In my final year of university I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue. I knew a little bit about the Big4 accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, Pwc and EY) so I thought I’d do some more research to find out if it was something I would be interested in. After the research I decided that I was interested in pursuing a career in tax so I set about applying for the Big4. I passed the initial assessment stages of three of the firms with help from the career’s service with my CV and some practice tests online, but after this I was a bit unsure on how to continue. Although I had some previous experience of interviews, I had never had a competency interview on the phone and had little experience of how best to do company research. For these reasons I applied to the Manchester Gold programme in order to get some advice from someone on the inside.
Fortunately I was successful and was given a mentor from EY. As he was based in London we were unable to meet in person but we regularly exchanged emails and spoke on the phone. My mentor had graduated from Manchester around 5 years ago and was now a successful consultancy manger at EY specialising in working in matters related to China. He was incredibly friendly and helpful and was able to give me some specific advice on applying for a large accountancy firm. Before my phone interview with one firm he gave me some tips on potential questions they would ask and what examples I had that would best be used for each. He also helped me by giving me a practice interview in the style that it would be held for EY. From this he highlighted my weaknesses so that I could best improve for the real thing.
After I had successfully passed two telephone interviews, I next needed to tackle the assessment centres. The majority of the tests here are hard to prepare for, as they are really to see if your ideas fit with the ethos of the company. To succeed in this my mentor advised me on how best to research the companies. This also came in handy for the final interview, as I had to find reasons as to why I wanted to work for a particular firm and not one of the others in the Big4.
When it came down to the final stage I only had one firm left and that was KPMG. Again I was able to use the advice from my mentor on what questions might come up and how I should best answer them. He also really helped me think about why I wanted the job and why I thought the job best suited me, as well as explaining to me how I can best use experiences learnt from the academic side of my degree. After all this preparation, the interview was a great success and I actually came away surprised because I had mostly enjoyed myself. Less than an hour after the interview had finished I received a call that I had been successful and was being offered the job! After a few days of consideration I accepted the offer. As the job starts with 9 months of intense study I applied under a deferral so that I could take a break from studying and come back with a clear mind. I will therefore be starting my job as a Trainee Tax Accountant at KPMG in London in September 2015.
I know that the application process was made a lot easier with the help from my mentor and although I can’t determine what the outcome would have been without him, I definitely would have struggled a lot more. Applying for a grad scheme is incredibly daunting and it really helped having someone to talk to about it that had previously been through the same experience. It was also great that he was now on the interviewing side so could pass on useful information. Finally, in addition to this I now have a senior contact in one of the big firms and you never know when this could come in handy. I really would recommend the Manchester Gold programme for anyone that’s seeking advice on applying for jobs; it might just make that difference for success.
Jennifer, BA (hons) Politics, Philosophy and Economics