While some elements of the PwC graduate application process may vary according to the role, there are five basic steps that all applicants can expect to follow.
- Online application form.
- Online immersive job preview assessment (also known as a situational judgement test).
- Games-based psychometric assessment – a series of games designed to measure cognitive skills and behavioural preferences.
- Video interview – recording answers to a range of interview questions.
- Assessment day – simulating a real working day at PwC.
Throughout the process, PwC looks for evidence that you have the skills and qualities to succeed within its organisation. So, before you start your application, make sure you understand the specific requirements and have a clear idea of how you can demonstrate these.
It is vital to do research before you begin your application. You will need to show you have a firm understanding of the business world in general, as well as being able to talk confidently about yourself, PwC and the role you’re applying for.
You'll want to look at information from:
- PwC’s website;
- Relevant professional bodies;
- The financial media (online, print and television);
- Any contacts you may have at PwC or similar organisations.
The firm states that, for most undergraduate and graduate programmes, it recruits on a rolling basis, with roles filled on a first-come first-served basis.
So it is definitely worth applying as early as you can.
1. Application Form
The application form may seem straightforward, but it is your first chance to make a good impression and many fail to progress any further. So make sure you have prepared thoroughly.
Before you begin, gather all the details you'll need about your education and employment history, including work experience placements.
Remember that PwC can check your answers later in the process, so don’t be tempted to lie or prevaricate.
Read the instructions on the application form carefully and proofread everything you write, checking for spelling and grammar, as well as accuracy and fluency.
Questions might include giving five reasons why you are interested in working at PwC, or outlining what you think you will be doing during your first year in your chosen programme.
Your answers should be concise and to the point – you will have the chance to elaborate further at later stages.
Avoid vague statements and give specific examples.
Don’t regurgitate sentences and phrases from PwC’s brochures and marketing materials – they want to get a sense of your personality so answer in your own words.
2. Immersive Job Preview Assessment
If your application is accepted, your first assessment will be the online immersive job preview assessment, which PwC refers to as ‘Career Valuation’.
This type of test is also known as a situational judgement test. Employers use them as a convenient way to select the most suitable candidates from a large group of applicants.
The candidate is then prompted to answer questions based on what they saw. For each situation, a number of actions or responses will be suggested (generally four or five options) and you must choose the most and least effective.
It is important to remember that this stage of the process is designed to test your suitability more than your ability. If you do not get through to the next stage then you should not regard it as a failure on your part.
Instead, it suggests that the role you’ve applied for, and possibly a career at PwC in general, would not be the right fit for you in the long term.
Having said that, you can prepare for the assessment to some extent:
- Research core competencies. The test will be seeking to pick up on certain qualities that it wants to see in candidates, so spend some time thinking about the key competencies required for the specific role or programme. Research on the PwC website should help with this. Keep these competencies in mind as you go through the test, bearing in mind that a question may address more than one competency at a time.
- Be honest when giving your answer. The test is designed to show who you are as a person, how you would handle different workplace situations, and if PwC is a good fit for you. You won’t do yourself any favours in the long run by trying to adopt a persona or second-guessing what PwC would like you to say.
- Take the test in a quiet room, free from distraction.
- Take your time. Study the detail of each scenario, and read the question and possible responses carefully, before giving your answer.
- Only use the information provided . Do not make assumptions or draw conclusions based on similar situations you may have come across in the past.
For more tips, head over to our article on situational judgement tests.
3. Games-Based Psychometric Assessments
The immersive job preview assessment is graded automatically. If you make it through this stage, you will be sent an invitation to move on to the games-based psychometric assessment stage – or ‘Career Unlocked’ – which is also completed online.
You do not need to do this immediately, so don’t rush into it unprepared. Check the deadline and come back to it when you are ready.
The games are designed to look at:
- Cognitive skills
- Natural behavioural preferences (how you overcome challenges or obstacles, how you approach goals, etc.)
- Numerical aptitude
- Reasoning ability
- Decision-making skills
The assessment consists of 11 games with numerical calculations and logical reasoning at the end.
Games include memory tests, assessing facial expressions and even one where you have to tap a button to inflate party balloons until they pop (this one judges calculated risk-taking).
Games-based tools are being used more and more in the graduate recruitment process, as a way to assess various competencies and personality traits.
However, it may still feel like an alien concept for anyone who has not previously encountered games like this during a job application. Don’t panic – the games are designed to be very simple to play, even for non-gamers.
The following tips should help you perform your best:
- You will need at least an hour to complete the games.
- Play the games on a phone or tablet. If yours is old or sluggish, try to borrow a newer, more powerful one as many of the games rely on reaction time. It is not recommended to play on a PC or laptop.
- Make sure you are not disturbed. Find somewhere quiet and free from distraction to play. Switch your phone to 'Do Not Disturb'.
- Read the instructions carefully. Before each game, you will be told how to play and what the goal is. Bear in mind that the time you take to play impacts your final score, so you are aiming for speed as well as accuracy.
- Remember there is a job at stake. Playing a computer game may seem more enjoyable than taking a test but you should take it just as seriously. Stay focused.
- Be yourself. PwC uses these games to find out more about your personality and abilities. They want to see how you would deal with different situations and whether you have the qualities sought. If you try to second-guess what each game is assessing, you will slow yourself down. Respond to each game honestly.
- Likewise, don’t let anyone else play in your place. Aside from the fact that it’s cheating, these games are designed to assess how you will fit with the company. Asking someone else to stand in will not do you any favours.
- Treat every game as a new experience. You may have come across similar games in other recruitment processes, or just through playing for pleasure, but the PwC games are assessing traits that are particularly important to the company culture. Approach them as a totally new experience, rather than trying to draw on past experiences that may not be relevant.
- Inform PwC if you have a disability. If you think this might affect your performance, it can be accounted for or accommodated in the assessment.
- Try out a practice game. Arctic Shores, the company that makes Career Unlocked, provides a free practice game called Firefly Freedom on its website. This is not the same as the games in the assessment, but will give you an idea of the style.
Read our Career Unlocked article for more information and tips on playing the games.
If you score particularly highly in the games-based assessment, you may immediately pass on to the next stage of the application process.
Otherwise, you will receive an automated response letting you know that you will be sent your result after the final deadline for completing the assessment.
4. Video Interview
Once you have successfully completed the first three stages of the application, you will pass on to the ‘Career Conversation’ stage.
This replaces the first interview stage in the old application process, which previously took place in person or on the phone, and was conducted by a PwC Manager or Senior Manager.
You should have a few days to complete the video interview (make sure you check the deadline), so take some time to prepare and ensure that you have a suitable setup.
Here are a few tips:
- If you do not feel comfortable speaking into a camera then record yourself answering some practise questions, and watch the videos back to see where you could improve. Think about your body language and how you are engaging with the camera.
- Find somewhere suitable to complete the interview. This should be a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed while you record your responses.
- Check what will be visible behind or around you in the video. Make sure the area is clean and tidy; remove anything that may strike the wrong note or raise eyebrows.
- Dress smartly. Treat the interview as though you were meeting a PwC manager in person and dress accordingly. If in doubt, look at images on the company’s website to get an idea of suitable attire.
For more hints and tips, read our article on preparing for a video interview.
The interview will consist of 10 questions. These will include some typical interview topics – such as why you want the role and what qualities you will bring to it – as well as situational judgement questions and a case study.
You will have two minutes to prepare and three minutes to answer, for all except the case study question. For this, you will have 10 minutes to prepare and five minutes to answer.
The Global Leadership Framework
The video interview gives you an opportunity to explain why you are interested in a career with the company.
While preparing, think about the qualities and skills that PwC is looking for in successful candidates. PwC has identified the core attributes that make up its global leadership framework (The PwC Professional) as:
- Whole leadership – being able to lead in a way that makes a difference and delivers results.
- Business acumen – business knowledge and awareness.
- Technical capabilities – the ability and knowledge to perform specific tasks.
- Global acumen – understanding how a business operates on an international level.
- Relationships – the ability to build genuine relationships based on trust.
Wherever possible, try to incorporate evidence of these attributes into your answers.
Questions may include some of the following, or variations on these themes:
- What do you consider to be your strengths?
- What are your development areas?
- How do you structure your time at university, ensuring you balance your personal life?
- Tell me about a difficult experience at work or university, and how you dealt with it.
- What made you decide to join this Professional Service?
- What do you know about our business?
- Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
- What are your major achievements to date?
- Describe how you see the role of a graduate at PwC.
- What is the biggest mistake you have made? What did you learn from this mistake?
- Tell me about a time when you have worked in a team. What was your role?
- How does PwC add value to its clients?
- Tell me what you know about the qualification which you will be studying.
- Explain when you have been in a situation working towards a deadline and the parameters changed.
- Can you discuss any recent developments that have strongly affected PwC and the accounting industry?
- What can you tell me about the line of work to which you have applied?
- What do you think you will be doing in your first year at PwC?
5. Assessment Day
The day is set up as an immersive ‘day in the life’ experience. It is designed to mirror how a typical working day may play out if you were offered the job, and brings together everything you have learned about life at PwC in the previous stages of the process.
The day will end with a coaching interview where you will be asked to reflect on how the day went. This will last around 20 minutes.
Dress for the day as you would for an interview or a day in the office – smartly and conservatively.
The day will bring together candidates applying for a range of roles, so you will not necessarily be in direct competition with others in your group.
However, it goes without saying that this is a highly competitive event, and your last chance to demonstrate that you have what it takes to succeed in a career at PwC.
As the activities you will take part in simulate real-life scenarios that you might come across in your role at PwC, it is vital to have a thorough understanding of the business, its clients and the market it is operating in.
So, set aside some time ahead of your assessment day to do some detailed research into the company:
- Read up on the company through its own website and other resources, such as finance media.
- Download PwC’s latest annual report and make notes on the key points. Finding ways to reference and apply your findings during the course of the day will mark you out as someone with sound business acumen and a keen eye for detail.
- At the very least, make sure that you have figures in your head for PwC’s turnover, how much of that is profit and how much debt the company carries.
- Have an understanding of the company’s key challenges in the current marketplace and its aims for the next five years.
Some tasks begin with each person being given a brief – in a group exercise you may all receive the same brief or the brief may be different for each candidate.
Most commonly, the briefs describe a made-up company that is in the process of a financial update or move.
You will be given time to read through the documents provided and make notes. There may be calculations to be made and you will be given a calculator.
Once you have read through the material, you will discuss your findings with the group and make recommendations for the company and its future.
Other activities may involve being asked to analyse the contents of a brief and report it to the assessors, either via a presentation or in a written report:
- If you give a presentation, this will be followed by around 10 minutes of questioning. The assessors will want to see that you can communicate clearly, fluently and confidently. They will be looking for evidence that you are adaptable, open-minded and practical when responding to questions.
- With a written report, you will need to set out your conclusions clearly and concisely, showing your key findings along with your recommendations for the future.
You may also be asked to complete an in-tray exercise to assess your time-management skills and ability to prioritise, along with your written communication skills.
This task involves sorting through a number of emails and answering questions about the information they contain. You will then need to write an email to a fictional co-worker explaining what you have done, and any tasks that they now need to take care of.
Throughout every task, keep a close eye on the time – it’s a good idea to wear a watch. And check your spelling, grammar and fluency of language for any written tasks.
For group tasks, you will be assessed as much for your ability to work effectively as a team as for your own personal contribution.
Don’t become so caught up in your own performance that you lose sight of how you are interacting with others:
- Speak up but don’t dominate discussions. Make sure everybody has a chance to speak.
- Speak clearly and confidently when contributing ideas and thoughts.
- Make eye contact.
- Listen to what others have to say. Don’t interrupt, but expand on their points where relevant.
- Be diplomatic.
- Don’t veer off track or become bogged down in trivial matters.
- Pause from time to time to summarise the group’s progress so far.
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