probed on by the Recruiter. Under each one of these topics, what I would suggest for you to do is in bullet-points, list experiences that you have had that relate to these topics. This will allow you to organize your thoughts concisely so that when you are asked a question such as, “Tell me an instance where you had to deal with conflict at your workplace and how did you manage to resolve it,” you are more than prepared!
One thing that most students oversee is that you are expected to think for about five to ten seconds when you are asked a behavioural question. Instead of rushing into the answer, take your time to formulate the answer in your head. If you are ever in a situation where you have not experienced a certain question (ie- “Tell me an instance where you were faced with an ethical dilemma?”), the best approach would be to honestly tell the Recruiter that you have not been in the situation but if you were to be in that situation, what you would do (ie- “I have not experienced an ethical dilemma before but if I were faced with an ethical dilemma in the future, I would...”).
After the Interview
Relax. Breathe. Pray. Hope. Do whatever you do to make you feel at ease! If you walk out of the interview feeling like you have answered every question to the best of your ability and that there was no conversation left on the table with any of the interviewers, you are most likely to have done very well! I would always suggest that you shoot a quick “thank you” email to your interviewers to thank them for their time and consideration. It won’t hurt to display your interest in the firm one last time before you hopefully receive an offer!
I understand that this is a lot of information to digest, but it is not hard. It is very doable. You are almost there! This is the final stretch and you should not give up. Just remember to be yourself and just prove to the interviewers why you are the perfect fit for the firm!
Good luck everyone and please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions! I look forward to working with you at PwC!