Lucy Mair quizzes PwC's Head of Student Recruitment, Richard...
We’ve gathered together the questions you’re most likely to be asked in an interview for an internship or graduate role in audit at a professional services firm – and we’ve even given you ideas for answers to some of them too.
Remember you’ll also need to be prepared for the questions that employers in any sector might ask – for example, ones about your professional experience, strengths and weaknesses, and aspirations.
Careers in audit are open to graduates from all degree disciplines, so don’t worry if you haven’t studied maths or a business-related course at university.
Firms look for candidates with good numeracy skills, strong teamwork and communication skills, willingness to learn, and the ability to build relationships with clients. Use your academic experience, part-time work and participation in clubs and societies to demonstrate that you’ve developed these skills.
If you really want the job you’re applying for, plenty of reasons will spring to mind.
It could be that you’re keen to get an inside look at the country’s top companies by studying their accounts; that you’d like the opportunity to visit client sites and build long-term relationships with them; or that you’re eager to study for a professional qualification while getting hands-on experience on the job.
Whatever it is that excites you about working in audit, make sure you show that you’ve done some research and understand what the job involves, and that you can explain why it appeals to you.
You may have applied to work in a specific location, in which case you’ll probably be asked why.
It might be because you’ll be able to save money by living with your parents – it’s fine to mention your personal reasons, but try to show that you’ve had a closer look at the office in question too. Perhaps it works with some clients that particularly interest you, or you may have met some of the team members at a recruitment event and got on well with them.
Your interviewers want you to show that you’ve done your research into a career at the firm and have a good understanding of what a graduate role in audit involves.
This means you need to know what kind of projects you’ll be working on and what sort of tasks you’ll be responsible for, who you’ll be reporting to, where your work will be carried out – at your firm’s office or on client sites – and how much of your time will be spent studying at college.
Interviewers want to see that you understand how the firm is successfully servicing its clients.
In your answer you should touch on what the firm does differently to its competitors, the strong relationship-building skills held by people at the firm, and the services it offers clients in addition to audit.
Competency questions come up in interviews for all kinds of graduate roles, but they’re particularly important to positions in audit. This is because your interviewers probably won’t expect you to have a detailed understanding of the audit process so instead will be looking for a number of core competencies to show you have the potential to do well in the job.
The skills interviewers will look for include teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability and judgement. Make sure you have examples of times when you demonstrated these competencies to hand, and practise answering competency questions using the STAR method, outlining the Situation, Task, Action and Result.
It’s important to demonstrate that you have broad commercial awareness and keep up to date with developments in the business and financial press, but you should also be prepared to show that you’re following the audit industry specifically and be ready to discuss it in detail.
The Big Four professional services firms have been criticised for failing to spot, or warn about, the global financial crisis, and their practices are also facing scrutiny from British and European regulators who say there’s not enough competition among auditors. Make sure you’re able to discuss these issues, and their impact on firms in the industry.