Refuelling the talent pipeline

by Ada Ng

Philip Tsai, audit partner
Deloitte China
Photo: Lewis Wong

Replenishing the flow of new recruits to ensure a healthy supply of top-notch talent

Succession planning is key to sustainable success for any business. One of the world's largest accounting and auditing firms, Deloitte is laying the groundwork with a graduate recruitment programme in Hong Kong.

Philip Tsai, audit partner, Deloitte China, says the firm recognises talent management as a core business process that has a far-reaching impact on succession planning and future business growth.

The firm reviews its hiring plans and strategies on an ongoing basis to meet the business needs and overall market situations. "Despite the challenging economy in the last two years, we adhere to our commitment in talent development and soldier on recruitment," Mr Tsai emphasises.

This year the firm received more than 2,500 applications to the programme. "We've been keeping our target number of graduate intake steady at about 200 to 300 every year," he notes. The ultimate goal, he says, is to build a talent-rich organisation that has zero chance of a shortage in competent staff to take up leadership and management roles.

Graduates that join the firm can expect a career future furnished with a range of of professional and on-the-job training. They are also promised with long-term career development opportunities not only in the auditing and taxation disciplines, but also in other exciting areas including risk management, consulting and financial advisory services.

Solid foundation

Deloitte's decades-old graduate programme aims at supporting young aspirants to develop in the field. Upon joining Deloitte, new recruits go through a series of functional and technical training in a classroom setting that is geared towards the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination preparation.

With guidance from a team mentor, they gain industry exposure by learning about the businesses of clients across various industries. The programme also helps them to build up presentation and problem solving techniques as well as client and project management skills that are necessary for accounting and business consultancy.

The recruitment process starts early as an academic year begins. Mr Tsai says on-campus career talks and forums are held at local universities to introduce the programme details and career prospects within Deloitte and the profession in general.

Students who are interested in the programme complete an online pre-assessment personality test before proceeding to the application stage. Selected candidates are invited to a group assessment activity, where they discuss business cases and scenario-based studies that put their business acumen and problem solving skills to the test. The screening process concludes with a one-on-one interview with a partner of the firm, and offers are made usually in February, while undergraduates finish up their final year at university.

Business sense

Earning top marks in the classroom is not everything. When assessing a candidate, Deloitte looks at an individual's personality traits and potential for growth before examining their areas of study.

"Academic achievements are important, but we always look beyond the grades and assess a job candidate's capacity for understanding clients' business situation and concerns," Mr Tsai remarks.

Candidates who are capable of cracking the number code and demonstrating good business judgement, analytical and problem solving skills stand a good chance of winning the job. Mr Tsai adds that students who are interested in pursuing a long-term career in accounting and business consulting will also need to display their enthusiasm and commitment to the profession.

For non-accounting majors, the firm provides an intensive conversion programme before the actual graduate programme starts. The three-month conversion programme ensures that students master the basics of accounting before they attend core training. On average, about 40 per cent of graduate recruits are non-accounting majors and many of them go on to take a leadership role in the profession.

Since much of the accounting and consultancy business is about understanding a client's business and offering the best solutions, Mr Tsai says another focus is placed on students' involvement in community services and their interpersonal skills. "We'd like to take in people that are personable and able to work in a team environment and interact with people of different backgrounds, since it is essential to build and maintain good relationship with clients."

While the firm's recruitment initiatives of experienced accounting professionals work in response to the business needs and general market environment, Mr Tsai has seen more fund raising, initial public offering (IPO) and mergers and acquisitions activities in the recent months. He anticipates that the demand for accounting professionals specialising in corporate governance and risk management will grow as the economy continues to recover.

Keeping the flow

  • Graduate training programme attracts thousands of budding professionals every year
  • Individual personality traits and potential for growth as important as good grades
  • About 40 per cent of graduate recruits come from non-accounting majors

Taken from Career Times 4 June 2010, A12

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