Graduate Application Process
(Also see interview questions and answers about PwC interviews on the WikiJob forums)
The process for applying to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) is as follows:
- Online registration form
- Online numerical reasoning and Occupational Preference Questionnaire and logical or verbal reasoning test
- First interview
- Assessment Centre comprising:
PwC Online Application
The application will be referred to in both interviews. Make sure you retain a copy for your records.
Occupational Personality Questionnaire
PwC uses an online Occupational Personality Questionnaire to find out more details about each candidate's personality and how he or she likes to work. There’s no real way to prepare for this questionnaire, so just be honest in your answers.
PwC Application Questions
When answering questions in your application form, do not be vague. Give specific examples. Don’t regurgitate sentences from PwC’s brochures and marketing materials. Also, your academic and other credentials will be checked later on in the process so do not lie about your achievements.
You are asked to write 500 words about services PwC could offer a potential client.
Tips for answering this question:
This question requires you to demonstrate:
- You have an understanding of the services PwC offers.
- An understanding of the services PwC offers to clients and how PwC helps clients improve their performance.
It is better to select a business you are familiar with to answer these questions, such as a high-street store. Online businesses such as Google, Facebook and internet gaming websites make poor examples to use as they are generally less well understood by older generations and their business model is still young and developing. Avoid discussing any technical types of business such as insurance or banking. If possible, select a business that is not a client of PwC as you may be interviewed by someone who knows a lot more about them than you do.
Examples of services PwC could offer to clients might include:
- Tax advice
- Performance improvement consulting
- Internal control testing
- Strategic consulting (e.g. selecting potential targets for takeover)
PwC Online Tests
The online test is comprised of up to four parts, depending on the job area you’ve applied to:
- Numerical reasoning (basic skills: interpreting data from tables, fractions, percentages, ratios, time/date calculations, foreign currency conversion).
- Inductive reasoning or logic test
- Situational Judgement
- Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)
You will see practice questions before each section enabling you to familiarise yourself with the style of question asked. You will need a calculator, some paper and a pencil.
The inductive reasoning is a short test requiring you to infer solutions using logic. The problems are of a visual nature.
The Occupational Personality Questionnaire assesses your preferred behavioural style at work. The test includes 100 questions and you select the answer that is “more like you” or “less like you.” Do not attempt to guess the answer PwC is seeking. Rather, select the answer that best suits your own work style.
(also see general interview advice and competency based questions)
Your first interview will be a competency based interview conducted by a PwC Manager or Senior Manager from the line of service to which you've applied. It will last approximately 45 minutes. The interview will focus specifically on your application form and previous experiences. It can be a face-to-face interview or a telephone interview. You get to choose. If you choose to have a telephone interview, keep in mind that your good telephone etiquette will pay off. Don’t eat or drink while talking - conduct yourself just as you would in a face-to-face interview.
- Develop self and others through coaching
- Communicate with impact and empathy
- Be curious: learn, share and innovate
- Be passionate about client services
- Lead and contribute to team success.
- Build and sustain relationships
- Demonstrate courage and integrity
- Manage projects and economics
- Be open minded, agile with change and practical
- Acquire and apply commercial and technical expertise
Learn more about PwC’s global core competencieshere
- What do you consider to be your strengths?
- What are your development areas?
- Why do you want to leave your present job?
- How do you structure your time at university ensuring you balance your personal life?
- Tell me about a difficult experience at work 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 5 years?
- What are your major achievements to date?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- 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?
- Have you applied for any other graduate jobs?
- How does PwC add value to its clients?
- How is PwC Assurance divided and in what division would you like to work? (see PwC Audit & Assurance)
- Tell me what you know about the qualification which you will be studying?
- Explain when you have been in a situation where you were working towards a deadline and the parameters have been changed? (i.e. you have been asked to deliver something slightly different)
This site gives some advice on tackling these questions. The questions are designed to be open ended and to allow you to talk freely about your achievements and goals.
In addition, you may well also be asked competency based questions which force you to demonstrate evidence of past experience relating to PwC's core competencies:
- Give me 2 examples of when you have worked in a team to achieve a goal. (Teamwork)
- Give me 2 examples of where you have had to lead a team. (Teamwork)
- Give me 2 examples of where you have been in a situation of conflict, and explain how you choose to do the right thing.
- Can you discuss any recent developments which have strongly affected PwC and the accounting industry? (Commercial Awareness)
- What do you anticipate you will be doing in your first year at PwC?
- What can you tell me about the (ACA) qualification to which you have applied?
- 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?
- Discuss a recent piece of financial news that has been in the press?
You should bear PwC's Global Core competencies in mind during your interviews as this is what you will be mainly tested on. At interview, you must be able to give examples of how you have demonstrated these competencies in the past. You will be expected to give responses based on experiences within university years (work, education, extracurricular). School or college experiences are too far in the past.
Overall, the PwC interview will be more of a flowing conversation between interviewer and candidate. Although the interview is competency based, the examples you are asked for may be linked in with your application form or as part of a general discussion about yourself and your achievements. Generally speaking, this makes the interview easier and a more pleasant experience than interviews at other firms.
Plan to be at your assessment day for four hours. You will be in a group with up to 12 other candidates. Wear appropriate attire. Go conservative if you’re in doubt of what to wear.
Numerical & Diagrammatic Test
The test is designed by SHL. This is a multiple choice test. You will require a calculator, pencil and eraser. These will be provided for you if you do not bring your own. If possible, try to bring a calculator you are familiar with.
The diagrammatic reasoning test consists of 40 questions in 20 minutes.
There will be extreme time pressure. You must apportion your time correctly and move on if you get stuck. Unlike the online test, this test will be extremely challenging, and you should prepare yourself for this. Candidates from a non-mathematical background may struggle with the math part of the test, and you should spend the time attempting the questions you are most likely to get correct.
The diagrammatic questions are also difficult, and will become more difficult as the test progresses. Many people do not finish this portion of the exam.
It is advisable to take practice SHL style tests before the real thing. You can find practice numerical, verbal and diagrammatic reasoning tests here.
Do not be disheartened if you struggle during these tests. PwC hire a great number of people from artistic backgrounds and considers the entire application for every person in perspective.
Written Communication Exercise
You will be given a packet of information to read and then you must compile a report. You will have 30 minutes to complete the task. The packet will contain several pages of documentation about options a business has available. You are to evaluate the options and present your recommendation based on the information you are given. Support your recommendation with figures from the packet, but do not let the math hold you up. Do not attempt to write a narrative report. Use bullet points to list pros and cons and use headings effectively. Present your ideas clearly and use good English and correct grammar. Consider putting your recommendation at the beginning of your report in case you don’t have time to finish.
There will be between three and six candidates who take part in the group exercise along with two PwC observers in the room. You will be given some general information about a company and its situation. Additionally each person will receive some extra information particular to them explaining their role at the company. You will have 20 minutes to read the information and then 30 minutes to discuss it with the group. The group exercise requires you to communicate and discuss with other candidates all points of view, and to finally reach a conclusion. Spend some time getting your thoughts on paper as you will have to make a recommendation to the group about the case.
Make sure everybody speaks, make eye contact, stay on track, watch time closely, expand on other people's points, and be persuasive. Do not dominate the conversation and do not get bogged down in trivial matters. Consider that PwC might want to provide future consulting services to the firm they are advising in the case study.
The PwC partner interview is 90 percent competency based and 10 percent based on the specific area where you have applied for a position You will be asked about communication skills, client service, self development, development of others, relationship building and personal networks.
Typical questions arising from these competencies would be:
- Why do you want to work for PwC? Why PwC instead of another Big 4 firm?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? At PwC, in 5 years you can reasonably expect to finish 'Manager' position and be moving into managing staff and clients on your own.
- What recent events have affected PwC and the accounting industry? (This would include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act).
- What factors do you think are important to make a successful business?
- If you were senior partner at PwC, what would keep you up at night?
- Give me an example of a business you think is performing well/badly and explain why you think this is so?
- If you had £1 million, how would you invest it?
- Tell me about a time when you have had to motivate someone?
- Tell me when you learnt something new?
- Tell me about a time when you have to resolve a disagreement diplomatically.
- What/where do you expected to be in 5 years?
- If you met the CEO of M&S and were asked for advice from an auditory point of view, what would you say?
- If you were unsuccessful with PwC what would you do?
- Give two examples of when you've had to make and stick to a budget.
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with rejection.
- Tell me about a time when you convinced others with your point of view.