Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC hiring 2,500 graduates in Australia

22 January 2019 Consultancy.com.au

Australia’s four largest accounting and consulting firms, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, are planning to hire more than 2,500 graduates in the coming six months. Competition for becoming the next generation accountants, advisors and consultants at the firms is fierce as the Big Four hire just a fraction of all applications received.

Working in professional services is very popular among graduates, thanks to its steep learning curve, opportunity to work across broad range of industries and sectors, and work with like-minded smart colleagues. What alumni of accounting and consulting firms also said they valued was working with different clients on topics that make impact, in a fast-paced environment, and that culture at the firms is supportive for individual growth.

In fact, Deloitte and PwC were even named Australia’s top two graduate employers last year in a survey among 38,000 graduates from around the country, while KPMG and EY ranked 4th and 6th. Demonstrating the overall attractiveness of the professional services industry, seven of the top 25 spots in the list were held by consultancies – ranking the industry as the country’s favourite destination for kick-starting a career.

On the back of growth, the Big Four have this year set higher recruitment targets for their intake of graduates and young professionals. Deloitte is taking on around 850 new graduates between March and July. KPMG is aiming to hire nearly 550 graduates joining KPMG this year. EY, which saw its revenue grow to $1.8 billion due to near double digit growth in its latest financial year, will recruit some 620 new graduates from 31 different universities arriving across two intakes in February and June. Meanwhile, PwC is eyeing to bring 550 graduates on board.

Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC hiring 2,500 graduates in Australia

Not all new hires need to have a university degree though. At PwC for example, some newcomers don't have university degrees. Instead, 18-month higher apprenticeships and longer traineeships aim to increase diversity at the firm to give young people straight from high school the chance to work in the PwC office without securing a degree first. At the same time, individuals within this apprenticeship process will work towards a diploma, while trainees enrol in a university degree to boost future employability beyond PwC. This is mainly in audit and accounting practices, while for financial advisory and consulting the firm maintains its more standardised university-based criterion.

The new joiners will work across a range of topics for governments, large multinationals and mid-sized businesses. In audit, graduates will work on delivering audits and ensuring that internal controls are met, in accounting they will work on checking financial statements and flows, enabling their clients to remain in control, in financial advisory they will work on mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and risk management among others, while in consulting, the disciplines cut across all major business topics, from strategy and operations to back-office functions such as finance, supply chain and human resources.

Diversity

As mentioned before, one key objective of the hiring process is to ensure diversity among the future staff of the Big Four. Recruiters however also confirm that this is even more important for more senior ranks of the firms, so while changing the make-up of recruitment moves toward that, there are no quotas. At KPMG and EY, gender breakdown of graduates was an "even mix", and despite 54% of the 550 graduates taking up spots with PwC being women, that firm does not set a "firm gender target" for graduates. Similarly, Deloitte's Head of Graduate Recruitment Tanyth Lloyd recently revealed to the Australian Financial Review that the company does not see the need for a specific gender mandate at the graduate level, even though it finds recruiting women with STEM degrees challenging. Of the graduates currently coming in, she said roughly half are women.

A common misconception is that the Big Four only look for graduates with business backgrounds. Graduates however don’t need economics or accounting degrees to snag a role – the Big Four also hire people with very non-traditional backgrounds, like health, data science, geology, ethnography or psychology. According to one estimate, now nearly 50% of graduates have STEM backgrounds, including engineering, anthropology and actuarial studies.

Retention

As for the circa 2,500 new joiners, they are now looking forward to an attractive work opportunity. While some graduates – the top talent – will stay on until partnership level, the majority will be gone much before that. On average, Big Four firms have attrition rates of between 15% to 20%, meaning that graduates are only likely to stick around for three or five years, as they carve out their ideal career trajectory, also because their background makes them attractive targets for companies hunting for talent.

How long graduates stay on board depends on how well the Big Four are retaining them. Work flexibility, interstate or overseas opportunities, and support for employee side projects are Deloitte's key strategies for retaining graduates. KPMG has a scheme which allows for diversity in work. Its rotation program for its audit, assurance and risk consulting graduates, is designed to give graduates scope to suss out what part of the company they like.

One way to retain is through mentorship. The firms link each graduate up to a mentor, who helps them with major career decisions and project situations. The Big Four are also known for great learning and development opportunities, so continuous development is another retainer. While advancing their career, Big Four offer tailored career paths – while one may enjoy working harder, others may enjoy taking some more time-off for intrapreuneurial projects or fulfulling a personal ambition.

Related: PwC, EY and Deloitte in the top 20 best workplaces for new Australian dads.

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