If you’re still a student and considering a career in the professional services industry, then at some point it makes sense to try and secure an internship. After all, not only will you gain invaluable hands-on experience of the working environment, but you’ll also get the opportunity to build important relationships with people in your chosen field.
Although all the Big Four firms offer such internships, PricewaterhouseCoopers – more commonly known as PwC – is highly regarded for the depth and quality of its programmes, and is an excellent option regardless of your area of professional interest. There are numerous types of schemes available, too, meaning that you’ll likely find something that is a good fit for you.
So, if you’re wondering how to get your foot in the door, we’ve compiled a brief insight into the application and recruitment process, as well as some quick tips on how to prepare. That’s not all, either; with 90% of PwC interns receiving a permanent job offer at the end of their placement, you could be indirectly securing yourself a career with one of the biggest companies in the world.
If a PwC internship sounds like an enticing prospect, then this is what you need to know.
1. Know the Basics
Before you commit to anything, your first step should be to research the options that are available to you. As well as the information that is available online (both through official PwC channels and otherwise), the company holds numerous recruiting events on campuses, while there are also numerous introductory programmes aimed at certain groups (such as the ‘Women in Business’ and ‘Talent Academies’ schemes in the UK). Remember: PwC is a huge firm with a lot of streams and departments, and you need to be sure of which one aligns best with your career aspirations and goals.
You also need to be aware of what you are eligible for. Some programmes may stipulate that you are studying for a particular course, while others may be aimed at a particular group of people; it’s highly likely that you will need to be on course to meet a particular grade, too. The exact requirements are outlined in the job descriptions on PwC’s recruitment websites, so make sure you tick all such boxes before you apply.
Bear in mind that PwC doesn’t just employ accountants and tax specialists, either. As the company begins to embrace various technological opportunities, for instance, there is an increasing need to recruit data specialists, IT gurus and programmers, while there are also still traditional opportunities within the firm’s internal services, such as in HR, administration and service support.
2. Find the Right Role
As mentioned, there’s a wide variety of departments within PwC, and it’s possible to apply for an internship in many of them; a full list of those that are currently available can be found on the firm’s UK and US recruitment websites.
Generally, they are divided into the following:
- Actuarial (including Actuarial Services, People and Organisation, and Reward and Employment)
- Consulting (including Management Consulting, Economics Consulting, Strategy&, Sustainability and Climate Change Consulting, and Technology Consulting)
- Deals (including Corporate Finance, Business Recovery Services, Forensic Services, Transaction Services and Valuations)
- Tax (including Corporate Tax and Indirect Tax)
- Technology (including Cyber Security, Forensic Technology, Technology Consulting, Technology Risk and HR Technology)
In terms of the internship programmes themselves, there are several options. In the UK, the most popular is the summer Internship programme which lasts for between six and eight weeks and involves working on a real-time project in your chosen department. There’s also the opportunity to apply for an 11-month undergraduate work placement, although this is typically aimed at individuals who are required to submit competency hours as part of their qualification (such as those studying certain accounting degrees). You should be in your penultimate year of study to apply.
In the US, the main internship programme is known as ‘Advance’ and is available during both the summer and the winter. These are also both six to eight weeks in length and follow a similar theme, although it’s arguably more beneficial to be a winter intern, given that this is traditionally the busy season for most departments. Applicants should again be in the penultimate year of their studies (as well as on course for a minimum 3.3 GPA).
There is also a short US-only internship programme that is known as ‘Start’, which is aimed primarily at students from underrepresented backgrounds or colleges. Based in the company’s Internal Firm Services (IFS) department, it is designed to be both an introduction to working at PwC, as well as encouragement for participants to pursue an ‘Advance’ internship; you should ideally be in the sophomore year of your course to be eligible.
3. Focus on Your CV
At this stage, your CV is essentially supplementary, as you will also provide much of the same information during the online application process, but it’s still important to ensure it’s up to date and tailored to your chosen role.
Focus on the right areas, too. As a student, nobody expects your work experience to be overly impressive, so pay close attention to your transferable skills (particularly those that are relevant to accounting) and go into more depth about the study projects and assignments that you’ve worked on.
4. Submit Your Application
The first thing you’ll need to do before you can apply is wait for an opening; the company’s recruitment websites clearly indicate when their internship application windows are active. To save yourself the trouble, though, simply sign up to the firm’s ‘Talent Network’, which sends you email updates based on your eligibility and preferences.
Once there are vacancies available, you can then start the process. As is the case with many large firms that attract huge volumes of applications, PwC’s application process is based entirely online, which means that you’ll be dealing with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This isn’t anything to be worried about, though; simply pay close attention to the key words and phrases of the job description and ensure that all the information you supply is true and correct.
Once you get through this screening phase, you will then undergo two online tests. These are the situational judgement test and the psychometric test.
Situational Judgement Test
Designated as an ‘Immersive Job Preview Assessment’, this career valuation entails watching a series of video scenarios, followed by a quiz that is designed to judge your suitability for the role and the wider company culture.
For the most part, these tests are straightforward and rely on a strong degree of common sense, but as a general tip, always select what you think is the most justifiable option when answering the questions.
As the name suggests, these are a series of gamified tests that are designed to assess your cognitive skills and behavioural preferences. As they are aptitude-based, just do the best that you can as quickly as you can – and ensure that you get lots of practice in beforehand!
Don’t try to cheat, either. You will repeat most of these tests at the assessment centre in a supervised environment, so if you’re Googling all the numerical questions, then you’ll be found out further down the line, anyway.
If you are successful in these tests, you will then receive an email inviting you for an interview at your chosen office.
5. Ace the Interview
PwC interviews are split into two parts and usually take place on separate days; they consist of a lengthy interview, as well as a longer assessment centre. In most instances, they are conducted by a director and a senior manager within your chosen department, and you can generally expect the following:
A crucial part of the assessment day is the ‘case study’, where you will work in a group with your fellow applicants to find a solution to a fictional problem based on a real-life client. The important thing to remember here is that you are being assessed on your ability to work with others, as well as take on board information. Make sure you are engaged and contributing ideas, but don’t talk over everyone and shoot down their opinions.
Bear in mind that they are still your competition for the role, too. When given the task, make sure you understand what is being asked of you, because if you misunderstand something or get the numbers wrong, it’s almost certain that the person next to you won’t.
Aside from the case study, you will also (as mentioned) resit the psychometric assessments that you have taken online. You will be working against a shorter clock here and will be in exam conditions, so remain calm and ensure that you have brushed up on your maths beforehand. Some of the questions can be quite time-consuming, too, so make sure you complete the easiest questions first and then return to the trickier ones.
As discussed, your interview will be with two senior members of your chosen team, rather than an HR representative, so you’ll need to make an impression immediately. The key here is not to panic, to prepare thoroughly and to do your research.
There are plenty of hints and tips available on PwC’s website, too, including the five specific competencies that you will be marked against; make sure you take the time to read about them so that you can prepare your answers accordingly. They are:
- whole leadership
- business acumen
- technical capabilities
- global acumen
In terms of questioning, there will be no curveballs or off-piste queries; just simple motivational and competency-based questions that are designed to assess your suitability and ambitions. You will be required to provide direct examples for many of these questions, so think along the lines of ‘Give me a time where you demonstrated characteristic X’ when preparing your answers.
6. Get an Offer
If all goes well in the interview and assessment centre, you will be informed of your success via a telephone call a few days later (if you have been waiting for a response for longer than a week, then you should get in touch with your recruitment contact).
At this stage, your references, grades and employment history (if applicable) will all be checked and verified; while this is going on, you will also be invited back to the office for a more informal chat with your supervisors and to meet your new colleagues. You will also be loaded onto an internal onboarding system, where you will be given various administrative tasks that you’ll need to complete.
And that’s it! PwC is one of the most prestigious and highly-regarded private companies in the world, with access to top clients and fascinating projects. So, whether you intend to embark on a permanent career with the firm or you simply want a star name on your CV, it will certainly be a worthwhile experience.
Indeed, wherever you end up, your time at PwC will come in handy. If you follow our tips and take the time to research everything properly, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t leave college or university with the knowledge, skills and connections of a top professional firm in your pocket – a combination that is attractive to any employer.
Do you have any other tips for securing a PwC internship? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an article originally published on 5 August 2014.