Making it through the door at PWC is a tough ask. It only hired 2% of the experienced candidates who applied last year. The trick is to get in early - it hired 11,000 of the 70,000 students who submitted an application, meaning that about 16% got a job.
Of the students hired last year, 60% accepted full-time jobs, while the other 40% landed an internship. PwC claims a 93% conversion rate of interns who eventually become full-time associates, meaning those who complete an internship are highly likely to get a full-time offer at the firm. Approximately 95% of interns receive a full-time offer each year, and of those who do, 93% accept.
Full-time campus hires start as an associate regardless of what division they’re in, whether that's advisory, tax, assurance, audit, management consulting, technology consulting, transaction services or another field. A small percentage, approximately 300 or so per year, are MBA hires, who start as senior associates.
Last year, PwC hired from more than 600 universities, but it has a short list of active schools where the firm has boots on the ground, spending the necessary time to build dedicated team-building relationships on campus. The list is huge, and you can find it here.
“In Philadelphia, for example, we cover Penn State, Villanova and Temple,” said Alexa Merschel, U.S. campus talent acquisition leader at PwC. “Our goal is to hire the best talent on each campus.”
Because of the high number of applications it received, PwC has also been ramping up the number of video interviews it conducts, to whittle down a short-list for in-person interviews.
PwC hosts case competitions on campuses nationwide where students are challenged to come up with solutions for clients. The firm also runs a one-day Explore program to help students better understand the internships and career opportunities that PwC offers.
Around 4,500 students participate in the case competitions on 90 campuses nationwide, forming teams of four or five to tackle business problems that PwC clients face and come up with solutions, which they present to a leadership panel.
Each person on a winning team gets $200 and is entered into a national competition, either assurance or tax. Students submit videos that PwC reviews that we review and award $2,000 prizes.
As we mentioned, PwC is carrying out more video interviews, but it also conducts on-campus interviews at the schools it targets and is likely to extend its virtual interviews to short-listed students at target schools it doesn't visit.
The next step after a successful on-campus interview is an office visit to learn more about the firm and the group they would be working in, and Merschel said that 50% of office visits will be virtual this coming fall. Some candidates will end up doing two or three interviews via computer, and most will do four or five interviews total, including at least two in person, before receiving an offer from PwC.
"Students are very comfortable with the technology, and they appreciate the efficiency with their time, as opposed to leaving school for an in-person office visit," she says.
“I could see us moving to predominantly all video interviews, for example, using Google Hangouts for virtual interviews,”
Ideally, PwC likes to bring on interns a year prior to their graduation. While there are some specialty practices that don’t require it, you pretty much have to become a Certified Public Accountant if you want a career at a Big 4 firm.
“Our advice is that they sit for their CPA exam prior to starting with the firm or immediately after starting with the firm, the earlier the better,” Merschel said. “A lot of times, even if they are waiting to accept their full-time offer, we will pay for the exam fees prior to their start date.
“It’s individualized – some are taking it during the school year, some after graduation, others a year in,” she said. “We don’t encourage that, but it’s not mandated when you sit for the exam.”