First stage is a standard online application form about your education and experiences and all personal information. Then there was a numerical and verbal reasoning test to complete, both around 20 mins each. Practice tests can be found online. Main tip is don't worry if you don't finish all of the questions in either test; the most important thing is to give correct answers, so be as accurate as you can even if you can't get through all questions. Secondly there was a standard competency-based telephone interview with a recruiter which lasted around 45 minutes. This was made up of the usual competency questions (so make sure you prepare some example answers that you can refer to) and some business-related questions; I was asked about a business that had not been performing well recently and was asked to talk about four issues relating to that performance. Again, prepare, read through the business news online and in the paper, I'm a history graduate so wasn't familiar with a lot of this but a couple of weeks of preparation really help! Then came the immersive assessment centre.
Most difficult question
Definitely the business questions; I had chosen an example of a business not performing well, but that was all. So when I was asked to talk about four issues relating to that business I was lost for words! Don't panic, just let the interviewer know that you are gathering your thoughts. A lot comes down to common sense - think about why that business isn't performing well, is it a technical issue or a personal error? How can the issue be rectified? I managed to come up with three issues quite quickly, but struggled on the last one, I think I said something completely random. However I do think they appreciate the effort, as I was successful!
Sounds obvious, but PREPARE. It is so easy to prepare for an interview/assessment centre at KPMG. On their recruitment website there is a list of the nine competencies they look for. For the telephone interview come up with two or three examples of each competency that you can refer to, the interviewer will TELL you what competency they are looking for. Each exercise at the assessment centre TELLS you what competencies they are assessing! It really is that simple. Read up on the business news, check BBC and the Evening Standard has a good concise business section. KPMG come up in the papers, so look out for them. I applied for HR but all candidates have to demonstrate business and commercial awareness - this is one of their competencies. At the assessment centre, take each task separately and be honest about your performances. Be professional, but mostly importantly relax and be yourself. If you try and enjoy each stage of the process you will find it easier!
Experiences at the assessment centre
KPMG has an immersive assessment centre designed to give you a day in the life experience that you don't get with other assessment centres. You are working for a fictional professional services company (basically KPMG). The tasks were a written analytical exercise, an e-tray exercise, and then two role play exercises; one with a fictional client, and one with a 'manager.' In the written exercise you're given a lot of information about the company you work for and a client company and are given an hour to write a report about the strengths and weaknesses of the client company and what your company could do to help them. Again, as a history student this was unfamiliar to me, but a lot of it is common sense; structure your report and pick out different bits of information relevant to the section you are working on. You are given all of the information you need, what is important is what you do with it. Try and include facts and figures from the information to strengthen your report. Second was the e-tray exercise. This was a mixture of multiple choice questions (i.e. what is the best response to give), drafting different responses to emails and looking at email attachments and sending the correct reply based on the information in the attachment. Main tip - some of the emails will have a certain time to be completed by; I didn't notice this and had a bit of a panic at the end though luckily I got everything done! Scan through all emails and check for these time limits before you start working through them. But it is pretty straight forward. Lastly were the two role-play meetings which I was dreading the most. The first is with the fictional client you wrote the report on earlier; you are given about 15 minutes to prepare. If I remember correctly the client had accepted our initial proposal for a project but wanted a more detailed second proposal, the purpose of the meeting is to understand what the client wants in this proposal. BUT there is a twist - you are told that the two companies have worked together before but there was a breakdown in the relationship. This WILL come up in the meeting. KPMG hire professional actors for these meetings, and they will not break character. Some of the other candidates I spoke to said their 'client' had a personality quirk, e.g. they were really reserved or quite aggressive. I was lucky in that my 'client' was pretty laid back. The most important thing is to get into character yourself and take control of the meeting - you are in charge of the time and where the meeting goes, honestly just pretend the situation is real. Be professional and friendly and don't shy away from the issue of the previous breakdown. Acknowledge it. The last meeting was with your 'manager,' and the purpose was to feedback about the client meeting. This is your first one-on-one with this manager, so as well as asking for info about the client meeting they also ask if there are any ways they can help mesh your working team together. This is a slightly easier meeting as the 'manager' takes control. You can relax a bit more with this one, but still be professional and friendly in your responses. DO NOT LIE about how you think the client meeting went - although you have different assessors sitting in the two different meetings with you, they undoubtedly compare notes. So if you had an aggressive client and you do not think the meeting was that productive, say so. After every task there is a ten minute self-review exercise which is also assessed. Pretty simple - they ask what you think went well, what didn't go so well and what you would do differently in future. Again, be honest about your performances, as KPMG want to see that you are self-aware and can reflect on your experiences. Overall I really enjoyed the day!
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