Graduates hoping to enter the competitive accountancy sector do not necessarily have to be equipped with an accounting degree.
While many companies recruit only 10 to 20 new graduates every year, KPMG last year recruited 2,000, says Margaret So, director of recruiting and resourcing ¡Xh uman resources, KPMG China.
"We have a good international reputation and diverse client portfolio," says Ms So. "All our employees irrespective of seniority are nurtured in a friendly and caring culture and so can focus building a meaningful career via teamwork. We put these values into action by listening to staff, conducting regular surveys and addressing any issues that may come up."
KPMG's China business is growing rapidly and the demand for talent is high. "Due to the prevailing shortage of available experienced professionals, KPMG recruits a large number of graduates who will grow and develop to become our senior managers and partners", says Ms So.
While the majority of these graduates are drawn from Hong Kong and mainland China, a growing number of Chinese students who are studying abroad are being lured by bright career prospects.
Ms So and her colleagues keep abreast of recruitment trends in the field, continuing to stake their claim for the best candidates. "We encourage students from all disciplines to sign on," she says.
To reach potential recruits, KPMG holds an annual career campaign in Hong Kong, during which partners and managers from all functions visit campuses to give recruitment talks and share with students knowledge of the industry and the firm. "We even establish relationships with students in their first year, explaining what an international CPA (certified public accountant) firm is all about."
KPMG also supports accounting students' societies, for example through sponsoring activities and proffering advice. "Many of our partners have joined mentoring programmes, meeting with students at set times, communicating by email and answering questions," says Ms So, adding that some of the students end up being offered internships at KPMG. Amid fierce competition for talent, KPMG also offers a three-month conversion programme for non-accounting students to give them a base of knowledge and skills to start off with. "Many of these recruits become very successful. They are determined to pass exams and have carefully thought through their career options."
Young graduates at KPMG receive plenty of technical and soft skills training. A range of training programmes is also in place to prepare them for professional examinations. "KPMG wants people who are professional and specialised. This means that new recruits will be able to find a niche in audit, tax, or financial or risk advisory while developing themselves into all-round professionals," Ms So notes.
Since this is such an important and potentially life-shaping decision, KPMG assists new recruits in making their choice even during the recruitment interview process and before making a final job offer.
Each recruit is assigned a counselling partner who acts as a mentor. Managers usually accompany new employees during client visits. New staff members initially undertake comparatively simple tasks, gradually learning on-the-job and through in-house training and counselling. "It can take eight to 12 years for a recruit to rise to the level of partner but all hard work pays off," Ms So emphasises.
After completing assignments, employees are given engagement reviews and provided with feedback from performance managers. Every staff member undergoes an annual appraisal review, again with feedback from a performance manager and an experienced partner. "Good performers can have their careers fast-tracked if they demonstrated excellent skill sets and are ready for the next grade," says Ms So.
There are also opportunities for secondments to KMPG offices in the UK, the US, Canada or Australia. Such stints typically last 18 to 24 months.
"Secondments are extremely meaningful, as they offer people the opportunity to work in different sectors and get valuable life experience," Ms So points out. "Employees tend to return home with more confidence."
Ms So has found that the average graduates have become more interested in finding out what employers can do for them. She advises against short-term thinking: "When embarking on a career, take a longer-term view. You should be looking for a career, not just a job."