PwC Consulting: The Recruiter Interview
2012-10-19 05:23 PMInterviews
With application deadlines for consulting graduate schemes approaching, we decided to get some up to the minute advice from Anthony Takyi, Student Recruitment Manager at PwC. We chatted to Anthony about the Consulting application process and managed to get the inside scoop on the importance of commercial awareness and the amount of work experience you need to succeed…
“Do your research.”
What do you look for in candidates who are applying for the PwC Consulting graduate scheme?
We have a list of ten ‘global core competencies’, which we like all individuals who are successful in their application for PwC to demonstrate, such as teamwork, drive, determination and communication skills; all of which are really valuable.
For Consulting at PwC in particular, you’ll need to show a good understanding of the commercial world; how consultants add value to their clients, and how consultants work with other areas of PwC.
Can you explain the different areas of consulting at PwC?
We offer two distinct routes into consulting. We have a Management Consulting programme, which is our generalist entry route. It’s a two-year graduate programme, where graduates complete a series of rotations across different areas of the PwC Consulting group, such as finance, operations, change, risk and public sector. You’ll spend three months in each area. By the end of the two-year programme, you’ll have a broad understanding of the different areas of consulting. You’ll then go and specialise in one of these areas.
We also have some more specialist routes for candidates who want to specialist straight away.
We offer a Strategy Consulting route, which is a two-year graduate programme. This involves sitting on client sites and working through the implementation of projects. Strategy Consulting focuses more on initial research and how a client can move forward before the design and delivery stage. The work is a lot shorter term and fast-paced.
And there’s an Economics Consulting practice, which focuses more on micro and macroeconomics issues, as well as research and policy. The work they do is quite closely linked to Strategy Consulting.
We also offer opportunities in Sustainability & Climate Change. This is for individuals who have a Masters in an environmental subject or sustainable development. Consultants in this area work on a range of different projects, such as environmental audits.
Our Risk Consulting practice gives individuals with a numerical PhD, the chance to use their analytical and mathematical modelling skills.
Is there a different application process depending on what area of consulting a graduate wants to enter?
For Management Consulting, Sustainability & Climate Change and Risk Consulting vacancies, you’ll complete an online numerical reasoning test, a logical problem-solving test and a shorter personality questionnaire. If successful, you’ll be asked to complete an online application form, which asks for information about your education and work experience.
There’s also space for you to put down additional information about your hobbies and interests. It’s always good if you can put down that you’re a member of a sports team or a society. It really helps you to show that you’re a well-rounded individual.
There’s also a question on the application form which tests your career motivations, i.e. why you want to join PwC and why you want to join the Management Consulting stream in particular. We’re trying to get you to think about what it is that really differentiates Management Consulting from the other areas of consulting at PwC and the skills you have that can add value to our client service.
The first round interview is a competency-based telephone interview with a member of the recruitment team. You’ll usually be asked around five questions on five different competency areas. When answering these questions, we’re really looking for individuals to use their past experience to demonstrate the different skills we are looking for.
The next stage of the process is an assessment day. During the assessment day, you’ll be asked to complete paper-based numerical reasoning and logical problem-solving tests. There’s also a written exercise, where you’re given 30 minutes to read through some information and present your findings. There’s also a group exercise, where you’ll work together to identify what might be the best option for a client going forward.
The final stage of the process is a face-to-face interview with a senior member of the Consulting team. Again, this will be a competency-based interview, but it will also look into your motivations as to why you want to come and work for our Consulting practice.
For Economics Consulting, the first round interview is conducted face-to-face by a member of the Economics Consulting team. What’s more, the final interview stage involves a technical element, where you’ll be presented with a number of different questions. You’ll be given 20 minutes to choose one and think about the economic issues surrounding it. The first 15 minutes of the interview will then focus on this technical question.
For Strategy Consulting, the online application process is the same, but rather than completing an application form, you’ll be asked to send in a CV and covering letter. The first round interview stage for Strategy will be a half-day assessment day, where you’ll come into the office, undertake a numerical reasoning test, a logical problem-solving test, a written exercise, a competency-based interview and a case study interview with a member of the Strategy team.
The final round interview stage is another assessment day. On this day, you’ll take part in a group exercise, a presentation exercise, a competency-based interview and another case study interview with a senior member of the Strategy team.
Does the training differ depending on which area of Consulting you enter?
PwC offers a wide variety of training. For Management Consulting, Risk Consulting and Economics Consulting graduates, you’ll have the choice to go on an eight-week induction, where you’ll get a better insight into the business. It’ll also involve some technical training and the chance to go out and shadow some client work. You’ll then come back and put your training into practice, before you start working on client engagements.
For Strategy Consulting and Sustainability & Climate Change, there’s a short induction, which lasts around two weeks and gives you an insight into PwC and the key tools that can be utilised. Your training here will be more about learning through doing, i.e. going out on client assignments, working as a team and developing your skills.
Across all different areas of consulting, you’ll have the support of a project coach who will give you any guidance that you’re looking for. You’ll also have a ‘buddy’, who will be somebody on the graduate scheme that you can talk to.
Finally, you’ll have the support of a people manager who will be with you throughout the graduate scheme, and will look after your pastoral development and skills development. You’re won’t be thrown in at the deep end and left to it. There’s a really great support network to help you throughout the duration of the graduate scheme.
How much client interaction do Consulting graduates have? What kind of clients do they work with?
All of our graduates have interaction with clients, especially if you join Management Consulting, where you’ll be working at client sites for the majority of the projects you work on.
The majority of the work for Strategy and Economics consulting will be office-based, as you’ll be producing reports for clients, but there will also be opportunities for you to go out and interact with clients; directly conducting research with clients, for instance.
We look to develop your relationships with clients from day one and keep those relationships going. As you move through the organisation, you’ll be taking those relationships with you, so it’s important that we give everyone that early exposure to clients.
We work with a wide cross-section of clients, from government bodies and charities to large commercial companies in the retail, energy and pharmaceutical sectors. All graduates get the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients throughout the scheme.
What kind of projects do PwC Consulting graduates work on?
It varies. No two clients are ever the same. In Strategy, you might be bringing market insights to different individuals or considering the intricacies of how best they can improve business development.
Within Management Consulting, you could be looking to implement a change management programme, thinking about how to restructure finance operations, or how best to utilise public spending.
It’s all about doing your research and figuring out which area of consulting best suits you.
What do you think is the most challenging part of the Consulting graduate scheme?
Coming straight out of university and starting work on consulting projects can be challenging, especially in the initial stages of the programme. You need to try your best to build up your skillset and learn from others.
In our Management Consulting graduate programme, you’ll do three-month rotations in different areas of consulting, so you might be put into an area which you don’t find particularly interesting, but you’ll need to make the most out of it and think about the different skills that you can learn and take forward to another project.
How much work experience do you expect candidates to already have when they apply?
We receive a variety of applications; some have consulting experience or other commercial work experience, while others have gained experience working in their local shop. We’re not really expecting people to have any business consulting experience; it’s more about having the knowledge and understanding of what consultants do and the type of skills that will make them successful.
Some of our applications are even from those that have come from the Army, while we've also had people who've originally trained to be doctors. But for the most part, people apply to us when they’re in the final year of university. It’s important to note that, for most areas of Consulting, you can have a degree in any discipline. So, as long as you meet our 'global core competencies', we're flexible in what we're looking for.
How can candidates demonstrate commercial awareness through the application process?
It’s important to think about current business issues and consider how consultants can provide advice to clients; for instance, getting involved in the integration of companies that are merging, or helping companies to improve their operational performance.
You should also think about things you’ve been involved in previously. If you worked in a shop, for instance, think about how your role fitted into the company’s overall commercial goals, and how your excellent customer service helped the company generate more revenue.
If you could give one piece of advice to candidates who are currently looking for a place on the Consulting graduate scheme, what would it be?
Do your research. It’s really vital to consider the different avenues of consulting you can go into, and which one is right for you. If you have the opportunity, go to different employer presentations and engage with consultants from different firms to find out a bit more about what they do.
To find out more about PwC Consulting opportunities, please check out: