Careers advice and planning

The Big 4: how well do you know them?

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

How well do you know Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC? Our quick guide will help you answer the question 'Why do you want to work for us?' at interview.

The Big 4

If you’re interested in a career in consulting, tax, audit or corporate finance it’s likely you’ve applied to more than one of the Big 4.

They are the four largest international professional services firms. At least one of them features somewhere in the news daily and each recruits hundreds of fresh graduates a year. If you’re interested in a career in consulting, tax, audit or corporate finance it’s likely you’ve applied to more than one of the Big 4. Do your employer research and be aware of what distinguishes them so that at interview you can answer this question with authority: ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ We can only offer you a snapshot, but, for example, did you know that…

PwC is the largest private sector graduate recruiter

Over 1,500 graduates and school leavers joined PwC last year. The firm provides services for over 25,000 clients. In the UK, tax and transaction are big players within the firm, though global turnover is principally driven by the firm’s auditing services. In particular, the firm stands out in the consumer products market. The strengths of PwC include a huge global brand image that opens doors in new markets and territories, and a diversified portfolio that spreads business risks and allows the firm to attract a wide range of big clients. In turn, having strong clientele often means repeat business.

Good to know at your PwC interview

  • How PwC started . In 1998, the firms Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merged to create PwC.
  • How PwC is growing locally . The firm has been deepening its industry specialist teams in key local markets – eg a technology hub in Reading and a retail and consumer hub in Leeds. The firm says that this move has been driven ‘by a recognition that for the UK to prosper post Brexit, we need to play our part in creating a vibrant and sustainable UK economy beyond London’.
  • What PwC believes is important right now . The firm’s annual report states that currently these are its two main challenges: the implications of Brexit and the need to maximise the benefit of technological change. ‘Technology has the potential to solve some of the biggest problems of our times, foster greater productivity and free up people to do more interesting work,’ says Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner.
  • What PwC values . The graduate employer believes the following five global values create its culture: acting with integrity, making a difference, care, working together and reimagining the possible.

Deadline info : PwC has places on its graduate schemes for those interested in roles in audit, consulting, actuarial, deals, risk and tax. Some areas have application deadlines throughout the year. Roles that do not have a deadline will be recruited for on a rolling basis, which means these roles are offered to those who complete the process first, so it's better to apply earlier in the year.

Find out what graduate working life is like for this audit-assurance associate at PwC .

KPMG boasts a dedicated Professional Qualifications Team

All the Big 4 firms make sure their graduates are well supported during the qualification process, but something that sets KPMG apart is that it has a full-time team dedicated to helping employees gain qualifications – the Professional Qualifications Training and Accreditation (PQA) team. These are employees who have taken a variety of these exams between them. Whilst individual study is essential for all courses, employees do not have their personal time taken away for an official course or further training. Pass rates for successful completion of various qualification papers are significantly higher than the industry standard.

Good to know at your KPMG Interview

  • How KPMG started . The KPMG network was formed in 1987 when Peat Marwick International and Klynveld Main Goerdeler merged along with their respective member firms.
  • What KPMG is investing in . KPMG plans to introduce the world’s first global cloud-based Big Four audit platform on Microsoft Azure. KPMG Global Chairman John Veihmeyer explains: 'As businesses become increasingly digitised and face continued disruption, audits need to continue to evolve with those changes and KPMG is committed to leading digital transformation in the professional services sector.’
  • KPMG’s environmental initiatives . Its recently expanded London office, 15 Canada square, is a great example of a ‘green’ building. Strict carbon criteria has been applied throughout, such as compostable food boxes and cutlery, and 100% daylight-responsive LED lighting.

Deadline info : KPMG recruits on a rolling basis, but as some routes fill faster than others, early application is advised.

EY recruiters focus on your natural strengths

Unlike most graduate employers, EY's application process focuses on ‘strengths' rather than on skills and competencies. Strengths are things a person is naturally good at that create energy. The application process includes a 'Strengths Portal' in the early stages, which identifies the strongest candidates through situational strengths, business behaviours and numerical tests. At interview and at the assessment centre, people will be watching out for what you’re good at. They are looking for more nuanced ‘up’ behaviour than you’d get from a candidate pretending to be ‘high’ on the experience of attending the assessment centre. The firm believes that working to natural strengths, whilst still tiring, will motivate an applicant or an employee more and so produce better results.

Good to know at your EY interview

  • How EY started . Until 2013, EY was Ernst & Young, formed in 1989 when two companies, Arthur Young and Ernst & Whinney, both with roots in the 19th centuries, combined.
  • EY's commitment to equal pay . In October 2017 EY published its gender pay gap figures for the UK, six months ahead of the Government’s deadline. Its median gender pay gap is 14.8% (the national ONS median 18.1%).
  • What EY's graduate options are . Graduates at the firm have seven routes into the business: actuarial, assurance, consulting, law, tax, technology and transactions.
  • EY’s commitment to innovation . The firm boasts a dedicated Global Innovation Team, which is focused on understanding external forces changing the world and how to do things differently in 6 months, 3 years, 10 years and beyond. The firm applies a ‘suits+jeans’ approach, combining the experience of its professionals (suits) with start-up thinking (jeans).

Deadline info: EY recruits on a rolling basis, so there is no specific graduate scheme deadline. Places are filled when they are filled.

There are no career ladders at Deloitte , but there is a ‘lattice’

Deloitte has come up with its own concept to describe the career paths open to its employees – the ‘corporate lattice’, as opposed to the corporate ladder. In other words, employees aren’t restricted to a narrow climb up the management hierarchy, and can access wider career development opportunities at each level. This flexible approach is designed to appeal to the Generation Y workforce by meeting their desire to have plenty of options in terms of personal and career development.

Good to know at your Deloitte interview

  • Deloitte UK’s new social impact strategy . One Million Futures aims to help one million people overcome educational and employment barriers to get to where they want to be ‘whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom’.
  • Deloitte and the Olympic Games . The firm is the Professional Services Partner of the British Olympic Association. It provides employees on secondments to work with the organisation and lead the programme planning for the Games.
  • Deloitte’s emphasis on critical thinking . During the assessment process, applicants will be given five subtests, to measure their ability to look at a situation clearly, ‘understand it from multiple perspectives and separate facts from opinions and assumptions’. These tests measure: inference, recognition of assumptions, deduction, interpretation and evaluation of arguments.

Deadline info: There are no specific deadlines as Deloitte recruits all year round for its various schemes, which close once places have been filled.

Our in-depth employer hubs will answer many of your questions about the Big 4 and their competitors. Also, if you're ready to apply, check out our information on the Big 4's entry criteria .

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