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?

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EY: no academic qualifications and work experience as entry criteria

EY does not include UCAS and degree classification in its entry criteria, meaning that a 2.2 or disappointing A level grades (lower than three Bs) will not get you automatically rejected from the application process. In fact, no applications are screened out based on academic performance at GCSE, A level or degree level. EY partner 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.’ You also don’t need work experience to apply for a graduate role, and the firm operates a blind CV policy. Candidates’ names and other key details are hidden so that recruiters see only the strengths and future potential of applicants.

PwC: farewell to the UCAS tariff

PwC scrapped the UCAS tariff as an entry criterion for the majority of its graduate schemes some years ago. In placing 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. However, the firm's graduate recruiters continue to filter applications by university degree results for many of its programmes: you’ll need to be on target for a 2.1 or above.

Deloitte and KPMG: more flexibility introduced

Even if you don’t meet KPMG's minimum UCAS requirements (120 points, not including general studies), the firm is keen to state that your application won’t be automatically rejected. Instead, your skills, strengths and achievements will be assessed the firm’s global behavioural capabilities. If you didn’t do as well as you’d expected in your exams, make sure you let KPMG’s recruiters know about any extenuating circumstances that affected you.

Deloitte expects 104 UCAS points (260 under the old system) 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 this means for you

If you achieved a less than stellar degree result or have a low UCAS score, firms’ relaxation of application criteria is clearly good news. However, you’ll still need 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’s undeniable that you will now be competing with a wider pool than you would have 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 and 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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