So how difficult is it to land a KPMG internship in the U.S.? Last year, KPMG received 27,000 applications from students in the U.S., which led to the firm hiring an intern class totaling 3,000, winter and summer sessions combined. That equates to an acceptance rate of approximately 11%.
Once you get your foot in the door as an intern, however, your chance of getting a full-time offer increases dramatically. Typically between 90% and 93% of KPMG get offers to join the firm full-time after graduation, and the acceptance rate hovers around 95%.
“That’s a pretty solid conversion rate of our interns,” said Blane Ruschak is the executive director of university relations and recruiting at KPMG. “It’s a rigorous process of getting in, and we do a pretty good job of screening, so that’s why we have very high offer and acceptance rates.
“Our goal is to hire as many full-time people as possible through the internship program,” he said. “That gives student and ourselves a chance to assess each other and make sure it’s a good fit, plus we hire a decent number of people who come directly out of college [without doing a KPMG internship].”
KPMG hosts an annual national faculty symposium. In addition to targeting students with majors such as accounting, finance, economics and a number of different disciplines related to business, KPMG is increasingly looking to recruit students who specialize in computer science, information systems and engineering. This echoes the needs of other Big Four professional services firms, which are competing against tech firms and banks for the best IT talent coming out of college.
KPMG does an annual analysis to formulate a list of core schools to target based on various criteria, including CPA exam pass rates, the number of students graduating with accounting degrees, the ranking of its business school.
To be on that list, a school also has to be able to source multiple offices and multiple practices, ideally including audit, advisory and tax. For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is on the target list because it sources many different offices nationwide, not only Chicago, and many different practices interested in hiring entry-level candidates.
Other schools on the list include the University of Texas at Austin, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M.
“For these universities, we pretty much live on campus the whole semester, with fall being the busiest season,” Ruschak said. “In September, October and November, our recruiters are there multiple days during the week, hosting events, career fairs, info nights, networking opportunities and meetings with faculty."
KPMG screens the resumes of applicants and selects students for on-campus interviews. Much of the criteria that recruiters look at is standard, such as GPA. KPMG also prioritizes candidates with the ability to multitask and manage their time between competing priorities. It’s paramount to have excellent communications skills, which they assess in meetings with students. Writing skills are also important, and recruiters even scrutinize how students communicate with them via email. Recruiters also look at candidates’ technology skills, the classes they’ve taken, leadership skills, extracurricular activities and organizations, honors, awards and scholarships – basically, the whole package.
If selected to move on, they are invited into the KPMG office of their choice. The next stage of the process is typically a day-and-a-half program.
“Students get an inside look at our firm and they get to meet a lot of KPMG people, rather than just one or two,” Ruschak said. “We do a series of interviews and team activities, as well as a lunch or dinner hosted by new hires, partners and managers.
“Students really got a chance to look at KPMG from the inside, and shortly thereafter we make offer decisions,” he said.
Students who receive offers have to decide whether to accept by early December.
In the spring, KPMG runs leadership programs for students who are still a year away from being eligible for an internship. These are offered at the local level, plus the top students get an invitation to Hollywood, California, where the firms hosts a national program called Fast Forward. The top students from each target school’s global leadership program also gets invited to attend a KPMG conference somewhere in Europe, most recently held in Dublin.
But that is not the first touchpoint that KPMG has with many promising students.
“In today’s environment in which many schools are doing direct admits into the business school, we’re meeting them freshman year, then they’ll participate in our leadership program, then do an internship, then they start with us full-time,” Ruschak said. “It’s a long process.
“Students are indoctrinated into the recruiting cycle early on,” he said. “Once the campus interview goes on, we know them very well – we know what office and practice they’re interested in, and we know their backgrounds, leadership profile and participation in extracurriculars.”