PwC Assessment Centre Success Guide
This guide will tell you what to expect and how to succeed at the PwC assessment centre, a notoriously difficult recruitment process.
An important point before we begin
- Note that different employers use different test suppliers. PwC use SHL tests. You can practice them here.
PwC Assessment Centre Success Guide
The PwC Assessment Centre is one of the most competitive assessment events in the UK, particularly for graduates. Before you attend it’s vital that you understand what is required to succeed.
Never fear, as always we’re going to give you all the tools you need to succeed! This success guide covers each of PwC’s 6 assessment criteria that are being used to assess candidates.
Give yourself an advantage & prepare perfectly
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 1: Business and Client Service
At the PwC Assessment Centre it is very important that you can demonstrate you have an interest in their business, their clients and the market they operate in. It’s essential that you spend some time researching PwC.
Action point: Download PwC’s annual report and spend an afternoon digesting it and making notes on the key points. (You can find it here.) Reference your findings in your interview. It will mark you out as someone with an eye for detail and good commercial acumen.
(It’s amazing how many people don’t do enough research before the PwC assessment centre to assess their potential employer’s business and financial position. As a minimum, you should understand what their turnover is, how much of that is net profit and how much debt the business carries. What are the key challenges they currently face in their marketplace? What are their aims during the next 5 years?)
With their client-focus foremost in mind, you should be able to show that you have an understanding of PwC’s key clients’ business needs and current performance at the PwC Assessment Centre.
Action point: Read some PwC case studies and think of 2-3 ways you could actively improve their top 5 clients’ businesses and you will put a big tick in this box.
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 2: Working in teams
Another key criterion of the PwC Assessment Centre – you must be able to highlight specific examples of how you have worked with others towards a shared goal.
- How adaptable is your approach?
- Can you negotiate?
- Can you influence?
- Are you sensitive to others’ work styles and can you be flexible?
- How can you prove that you are respectful of other people’s backgrounds, culture and beliefs?
Action point: Make a list of 5 solid examples that you can reference during the PwC Assessment Centre (throughout the day) and you will wow your assessors.
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 3: Communicating with impact and empathy
At the PwC assessment centre, like any other assessment centre, you must demonstrate you can communicate in a fluent and effective way. Sometimes on the day itself this can be hard, because you will likely be nervous.
Action point: Prepare 3 examples of how your communication skills directly led to a successful outcome of some kind. (Hint: try and prepare an example for each of the following: your colleagues, manager and client.)
For tips on keeping your nerves under control at your PwC assessment centre, read our article “How To Deal With Nerves & Anxiety At Your Assessment Centre“.
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 4: Manage projects & economics
During your PwC assessment centre you will be asked to provide examples that show you can plan and perform work according to strict deadlines and success criteria.
What tasks and projects can you highlight at your PwC assessment centre that show you can work to inflexible timings and flourish under pressure?
Action point: Prepare 2 examples – one of which must demonstrate you have the ability to ‘think on your feet’.
(Did the goalposts move for this project? Did the deadline get brought forward? Did the client/stakeholder alter their requirements while the project was in motion? What did you do -that was awesome- that saved the day?)
This is an absolutely key criterion which carries a lot of weight at the PwC assessment centre. Take the time to prepare in this area.
HINT: Make circular references back to your CV and tie in your examples to present powerful and cogent examples. (The Telegraph has a good section you can plunder for CV tips.)
Stop worrying! Download a 12-step assessment day cheatsheet & be perfectly prepared.
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 5: Be open minded, agile with change and practical
One of the interview techniques that is commonly used at the PwC assessment centre is what we refer to as ‘the rug pull’.
Throwing a candidate off step by introducing something new or unexpected, to see how they react to change and how good they are at thinking on their feet.
Can you move from one topic to the next and display seamless focus?
- Action point: Practise talking in detail about career highlights or your aims for the future. Move from one to the other every 30 seconds or so.
It’s harder than you think to switch gears, but you will notice after 5-10 minutes or so how much easier it becomes to take that stream of consciousness forward with enthusiasm, without missing a beat.
- Action point 2: Prepare 2 examples for your PwC assessment centre of how you dealt with change in a professional or academic setting. How did you maintain your effectiveness throughout the transition?
Bonus tip: Throw in this Charles Darwin quote for extra brownie points and to prove that you understand the importance of success through change: “It is not the strongest or most intelligent species that prosper, but the ones that adapt the best to change.”
PwC Assessment Centre Criterion 6: Personal Development
Many people can and do impress at the PwC assessment centre, but the one trait that separates strong candidates from elite candidates is a focus on self-improvement.
Have a read of our post “The Real Secret To Career Success” for much more detail on this.
This area may seem unimportant to you, but don’t compound any ignorance you may have in this area with arrogance that it doesn’t matter. This is important and PwC treat it as such.
- Action point 1: Spend 10 minutes thinking how you can demonstrate a track-record of personal development and a commitment to it in the future.
- Action point 2: Buy Stephen Covey’s business classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. It’s a bible for success in your career and personal life. Referencing this at your PwC assessment centre will make a big impression on the assessors.
HINT: Add a few questions covering this area to your list of interview questions (that you will ask them at your PwC assessment centre). EG: “Personal development is important to me. Can you tell me how PwC will invest in my long-term training and development if my application is successful?”
Practise PwC’s assessment exercises & tests
Nothing will improve your performance more than familiarity with the tests and exercises that PwC use.
Practising beforehand will improve your competence and also help you feel more relaxed, which will further boost your performance level.
You can practise the tests that PwC use here and here. (These tests aren’t free, but they are a must-buy for candidates who want to do everything possible to ensure they succeed in PwC’s notoriously difficult recruitment process.)
Important: PwC now use “cut-e” style tests
As you may have read elsewhere on the site, different employers use different test suppliers to assess candidates.
The difference between tests can be large, as there are various suppliers in the market. (SHL, Saville, Talent Q etc).
PwC assessment centre – A useful video from PwC
Important! Update your CV before your interview
Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.
Big mistake. Here's why:
1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)
2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.
3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.
(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)
Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.
This course from Matthew Tambiah gets straight to the point. It teaches fast techniques to help candidates quickly solve the commercial problems posed in management consulting interviews and case studies.
If you’re seeking a job with companies like KPMG, PWC or Deloitte, this one is for you.
The course has two components.
1) The first half of the course teaches techniques to perform numerical calculations quickly and efficiently without using a calculator or spreadsheet (as required in case interviews).
2) The second half of the course reviews the most common types of quantitative problems given in case study interviews. The course shows students the most efficient solution method for each problem type, and how to use the computational techniques taught in the first portion of the course to generate answers quickly and efficiently.
The course highlights how to use the results of the quantitative analysis to generate insights and recommendations relevant to the overall case.
All the example problems used in the course are derived from real case studies from leading management consulting firms including Deloitte, McKinsey, BCG, and Accenture.
Some final questions for you…
- Do you have to take a numerical reasoning test or a verbal reasoning test? If so you may want to check out the aptitude tests section of the site.
- You can find practice tests and tons of free advice on every other type of ‘reasoning test’ too: numerical, verbal, abstract, logical, inductive, diagrammatic, spatial, mechanical comprehension, UKCAT and Watson-Glaser tests.
- Worried about your assessment day? Maybe you’re worried about performing a presentation or preparing for an interview or group exercise or in-tray exercise?
- Perhaps you’d like some guidance on how to deal with nerves & anxiety at your PwC assessment centre?
- Lastly the Tools and Resources page is packed with useful equipment and ‘A’ List recommendations that will make your life easier.
We hope you enjoyed our PwC assessment centre guide?
We’d love to hear your feedback on this article and also to learn how your PwC assessment centre exercise goes, so please do get in touch and let us know.
Thanks and good luck!
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