Bright Network member Lucy was offered the role of Management Consultant Associate at PwC. She started there in November 2015, having studied Biomedical Science at the University of Warwick. Here she shares her experiences and tips for fellow members who want to follow in her footsteps.
Tell us about your new role
As a new starter on the Foundation for the Future graduate scheme offered by PwC, I will be joining a two year training programme as part of an intake of around 300. The first six weeks will be based at a specialist training school, with a further two weeks gaining client exposure. During this period, I will develop skills across a breadth of disciplines such as finance, risk and business strategy, whilst all the time hopefully making new contacts, friends and enjoying myself!
Following the introductory period, I will embark upon three month rotations with clients for the rest of the two year period.
This aims to develop a different skills set with each project and gain experience across a range of industries and sectors, which will hopefully aid me in deciding my long-term specialism within management consulting. The work may involve analyses of the client organisation, as well as providing recommendations for business improvement.
The team sizes are typically between five and 30 colleagues, depending on the scale of the project, and the location will vary too, perhaps including some international projects or communications. I'm looking forward to a really dynamic and exciting environment where I'm never sure where my next client will be based or who I will be working with, whilst developing skills and knowledge all the time!
Why did you choose this company and role?
PwC has always had a reputation as a professional services organisation with a very strong work ethic, but one that nurtures and aids development as well.
PwC has always had a reputation as a professional services organisation with a very strong work ethic, but one that nurtures and aids development as well. Having gained information about the organisation from a number of representatives, I found PwC provided exposure to a range of colleagues, clients and projects and this high level of diversity was really appealing to me.
PwC ranking as the number one graduate employer for such a long period of time was very reassuring and a great acknowledgement of the time, expertise, and energy which is invested into graduate careers.
I think that this ranking is a hallmark of the quality of support and training which PwC has continued to deliver over the past decade, and highlights that the PwC work ethic is richly underpinned by personal development.
Management consulting struck me as an area of business which is very dynamic and always evolving to provide a tailored service for the client and their individual and needs and requirements. I imagined that there would be a great deal of satisfaction and sense of reward when a project is completed to the optimum level and the client is satisfied with a strong strategy to improve performance.
I was also attracted to the diverse range of clients, colleagues, locations and projects which this industry offers, and believe that they would be invaluable in building strong relationships with a wide range of people, as well as acquiring many new skills. I consider management consulting to be a very challenging, but highly rewarding industry which provides an intellectually stimulating environment to aid constant skills and career development.
Please tell us about the application process - what did you have to do?
The initial stage was a straightforward application, listing my personal and educational details and my motivations for working for PwC in the management consulting line of service. This was shortly followed by online numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and personality tests, which involved a series of numerical or logic problems to be answered in a very constrained period of time.
I was then given a telephone interview, lasting around 30 minutes, where I was asked questions based around the PwC core competencies. I reflected on my experiences of school, university and social situations, and related these to attributes that PwC look for in their applicants.
When I was successful at this stage I was invited to an assessment centre, which consisted of three tasks: written task; group task; and further tests (very similar to the initial online tests). There were around 10 other applicants there, all applying for different roles, in different lines of service, in different offices to me, so I did not feel like I was in competition with them; we were all in the same situation and so supported each other through the session.
The written task involved the production of a business plan based upon information which was given to us about an organisation and their current business situation. The group task involved discussion between a group of 5 of us about individual business proposals, which we had each been allocated, and we had to come to the conclusion as to which proposal should be recommended.
The final tests were very similar to the first set of tests which I had completed at the first stage of my application, however there were only numerical and verbal reasoning questions.
The interviewer tested some of the core competencies and was keen to find out more about my interests and future aspirations within management consulting and PwC
After I completed this stage, I had then gained my place on the Summer Shadow a Female Leader Scheme, which was a week-long programme of intense shadowing of Senior Management Consultant. I had a great time, and learnt so much over the short period of one week with interaction with clients and members of the PwC team, from Associate to Partner level.
Throughout this week I was closely monitored and was given a formal interview for the graduate role at the end. This was with a Partner from the office in which I had been based. This interview was less formal than the telephone interview and more like a conversation, and much of the interview was based around my experiences of the week and reflecting upon what I had learnt. However the interviewer still tested some of the core competencies and was keen to find out more about my interests and future aspirations within management consulting and PwC.
Following my success at this final stage interview, I was then offered the place on the graduate scheme.
What did you find was the most difficult part of the application process?
I found the telephone interview the most challenging part of my application, as I knew that this would be my first experience of making a personal impression upon the PwC recruiters
I found the telephone interview the most challenging part of my application, as I knew that this would be my first experience of making a personal impression upon the PwC recruiters. I was unsure what to expect, as this was my first telephone interview, and was apprehensive about not making an impact and not being a memorable candidate for the role.
The PwC website was very helpful in my preparations, so I was able to tailor my responses to the competencies they look for in applicants, however there was always the concern of sounding too rehearsed and regimented with my answers.
What was the most enjoyable part of the application process?
I really enjoyed the group task of the assessment centre and feel that I learnt a lot from this exercise. It was important to find a way of conveying my thoughts to other individuals in the group concisely and with authority, whilst also considering the points which they were proposing.
I really enjoyed listening to their arguments and then reflecting on these with the rest of the team to reach a logical outcome. The individuals within the group were quite varied in personality type, and I understood that it was important to involve everyone, regardless of how shy or introverted they were.
Juxtaposing this, it was also crucial to approach more dominant characters, albeit as politely and tactfully as possible!
How did you prepare for the application process?
For each stage of the application process, I looked at the advice that was given on the PwC pages, and how they suggested that I could best prepare. I ensured that I did plenty of numerical and verbal reasoning test practice before both the online tests and the assessment centre testing, as I knew that under the time pressure, I would perform far better if I was more accustomed with the question format.
As well as this I used many of the resources provided on the Bright Network website to be prepare me for the various stages, especially how to make the best impression during my Shadow a Female Leader week, where I knew I would be meeting with many PwC employees. I found this an invaluable bank of advice and helpful tips, which really guided me through the processes well.
What top three tips would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Tip 1: Contacts make a difference
Develop a really strong network of people through university careers fairs, sector careers fairs, the Bright Network, LinkedIn, general acquaintances, family friends..anyone! You never know how they could impact upon your prospects in the future.
Tip 2: Get as much experience as possible
Attend as many workshops as you can. Most university careers centres run skills sessions to improve any aspect of your application that you think may be lacking. It's really useful to have a professional look over your application and CV before you send it off, as they will give a fresh insight into what you should include or remove.
Further through the process, they will probably run sessions tailored towards assessment centres and offer you mock interviews. The preparation will make you feel so much more at ease and comfortable when you reach the real event, so nerves won't stop you from performing your best.
Tip 3: Grab every opportunity to impress
Make the most of any opportunity that you are given by an employer and enjoy it as much as you can, it could lead to so any opportunities. You make catch the eye of a recruiter after a stimulating conversation at a careers fair or insight day, and if you capitalise on this, they may invite you to interview or fast track.