Accountancy and financial management, Management consulting
Graduate job applications to the Big 4

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

All the Big 4 firms have recently made significant changes to their academic entry requirements, 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?
All the great advice TARGETjobs offers about successful applications (beyond your academic grades) is more relevant than ever.

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) will no longer get you automatically rejected from the application process. EY’s managing partner for talent, Maggie Stilwell, explains, ‘Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.’ It has also now removed ‘work experience’ and ‘positions of responsibility’ from the application form.

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. Gaenor Bagley, board member and head of people at PwC, explains, ‘Removing the UCAS criteria will create a fairer and more modern system in which students are selected on their own merit, irrespective of their background or where they are from… By breaking down social barriers we will open the door to thousands of students who may have previously thought a graduate role with PwC was out of reach for them.’

The firm's graduate programme recruiters will continue to filter applications by university degree results, however.

Deloitte and KPMG: more flexibility introduced

As of 2016, KPMG has dropped its official UCAS requirements from 320 to 300 for graduate entry. Even if you don’t meet these requirements, however, the firm is keen to state that candidates 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.’

In 2015 entry requirements for Deloitte also became more flexible – at both the top and the lower end of the academic scale (check its website for details). There are now nine services lines that will forgive a low number of UCAS points if you have a first class degree, and you can still be in the running with a 2.2 degree for seven of the firm’s service lines – tax consulting, consulting, actuarial, financial advisory, forensic technology, transaction services and quantity surveying – if you have a high enough number of UCAS points. ‘We’re looking for graduates who we can develop to become the complete professional,’ said the head of the firm’s student recruitment, while talking last year with the UK 300. In fact, the firm’s new flexible academics and its introduction of a critical thinking test (described as ‘a key 21st century skill’) as part of the selection process suggest that the firm has recognised that the ‘complete professional’ may not always start his or her career with top academic grades.

What these changes mean for you

If you achieved a less than stellar degree result, or if you have a low UCAS score, the above is 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.