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Graduate job applications to the Big 4

The Big 4’s entry criteria and your graduate job application

All the Big 4 firms have made significant changes to their academic entry requirements in recent years, giving hope to students whose applications in previous years would not have got through initial screening. How will these changes affect your chances of getting employed by EY, Deloitte, KPMG or PwC?
It is undeniable that you will now be competing with a wider pool than you did previously, so you need to be on the ball.

EY: academic qualifications and work experience removed from its entry criteria

EY removed both UCAS and degree classification from its entry criteria in August 2015, meaning that a 2.2 or disappointing A level grades (lower than three Bs) does not get you automatically rejected from the application process. EY’s managing partner for talent, Maggie Stilwell, explains, ‘“The results [of this change in requirements] speak for themselves. We made a bold move to achieve a bold result and improve social mobility. We challenged ourselves by transforming our well-established student recruitment process to ensure we are able to find the very best talent.’ EY has also now removed ‘work experience’ and ‘positions of responsibility’ from the application form and operates a blind CV policy. The firm uses a series of online tests to assess the strengths and future potential of its applicants.

PwC: farewell to the UCAS tariff

PwC scrapped the UCAS tariff as an entry criterion for the majority of its graduate schemes in July 2015 (exceptions including actuarial and consulting). In placing too much emphasis on UCAS scores, PwC recruiters felt they were missing out on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not have done well at school. ‘Our decision to remove UCAS points as entry criteria for our graduate roles has led us to hiring graduates from broader social backgrounds than ever before, ‘ says Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC. The firm's graduate programme recruiters will continue to filter applications by university degree results (you’ll need to be on target for a 2.1 or above), however.

Deloitte and KPMG: more flexibility introduced

In 2016 KPMG dropped its official UCAS requirements from 320 to 300 (104 UCAS points under the new tariff system, June 2017 onwards) for graduate entry. Even if candidates don’t meet these requirements, however, the firm is keen to state that they will not be automatically rejected: ‘It’s not just your academic performance we are interested in; we will assess your application by combining a number of different factors including work experience and how you perform in our tests.’

Deloitte expects 260 UCAS points and a 2.1 degree from applicants to its graduate programmes (GCSE requirements differ depending on programme). The firms stresses, however, that if you have narrowly missed its requirements you must not be put off applying: ‘We’ve designed our application process to ensure we assess everyone’s merits, accurately and fairly, in the context of their educational and personal circumstances. We sometimes adjust entry requirements to reflect this context.’

What these changes mean for you

If you achieved a less than stellar degree result, or if you have a low UCAS score, flexibility and a relaxing of criteria are clearly good news. It’s up to you to make sure that during the application process you highlight the aspects of your personal or professional life that demonstrate to recruiters that you’ve got what it takes despite not having achieved high academic results.

But what does this mean if you’re a graduate with a good UCAS score and a 2.1? First, take heart: your academic grades have not become meaningless. As EY’s Maggie Stilwell explains, they are ‘still an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door’. However, it is undeniable that you will now be competing with a wider pool than you did previously, so you need to be on the ball. All the great advice TARGETjobs offers about successful applications (beyond your academic grades) is more relevant than ever.

In a nutshell, whatever your academic record, it’s essential that you demonstrate to recruiters that you’ve got the competencies or qualities the firm is looking for, relate any skills you’ve developed during work experience or from your time at university to the role that’s on offer, be your best self at interviews and complete assessments to the best of your ability. Check out the advice in the articles below to find out how to shine above and beyond (or despite) your grades.

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