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11 inside tips for KPMG graduate job applications

Lynn Elesy

Careers Commentator
Prosple Australia surveyed recent graduates and spoke to the recruitment manager at KPMG to bring you the top 11 tips for applying to the KPMG graduate program.

Advice from recent graduates at KPMG

1. Brush up on your test-taking skills

Applicants for graduate positions at KPMG will need to undergo a series of tests designed to evaluate their logical thinking, communication, and comprehension skills. Some of these tests are online, while others are completed at an assessment centre. Our insiders described tasks ranging from maths puzzles to an administrative challenge in which they were asked to summarise numerous documents in a single email. 

If you would benefit from brushing up on your test-taking skills, KPMG has some of its own tips, such as: leave difficult questions until the end, don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of questions (you’re also being tested on your ability to prioritise), and eliminate answers that are obviously incorrect. 

"Many online tests are required with your resume online and from there you are selected for half a day of assessment centres in the office where you also have two interviews."
- Graduate, Perth

"There were logic tests online that I had to complete before attending an assessment centre day that included an interview with a manager and a partner. I then had to complete a writing task."
- Graduate, Adelaide

2. Clarify where you'd like your career at KPMG to take you

One of the great things about working for KPMG is the ability to take advantage of career opportunities that only a company with 190,000 employees in various countries can offer. KPMG invests significantly in helping grads prepare for the roles they want in five or ten years time, whether that takes them further up the ladder in Australia, or to an office overseas. To make the most of your KPMG experience, our insiders say, it’s a good idea to know where you’d like it to take you. 

"I would say that, comparatively, there are a lot of opportunities for an individual to progress in their career based on the sheer size of KPMG."

- Graduate, Adelaide

"The training programmes are second to none. Within my first two months, there have already been two separate courses on department-specific training with the option to do many, many more online should there be a break in work."

- Graduate, Adelaide

3. Be as specific as possible in your interview preparation

While initial KPMG interviews allow recruiters to ‘screen’ candidates, later interviews are generally designed to see where an applicant would fit best within the company. During this final stage of the application process, you should have an idea of the team or division you’ll (prospectively) be working for and the challenges they face. This will enable you to do a little more preparatory research: has the team released any media statements or worked on high-profile projects? Who leads the team and what are they best known for? How does the team relate to other parts of KPMG? The more specific your research becomes, the better prepared you’ll be for questions about how you can make a positive contribution. 

"Read the company website thoroughly. Have an understanding of the division/team you have applied for and the overall vision/values of the company. You will be asked questions about the values and how they relate to you."
- Graduate, Perth

"Know the STAR format to answering behavioural based interview questions. Be able to describe the Situation, Task, Action and Result and relate it to what you actually did. Prepare a few examples before you go into the interview if you know you will be nervous."
- Graduate, Sydney

"I was asked a lot of questions about how I would practically deal with certain situations in the workplace. For instance, if I had to deal with conflict with a client or with a colleague. Also questions as to what I could bring to the company with my particular skill set."
- Graduate, Perth

4. Be natural, not nervous

KPMG itself is eager for applicants to arrive at interviews and tests with a healthy degree of confidence and practicality. It emphasises this on its graduate website, suggesting that applicants mitigate pre-interview nerves by giving themselves credit for preparing well, occupying their time with ordinary activities (like meeting with friends or watching a movie), and focusing on the benefits of the interview experience even for those who aren’t successful in securing a position. The good news is that, according to our insiders, KPMG does its best to put graduates at ease, giving equal time to questions about experience, technical skills, and personal interests. 

"KPMG is not just looking for academically superior candidates, they're looking for people who can develop interpersonal relationships as well as perform the technical aspects of their roles. To prepare, Google the typical questions the Big 4 ask at their assessment centres, and prepare your answers. Research the company to see what their core values are."
- Graduate, Sydney

"Understand that client facing staff must have good interpersonal skills: this means good verbal communication skills, emotional and social awareness. Applicants must be able to work in a team: if you can't, this role is not for you. You should research the role and then explain why your skills and experience match the position."
- Graduate, Adelaide

5. Become an expert in KPMG 

What does KPMG do? What are its corporate goals? What are its corporate values? Where does it want to be in ten years? How can you help it achieve this goal? Asking questions like this will empower you to demonstrate, during interviews and group assessments, that you are familiar with company and enthusiastic about supporting its mission. 

"Know what they do and what they stand for."
- Entry level, Adelaide

"I would recommend that graduates familiarise themselves with the company and what they do, and that they prepare answers to possible interview questions. Be confident and show that you can easily get along with people because I think that goes far."
- Graduate, Perth

6. Dress for the job you want 

Here’s something a surprisingly high number of our insiders reported: the folk at KPMG are snappy dressers. While this needn’t have you agonizing of the perfect outfit, it is, nevertheless, a helpful reminder that presentation is important for interviews, especially when your target job has a significant customer-facing component. So make sure that you arrive at your interview looking just as you would on your first day of work. 

"Everyone dresses particularly well. The office space has just been renovated and looks cutting edge. The new system of an agile workspace has seemed to really work."
- Graduate, Adelaide

"The dress code is business casual. Different clients require different dress codes and therefore we often dress up or down between business casual and business formal."
- Graduate, Perth

Advice from the graduate recruitment manager at KPMG

Kristina Kipper, the graduate recruitment partner for KPMG’s Sydney tax practice, suggests the following tips for increasing your chances of landing a job at the firm.

1. ‘Out-of-the-box’ experience

We like to see candidates who have done something different. So whether it is taking a gap year or helping out with a charity, show us that you are open to new life experiences. 

2. Do your homework

Know why you want to work at KPMG. It is quite evident during an interview if a candidate has taken the time to get to know what we do. So when you are asked, “Why do you want to work here?”, be ready with specific examples that demonstrate you really do understand the firm, its aims and functions.

3. Be able to demonstrate you are a team player and people person

Interacting with clients and peers and working across teams are critical parts of working at KPMG – we need to know that you will fit in here. We also are looking for leaders; we want to see evidence that you will be able to develop people. 

4. Have genuine enthusiasm

You can’t fake it.

5. Show that you have agility and an innovative mind

The world is rapidly changing. What you are doing today may be entirely different tomorrow. Graduates must have the ability and capacity to adapt and learn new things. And don’t forget to let us see how you are innovative in your approach to problem solving.