Last year GradConnection revealed professional services firm KPMG is the most desirable graduate employer in Australia, with almost a quarter of the 25,000 grads surveyed interested in working at the firm.
As you can imagine, scoring one of the 300-odd coveted spots on such a popular grad program is a tough ask, so we caught up with Nikki Harrison, National Head of Recruitment at KPMG, to find out what it takes to rise above the rest.
Her tips are a great read for anyone currently on the roller-coaster ride of applying for grad programs, whether at KPMG or not. Here they are:
What does Australia’s most desirable graduate employer look for in a grad?
First and foremost, we’re looking for people with excellent communication skills.
We recruit people who can demonstrate natural leadership, with a strong ability to influence and collaborate in a team environment.
We also have a very strong diversity strategy, and look for innovative thinkers who are able to appreciate different perspectives and aren’t afraid to challenge things. We don’t have a cookie cutter approach to recruiting.
“We don’t have a cookie cutter approach to recruiting.”
All graduates are in client-facing roles, so the people we recruit are very focused on the customer and are able to think in their shoes.
And because they’re customer facing, they need to have strong problem solving and strategic thinking skills, with the ability to think on their feet.
Finally, people might be surprised that we don’t rely purely on academic results and degree discipline.
“… People might be surprised that we don’t rely purely
on academic results and degree discipline.”
Obviously this is one piece of the pie, but just because someone has a great academic record it doesn’t necessarily make them a perfect fit for KPMG.
We are not just an accounting and tax business, we have the largest advisory business in Australia, and it’s 50 per cent of the company.
Without the ability to be innovative, think laterally and solve complex problems in a team, academic strength can be a bit redundant.
How does the recruitment process work?
During the recruitment process we aim to collect much information as possible about an applicant up front, including a written application and psychometric testing.
We then run a range of different assessments aimed at understanding candidates’ reasoning and behavioural traits.
“We are very interested in peoples’ passions and interests outside of academic pursuits.”
This could mean asking applicants to use examples from their past, maybe their time at university, extra-curricular activities they participate in or sporting teams they are a part of; anything where they can demonstrate their ability to bring other people on a journey.
We are very interested in peoples’ passions and interests outside of academic pursuits as well; a commitment to diversity means recruiting people from a variety of different backgrounds.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see made by hopeful applicants?
Firstly, applicants not showing an understanding of the organisation is a very common mistake.
At KPMG, career motivation is key; we want people to be passionate about what they do. So if we ask you to tell us why you’ve applied to work for us, make sure to answer thoroughly and compellingly.
“If we ask you to tell us why you’ve applied to work for us,
make sure to answer thoroughly and compellingly.”
There is a lot of information available online about what we do and what we stand for, so we advise applicants to do their research.
Other than that, general applications that aren’t specific to the applicant’s job are common, or applications that contain spelling mistakes or errors.
Communication skills are crucial to our business, so we need our applicants to demonstrate them from the outset.
What tips can you offer grads to help them nail the interview?
It sounds simple, but we often see applicants unable to articulate why they’re applying in a compelling way.
Demonstrating this verbally can be harder than writing it down in an application.
During the interview, relax and don’t be afraid to show the interviewer who you really are. It’s OK for things that are important to you; we have strong organisational values, including corporate citizenship and sustainability.
“Relax and don’t be afraid to show the interviewer who you really are.”
We’re looking for people who want to go beyond their potential and bring their whole self to work.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions of KMPG. It shows inherent curiosity and is an important skill for when you actually work there. Be interested.
What are the most common mistakes grads make during the interview?
The easiest way to make a bad first impression is not offering to shake hands and not looking people in the eye.
Another way is to not knowing who you’re meeting; it’s important to know the names and positions of your interviewers.
“Being overly negative is a big red flag.”
Being overly negative is a big red flag. It’s generally a mistake to openly criticise other organisations or people, as that can leave a lasting bad impression. A much better idea is to put your best foot forward and provide examples in a really constructive way.
And don’t forget to say that you’re genuinely interested in joining a business or to thank the interviewer for their time. If you don’t, that’s the last thing they will remember about you.
Is there a good time to bring up salary for an entry-level job?
Salaries are very set for graduate positions.
Firstly, in general for any role money should never be the first thing you talk about.
“It’s never going to work out if you’re just joining the business based on salary.”
Secondly, it’s never going to work out if you’re just joining the business based on salary.
If you need to, it’s best to raise it with the graduate recruitment officer rather than during an interview.
Image: JJ Jackson, Flickr