Writing this now, I can’t quite believe how quickly time has gone. I joined Accenture almost four years ago as my first ‘proper’ post-university job. Having studied an undergraduate in law I had always imagined that I would go on to be a solicitor, however to keep my options open I also decided to attend talks from companies in other sectors, including Accenture, which led me to make an application and in the end accept an offer of employment. After a year out to travel (which I highly recommend!) I started as an analyst at Accenture in September 2009.
Over the past four years I have undertaken a variety of job roles, the majority of which have been within the financial services sector. Working solely within a single sector is a result of my own personal preferences, however for those people looking for a more diverse and ever-changing consulting experience Accenture currently operate across five major industry sectors with opportunities open to both experienced and new hires within them all. These five industries are communications, media & technology, financial services, products, resources and health & public service.
I am a member of the consulting division where we design, sell and deliver business solutions. Currently I work as the training and performance lead on a large remediation programme for a European bank and my role includes designing training, delivering it and monitoring the performance of a team of quality control agents.
What was the application process like?
The recruitment process takes about 6-8 weeks depending on availability and currently operates on a “rolling-recruitment” basis, meaning that you can start the process at any point throughout the year. The recruitment procedure has changed slightly since I joined, but it still follows the same rough path and current format is as follows:
- Completion of an online application form
- Situational judgement tests
- A telephone interview
- An assessment centre.
The assessment centre currently consists of a group exercise, a project planning exercise, a competency based interview and a Q&A session with current analysts (not assessed). It is worth remembering that the assessment centre is meant to be challenging and you will find that time pressures are evident as you go through the day.
Just be calm, listen to those around you, be confident and be yourself. I recognise that it is a bit cliché, however if possible you should try to enjoy the day as much as you can, making the most of the opportunity to ask questions. After all, it is as much about you deciding whether Accenture is the right place for you as it is Accenture deciding that you are the right person for them – graduate recruitment is very much a two way process.
- My biggest piece of advice is not to underestimate the time needed to prepare. Providing you have prepared well you shouldn’t have a problem, but that means putting in a lot of preparation and hard work prior to the interview. Competency based questions are used in almost all graduate-level interviews, so research these online and prepare an outline of your response for each. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend/ family member for support – role playing an interview situation can really help!
- Research the company! Accenture has a careers website that contains a wealth of information that can help to supplement your competency based skills in an interview situation. Know what you are applying for and the clients we work with. I even memorised the facts of a few case studies so I could talk with ease about why I thought Accenture was the place I wanted to work.
- Use a wide variety of experiences to demonstrate your breadth of character and skills. Part time work, university, sport, extracurricular clubs, the list goes on. These can all show the different facets of your personality and experience.
What skills are useful in this sector/profession?
For me, the key skill for a consultant is good ‘stakeholder management’, which means building strong and lasting relationships with your clients. The nature of the business means that sometimes you will work with clients who are less receptive to the presence of consultants within their offices. The key to overcoming this is to build a high level of trust through being open, honest and genuine, ensuring that you always deliver quality work within the given time-frames.
In this regard communication skills are vital, not just for presenting to large groups but also for speaking one on one and to small teams. In addition, you should also do your best to be knowledgeable about the client’s industry and the sector that they operate in. Do your research to ensure you can speak with confidence if required.
Well-developed analytical and problem solving are vital, as these help to ensure that that you can produce a quality piece of work to tight deadlines. This means that you also need to be organised and able to manage your time appropriately based on many differing priorities. Last but not least, a hunger to develop and improve will certainly stand you in good stead, not just for a career in consultancy, but more generally across any profession that you choose to pursue.
Is it a 9-5 job?
Consulting is certainly not a 9-5 job, but that does not necessarily mean that it is an 18 hour day either. Being a consultant means that there are lots of times when you are extremely busy and are being pushed hard by a client to meet a tight deadline. Over my last four years at Accenture I have worked a few days from 7am-midnight and also had to work on the weekend on some occasions.
However, every client is different and on other projects I have worked more conventional 8.45am-5.30pm hours. My overall message would be prepare to work for as long as it takes to get the job done. It is important to do everything in your power to make it work for the client and that can mean some long days, though that being said you should always remember to make the most of your downtime, as the long hours don’t last forever.