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Impressing the graduate and intern recruiters at your KPMG interview

KPMG recruiters are interested in your business nous

This section provides approaches and strategies for tackling KPMG graduate and intern interviews.

Recent candidates report being asked the following questions at interview. Even if you face different ones, practising your answers to these will help prepare you as yours will likely be similar.

What are your proudest achievements in the past two years?

How to approach the question: ‘Pride’ is a very subjective thing, and this is one of those questions where many applicants will incorrectly assume that bigger is better. But there’s no point saying that you’re really proud of your university society raising £800 for charity if you did not actually do that much yourself.

Your proudest acts need to match the nine KPMG competencies in some way. Take ‘innovative and curious’ as an example: you could relate this to something quite formal, such as starting up a society at your university, or something more artistic, such as designing and creating decorations for a society event. However, KPMG is not interested in your artwork. Its recruiters are interested in your business nous – did you consider your target audience when designing those decorations? How did you publicise your new society? Why are you proud of what you’ve achieved – is it the hard facts, or is it something personal you discovered about yourself? Maybe it was the first time you showed one of those nine business capabilities.

Don’t say: An example that isn’t from the past two years. They are asking this question because, for the majority of applicants, it will relate directly to what they have done while at university. If you refer to something you did while at school, it’ll seem as though you haven’t developed much since then.

Tell me about an occasion when you had to accommodate a difference of opinion when working within a team.

How to approach the question: This doesn’t have to be a full-blown argument, and you don’t necessarily need to have been the leader of the team – but you do have to focus on what you personally did. You may have been given a university project where two colleagues came up with different methods of approaching a task, both of which had their merits. The point is, can you work with different people and bring others around to your way of thinking? This would be crucial in any client-facing role with KPMG, particularly in cases such as company liquidation.

Don’t say: You excluded the contrasting views and did something by yourself instead. This implies that you don’t take on board other people’s concerns and instead resolve situations by going around people. It may well be the case that you needed to make a definitive decision, but that shouldn’t really be at the expense of team unity.

Where else have you applied? What do you think sets KPMG apart from its competitors?

How to approach the question: Students really fear this question, concerned that if they mention a competitor’s name then that will immediately rule them out of the process. In fact, the truth is really the opposite – KPMG asks this question because it’s a very easy way to tell whether an applicant has streamlined their applications along particular lines of interest and whether they have considered the differences between companies, or are just applying to big firms because of their prestige.

It may well be the case that you’ve applied for audit, for example, at other firms as well as KPMG, but then you have to go deeper – you could show that you have chosen KPMG because of the opportunities in a particular part of the audit service line (you could find yourself in internal audit, assurance or other divisions at KPMG, all of which are separate but work under that ‘audit’ umbrella).

Don’t say: PwC, Deloitte and EY, but all in different divisions. This suggests you haven’t really thought about what the work actually involves. It's also the hallmark of an applicant applying late on in the cycle to wherever is still recruiting.

What opportunities can you see in the current market for KPMG to gain new business?

How to approach the question: Think about the markets in which KPMG already excels as well as the areas it is looking to expand into. Do you think it would be wiser to concentrate on markets in which KPMG is already strong, or would you look into growing economies such as those in South America, Eastern Europe or the Asia-Pacific region? Be specific and give clear reasons – and be aware that KPMG already does a lot of work in these growth regions.

For this question, you have to think about the micro as well as the macro picture: new business is not about conquering a part of the globe but about building up a client base.

Don’t say: That KPMG should go for big company X and then hope that that impresses. While it’s good to use companies as examples to expand your points, a big name doesn’t really mean very much in itself to KPMG – they get all the big names anyway.

What skills do you think you'll need to do well within your division at KPMG?

How to approach the question: Look back at the ‘business capabilities’. You need to be able to explain how those competencies actually play a part in the day-to-day work of your division. You need to cover all of those competencies without just repeating them word-for-word – use examples to illustrate why these competencies are important to the division.

If you’re applying to work in tax, for example, then you can easily take a news story as a mini case study to use in your answer. If you were to look at IAG (InterAmerican Gaming Inc., a digital technology company based in Toronto), then you’d see that it has employed KPMG to assist in the structuring of its tax regulations – but why choose KPMG over its competitors? There’s an underlying, but actually quite obvious, reason why. Hint: think about the market IAG works in. Then think about the sorts of skills that you’d need to work effectively on a project like this one. Demonstrate your knowledge of the markets you’ll be working in.

Don’t say: A list of the nine competencies KPMG states it is looking for on its website. KPMG recruiters know all that already – in fact, they probably have a sheet in front of them detailing those competencies!

Your KPMG assessment centre simulated meetings

You’ll have two meetings to do, the latter following on from the former both in timing and content. There is some preparation time (about 15 minutes) before each meeting for you to collect your thoughts and study the initial brief you are given. In the first meeting, an actor normally plays the client, rather than a KPMG assessor.

Meeting one: with a client

How to approach: You’re likely to be given a brief that suggests you need to rebuild relationships with the client, or that they are hesitant about a deal for some reason. Bear in mind that contracts are won and lost by professional services firms such as KPMG all the time – but that doesn’t mean they’re okay with losing a few. You need to take the information that you have been provided with and explain to the client how you can continue to work together. Be careful not to simply dismiss their concerns. This is an exercise as much about listening as it is about stating the facts.

Meeting two: with a manager

How to approach: You’ve already got the basis of this meeting from the simulation with a client. The manager is going to be looking into your recommendations from the previous meeting and will ask how you can use the information you gathered to develop the client relationship – remember, this is for KPMG’s benefit as much as it is for the client, so you need to be able to show your manager that there’s value in continuing your partnership with the client firm.

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