How to tackle BDO's graduate and intern face to face interviews

What do you know about the service line you're going into?

These are the kinds of questions that have been asked in the past at BDO graduate and intern interviews. They're a very useful starting point when preparing for this stage as you're likely to face similar questions.

Why did you choose your degree subject?

Point of question: You are not being judged on what degree you chose. BDO wants to see that you can make reasoned decisions, and have been able to do so for some time. Decisions don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be more than, ‘I chose a subject at random because I wasn’t sure’. BDO assessors need to know that they can give you a task, and you can make sensible decisions from the information that you’re given. If you can do this, then they know they can trust you with clients further down the line. Interviewers may also use this question to help you relax as it is usually a topic people are comfortable talking about.

How to approach: Some graduates become quite defensive when asked this question, particularly if they are taking a subject not typically aligned with a career in the financial sector. This immediately sets the wrong tone, so guard against this.

In reality, you simply need to answer honestly. Your reasons for choosing your degree may, in fact, seem quite simple and naïve now you're over two years into study – but that’s fine. If you think this is the case, then state it – but don’t leave your answer there. Talk about what you might have done differently when choosing your degree course, if given the chance again. It may well be that you’d have chosen the same course, but perhaps you would have explored more routes before making your decision. You should be confident enough to be able to say, ‘This was the right degree for me’, but also be aware that your research abilities will have developed in your time at university. It’s okay to say, ‘This is what I did, but in hindsight I suspect I should have done more of x and y before making my decision.' This will show that you made a sensible decision at the time, but are aware that you should be constantly learning – both throughout university and once working for BDO.

Potential follow-up question: Why did you choose your university?

Tell me about a time when you worked under pressure. How did you cope?

Point of question: The majority of BDO’s work will involve tight deadlines as audits of clients need to be conducted as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Tax tasks often require liaison with regulators, and advisory services involve projects that sometimes deal with high pressure situations, such as restructuring companies, or parts of companies. As such, BDO needs to know that you can handle situations where there’s a lot riding on getting your research and analysis right.

How to approach: Think about the sort of pressured situation you could come across in your job. In advisory services, for example, you could find yourself recommending job cuts, or a method that could lead to job cuts, for the long-term benefit of the client. You could meet resistance to this, so how would you handle that sort of pressure? In tax, you could have a regulator asking you for information that you simply cannot provide yet, but there’s a deadline looming – what do you need to do to appease the regulator? Use these as templates to map onto your own experiences, thus tailoring your answer to a particular job role.

Potential follow-up question: Tell me about a time when you had to communicate something to someone.

What do you know about the service line you’re going into?

Point of question: BDO won’t hire you unless you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Always remember that, whatever amount of research you’ve done, someone else may have done more. Therefore, the minimum that you really need to know is not just what’s on BDO’s website, but how their different divisions interact and what specialist skills and approaches each division has. They’re different for a reason – they offer completely different services to clients, and so you must know what’s entailed in the work of your area.

How to approach: Your thoughts on the questions above should help you with this question. You need to know the kinds of clients you’ll be working with, and the circumstances in which you’ll be working with them. When does a client need the auditing service BDO provides? What approach does BDO’s advisory division have, and is there a clear methodology that they use that isn’t as obvious in other firms? Make sure you check the news section of the firm's website, where you'll learn about any recent awards and achievements. If you're interested in aduit, for example, it will impress interviewers if you can show you're aware that the BDO audit team won the Top 50 Audit Team of the Year award at the British Accountancy Awards in 2014.

Potential follow-up question: What do you think your graduate job at BDO will involve?

Why do you want to work for BDO over a Big 4 firm?

Point of question: This is a crucial question – BDO is well aware that many graduates applying for roles with it will also have applied to the Big 4: PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte. This question, if answered properly, informs BDO assessors that wanting to work for them is not just a back-up choice for you.

How to approach: You need to show your research – what does BDO do that the Big 4 do not? How does it approach clients, and what is its business model? What markets is it particularly interested in? Show how the answers to these questions relate to the role you want at BDO, and why your future goals would be better served there than at one of the Big 4.

Potential follow-up question: What do you think we do that’s better than our competitors?

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