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PWC Telephone Interview

A PWC telephone interview will be similar to any other telephone interview; however, they will focus more on the Global Core Competencies of their company, and expect you to have done your research on related topics in their field. The interviewer will most likely start with the normal questions of why you want to work at their particular company, and try to find out how much you know about their business. Much of the interview will be based around competency questions, such as asking when you have worked in a team; having your response practised to the various questions they could ask here is crucial, you usually only have around 25-30 minutes for the interview, so having long pauses and sighs can really cut into valuable time. When looking at actual examples of PWC telephone interviews it becomes clear that a lot of their focus is on commercial awareness, based around cases that are happening in the business world at the time. Thoroughly researching businesses around PWC, and those in the news, will give you a good footing to efficiently answer the questions they throw at you.

As with all telephone interviews there are certain things to remember, so as to come across as competent to the interviewer:

  • Have your CV and application to PWC at hand: you may need to go over certain areas to clarify what you have already told them.
  • Get a pen & paper ready: you will most likely (and should!) have questions to ask them at the end, and writing down their responses will be better than having to ask them again at a later date.
  • Research! You need to know as much about their business as you can, if you don’t it will become clear when they are probing you on certain business areas.
  • Know the market! As well as PWC itself, you should have a good grasp on any businesses it has been affiliated with, and those that are big in the news at your time of interview.
  • Conduct yourself in the same manner that you would in a face-to-face interview: be polite and confident, and make sure you sound enthusiastic about the job role throughout the call.
  • Be aware of the time limits: make sure you are actually answering the questions they have asked; if particularly interested a certain area it can be easy to go on a tangent, leaving out other crucial information they may want.
  • Try to build a rapport with the interviewer: you may have things in common and this will put you at ease for the rest of your interview.
  • Try to take the call where you have no distractions or loud noises: it will not go well if you are constantly asking them to repeat themselves, or worse, if you are in the middle of something else and seem uninterested in talking to them.

It can be difficult to get into ‘interview-mode’ over the phone, as you may only be used to taking social calls from friends and family, but it is important to take this seriously. Telephone interviews will usually be conducted when there have been a large amount of applications for a job, and candidates need to be screened so that only the most suitable will go on to more in depth assessment. You really want to stand out at this stage; although your work experience may be lacking, your personality can be crucial here in securing you a further interview or placement at an assessment centre. As long as you have a thorough knowledge of the business you are applying for, and be yourself throughout the interview, you should be successful in the telephone interview.

PWC Assessment Centre

Assessment Centres are a part of the recruitment process for larger companies and organisations, used mostly for graduate and professional level candidates; they are often referred to as assessment days, and have between 6 and 20 candidates in attendance at one time. They can take place in one of a few places, including the company’s own office, or at a hired venue such as a hotel. With regard to PWC, their assessment centre is the fourth stage of their recruitment process, following the online registration, online psychometric tests, and first interview. At the assessment centre candidates will go through a number of tasks, allowing the employer to view each of the criteria they deem important in an employee of their company. PWC, specifically, names these criteria as their ‘Global Core Competencies’, or, GCCs. The first task will usually involve repeating the psychometric tests that were completed previously online, although content may differ, and they will be in paper format. There will then be group, and possibly, individual exercises; the group exercise will assess your abilities of teamwork, time management, taking lead on a project and delegation, amongst others. Whilst individual exercises involve the candidate working with a trained assessor, rather than the other candidates. For some more specific job roles there could also be a case study and presentation exercise involved; the case study would be a more real-life assessment of putting the experience you already have into solving an issue that may come up in the job role. Presentations test your ability to communicate ideas, the thought process that goes into these ideas, and your knowledge of the area you are presenting. There is usually a final written exercise, in which you will have to give a report on materials provided, relevant to the job role; this is used to assess your writing abilities, as this is a large part of most work duties.

Showing your personality is important here, as there may be many candidates who are equally suited, academically or through experience, to the job; and so it is your unique personality attributes that may put you ahead. It is essential to have researched the company, and prepared yourself for any competency questions you may be asked, as having the core information will allow you to focus on being yourself and show your personality. Assessment centres usually run for a day, however, they can go on for up to 3 days, depending on the number of candidates, and the level of assessment that has to be attained. They can cost the company up to, and sometimes exceed £3000 per candidate; the applicants are not expected to pay this as the assessment is free to them. It is, however, wise to find out from the company whether travel expenses are covered by them, as it could be pricey for a new graduate who has many assessment centres to attend. Another important thing to remember is the way you dress; the usual code for assessment day dressing is to keep it smart, as you would for an interview. There will be a number of people from the company assessing you whilst at the centre, and their first impression of you could be key in the success of your final outcome. Remember you may be competing with the other candidates in attendance, and so if you walk in wearing a shirt and jeans, whilst everyone else is in suits, you will most likely eliminate yourself straight out of the race. The people who will make up the assessment team will usually comprise of HR reps from the recruiting company, directors, and managers. After viewing all of the applicants for the day they will have a joint discussion on who they feel exceled in areas and who would be most suitable to progress on to a final interview. This is thought to be a fair way to assess the candidates, as it is encompassing not only their cognitive abilities in the psychometric tests, but also the way they deal with real-life problems, particularly in teams. The group discussion also ensures that there are no biased views from any of the assessors, who may simply be picking certain candidates through their personal qualities, rather than any suitability they may have to the job role. There are some individuals who are of the opinion that assessment centres are not as effective as other recruitment tactics in finding the most qualified person for a job. There are however, many thousands of pounds, spent by successful companies all around the world, to use this method, and in graduate level jobs with a vast number of applicants, it can be the most efficient way to ensure everyone is given a fair chance. Often graduates coming straight out of university have little if any experience in the career they are pursuing; assessment centres are therefore a great place to give these candidates a chance to demonstrate their competencies in areas that their CV does little to show.


Writing a Cover Letter

Cover Letters are a crucial factor in applying for, and gaining employment; they are usually sent to prospective employers with a CV, adding to any details left out of the CV and giving a more personal touch to the application.

The basic layout of a professional cover letter includes:

  • Contact information for the applicant should be given at the top, followed by personal information such as address, email and phone number.
  • The date should then be given.
  • There should then be the prospective employers name and address.
  • Formalities such as “Dear Mr/Mrs” should then start the body of the cover letter (if known, DO give the name of the person you are writing to, as it will make for a more personal read).
  • First section: Here, the main point of writing to the company should be given, letting them know the position you applying for and that you would like to be considered for an interview. Also, give a brief background of yourself, i.e. where you have just finished studying, or the job you are currently in.
  • Second section: This is where you give the skills, qualities and experience you have that will help in the job you are applying for. Do this in an enthusiastic manner, to show you have a real passion for whatever the job role is. Make sure to link the skills and experience you have from past jobs to the job/person specification they have given in their advert.  This is not simply repeating your CV but rather giving evidence of skills you have that make you suitable for the job advertised.
  • Final Section: Thank the employer for their time in reading your cover letter, and let them know if your CV is attached, if not, when they will be receiving it.
  • End on a comment such as “Respectfully yours”, with your signature or name (dependant on whether cover letter is sent online or through the post).

Cover letters are often not thought of by job hunters, choosing to send just their CV instead, however, they are very important as they form the prospective employers first impression of you and can help you to stand out from possibly a large crowd of applicants. There is also often the mistake made of simply writing out one cover letter and sending it out to all companies or employers; if this is the case it will most likely be obvious and the company will see that no effort has been made. A good covering letter will show that you have researched the company, and that you are the ideal candidate for the job. Some time spent beforehand, going through the company’s website and getting a feel for what they are about and their day-to-day running, will show in your cover letter and immediately make it more appealing than the other candidates who didn’t bother. Make sure to play on the skills and qualities you have that match those the employer is looking for, do not be afraid to say what you are good at, showing you are competent is what the employer wants. On the same note, do not go too far and simply brag or sound too arrogant, this will immediately put the employer off.

As mentioned earlier, cover letters are not simply a way to repeat your CV; the prospective employer has all of your basic information written down, it is personality and your job suitability that they want to see in your cover letter. As in real life, if you make a connection to the employer and let them know this is not just another job application, you will have a greater chance of getting a call back. Another thing to keep in mind is that the employer will possibly be reading through many cover letters, so whilst making sure to show your personality, keep it brief and do not ramble on, as this could straight away put the reader off. It may be helpful to read through some cover letter examples, and start off with a template, as this will keep you on track whilst letting you add your personality. Finally, spell-check and grammar; there will be little point in writing out a great cover letter if it is just full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Most, if not all jobs, will involve being able to write proficiently, if this is not shown in the employers first contact with you, there is little chance of getting to interview level.


Competency Questions

Competency questions, or competency-based questions, are simply questions about an individual’s competency in specific areas; they will be based around specific skills and qualities that a company deems important for their job role. These competencies could be dealing in Leadership, Teamwork, Communication, or Problem-Solving, amongst many others that may be specific to the job you are applying for. They are useful for graduate jobs where no experience is necessary, as they rely on the applicant giving situational examples of life experiences in which they have shown the competency required, such as at school, university, or socially. Competency questions will usually be asked in the interview, they are however, often included in the application form filled out before the recruitment process and are, therefore, predictive that you will be given a competency based interview.

Some examples of Competency questions:

  • “Tell me about a time you have took the lead on a project”
  • “Describe a situation in which you have found a new solution to a project”
  • “When do you feel your part in a team helped to finish a task”

These three examples look at the competencies Leadership, Problem-Solving and Teamwork; in a real life interview they may be phrased differently, but are variations on the same topic. It is important to think of times you have shown certain competencies as it will not knock you off guard if you are given a question like this and have to spend some time trying to think of one, or worse yet, are not able to think of anything at all. As with any type of job, you will usually be asked in the interview why you want to work for that particular company, this can throw a lot of people off, but the key to this question is research of the company. You must have knowledge of the company, its key areas of success, and its competitors; this way you can tailor your answer so as to include your own experience and personality, whilst showing you have taken an interest in that organisation over many others. This is also essential as it may be a deal breaker in the way you answer a particular company’s questions; for example, if you are applying to work at a company that relies heavily on teamwork, you don’t want to give accounts of preferring to work alone. Also, for many graduates, they will be entering onto a graduate scheme, in this case you must be aware of what is required of you on this scheme, as failure to provide an answer to this in the interview will not look good.

There is an acronym universally known for dealing with competency questions, known as STAR, it goes as follows:

  • SITUATION – Set the scene of the situation so that the interviewer will understand the context in which you are speaking; although keep it brief and to the details needed, as they do not want to hear you talk for 15 minutes about a completely irrelevant story.
  • TASK – As above, but with particular emphasis on a task or project you were undertaking, rather than a situational experience.
  • ACTION – Tell the interviewer what you did to resolve the problem, or complete a task; how you did it, keeping your answer brief but fully descriptive; and finally why you did this. The interviewer will want to know your logical reasoning behind decisions made.
  • RESULT – Explain what the outcome of the situation or task was, paying particular attention to anything you exceled at, and also what you learnt from the experience for future use.

It is very important to put your own personality into your answer; although you may have practiced responses to example questions you must remember to be yourself as you do not want to sound like a robot simply saying what you think they want to hear.

The interviewer will mark you on each question, giving a score of 0 to 4; 0, means you showed no evidence for the situation they were asking about, and therefore, probably would not deal very well in that work role. A score of 4 is given for an excellent answer, meaning you would be highly suited to that particular competency which the company requires. The scores are dependent on your ability to demonstrate the positive indicators that have been predetermined for the interview.  It is important to remember that interviewers are human, and although they are marking you on a standardised basis, their first impressions of you will play a part in their decision. Being polite when entering, shaking hands, and being positive in the way you talk about yourself without being arrogant, will help in the final outcome.


Making The Assessment Centre Work For You

What happens at assessment centres?

Assessment centres involve the extensive evaluation of candidates for an extended period of time; sometimes lasting one or two days. During this period candidates undertake a range of exercises and activities which typically include: interviews, presentations, aptitude tests, personality tests, group-exercises, and in-tray exercises.

Graduate employers are increasingly using assessment centres as part of their selection process as it allows them to broadly assess the aptitude of their candidates, as well as their ability to thrive in real-life work situations. Furthermore, informal social events throughout the assessment day provide employers with an additional insight into the social and communicative skills of candidates.

Some top tips for the big day

Facing a one or two day barrage of assessments is likely to be an anxiety provoking prospect for any candidate. However, there are many things you can do to get yourself psychologically and practically prepared!

Firstly – try and find out from the organisation what kinds of test you will be doing. You may already be able to guess from the type of position you are applying to. Forewarned is forearmed!

Try and get lots of practice in – it will do wonders for your performance and will help you overcome some of the anxious thoughts and feelings that might otherwise cloud you on the big day. You might like to take a look at our pack of expert tips and real-life examples of assessment centre exercises, as well as our range of psychometric practice tests.

Finally – keep in mind that the assessment centre can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your breadth of skills. So, if you don’t perform as you had hoped on one particular exercise, you may have the chance to make it up in another area!

Tackling the group exercise

What’s involved?

For many organisations, it is vital that their employees have the ability to communicate with others and to work well within teams. For this reason, employers regularly include some form of group exercise when inviting candidates to the assessment centre. This will often be in addition to individual assessments such as interviews, personality tests and aptitude tests (e.g. verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and inductive reasoning).

Group exercises can vary considerably and may include role plays, case studies, topical discussions and problem-solving tasks.  For example, you might be required to take part in a discussion about an issue relating to the organisation and be allocated a particular role to adopt (e.g. company director). Alternatively, you might be asked to solve a business or ethical dilemma, to plan a project within a given budget or to get creative and build a physical structure together as a team.

How should you approach it?

The range of different scenarios you could face may seem rather daunting, but rest assured, there are some key things you can do to ensure you succeed in any group exercise:

  • Be sure to communicate your ideas clearly, calmly and logically.
  • Always remember to actively listen to others in your group – this means attending carefully, summarising and clarifying their ideas.
  • Make sure your opinions are heard but also take the time to enable other’s to contribute – facilitation is a sophisticated and much sought after skill!
  • Go back to basics – remember the art of conversation: keep appropriate eye contact, take turns, try not to interrupt and never raise your voice.

Get more top tips

To get you ready for the big day, we have developed an extensive Assessment Centre candidate preparation pack which includes expert tips from the assessors themselves and real-life examples of group-exercises.