PwC has retained a leading position as an attractive employer among many of Universum’s Employer rankings regionally and secured fourth position in business in the World’s Most Attractive Employers 2013 index. Universum had the opportunity to speak with Charles Macleod, PwC’s Head of Global Sourcing, on how they manage a graduate program of 20,000 students annually and yet are able to offer tailored experiences.
Although PwC has a worldwide presence, they operate as a network of local partnerships and recruit largely on a local level. They’re aware that each market has its own nuances and behaviors. By conducting business in accordance with international and local markets, they ensure they can satisfy clients of all sizes. This philosophy has trickled down into their graduate programs, providing students with tailored opportunities a generic, global program would not necessarily provide.
PwC admits it’s not an easy task to offer such a wide range of student experiences, but it is necessary for an organisation that provides a broad range of services on such a wide geographical scale but for whom recruiting the best talent is their key asset. With different market expectations, PwC has adapted each of their graduate programs accordingly. Macleod explained, for example, that a U.S. graduate program will be more heavily targeted towards students who already have studied and acquired skills in the areas relevant to their PwC work. In the UK, however, a program will be geared towards an assortment of talented people who are sharp, curious and eager to learn, but who may not yet have studied or worked within the field, and may not yet have a specific specialist area of work in mind.
To unite these diverse programs, PwC focuses on their value proposition: “Delivering the opportunity of a lifetime.” They see this as the resounding message that all students can relate to, no matter the path they choose.
For mutual gain between PwC and the students, selection is critical. With over one million applications spanning the various available graduate programs, finding the right fit seems like a daunting task. To streamline the application process, PwC provides very specific qualifications and requirements to potential candidates and are open about their selection criteria. PwC hopes that unqualified candidates will take heed of this and not apply. But with only 5% of applicants earning a position, there are still plenty who apply regardless of qualifications.
However, PwC ensures that quality applications aren’t overlooked by doing a specific pre-selection screening, done by a person and not a computer. Applications that pass the initial screening will then be processed to different stages depending on the market. This can range from a first interview, to ability tests, or even group exercises.
Irrespective of the market or qualifications PwC is looking for, they are always focused on candidates who are curious and have the ability to problem solve and learn quickly in a complex working environment. Curiosity might have killed the cat, but is seen as an asset at PwC.
By having such a rigorous selection process, PwC can more accurately place students with the right skills into the right place. Securing students who are the perfect fit for the position means candidates can have a more productive and beneficial early experience in their career, and are more likely to be successful in the future, at PwC or elsewhere.
PwC knows that graduate programs and internships make a big difference in mapping out students’ future career paths. Students get their first work experience with these programs and can make better career decisions. PwC wants the skills, training, and work experience to resonate. They want students to build relationships with colleagues and clients and gain skills that will benefit them in the long-term.
“We try to put ourselves in the students’ shoes and understand what they get from working with PwC. They want real work experience, training and responsibilities beyond getting coffee and photocopying. Students are asking for an experience they can be proud to show on their CVs, and want valuable training to help them succeed in their career,” explained Macleod.
PwC’s graduate programs aim to provide exposure to real work, for any level of prior experience, doing challenging work as part of a team. For candidates who are already specialized, they will receive coaching on more advanced aspects of their work, whereas others with little, to no background within a specialization, will have more training on the fundamentals, provided by one-on-one training and group activities. Anyone, who has had the misfortune to do an internship by wandering the halls from day-one, would find the PwC approach enriching.
“PwC does not focus solely on the benefits they may receive from taking students under their wing, but are actively concerned about candidates getting the most from their experience both professionally and personally,” emphasised Macleod.
PwC has its eyes on the horizon and knows the market is ever changing. By the time these students will enter the workforce as an established professional, the market climate will have shifted drastically and the skills they thought they once needed may be irrelevant. PwC is not only prepping these students for the workforce, but are preparing them for the future.
PwC has taken into account trends that are becoming more prevalent, such as permeating technological advancements and the increasing use of Big Data to drive business decisions. With these predominant trends, students need to consider acquiring the skills the employment market demands, meaning that students who choose disciplines within the STEM-related subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) may find themselves at an advantage generally in the workforce of the future. As talent market competition increases, there will be an evident shortage of candidates with quantitative abilities and those who possess these skills will have a competitive edge. PwC offers training into these fields for its employees and student programs.
Although a PwC internship is intended to prepare students as well as offer them an unforgettable experience, they also hope to retain candidates after their program. Many candidates receive job offers afterwards. A successful outcome for any intern program is to convert from 80% to 90% of the programme participants into permanent employees.
It’s not just internships either. PwC invests time with students in other ways early in their studies. “Anyone good enough to work for us will have choices.” said Macleod. “By maintaining a relationship with these students, even if they go elsewhere, we may see some returning later down the road and this keeps a number of good prospects in our talent pool.”
Maintaining and retaining talent is one thing, but sustaining an attractive brand requires even more effort. PwC knows the importance of attracting prospects by generating brand awareness of their value proposition. Regarding talent recruitment, PwC has different tactics of maintaining relationships with students, both those involved with the program, and those they hope will become interested. As most smart companies do, PwC targets first year students and high school graduates to introduce them to PwC and helps guide them into realising their potential career choices. By maintaining a relationship with pupils throughout their schooling, students will have PwC in mind when choosing an internship or graduate program.
PwC’s graduate programs offer students an opportunity to learn from a well-versed organisation, acquiring skills and knowledge in business practices and real-job experiences. However, these are not the only aspects they hope students take from this experience. They want their graduate programs to be a significant life event for candidates whether or not they continue at PwC. Beyond the skills, the tasks, and the challenges candidates will face, a candidate should create lasting memories, a shining resume, and recognize the period as a cru
cial time where their professional life was molded and formed. PwC wants all graduates from the program to be able to leave and say, “I’ll never forget the time I spent at PwC.”