If you are applying for a job with the Big 4; Deloitte, EY, PwC or KPMG, you can expect to be asked competency-based questions as well as some more general questions. As such, this is what you want to prepare for. Competency based questions are questions which require examples based on your experience. The interviewer is not looking for a standard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, they want to be assured that you can back your response up with real examples. Although it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect when it comes to interviews, these are some of the most common questions and possible answers, to help you prepare. The interviewer may ask variations of these types of questions.
Most interviewers will start by asking you to tell them a bit about yourself. This is designed to get the conversation started and for them to understand a bit more about you. They do not want to know how many dogs you have or whether you are married, they want to understand your background, so keep it work related. For example, you might talk about your journey from University to where you are today, and what motivates you. They want to know what has brought you from where you’ve been to why you’re sitting in front of them. It is the perfect opportunity to tell them why you want the job.
Everyone hates this question and it is one of the most common questions to be asked during interviews. The weakness question can seem particularly difficult, after all, you don’t want to talk your way out of the job by revealing that you struggle to get out of bed or that you are extremely untidy. The reason interviewers ask this question is that they want to know that you are aware of your weakness, as that, is a sign of strength. It is a good to back up your weakness with what you do to rectify it. For example, you could answer that you are too critical of your own work. However, you have are slowly learning to take positive feedback on board and this has really helped in your ability to be more confident about your abilities.
The interviewer is looking for you to follow the STAR method with this question; situation, task, action and result. This is particularly prevalent for organisations such as PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY, as they are looking for candidates who set themselves apart from the others.
For example, maybe you were nominated for an award or you achieved the highest sales in your department. Explain the achievement, what you did to achieve it and the outcome. How did you go from the achievement, what did you learn?
As you can imagine, working with one of the Big 4; Deloitte, EY, PwC or KPMG is not going to be easy and you can expect the role to be quite stressful at times. The interviewers want to be sure that you can manage stress well and you won’t end up leaving if the stress gets too much. Remember to always use examples in your answers. For instance, a time when you had to deal with conflicting responsibilities and how you prioritised these to meet deadlines. The interviewers will also want to see that you communicate well. It may be that you had to tell one person that you had to prioritise something else, as it was given to you first. Communication is key and the interviewers are not just looking to see that you manage stress, but how you manage it and communication is a big part of this.
With this question, the interviewers are trying to get a feel for what really motivates you. It is important not to get into any discussions about bad bosses or colleagues, even if this is fundamentally your reason for leaving. A better way to answer this is to talk about your aspirations and desires to move into a role which will benefit you professionally and personally. It is a good time to talk about why you want to work for KPMG, EY, PwC, Deloitte, or another organisation you are applying to. Try to keep this answer as positive as possible, while empathising your desire for growth.
Depending on the interviewers, they might switch the questions between getting to know you professionally – and personally. In this case, they may ask you about your hobbies and interests outside of work. Usually, this is to get to know you, but also to see that you have a busy, active life – qualities which are attractive to an employer. For example, you may enjoy travelling in your spare time or you may be a member of a sports club. You might enjoy reading, climbing hills or running. Interviewers want to avoid someone who ‘enjoys socialising’, as this can be translated into ‘enjoys clubbing and might be hungover on a Monday’ – even if that’s not really the case. Be careful with your wording here and try to focus on active or intellectual hobbies. If you say you spend every weekend watching box sets of Netflix, it might come across that your job is the only thing you have in your life, and this really isn’t what employers are looking for. They want someone with drive and other interests.
The interviewer wants to know why you have chosen this company to work for, rather than any competitors. For example, why did you choose Deloitte, instead of KPMG, PwC or EY? It is important to focus on the company here, rather than the job spec. They are not asking you why you want the job, but why you want to work for them. What qualities does the organisation have that appeals do you? Focus on their core values with this answer and any achievements they have. Don’t focus on salaries or other benefits.
This is similar to the above, but this time you are focusing on the job. You might want to mention the benefits of the company too, if you’ve not already been asked this, but primarily, focus on the role here. What are the main objectives of the role and why does this appeal to you? The interviewer wants to know that you know what the role entails and that you are enthusiastic about it. This is the time to really show the interviewers your main motivations for applying for the role.
The wrong way to answer this question is ‘no.’ If you don’t ask any questions, it seems to the interviewer that you are not that interested in the role and this is not the impression you want to leave them with. Ask questions such as ‘what is the company culture like’, ‘what are the goals of the company over the next 5 years?’ Show the interviewer that you are enthusiastic and interested in the company, not that you just want a job. This is particularly important for organisations such as PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY, as many candidates just want to have the prestige of working there, rather than a genuine interest in the organisation.
It is not possible to know exactly what to expect from the interview questions, which makes it difficult to prepare. However, these are some general ways you can prepare to ensure you can adapt your knowledge to answer any question.
Research the company and the job description
The questions are related to the role and you need to be able to show you can transfer any knowledge and experience you have to the role. Make sure you research the job and the company, undertaking as much research as possible. Find out what the company is doing, any recent news/achievements they have made and what makes the organisation appealing to your aspirations.
Understand your ambitions
Take time to sit down and work out your own aspirations for the future and what has led you to this point in your career. You will be asked about your plans for the future, whether directly or indirectly, and it is essential that you know exactly where you are going. Interviewers want to be sure that you are focused on building a future and you are confident in what that will look like.
It is a good idea to practice the interview questions and answers and if you can get some help from a family member or friend, this will really help you. It will give you a chance to visualise the set up of the interview, prepare for the interview and get feedback on your performance, before the big event.
It is a good idea to have some questions ready too, as it’s likely that the interviewer will ask about questions you have. If you have 2 or 3 ready, it’ll save you the stress of having to deal with awkward silences.
Although interviews are stressful, it’s a good idea to get into the frame of mind of trying to enjoy the process. Remember, it’s not just about what you can offer, but what the company can do for you.