Top-notch professional firm open doors to hundreds of budding elites

by Martin Williams

Eric Tong (left), audit partner
financial services
Irene Leung, associate
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Photo: Edde Ngan

Informal interview process brings out the best in accounting candidates

Responding to soaring market demand, top accounting firms across the board are recruiting an increasing number of Hong Kong graduates, and in the process generating unprecedented opportunities for young people with the right mindset and career aspirations.

In order to reveal the true potential of candidates, one accounting giant implements a relaxed interview process to let interviewees truly shine.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's graduate recruitment programme starts early in the academic year, beginning with an assessment which takes place soon after undergraduates embark on their final year at university.

"Students submit online application forms and we evaluate their credentials," says Eric Tong, audit partner, financial services, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, adding that Deloitte was a pioneer in implementing a localisation policy.

Deloitte looks beyond graduates with accountancy degrees and considers graduate applications from diverse academic backgrounds. Every year non-accounting students undergo a conversion programme to master the basics of accounting. "We also look at extracurricular activities," notes Mr Tong. "As our business is people oriented, we want candidates who are able to represent both the firm and the profession."

On average, Deloitte receives more than 2,500 online applications annually and assesses the number of graduates needed to support strategic growth. "We are on a significant expansion path, and last year recruited more than 300 graduates in Hong Kong," reveals Mr Tong. Candidates who passed the online tests are invited to a group assessment activity which is similar to a case study. Short listed candidates are then invited back for individual interviews.

Lateral thinking

"We look for people who can think outside the box," adds Mr Tong. To confirm this ability, Mr Tong peppers the interview with unexpected questions to get a feel for the candidate.

Recruits who are invited on board are then given core training, and join Deloitte as associates. Initial guidance mainly focuses on technical acumen, with increasing emphasis on soft skills including presentation dexterity, the importance of positive team dynamics and for future reference, how to chair a meeting and how to negotiate with clients.

A typical career trajectory leads to senior associate and manager after a few years, followed by senior manager and then partner. "The ultimate goal is to become a partner —a practitioner with wide ranging skill sets," explains Mr Tong.

Regarding global exposure, Deloitte recruits have opportunities for overseas secondments early in their careers. "International experience helps widen cultural parameters and build personal networks," Mr Tong stresses.

Caring culture

Irene Leung, an associate, is among the newest members of the Deloitte family, having joined early this year. She studied pure and applied mathematics in secondary school, chose to major in accounting at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and subsequently decided that in Hong Kong, the accounting industry offered a superior career path.

Ms Leung notes that she joined Deloitte for one simple reason, "I love the caring culture here," she says. "Managers and senior partners are willing to share, even with university students."

She reveals that the multi-stage recruitment process she underwent with Deloitte was no walk in the park. It took Ms Leung around a week to complete the online application. "However, afterwards, I found the group discussion relaxed, and the follow-up interview was like a conversation. Throughout the entire process, I had the feeling that Deloitte wanted to know me better," she recalls.

"Be confident and be honest," Ms Leung advises future applicants. She considers one of her strongest attributes during the recruitment process was a positive attitude to learning, as her career will involve continuous learning.

Foremost among the skills Ms Leung wants to improve is time management, particularly during the peak season which is from February to June. "I need to learn how to balance my personal life and my work," she says.

In addition to training support from Deloitte to facilitate the Certified Public Accountant exam preparation, Ms Leung has gained valuable experience from visiting clients and listening to them in order to better understand their business cycles. She says, "I'd like to be exposed to different industries, and understand a variety of businesses."

Partly as a result of discussions with colleagues after the peak season, Ms Leung believes that auditing is an interesting job. "Reading newspapers you can guess the business of a firm, but by looking into their accounts, you really know what success truly means," she concludes.


Taken from Career Times 01 August 2008, p. A4
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