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Passion and teamwork key to Big Four jobs

Joining a Big Four firm is a dream for many accounting students. At the HKICPA Career Forum 2012, partners from Big Four firms shared insights on their firms' recruitment processes during the "How to win a job in Big Four" career workshop.

Communication skills are something recruiters look for in accountants. Most Big Four firms make job applicants engage in group discussions as part of their interviews.

"We are looking for outgoing people who enjoy working as a team," said Agnes Tso, partner (financial services) at Ernst & Young. "We let applicants work on projects as a team in the job interview because we want them to demonstrate that they are able to communicate with one another and work as a team.

"We are not looking for individuals who are able to dominate the discussion. We want people who know how to get others involved. At Ernst & Young, we preach the values of 'ACCT' - which stands for active, communication, commitment and teamwork," Tso adds.

Aptitude tests and interviews with partners are other activities that candidates have to excel at to win a job.

Maggie Lee, partner (HR) at KPMG, told students not to worry too much about aptitude tests that require candidates to answer a large number of complicated questions in limited time.

"The purpose of the test is to assess candidates' ability to perform under pressure. We do not expect candidates to be able to answer all the questions correctly," she said.

Ivan Au, audit partner at PwC, advised candidates to focus on demonstrating their strengths to interviewers and to make sure they effectively explain how these strengths fit in with the company's values.

"I often see a long list of duties and responsibilities on CVs but that does not impress me. I want candidates who are able to explain to me what he or she has gained from those roles," he said.

Candidates who are able to show a love of the accounting profession particularly appeal to Eric Tong, partner, global financial services industry leader, southern China, at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

"We are looking for a diverse mix in our staff so there is not a particular type of person that we are looking for. Many candidates like to recite model answers from a prepared script, but there are no standard answers," he said.

"Speak from your heart, not from a script. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Show your passion for the industry when you ask questions and that can win you credit in a job interview."