Bright Network member Harena Fessehazion has recently been offered a place on the Associate Graduate Programme at PwC. Harena currently studies Chemistry at UCL, and has been kind enough to share her words of wisdom on the assessment centre and application process.
Please tell us about the graduate scheme you are about to join
I will be joining the Audit service line at PwC in September 2015 on the Associate Graduate Programme. From charities to large financial institutions, my role will involve auditing financial statements to ensure they are true and fair. Alongside this, PwC supports its graduates in studying towards the highly accredited ACA qualification.
Why did you choose this company and role?
At the Bright Network Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with a PwC representative who told me more about professional services.
My interest in finance had grown throughout my time at university and I had been fortunate enough to gain work experience at an investment bank as it was the first role that came to mind. However, although I enjoyed the business side I felt the client aspect was missing. At the Bright Network Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with a PwC representative who told me more about professional services. At a different networking event, I spoke again with an Associate from PwC and the one thing that stood out to me was the culture of the firm. I decided to apply for the Summer Internship Programme and joined PwC for six weeks within the Audit division. I had a fantastic time – I was given real responsibility, was able to interact with clients and I was supported throughout my time at PwC by everyone from Associates all the way up to Partners within my team! Further, the opportunity to study for the ACA qualification really convinced me to pursue a career in Audit. It gives you an incredible grounding to begin your career and opens up plenty of doors if you decide you want to pursue an alternative career path after qualifying!
Please tell us about the application process - what did you have to do?
The application processes for the Summer Internship Programme and Graduate Programmes are very similar and are split into four stages. The first stage is the online form and the SHL reasoning tests. If you are successful in passing these, you will be invited to have a short telephone interview. Following this is the assessment centre at a PwC office, which is made up of a number of tasks. Firstly, candidates are asked to complete the numerical reasoning tests which are similar in style to the online ones. After this there is a timed written exercise and a group task. The final stage is a Partner interview which lasts approximately one hour. This involved questions around PwC’s core competencies, my motivations for applying to the firm and specifically to Audit and also specific questions about my past experiences and how they relate to the role. On completion of the Summer Internship, I was offered a graduate position for the following year within Audit.
What did you find was the most difficult part of the application process?
I found the assessment centre the most difficult aspect of the application process, namely the group exercise. In itself, the group exercise isn’t necessarily the most difficult task but it is sometimes hard to know how the assessors are evaluating your contributions as it’s not always obvious. You don’t want to be too quiet or too loud! I think it is most important to contribute positively and do your best to ensure everyone else has also had an opportunity to say something. This may mean that you have to manage a member of the team that is slightly overpowering or oppositely, encourage a quieter member to voice their opinion – both are good examples of working well in a team.
What was the most enjoyable part of the application process?
I found the Partner interview the most enjoyable part of the application process. Although I had prepared to talk about PwC’s core competencies and my motivations for applying to the firm, the interview felt less structured than I expected it to. My interviewer asked me questions about my past experiences and things I did outside of my studies, which I found relaxing as it was something I could easily talk about. I also had the opportunity to ask questions about the role and about the firm in general, which gave me a better idea of what it would be like to work at PwC.
How did you prepare for the application process?
Aside from practising the online reasoning tests, researching the firm and the nature of the role, I tried to think about how each of my experiences made me a good candidate for PwC – even the most unrelated! I also attended a number of networking events and career evenings at university to speak to people who worked at the firm and could really tell me what it was like! There was already quite a bit of information on the PwC website about the application process as well as insights into the different service lines as well as career forums, the Bright Network website and financial publications.
What top three tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Make an effort to attend university fairs, career festivals and any specific events your company of interest may be running at your own university. It’s a great way to find out firsthand what it would be like to work at the firm as well as a unique opportunity to network with professionals that you would otherwise not have access to. It also gives your application an advantage if you have taken the time to attend these events and speak to people as many applicants will not have done this.
Aside from practising the online reasoning tests, researching the firm and the nature of the role, I tried to think about how each of my experiences made me a good candidate for PwC – even the most unrelated!
When preparing for an interview, choose a specific area of interest and research this so you are able to talk about it with confidence. You won’t necessarily be expected to know about every sector and it shows initiative if you have found some interesting articles about a relevant topic and can explain why they interest you.
If you are applying to a large firm, such as PwC, take some time to learn a little bit more about what the other divisions do, aside from your own. It is likely that you will be collaborating with people from different divisions as part of your role, so it is always good to show some wider understanding of what the firm does as a whole.