Office Hours: Insight From A Manager, Partner And Campus Recruiter At PwC

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When you’re first starting your career, it’s essential to explore as many different perspectives from as many different people as possible.

Lucky for you, Senior Manager – Campus Talent Acquisition James Davidson and two new PwC representatives – Ryan Thulien, a Partner in Tax Services, and Rahim Lallani, a Manager in Assurance – joined us for the firm’s second Office Hours on TalentEgg on Jan. 21. Office Hours is an hour-long live chat online with representatives from top employers like PwC for TalentEgg members.

Students and recent grads had the opportunity to ask James, Ryan and Rahim their most pressing career questions about working at the firm, pursuing an accounting designation, standing out in the recruiting process and much more.

If you missed the live event, you can read the complete transcript below:

(TalentEgg Tip: Don’t miss another Office Hours event! Become a TalentEgg Member and receive email invites – it’s free!)

Cassandra:
Welcome to Office Hours, TalentEgg-ers! My name is Cassandra, I’m the Content Manager here at TalentEgg and I’ll be moderating today’s chat.

Joining us today are Ryan Thulien (Partner, Tax Services), Rahim Lallani (Manager, Assurance) and James Davidson (Senior Manager – Campus Talent Acquisition) from PwC!

Over the next hour, you can send Ryan, Rahim and James your questions about careers in accounting and consulting, working at PwC, and tips for successfully navigating the recruitment process! You can start submitting your questions now.

James, Ryan and Rahim, could you please tell the audience a bit about yourselves?

James:
Hi there, my name is James Davidson and I’m a Senior Manager – Campus Talent Acquisition, leading PwC’s campus team. I’ve been with PwC UK and Canada for almost seven years.

Rahim:
Hi everyone, my name is Rahim Lallani, I’m a Manager in the Audit and Assurance Group at the Downtown PwC office.

Ryan:
Hi! My name is Ryan Thulien; I’m a Tax Partner based in Toronto and have been with PwC for 13 years. I have an industry focus with retail and consumer product companies, and therefore work with many global multinationals on a variety of tax projects.

Cassandra:
Thank you! Let’s get started with a question that was submitted in advance:

Helen, an Accounting student at UBC, asks: I’m from Vancouver and I am interested in working in an office in Eastern Canada. Is there a preference to hire locally? What would you recommend I do to get to know these offices better with the geographical limitations?

Ryan:
I wouldn’t say we have a preference to hire locally – we will interview people from across the country interested in an office if they are the right candidates. You should ensure you have the prerequisites needed for the program and connect with the recruiting contact for your campus.

Cassandra:
Thanks Ryan! Here’s another question that was submitted in advance:

Talha Rawasia, an Accounting graduate from the University of Toronto Mississauga, says: I had an interview with PwC in the Tax service area last fall. Unfortunately, I was not successful, but I am thankful for the opportunity nonetheless. What can I do (new experiences/skills) to improve my chances when I apply next year? I’ve graduated, and I’m currently in the interview stage for a couple small firms for temporary and part-time roles. Am I going in the right direction? Thank you so much for holding these Office Hours. I really appreciate this.

Ryan:
Hi Talha. I think you are doing the right thing in getting a broad range of experience and developing skills that you can draw on in a variety of ways.

Comment From Angelet Lim
I am a third-year Accounting student at York. What was the hardest challenge you have faced at PwC? How did you deal with it?

Rahim:
Hi Angelet, the hardest challenge for me was when I first started at the firm as a co-op student. I had limited accounting knowledge (only one year of university) and my previous work experience was as a lifeguard. I found that the training at the firm was great and the people I worked with did a very good job coaching me. I definitely learned a lot during my first co-op term at the firm!

Comment From Angelet Lim 
Thank you, Rahim! I have a follow-up question: If you could teach us (students) one factor that was key to your success at PwC, what would it be?

Rahim:
Hi Angelet, one of the keys to being successful at PwC is building very good working relationships with your audit team members.

Cassandra:
Steven Pitucci, a BBA (Accounting) student at the Schulich School of Business at York University, would like to know: What impact will the entrance of the CPA designation in Canada have on candidates who want to pursue the Direct-to-Tax CA program that PwC offers?

Ryan:
Hi Steven. The CPA designation will be replacing the current CA designation for all students pursuing their Canadian designation regardless of whether they will be completing the designation under the traditional audit path or one of the non-traditional paths, like the Tax CA. This is identical to options available for CA designation completion now. Depending on the province a person is in, there may be some changes to the qualification pathway from the way it is today because of the move to national consistency.

Comment From Osama Malik
First of all, I want to thank all the PwC representatives for taking their valuable time to answer our questions. As a student with past experience, I highly value learning and developing myself professionally. What types of initiatives does PwC have in place to ensure all entry-level associates are well equipped with such development. (Perhaps you can explain more about Enhanced Working Practices offered by PwC?)

Rahim:
Hi Osama. All entry-level associates will go through a training course when they first start with the firm and will learn about the PwC audit methodology. On the job, you’ll receive coaching from more senior team members. PwC’s Enhanced Working Practices are centred around a concept called “Teach, Don’t Tell”, where senior team members coach junior team members by asking open-ended questions to lead the junior team member to the answer, instead of just telling him or her the answer.

Comment From Mikhail Taylor
I’m currently a fourth-year accounting student and set on pursuing a CA/ CPA designation. As I am very interested in joining PwC, what would you recommend that I could do to solidify my candidacy for the 2013 recruiting season? I’ve had work experience with CATOs as well as financial institutions during my undergrad. Thank you.

Ryan:
Hi Mikhail. I think there is a lot you can do to get to know us and introduce yourself by building relationships with our recruiting team through the activities posted on our website and Facebook/Twitter feeds, etc. For example, our Personal Brand Week is coming in February, and we have other events coming later in the year.

Comment From Fiona Mak
Hi, I’m a second-year student at the Schulich School of Business and I would like to know what is the most interesting project you’ve worked on at PwC? Have you done lots of travelling?

Rahim:
Hi Fiona, the most interesting project I’ve worked on was in Miami, Florida. I was sent there for 10 weeks to work on an audit of a public company and it was a great experience. I worked with some great people, learned a lot and got away from the cold Toronto winter! 🙂 I’ve also gone to Montreal and Halifax for work.

Comment From Brian
Hi there, I would like to know what PwC does differently from other big firms to prepare students for the UFE (and other professional examinations). I have read about these things on your website, but I would like to have any of your personal input. Do you know the pass/fail rate among new PwC employees, and what is done if someone fails? Thank you for your time!

Rahim:
Hi Brian. During the UFE process, you get paired up with a mentor (someone who passed in the previous year), and they help coach you and provide you with tips. We also have professional instructors that train you in the various competencies. We have a fantastic pass rate. If someone fails, we set-up a specialized study program for them and provide them with the coaching and training to hopefully pass in the following year.

Comment From Safia Yousuf 
Hello James, Ryan and Rahim! It was a pleasure to meet PwC representatives (Naomi, Fahad, Laura and others) at the Ryerson University CA Night last semester. I am curious about what you have seen students do to stand out (in a positive way) whether in person or online?

Ryan:
Hi Safia. I am always impressed by people who have clearly taken a proactive and long-term approach to their personal and career development at an early stage. They have been intentional about things like taking positions of responsibility where they have shown leadership skills and an ability to direct other people. An important part of what we do is building relationships, so this is something that we definitely look for.

Cassandra:
We’re getting some egg-cellent questions and responses from Ryan and Rahim so far! Here’s another previously-submitted question from Jonathan, a Business Administration student at Western University, that perhaps James would be best-suited to answer: What is the PwC Recruitment process like?

James:
Our recruitment process varies across Canada and by line of service. For all areas, it starts with a resume review, where we look at achievements, grades, and spelling and grammar.

From there, we move to interviews. For Audit and Tax, these may be face-to-face or over the phone, with the number of interviews depending on the city. For Consulting applicants, there is a telephone interview and, at the second stage, an assessment centre, where they have a partner interview and also participate in a group exercise and a written assessment.

Comment From Mary Sun 
Hi Rahim, I am a third-year accounting student at U of T Rotman Commerce. You mentioned that you did a two-month rotation practice in Tax, where you did personal tax returns. Can you tell me more about this rotation program? Does PwC offer new grads opportunities to practice in both Audit and Tax ?

Rahim:
Hi Mary, yes, I did a two-month rotation into the Tax group where I worked on personal tax returns. The optional rotation program generally occurs in your second or third year at the firm during the tax busy season (March and April). There are also opportunities to do a rotation in Audit if you start in the Tax group.

Comment From Brian 
Would someone being hired direct to Tax or direct to Consulting be at any type of disadvantage compared with doing the “traditional” route through Assurance first? Thanks!

Ryan:
Hi Brian. In general, I would say there is no disadvantage per se, but it depends in part on your objectives. There is a difference in that the traditional Audit route is required for those who want to obtain a public accounting license so you can sign off on audited financial statements. The large majority of CAs don’t have a public accounting license or need one. For the Tax route, the benefit is that you get a depth of experience and knowledge in tax that you wouldn’t get through the traditional route. The Consulting route is different in that it does not lead to a CA/CPA designation – rather, we teach people to be management consultants, which is a different set of skills and knowledge. Many of our top consulting partners don’t have an accounting designation.

Comment From Frank Savonarota 
Hello, I want to start by thanking all the representatives from PwC who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us here today and I also want to thank TalentEgg for hosting such a great event. I’m a third-year York University student and, in the last year, I have taken a strong interest in CSR (corporate social responsibility). My questions is: What CSR initiatives has PwC taken and can we expect more in the future?

James:
Hi Frank, great question! Corporate responsibility is key to our thinking as a business – it’s important to our people and clients – but it’s also the right thing for us to do. You can find out more about our CR agenda here. One of my favourites is our initiative to sponsor athletes: Team PwC.

Comment From Kelly Leung 
Hi, first of all, thank you to all of the PwC representatives who are here today! I am a third-year student from the Schulich School of Business. I am interested in the Tax practice at PwC and would like to know what kind of work the tax department does? Is it more technical or more research with tax laws and such?

Ryan:
Hi Kelly. Great question – a lot of people ask me this because, at the university level, it can be hard to know what a career in Tax is all about. It is also a hard question to answer because there are so many different things that we do in tax and many different specialty areas one can pursue down the road. Of course we help clients with tax returns and tax accounting, but we spend most of our time on tax consulting of various kinds. Much of this is centred around business transactions that need to be planned in a tax-efficient way. Research is part of that, and another part is bringing our technical knowledge to advise clients on how to achieve what they want to do from a business perspective.

Comment From Nishan Kugan 
Hi Ryan and Rahim, I am currently in my third year at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I have two questions. My first question is that I know someone who works for PwC in Audit, but I am afraid to ask him to refer me for certain reasons. I wanted to know if internal referrals/sources will help me in the recruitment process. My other question is: Does PwC hire students during tax season?

Rahim:
Hi Nishan, we do track references received, however it will not really help you in the recruiting process. We base all of our hiring decisions on the merit of the candidate and not on references received. And, to answer your second question: yes, we hire students during the tax season.

Cassandra:
Let’s ask our poll question! Students and grads: Which PwC service area are you most interested in applying to?

  • Audit and Assurance (44%)
  • Tax (19%)
  • Consulting (19%)
  • Deals (9%)
  • Undecided (9%)

If you’re still undecided and you’re planning to pursue your CA/CPA designation at PwC, find out what Ryan and Rahim recommend when it comes to choosing a service area by watching this video.

Comment From Hassan Jan 
My name is Hassan Jan and it’s nice to meet you all. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Here’s my comment and question. I enjoy studying economics, analyzing trends and compiling reports (aside from accounting, my major). I also scan some of PwC’s finance, economics and statistics publications from time to time, along with other major publications like Bain & Company and the Harvard Business Review. If PwC hired me, would there be opportunities to research and contribute to these publications as a young person? Furthermore, who generally writes these reports? What positions do they assume?

James:
Hi Hassan, great question. Who writes our reports depends on the issues or trends being analyzed. They’re usually a collaborative effort and compiled by specific industry groups, where we share our knowledge and expertise more generally. Initially, an opportunity may arise for you to compile some of the data and then, as you progress and your expertise grows, more of the thought leadership.

Comment From Mary Sun 
What do you love most about working in PwC?

Rahim:
Hi Mary, the best part about working at PwC is the people! I’ve built some great working relationships and that’s definitely why I’m still working at the firm.

Comment From Mary Sun 
Hi Rahim, thank you so much for your answer! Can you give me some tips on how to build great working relationships with people at work?

Rahim:
Hi Mary, in order to build good working relationships, you need to be able to have conversations with team members on topics outside of audit. This is how you’ll connect with the team members. Just let your personality shine!

Comment From Abi Tobi Mayeni Sanni 
Hi, my name is Abi Sanni, a new graduate from the University of Alberta. I will like to say thanks for taking time to chat with us. How will the unification of the accounting bodies to CPA affect or change your recruiting process? Will any of the requirements change as well?

Ryan:
Hi Abi. To some extent the details of the process and requirements are still unfolding as details are worked out by the various governing bodies. The direction of the unified qualification process is toward a modular approach covering the different areas. Some of these modules may be covered by the university courses that students completes during their undergraduate programs. The important thing for students will be to ensure that they have taken the assurance and tax modules in their university programs, as these are the ones needed to pursue a career in public accounting.

Comment From Christine 
Hi, I was wondering, what is your advice for fourth-year graduating students who want to work PwC but have not received an offer yet?

James:
Hi Christine, securing a job is competitive and many students don’t secure one until they graduate. Seek out January start opportunities with firms if you graduate this fall.

Between now and fall recruiting season, it’s important to reflect on prior recruiting cycles and what you might need to do to help yourself stand out more. Sign up to practice interviews, have your resume reviewed and ensure you’re really ‘selling’ yourself. Good luck!

Comment From Cora Xu 
Dear James and Rahim, would there be opportunities with PwC (specifically AAG) in Spring 2013? I’ve recently graduated from U of T in December – last month. If not, would there be opportunities to meet with the recruiting team face to face early this year? Thank you in advance.

Rahim:
Hi Cora, we have completed our recruiting for 2013. We will start recruiting for 2014 in the fall of this year. The recruiting team will be hosting events at the universities (primarily in the fall), and you can always keep in touch via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Comment From Peter 
Hi there, what should an individual who will be graduating this spring do during the summer to prepare for recruitment at PwC? Are there any off-cycle recruiting or non-campus related recruitment opportunities specifically designed for new grads? I feel that once I am out of school, my options are very limited, especially for big firms.

James:
Hi Peter, it depends on the city you’re based in. Our bigger cities tend to host events over the summer that you could sign up to. Also, make sure you read the website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us.

In addition, think about how you’re spending the summer and how this might impact your resume. If you can volunteer, gain experience working in a small finance department, etc., these things will definitely help you stand out. Good luck!

Comment From Kabir Ul-Rehman 
Hello Ryan, Rahim and James. Thank you for taking this time to answer our questions. I would like to know how much extra-curricular activities outside the classroom benefits us in the recruitment process. For example, I’m the Finance Director of a fairly large charity organization that I am passionate about. I am also involved in a sports team which requires commitment, and in various other groups. All these activities do take time out of my studying and may affect my grades slightly, but they are things I enjoy doing and help make a difference. Is my commitment to these activities recognized if my grades are not the among the elite group?

Ryan:
Hi Kabir. For us the extra-curricular activities are certainly important. Of course we are looking for people with high academic achievement to show they can handle the technical challenges and constant changes of our work, but beyond that the differentiator is the other skills and experience that people can show. It is definitely not all about grades, and a well-rounded person with great people skills will typically win out over someone with slightly higher grades but without the other demonstrated attributes.

Comment From Talha Rawasia 
Hello James. I follow you on Twitter and have read many of your tweets about Personal Brand Week. I’ve seen the documents and the topics that relate to that on the PwC website. But what do you and the PwC team have planned for Personal Brand Week this February? I’d really like to know!

James:
Great questions, Talha. We’re updating all of our Personal Brand Week information with daily videos related to personal branding, as well as a workbook, which will ask you to reflect on what you’ve watched and how you can utilize this to better promote yourself.

Follow us on Facebook for further information. February 4th. Personal Brand Week. Your story. Revealed. 🙂

Comment From Talha Rawasia 
Thanks a lot, James! The Personal Brand document about the ‘Online Image’ was great. It’s the reason why I created a Twitter account solely for professional purposes.

Cassandra:
That’s all the time we have for questions today. I apologize if we didn’t have the opportunity to publish your question in particular – we had an abundance of fantastic questions for PwC today!

Thanks for participating in Office Hours and a big thank-you to James, Ryan and Rahim for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions! Do you three have any final comments?

James:
Thank you everyone for taking part. You can post additional questions for us on our Facebook page. You can download our campus brochure here and review our website here. Good luck!

Rahim:
Thanks everyone for the great questions!! Have a great evening and good luck! 🙂

Ryan:
I want to say thank you to all of you who have expressed interest in a career at PwC! I look forward to meeting some of you down the road and always look forward to working with sharp, enthusiastic new people!

Cassandra:
If you’re looking for more information on careers with PwC, you can also visit the firm’s employer profile on TalentEgg!

Thanks again for joining us today TalentEgg-ers! Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed (@TalentEgg) and Facebook page for information about upcoming Office Hours events!

Comment From Talha Rawasia 
Thank you very much James, Rahim and Ryan!

Comment From Mary Sun 
Thank you all!

Comment From Hassan Jan 
Again, thanks to you all: James, Ryan, Rahim and Cassandra, for both answering questions and moderating. Have a great day!

Comment From Osama Malik 
Thanks all, really appreciate all the answers. Very helpful 🙂

Comment From Sharon 

Comment From Nishan Kugan 
Thank you very much! This session helped a lot!

Comment From Kabir Ul-Rehman 
Thank you very much

Comment From Abi Tobi Mayeni Sanni
THANKS

Comment From Safia Yousuf
Thanks so much James, Rahim and Ryan! :¬)

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.