Interviews – Financial – Sarah Allatt

Sarah Allatt, 22, received a first class degree in Chemistry from the University of Oxford. After doing an internship whilst still an undergraduate, she joined PricewaterhouseCoopers as a postgraduate trainee.

What exactly is your role?
Over the next three years I am training for my chartered accountancy qualifications which involves time spent studying at college. In addition to this, I am a member of various audit teams working for a number of clients.

How does this relate to the rest of the company?
PricewaterhouseCoopers provides a wide range of services to its clients including tax and legal services, financial advisory services and assurance and business advisory services; audit is just one of these services. I audit clients in the technology, media and telecommunications industry sectors.

How long have you worked for the company?
4 months

How did you get the job?
I submitted a completed application form and was invited in for an interview where I also sat numerical and diagrammatic reasoning tests. Shortly after, I was invited in for a second interview where I took part in a group exercise.

How many positions are there for graduates per year?
We recruit approximately 1000 graduates per annum.

What did your training comprise of?
In my first four months I had two weeks of in-house training, involving IT training and basic auditing skills, and five weeks at an external college in preparation for my first exams. PricewaterhouseCoopers also provides an exam support team for extra tutoring or counselling should you want it.

Is there or will there be much client contact?
Yes. I have spent five weeks at three different clients so far.

Did you know what to expect when you took up the role? Has it met your expectations?
Having done an internship before, I had a fairly good idea of what I would be doing when I was auditing. However I had no idea what the work at college would be like. I have found it both challenging and interesting.

How many hours do you work?
My standard day is 9.30 to 5.30. I am paid for any overtime I do on top of this – which tends to work out about two hours a week on average.

What does an average day comprise of?
When I am at college, I am in a class from 9 until 4 o’clock. I then have an average of two hours homework after class. When I am not at college an average day may include: a briefing meeting on a client I am just about to audit – where it is, who our main points of contact are, what the client does, and any particular issues to look out for; travelling out to a client with other members of the audit team, discussing which areas each person is going to audit, and who will coach me in areas that may be new to me; meeting the client and being shown around the office; auditing particular sections of the clients’ business; and meeting senior members of the audit team to review my work.

Which achievement have you been most proud of? / What has been the high point at your company to date?
The first four months have been a very steep learning curve and almost every day I have really felt I have learned something new. I get a great deal of satisfaction in tackling a new area of work and completing it successfully.

Which characteristics in a person does your role require?
You need to be quite self-confident, as you will be talking to clients from the first day of your first audit. You also need to be able to communicate your thoughts clearly, and to be happy working with numbers.

What skills do you think you have developed from working for your company?
Interviewing/communication skills, the ability to work in a team and self confidence.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I would like to still be working for PricewaterhouseCoopers. I’d like my role to have developed to include more people management, and to be using my judgement and decision making skills further.

What advice would you give to undergraduates or recent graduates looking to find a job similar to yours?
I would research the work that auditors do – an internship is a very informative way of doing this. I would also think about the type of clients you would like to audit – many large firms have different audit groups working for different firms in a variety of industry sectors.

What is the starting salary bracket for graduates in your company?
Competitive

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