Graduates in 2020 and 2021 will be entering a tough job market. In the UK, around 750,000 people have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19. So it’s some comfort that the big four professional services firms are continuing their usual graduate intake, albeit by running the selection processes virtually.
The big four Professional services firms – Deloitte EY, KPMG, and PwC recruit on a rolling basis throughout the year but the bulk of their new hires start in September although they will begin their training programmes, which typically last three years, from home.
So if you’re looking for another route into finance, then the Big Four could be for you. They offer internships and graduate programmes across advisory, audit, tax, consulting and technology. The recruitment process is multi-stage and pretty exhaustive.
The online recruitment process for the Big Four
Initial applications have always been online, but graduates have had to adapt their techniques to a virtual world of online interviews.
KPMG was close to finalising its graduate recruitment programme for 2020 as Covid struck. It will open applications for class of 2021 in the coming weeks. “The key change for our class of 2021 is that we have gone fully virtual. Applicants apply online as usual, then the rest of the assessments are virtual,” says Camilla Woodhead, Head of Student Recruitment at KPMG.
KPMG candidates whose initial online applications are successful will then sit a situational based online assessment called Transforming Small Businesses, which takes around 90 minutes to complete.
The next stage is called Delivering Outcomes, which is an online video and written response-based assessment specific to the business area they have applied for. This takes around 60 minutes to complete.
Then there is a Critical Thinker assessment, which is a numerical assessment. Candidates are assigned a date and time for the 40 minute session.
Finally, KPMG's process ends in the Virtual Launch Pad, a half-day assessment centre that takes place virtually, and if candidates are successful they will receive their job offer within two working days.
This has replaced the firm’s physical assessment which pre-Covid was also an opportunity for graduates to network and hear from leaders of the business. Woodhead says the Virtual Launchpad re-produces these elements. “We divide candidates into small groups so they can have a Q&A session with someone already on the graduate programme. We also conduct one-on-one interviews on the Virtual Launch Pad.”
EY’s recruitment process starts with the online application, followed by a behavioural and numerical test. Successful candidates from that stage then have a video-based ‘job simulation’, which gives the candidate an insight on what it’s like to work in the specific business area they have chosen.
EY then has a virtual assessment centre followed by a final interview, which this year was conducted virtually. "EY is aiming to have some elements of its recruitment for 2021 at our physical locations, but there will still be blended assessment," said Matthew Jeffery, head of recruitment at EY.
Georgia Greer, head of student recruitment, at Deloitte says: “A large proportion of our application and assessment process was already delivered virtually, however due to COVID-19 we had to adjust our approach at pace to our in-person assessments to ensure we could deliver the same high quality candidate experience virtually. We successfully launched a number of virtual assessment days over the past recruitment year which we plan to build upon for our new recruitment year, which opens for applications in September.”
Jobs on offer in the Big Four
KPMG receives around 30,000 applications a year and recruits across the following business areas: audit, consulting, deal advisory, tax and KPMG Law and technology and engineering. It’s important for graduates to know the area they want to work in because each training programme, which typically lasts three years, is tailored to a specific area.
Deloitte has taken on 1,500 graduates, who will join this September when their training programmes will begin with skills webinars, online meet ups and wellbeing sessions. Each graduate will also be assigned a Deloitte ‘buddy’.
Meanwhile EY has offered 1,015 student places, across two intakes in September this year and April 2021, of which 815 will be graduates. It has also recruited 200 school leavers, the second largest amount on record for EY and an increasingly popular access route for a career with the Big Four as they look to broaden access. 730 of EY’s U.K. student intake – graduates and school leavers – will join on a Government accredited apprenticeship scheme.
The EY Graduate programmes are two to three years in length, depending on the business area and the training pathway. The majority of our graduates join EY on the three-year Graduate training programme.
Of the total 1,015 student places at EY offered in 2020, 632 were in assurance (which includes audit), 203 in consulting, 130 in tax and 50 in strategy and transactions.
Tech jobs are increasing at the Big Four
Deloitte says that tech roles are in increasing demand and is starting to see a shift in applications for jobs outside London. Greer adds: “With the rise in demand for virtual and remote working opportunities we expect this trend to continue and plan to continue to grow the number of opportunities for students to access high quality training programmes across the UK in the coming years.”
PwC will be announcing its recruitment programme for 2021 in the coming weeks. Applicants must have a 2:1 degree.
Internships with the Big Four
Getting a paid internship at one of the Big Four is a good route to winning a place on a graduate scheme. Due to Covid, EY shortened its summer internships from the usual six weeks onsite to a week and delivered them online. “We made the decision to push ahead because future talent is critical to our business, so we provided a week of dedicated training, learning experiences and coaching opportunities” says Jeffery. "Internships are an important recruitment tool for EY, providing a third of our graduate intake."
KPMG usually runs four-week summer internships but this year they haven’t taken place. “All of the internship offer holders have been offered a place on the graduate scheme,” said Woodhead.
EY’s starting salary for graduates is £21,400. KPMG does not disclose salary numbers but says it is competitive with the market.
Photo by Lisa Bresler on Unsplash
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