“DO YOUR RESEARCH — AND SHOW US THE REAL YOU” SAYS TOP EMPLOYER
You’ve probably heard of KPMG – and you may know they are one of the UK’s ‘Big Four’ professional services firms. It’s no wonder the KPMG graduate programme is so popular with UK students and graduates – the firm is consistently voted one of the best places for students and graduates to launch their career. KPMG are currently number eight in The Times top 100 Graduate Employers for 2018, marking their 20th year as a UK Top 10 Graduate Employer.
What makes KPMG so great? Well, for starters, they were the first professional services firm to join the Graduate Fog Employers Club, our new coalition of fair and responsible employers of young people. (Members have to agree to a checklist before we’ll let them join, including promises that they hire from a wide variety of universities, reply to every application they receive, and don’t have any unpaid interns).
We also love the fact that KPMG are the number one (one!) employer in the annual Social Mobility Employer Index, another sign they’re sincere when they say their jobs are open to applicants from a wide range of backgrounds. They really don’t want to be one of those firms that hires one ‘type’ of person (more of which, later). And it’s not just about how they recruit their people – it’s also how they train and develop you once you’ve started. KPMG are committed to ensuring that everyone who works there has the opportunity to thrive in a long-term career within the firm.
And that’s not all. KPMG is also dedicated to closing the gender pay gap, has an enviable benefits scheme, and is hard at work to make sure the next generations – at even the most junior level – are empowered to have a say in the future of the firm (read more about their ’30 Voices’ initiative here). Plus, the work that KPMG’s employees do for their clients is some of the most cutting-edge around. For example, right now, the firm is embracing some of the latest innovative technologies around, including artificial intelligence.
So, what does it take to bag yourself a place on to the KPMG graduate programme? And how can you make your application stand out? Graduate Fog asked Charlotte Carter, KPMG’s Head of Student Recruitment, for her advice…
Graduate Fog: First, the basics. What does KPMG actually do?
“It’s simple really: we work with clients to help them solve their business challenges using a mix of innovative approaches, quality insights and deep expertise. We have more than 13,500 colleagues in the UK, and we are part of a global network of firms offering Audit, Tax & Pensions, Consulting, Deal Advisory and Technology services.”
How long have you worked for KPMG, and what is the best thing about working at the company?
“I’ve worked at KPMG for nearly 20 years, having originally started off in our Audit practice. KPMG has people at its heart and it’s a place where you not only get to work with some of the brightest minds but also be yourself at work – whatever background you come from.”
What sort of applicants are you most keen to hear from, for the KPMG graduate programme?
“The best thing about KPMG is that there isn’t a typical ‘sort’ of person who works here. Sure, we do have some people who hold degrees relating business and finance, but we also have people with technology-related degrees, arts, maths, geography, philosophy and science degrees. And they’re from all different universities and backgrounds too. However, what we do share is a curiosity about the future of business and technology, and a desire to make a positive difference for our clients, people and the communities we work in.
“Everyone who works for us is deeply curious about the world and loves nothing more than working in a team to come up with great ideas, tackle complex challenges and inspire change. We are keen to see those who demonstrate these qualities and potential – we call these ‘behavioural capabilities’.
“We want a wide range of different types of people to work with us – so your best plan is to be yourself right from the start. No matter where you’ve gone to university, or what your background is, you will have had a range of experiences – and challenges – and we want to see how you’ve learned from them and been able to shine. So, before you write your application or as you prepare for your assessment day, have a good think about which examples you want to share with us, and see if they are the best ones to show off what you’ve done. Maybe talk it over with a careers advisor or a friend.”
What would you say to someone who wants to work at KPMG, but it worried about not fitting in, or feeling uncomfortable in a corporate setting?
“Graduates may assume a competitive, formal work environment, however when you meet us you will see how friendly, supportive and open everyone is. So, I suppose my advice is to come and see for yourself!”
When and how should people apply for the KPMG graduate programme?
“We recruit on a rolling basis, and you will need to apply through our website. Typically we open for applications around July, and KPMG’s Launch Pad events – the final stage in our recruitment process, which I’ll share more about shortly — start in October. Successful applicants receive offers two working days after attending a Launch Pad event. Programmes start in September and October. Most people apply for our graduate programme in the summer before they start their final year of university, although there is no age limit, so you can apply even if you have some experience under your belt.
“For more information, visit our website — we have a page which shares some tips and guidance on how to apply.”
For our readers who are still a way off from graduating, can you tell us more about your undergraduate programmes?
“For first- and second-year students we have Insight Days and Insight Programmes. Our Insight Days are packed with practical take-aways and offer a real insider’s guide to what we do and how we do it. We have vacation programmes for those in the penultimate year of their degree who want to kick-start their career with experience in real-time, real-life projects. We also have longer one-year business placements, which offer more in-depth technical training and personal development opportunities.”
Okay, back to graduates. Is there just one KPMG graduate programme? How should applicants decide which one is right for them?
“No, there isn’t just one programme – we offer a range of programmes across Audit, Tax & Pensions, Consulting, Technology and Deal Advisory. We launched our seven new technology programmes this year, offering graduates the opportunity to develop as a technology specialist within the firm. The programmes are typically three year programmes and no matter which programme you choose, the recruitment process is similar.
“Some students know exactly where their interests lie and where they’d like to apply, while others might take a little longer to discover the best path. That’s why we advise applicants to do as much research as possible into the varied career paths KPMG offers – make use of all the information you can find on our website. Your university careers service will also be an invaluable source of information.
“You can also do some extra research online such as visiting professional institute websites – for example, for accountancy, you could look at ICAEW (the Institute for Chartered Accountancy in England and Wales. (It’s ICAS in Scotland). Or, if you’re interested in becoming an investment professional, the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute is a great resource.
“On top of all that, we host a variety of events through the year that offer great insights into building a career with us, so you can get a real taste of what’s to come. We suggest you sign up to our Smart Network to be kept up to date on vacancies opening.”
Is the graduate programme the only way in to a job with KPMG?
“No. If you want to take the plunge and jump straight into a regular full-time role you can apply for an experienced hire role. This route can be great for people who have prior experience or relevant qualifications in the areas we work in.”
Are there any minimum academic requirements for people wishing to apply to the KPMG graduate programme?
“As a general rule, we look for a 2:1 degree in any discipline. We like to see good results as they act as a guide to show how well you’ll be able to cope with the demands of the role, professional exams and training. But, while your academic results are important, we’ll look at more than just your academics, taking into account any work experience and your performance in our online tests. This wider perspective helps us ensure that we are giving you the best opportunity to demonstrate your potential. So it’s definitely still worth applying even if you don’t quite meet the requirements, especially if there were personal or health reasons why you missed out on the grades you were hoping for. All this information will be treated confidentially, and we really appreciate your honesty in trusting us with it.”
What salary does KPMG offer its graduate trainees?
“We offer a competitive salary, which varies by programme, and many other benefits, such as 25 days’ holiday, study leave, a corporate mobile, a daily lunch allowance and a day off on your birthday. We also have a ‘dress for your day’ dress code across all of our offices, as opposed to rigid rules about what you should wear.
“We know that talented, hard-working people are at the heart of our business. So, to celebrate their contributions, we’ve have ‘Our Deal’. It’s all about rewarding you for giving your best and includes benefits and our commitment to nurture and develop your talent.”
What does a KPMG graduate trainee do, day to day? Is it real work?
“Absolutely! All our graduates get real responsibilities with real problems to solve. While we offer extensive training and mentoring, we believe the most valuable training is on the job. For example, if you are selected to join our tax programme, you’ll start working on live projects while working towards your Chartered Accountancy and Tax qualification. One of our recent trainees said he learnt all his project management skills simply by being given live projects from the start. He loved the fact that, while it was quite far out of his comfort zone, there was always someone willing to sit down and explain things he didn’t understand. In other words, in order to flourish all graduates need is the confidence to communicate. This means everyone is encouraged to ask lots of questions of their team!”
What supervision and feedback can graduate trainees expect?
“Everything we do is geared up to empower and inspire colleagues to deliver results for our clients. Graduate trainees have plenty of opportunities to show their skills, while senior colleagues will always be on hand to take the time to offer support. Through honest conversations, we give coaching to inspire trainees to do their best work. And the best part? We reward diverse, creative thinking. Your career will accelerate based on how well you perform, so it’s important you take ownership of your own career.”
KPMG’s UK head office is in London. What happens if an applicant doesn’t live in London – do they have to relocate?
“No. Although around half of our roles are based in London, we have graduate roles in 19 locations around the UK, from Aberdeen to Watford. Visit the locations page on our website to check the different programmes available in our locations.”
Let’s return to the recruitment process. What stages does the application process involve?
“The process is divided into five key stages. It has been developed to allow your skills to shine, and at every stage everything you need to do is clear and simple.”
Five stages sounds like a lot! Do applicants need to spend hours writing covering letters and polishing their CVs?
“Not at all. We want the best people for the job, but we’re also aware that some applicants will have less time available than others, for example those who are already juggling their studies with a part-time job, or have caring responsibilities. That’s why instead of having a complex recruitment process, designed to trip you up, we’ve sat down and created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step journey that helps you show us your best qualities.”
Phew, that’s a relief. Okay, tell us about the five stages.
“It starts with an online application form which takes just 20 minutes – you don’t even need to upload a CV. If you pass that, the next stage is a short Situational Judgement test. You don’t need to study or prepare for this in any way, it’s simply a series of questions where graduates can demonstrate how they problem solve.
“After these two initial stages we select the applicants who show they have excellent judgement and can think on their feet. Successful applicants who progress to stage three will be given online numerical and verbal reasoning tests. These look at your ability to analyse verbal and numerical data – essential skills for all KPMG colleagues. Each of the two tests takes around 20 minutes to complete.
“The next stage is a two-minute audio submission, where we’ll ask you to make a recording to demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and concisely and why you’re particularly keen to join us! We’re looking for motivated, energetic and impactful people who show they have a deep understanding of how our business works.
“The fifth and final stage is very special. It’s an event called ‘Launch Pad’ and we’re thrilled to be able to offer it to our potential recruits. The Launch Pad event is a fantastic day where you’ll have the opportunity to meet loads of our colleagues, ask lots of questions and show us that you have the qualities we’re looking for. It’s all about showing us your core behavioural capabilities that include being highly motivated, collaborative, inclusive, and highly curious. And the best bit? If you’re successful, you’ll have your job offer in just two working days! When our applicants have given us so much, we don’t think it’s right to keep you waiting.”
Do you respond to all applications, whether successful or unsuccessful?
“Yes, we notify everyone as to whether or not they’ve made it through, and we’re more than happy to give feedback if you make it to the Launch Pad stage but don’t get an offer.”
What is your best piece of advice for those going through the KPMG graduate programme recruitment process?
“For the third stage — the verbal and numerical reasoning tests – you can do a lot of preparation by completing similar practice tests. Why not visit your careers service and ask for some sample tests? They may also provide feedback, which will help you to focus on areas that can be improved. In the final stage we want to see the real you! Please don’t try to be someone you think we want you to be — be yourself and let your personality come through!
What’s more important at the Launch Pad interview — knowing the right answers or handling the questions well?
“The Launch Pad is where we’ll meet you for the first time, and this is really designed so you can show us your best qualities. Yes, we’ll ask you lots of questions, but we’ll be there to answer your questions too. Clearly there are some answers that perfectly hit the nail on the head, but mostly we’re looking for how well you can think problems through and what sorts of things you consider when coming up with a response. So it’s really important when you’re talking to us, that you don’t get flustered, and answer as honestly as possible. We aren’t looking to catch you out, we simply want to see the real you.”
Do you have any hints or tips to make sure applicants stand a good chance of progressing?
“Yes – and I’m always happy to share these as there is nothing worse than a potentially brilliant applicant letting themselves down with avoidable errors. My top tip would be to really take the time to research the role you are applying to. Are there professional qualifications involved? What type of work do you think you’ll be doing? I would also say that it pays to do some practice tests that are similar to our online verbal and numerical reasoning tests – you really do get better the more you practise. And finally, if I was applying today, I would really get to know KPMG’s behavioural capabilities. These are fundamental to our culture and we look for evidence of these in every single employee. If you’re ready with interesting, real-world examples of how you demonstrate these, you’ll have a great chance at standing out for all the right reasons. We have also created a short Future Ready quiz, where you can test yourself to see if your business brain is on our wavelength.”
And finally, why did you join the Graduate Fog Employers Club?
“We’ve followed Graduate Fog for years, first crossing paths when KPMG supported the campaign for fair internships in 2015. The Graduate Fog Employers Club is a brilliant idea and we are proud to be the first professional services firm to join. We’ve worked hard for our reputation as one of the UK’s best graduate employers, but there is always more to learn, and change is rapid so it’s vital we keep looking ahead. We are also looking forward to getting to know the teams at other big employers, as there is so much we can learn from one another.”
To apply for the KPMG graduate programme click here
MY KPMG: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve studied, here. It’s your transferable skills that count”
Josie (right) studied Economics at the University of Sheffield before joining KPMG’s Tax Graduate programme in Birmingham.
Why did you decide to apply to KPMG?
“It was meeting people from KPMG at a university event that really made me want to join the firm. The people I spoke to gave me useful advice about making my application stand out. Their willingness to offer help and advice definitely appealed to me. That helpful approach continues now I’ve joined. People here are just so invested in you — they care about you; they care about supporting you through your exams. The chance to get an accountancy qualification was another big draw for me, and I’m studying for the Chartered Tax Adviser qualification as well.”
How relevant was your degree to the work you’re doing now?
“I chose to study Economics because I wanted to leave things quite open in terms of my future career. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point. People tend to think an Economics degree would be directly relevant to working in Tax at KPMG, but it isn’t really. It doesn’t matter what you’ve studied here. It’s your transferable skills that count — being analytical, being able to process information, and to communicate.”
What’s the best thing about working at KPMG?
“I like how I’m working alongside some true experts — inspiring people, with an incredible level of knowledge. But there’s a fun side to my team too. When I first started, I launched a Friday quiz. Only four people joined in then. Now more than 20 people do it every week. It’s just a bit of fun but it’s great for team bonding and it’s something I’m proud to have got up and running.”
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of applying to KPMG?
“I really enjoy meeting college and university students, passing on the advice that was given to me. That’s the most important thing if you’re thinking of joining I think — talking to people, trying to get some work experience and, at the very least, doing some thorough research. That’s the best way to decide which career is really for you. I’ve loved my time here so far. I enjoy the work which constantly challenges me, and I really like the culture. The people here are brilliant. So much so that it feels like a family — a very big one, but still a family.”
MY KPMG: ” I’m not sitting in the same office day in, day out. I’m visiting and liaising with new and different businesses”
Adaobi (right) did a joint degree in Economics and Management at Royal Holloway University before joining KPMG’s Audit Graduate programme in their London office.
Why did you decide to apply to KPMG?
“I’ve always been motivated to learn new things and that was what drew me to KPMG’s graduate programme. Their training offering is broad-ranging, and they genuinely want to help you be the best you can be. I actually turned down other offers in order to take this role. Several friends who already worked at KPMG, and whose opinions I trust, told me about their good experiences working here. That was a big factor along with my own research.”
Was this your first job after university?
“No – before I joined the graduate programme here, I did a number of internships at large banks. I was interested in finance, economics and accounting careers before I settled on Audit.”
How does KPMG differ from places you’ve worked before?
“If I had to highlight a key difference with KPMG, it would be the level of interaction with different organisations. I’m not sitting in the same office day in, day out. I’m visiting and liaising with new and different businesses. It’s a really stimulating environment. The culture as a whole is very focused on teamwork. If you work well with others and have a desire to learn new things, you can definitely flourish here.
What is your advice to graduates worried they might not fit in at KPMG?
“Get involved as much as possible. Outside of my work in audit, I am involved in the African and Caribbean Network at KPMG. I also play football for a women’s football club, I’m an active member of the social committee and I help out with student recruitment as well.”
What is your next step at KPMG?
“I’m a bit of a forward planner and KPMG really enables you to choose the direction you take your career. Personally, I aim to explore other parts of the business that interest me and hope to take a secondment to one of KPMG’s other offices. I’d also like to study a little more, so it’s great that I’m with a company that encourages that.”
MY KPMG: “It’s great to have responsibility so early in my career”
Andjela (right) is an Audit IRM Graduate Trainee at KPMG. After completing a Languages and Politics degree at the University of Bath, Andjela started on KPMG’S Graduate Programme in the autumn of 2016.
Why did you decide to apply to KPMG?
“After university, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work in a company that offered me face-to-face contact with clients, the ability to develop new skills in technology and the potential to travel and use my language skills. I also liked the fact that KPMG has a strong global reputation and is a company that offers graduates a lot of responsibility early on in their careers. So far, KPMG has been everything I hoped for. Working here has offered me a varied career, the ability to develop my technical skillset through training and network with a vast range of people from different backgrounds and industries.”
What was the recruitment process like?
“KPMG’s graduate recruitment process is split up into three main stages: the Online tests and application, an Audio Submission and the face-to-face Launch Pad assessment day. It is quite an intense but well-organised recruitment process that will help you to perform to the best of your ability. The best bit is that rather than leaving you waiting to hear the result, KPMG will tell you whether you have been successful in a matter of days. The website also provided me with useful hints and tips, helping me to feel fully prepared to apply.”
Once you started at KPMG, how much support did you receive?
“Since I joined, I cannot fault the support I have had from my team. As soon as you accept your offer, you are paired with a ‘Smart Contact’ who is someone working in the role that you can ask any questions to. You are also given a Performance Manager who will help you in your career development and to set your performance and development goals.
“From fellow graduates to senior management, I immediately felt like a valued member of the team. Having studied Languages and Politics at University, I was worried that I lacked the technical experience for my role. However, KPMG have provided — and continue to provide — training in order to develop both technical and soft skills to help me succeed.”
What is your day-to-day job like?
“Working life is busy! Within your first few years on the graduate scheme, you could be leading client meetings, testing client IT systems and providing improvement recommendations. Our varied client portfolio will give you the unique opportunity to learn and gain insight into the inner workings of multiple industries. Don’t worry, though — you’ll never be alone. You will always be surrounded and supported by a fantastic team!”
Where will you go to next, in your role?
“I’m considering my options. With such a vast client offering and opportunities available, KPMG really allows you to customise your career. Once you have settled in, secondments are available to get a taster of different departments and roles within the firm.”
What is it like working with clients?
“Working with clients is a challenging but rewarding experience. From day one you could be in front of Directors and Heads of Businesses discussing their current business issues. Even though this can be daunting at first, KPMG will equip you with the necessary skills to be successful and confident in your role.”
And is it easy to get to know your KPMG colleagues outside the office?
“Yes, there is plenty to get involved with, from team treasure hunts to sports days and clubs. It’s a nice way to get to know people in different department, and at different stages of their career.”
What advice do you have for anyone considering applying to KPMG?
“Get ready to travel a lot around the country! You will meet many interesting and intelligent people both within KPMG and at client sites. This job has allowed me to really understand the inner workings of businesses. Be sure also to get involved in the vast opportunities that KPMG has to offer.”
To apply for the KPMG graduate programme click here