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Accountancy and Financial Management
BDO LLP - How to Get Hired
Jocelyn gives an insight on what it takes to excel the hiring selection processes at BDO LLP.
Please describe the assessment process for applicants to your organisation.
Shortlisted candidates will be granted an interview appointment. During the interview, there will be 3 phases:
- Introduction by graduates - getting to know them, their background and their 3-5 years career objective.
- Questions and answers – testing of eloquence, confidence level and presentation skills when handling questions.
- What BDO offers – sharing of organisation structure, types of industry and job exposure, training and travelling opportunities, discussion on structured career path and employer's expectations.
What are the skill sets you look for in fresh graduate applicants?
Young graduates are generally energetic and enthusiastic. Having the right attitude and good academic foundation will enable fresh graduates to develop the relevant expertise quickly. However, these young talents may not have a good understanding of the industry that they aspire to work in. An outstanding candidate is one who is focused and well prepared. They come to the interview with a list of questions that they need to clarify.
Notwithstanding the basic expectations of the graduate being eloquent, confident, inquisitive and trustworthy, the thinking process of the graduates in handling questions and hypothetical scenarios would demonstrate if a person is well balanced. An all rounder with good involvement in co-curriculum activities is a definitely a plus point.
Please give us an example of an area which your organisation is focusing on in developing talents.
Here at BDO, we are passionate about nurturing and developing talents to be an all-rounder:
- Leaders for exceptional Client Service
- Analytical and Innovative employee
- Career development
Does your company have a structured graduate programme? If so, what advice would you give to graduates wanting to make the most of these programmes?
Yes, our firm does have a structure graduate programme. In fact, I strongly encourage undergraduates who have not quite decided on what they should do, to intern in the industry that they are interested to pursue. In this manner, they will be able to get a sense of the industry as well as their potential employer. They should also take this opportunity to discuss with their supervisor their suitability for the industry and obtain further career advice. Learning from other people's experiences is always valuable.
How do you identify culture fit during the recruitment process?
We can never be 100 per cent sure about culture fit during the recruitment process but first impressions definitely matter! The ability to answer questions direct to the point and demonstrating a down-to-earth attitude would be the basic factors to identify suitability.
Please describe your company's culture in three words.
Integrity, Innovation, Empowerment.
Tax: Graduate Area of Work
Helping clients and business organisations reconcile between taxation demands and tax laws.
Tax advisors play the role of consultants, supervising tax problems for clients or advising them on certain tax laws. They generally dispense advice on three broad areas.
First, they help clients understand the tax implications of all their business dealings, from buying new computers for staff to selling off a part of the business.
Second, they identify cost-effective solutions to taxation demands made on their client while still ensuring compliance with local tax laws.
Third, they advise clients on the implications of change — whether within the business in relation to the tax system, or changes in tax laws that may impact the business.
Aside from major corporate tax issues such as compliance (tax returns) and transactions (mergers and acquisitions), other specialist areas of tax advisory include employee issues (e.g. stock options and CPF contributions), indirect tax services (e.g. advising on VAT, GST, and import duties), and personal or business taxation services for high net worth clients.
Most tax advisors start off as trainees in a tax department of a professional services firm as they study part-time for the professional qualifications needed to become a chartered tax accountant.
From there, you may choose to move from a general tax department to an organisation that focuses exclusively on taxation issues, or possibly specialising even further in certain fields of taxation.
As a full-fledged tax advisor, your core responsibilities include preparing taxes for your clients in such a way that will help decrease the amount of tax that needs to be paid, while still complying with tax regulations set by the government.
It will also be your responsibility to research previous tax fillings, attend strategy meetings with clients, and prepare presentations about their tax liabilities so as to keep them updated about their company’s current health.
Life as a tax accountant is exciting as you may find yourself working in a proposal meeting one day, and then on large tenders the next.
A finance degree is helpful but not essential, though Chartered Accountant certification is a must.
Aside from that, all practicing tax accountants in Singapore are required to undertake 30 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year in order to maintain the quality of their work.
The course is offered by the ISCA and the Tax Academy of Singapore, as well selected tax and accounting organisations.
You may find out more about this through the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT), aninformation institute about the tax profession.
Aside from paper qualifications, you will also need to arm yourself with knowledge about the latest laws and regulations in regards to taxation matters so as to ensure that your advices to your clients are timely and accurate.
This includes becoming familiar with the international business scene and the tax laws of other regions and countries as you may need to deal with international investments on behalf of your clients.
Equally important is also the ability to cope with pressure, and the practice of discretion when handling your clients’ tax affairs as much of this information will be private and confidential.
Ups and downs
Tax advisory is an intellectually-challenging sector that will generate great satisfaction when you successfully resolve difficult issues for your clients.
You will also find yourself working in teams with varied backgrounds and specialisations, which gives you good exposure to the different aspects of advisory work.
You may, however, experience considerable stress from juggling multiple projects while pursuing specialised qualifications, as well as keeping to tight deadlines. Nonetheless, the sense of fulfillment that you gain when you succeed is immense.
Occasionally, you may also come across difficult clients who are frustratingly secretive of their business accounts even if they did contract you for your services in the first place.
Risk Assessment: Graduate Area of Work
Troubleshooting and catching commercial risks before they even happen to ensure maximum turnover.
Risk assessment caters to the systematic process of identifying and evaluating potential risks that may influence an organisation’s pursuit of its business goals and objectives, both positively and negatively.
Its chief priority is to help businesses recognise the risks that they may face, and then advise on the engaging of the perceived risks as they take into consideration the risk appetite of the company.
This information will help investors and business managers make informed decisions in order to avoid losses or to profit from an opportunity, such as if it is worthwhile to undertake a particular investment, as well as ways to avoid the potential losses that may be incurred.
Occasionally, risk assessment services are offered along with compliance advisory services, which endeavour to keep businesses up-to-date with new laws and rulings that have been issued by the government in the continuously-changing business industry.
Risk assessment services may also be packaged with governance advisory services, which offer advice on the process of running a company so that it meets the expectations of the management, stakeholders, and the staff.
Most graduates who intend to pursue a career in this sector tend to start out in a broader area, such as assurance, for training before they decide to specialise in risk assessment.
Some firms, however, choose to absorb new graduates directly into their risk assessment department, particularly larger organisations that prefer to train graduates in-house.
As a trainee, you will be expected to monitor daily business functions to evaluate the efficiency of existing risk controls, and to assist with the preparation of recommendation reports for clients.
As you rise through the ranks, you may be asked to plan, design, and supervise the implementation of a risk management process and continuity plans for an organisation, as well as to establish and determine the risk appetite of a company.
A large part of your job will include working closely with the executive board and the senior management of the company as you will be required to advise them on various business decisions.
This can include issues such as security and fraud protection, ecological and social performance, and the management of their technology departments.
Most risk assessors will need to possess an in-depth knowledge of enterprise risk management (ERM) programmes and Risk Control Self Assessments (RCSA), as well as a comprehensive understanding of the various types of risks that a company may face, both locally and internationally.
You will also need to keep abreast of the latest changes in laws and regulations so as to offer up-to-date assistance to your clients.
As an integral part of your job includes reporting and advising a wide range of people in the company – such as the board of directors, the business heads, and the department managers – so you will have to possess excellent communication skills so as to be able to convey your message in a way that is most relevant to them.
Do develop good interpersonal skills and a level of confidence as well, as these will help you in your interactions with your clients.
Ups and downs
As a risk assessor, you will find your position to be intellectually stimulating, particularly when you work for international companies or government ministries.
It is also immensely satisfying when you succeed in helping decision-makers avoid risks or capitalise on opportunities.
It is, however, necessary to remember that this position is chiefly aconsultative and supervisory position. As such,you will hold little decision-making power.
You may sometimes be frustrated when you come across clients who are difficult to convince, or are unwilling to take your advice.
Internal Audit: Graduate Area of Work
Internal auditors are the accounting “housekeepers” of a business organisation, keeping domestic checks on its accounts to ensure clarity and precision.
Internal audit caters to domestic checks within a company, where a team of auditors is brought in to inspect the accounts for the business organisation’s own in-house use, as opposed to external audits.
The administration will use these findings to improve on their business operations and strategies, which will then help them achieve their goals.
Along with the report, internal auditors may also advise the administrative department on the performance of the company, as well as the financial risks that are being incurred by the company.
It is their responsibility to test the adequacy of the risk controls that have been put into place and to advise on necessary adjustments to these controls.
Internal audits are not compulsory, but still highly recommended. In Singapore, internal auditors are governed by The Institute of Internal Auditors Singapore.
As a new graduate entering this field, you usually start off as an audit assistant where you will spend much of your time reviewing accounts on site, including interacting with the staff and management for more information, and taking samples from the record for testing purposes.
As you climb the corporate ladder, you will be assigned heavier roles during audit jobs, particularly strategic ones.
In this situation, you may have to evaluate information security and risk exposures, and advise company management on the necessary fine-tuning.
Having extensive knowledge of accounting software products, ERP systems and processes, and the local accounting systems of the company will be to your benefit.
Effective communication skills and good language proficiency – particularly if you can speak multiple dialects – is another added bonus as these may help you liaise more successfully with the staff and management during your assignments.
Much of the information that internal auditors need for their reports will come from an unsorted assortment of accounts and interviews, so you will need to possess a keen eye for detail and an analytical mind to make proper sense of the materials.
It is important that you maintain a level of professional skepticism when faced with the surface information that you are provided with.
Personality-wise, internal auditors are encouraged to possess a high level of independence and adaptability. As most of your jobs will be project-based, this means that you will often be exploring vastly different areas on-the-job.
This also means that you will need to take initiative and study more about the organisations that you will be auditing on your own even as you settle into your new responsibilities.
Ups and downs
One of the most exciting aspect about your job as an internal auditor is the wide variety of sectors that you may dabble in.
As the jobs are usually project-based, you will find yourself encountering and learning a lot of new things during your tenure, especially during the beginning of your career.
This opportunity to learn will also equip you with diverse knowledge about various business organisations, thus giving you a broader, more objective perspective about the business world in general.
You will, however, sometimes meet difficult people during your work, particularly during your interviews of company staff, as they may not see a point to your work.
Patience and motivation is essential during such times.
Deadlines may also sometimes clash, which sometimes translate to all-nighters, but the satisfaction that you get from contributing to a company’s achievement of their business objectives is tremendous.
Forensic Accounting: Graduate Area of Work
Performing investigative processes to expose frauds and illegitimate financial practices.
Forensic accounting is a niche within the field of accountancy that employs accounting and financial skills during investigations of fraud, disputes, and suspected transgressions.
It is the responsibility of a forensic accountant to identify and uncover illegitimate financial practices in order to identify suspects and recover illicit funds.
These investigations make the nature of this job a sensitive one. Following the analysis, they are required to report to the senior management of the (hiring) company.
Some forensic accountants, however, specialise in the division of fraud risk management, where they work to reduce the likelihood of financial fraud.
Depending on their job scope, some forensic accountants will have to work with law enforcement authorities and lawyers, and may even be requested to act as expert witnesses in court.
Most graduates spend some time training and gaining experience in an audit or forensic department before they join forensic accounting, although some may be enlisted directly into the field.
During the earlier stage of your employment, you can expect to have to trawl through quite a bit of low-level data analysis – creating spreadsheets, trawling through financial records for relevant information, and checking through written records.
However, as you gain more experience in this line of work, you will eventually be given more responsibility with regards to how individual investigations are conducted.
Possessing a finance-related degree and/or additional training in criminal justice or law enforcement will be added bonuses, but you will first be required to obtain a recognised professional qualification.
Most firms in Singapore accept qualifications such as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and/or Chartered Accountant of Singapore.
Aside from specialised qualifications and good numerical skills, an inquisitive and analytical mind are of utmost importance.
It is your responsibility to identify the source of fraud and to pin down the culprit, so you will need to practise caution and question most of the reports and numbers that come to you.
You will also need to remain focused at all times, bearing in mind the key issues of the case and being aware of the significance of the information being analysed.
Most of the details that you will be handling are of a sensitive nature, so you should approach them with care. Attention to detail is very important – important evidence might be hiding in the depths of seemingly trivial data.
Similarly, it is immensely important that you portray a professional image at all times. It reflects an identity of independence, integrity, and credibility – traits that cannot be stressed enough in this field.
As a representative of your company, you need to convince your clients that you stand for objectivity and unbiased judgement.
Ups and downs
Some of the obstacles that you can expect to encounter during your work include uncooperative clients or emotional employees who feel wronged or that their loyalty to the company is being judged.
Work can also get tedious and laborious at times, especially routine record analysis. But if you do pull through, the sense of satisfaction that you get is immense.
Finding crucial pieces of information that helps with solving the case is just as rewarding.
Working in forensic accounting may also lead to quite a bit of travelling, and you will meet a lot of people from diverse and interesting backgrounds such as law enforcement officers, forensic technicians, lawyers, and even private investigators.
Navigating Deloitte's Interview Questions
Here are some sample questions you could be asked at different stages of the graduate recruitment process at Deloitte, followed by tips on how to show their recruiters that you possess the competencies they're looking for!
Remember that even if the questions you're asked on the day itself are different, thinking about how you'd answer these will be great preparation for your interview regardless.
“Why do you want to work for Deloitte?”
Employers always tell students to provide examples in their interview answers, so take them up on their advice! You can demonstrate your commercial awareness and passion for your career path by giving a couple of examples about what Deloitte is currently doing.
The points you make should show that you’ve researched the company thoroughly – simply referring to Deloitte’s quarterly results doesn’t really say much, and that won’t make you stand out from the competition! They key to answering this is that you need to talk about what the facts you bring up mean.
Think about recent developments. For example, what does Deloitte Singapore’s 2015 launch of the Deloitte Risk Innovation Centre say about the company? Explain how these developments are relevant to you, your interests, and your decision to apply to Deloitte.
Don’t say: Any clichéd statement about: “Deloitte’s strong reputation for excellence”, “The chance to work with market-leading auditors and tax associates”, “Working within a true meritocracy”, or anything that sounds just as sycophantic.
“Why did you choose this service line at Deloitte?”
Think about the day-to-day tasks of the job you’re applying for. If you’re working in the restructuring services team as part of the corporate finance division at Deloitte, then you’d be doing different tasks than a peer in corporate finance advisory. These two areas may fall within the purview of corporate finance, but you’d need to talk about the specifics of your particular position within that division.
In this case, a very basic answer would be saying that corporate finance is an area where you can utilise your problem-solving skills. A more detailed answer would be that working in the restructuring services team means you’d be analysing problems from the perspectives of both Deloitte and the client. An even more detailed answer would be to then relate those tasks back to your past experiences, either through previous internships or your time at university!
Don’t say: “I'm not sure which service line I’d like to join yet, actually.” You need to prove that you’re decisive and determined about what you want in your immediate career!
“If you were asked to run Deloitte for a day, what would you do?”
Deloitte is looking for graduates who can make and carry out clear decisions, and who have excellent planning and organisational skills. Your interviewers will likely bombard you with follow-up questions that challenge your opinions – they’ll play Devil’s advocate to ensure you have considered things from every angle.
You could suggest, for example, that you would identify a number of growth areas for Deloitte in the technology sector. By citing Deloitte’s “Tech Trends 2015 Report – The Fusion of Business and IT”, you can tie your thoughts in line with some of Deloitte's published market research. Still, if you plan on giving an example like this, you also have to consider the potential impact of your decisions on Deloitte’s other service lines and their markets beyond Singapore, as well as the long term impact your decisions may have on the business.
Don’t say: “I would make wholesale changes to X business area and focus only on one or two markets alone.” Remember to think about how your actions here could impact the rest of the business! It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on what you are interested in, rather than the best interests of Deloitte as an international business.
“What kinds of documents would an auditor check?”
Throw in a real world example if you can. Think about Deloitte’s investigations into the controversial 1MDB government-linked investment fund just next door in Malaysia. It’s a highly-politicised case, so if you were working on this audit there would be absolutely no room for mistakes.
Work your way through this hypothetical case systematically. Who would you need to investigate? What systems would you need to look at? How would you prioritise your tasks? You may face follow-up questions, such as: “How would you obtain these documents in this case?”, or “Which of those problems would you tackle first?”
Don’t say: “I’d check X, and Y, and Z, and...” It’s not enough to just rattle off a list of the documents involved – you need to explain what you’re checking them for, as well!
“What are the challenges that Deloitte is currently facing?”
This is a particularly fun question, because it’s a great opportunity to sell yourself in terms of what value you could bring to Deloitte!
You need to take some recent news about the company and tie it in to what you do. To cite the previous example, Deloitte has recently come under heavy fire for their handling for the 1MDB audit in Malaysia. However, just stating that fact isn’t enough: you need to be able to follow up with something like: “What this means for Deloitte is X...” Or even better: “This is what it means for the division I’m applying to, and how it might affect our work here in Singapore.”
Don’t say: Avoid dropping filler about how “The current economic climate makes things difficult for Deloitte.” You’ll need to know plenty about local, national, and international economics before you should even dare to make a sweeping statement like that!
How to Prove You Are a Good Fit For Deloitte
Here are some approaches and strategies that you can use to answer three key questions that Deloitte’s recruiters are likely to toss at you in their online application forms for graduate jobs and internships to assess your fit with their company culture.
Bear in mind that though these questions may be worded differently, the basic principles behind them will remain the same. Planning your answers to these in advance will help ensure that you don’t freeze up during crunch time!
Question #1: Why are you interested in joining Deloitte?
Try to be interesting. Many candidates will simply say “Deloitte is a global firm with a great reputation for excellence in the accountancy and consulting fields.” The thing is, Deloitte’s recruiters already know that! The question asks why YOU are personally interested in Deloitte.
Start by digging up current news stories and working forward from there. Let’s say you’re keen to reference Deloitte’s culture of innovation in your answer. Don’t just tell recruiters, “Well, I’m a huge fan of the innovative culture in Deloitte,” and leave it at that! Think a little deeper: what has Deloitte done specifically that evidences its innovative nature? For example, if Deloitte’s launch of Deloitte Digital interests you, explain why.
Stay away from generic answers. Telling recruiters that you’re interested in training for professional qualifications is fine, but remember that all of Deloitte’s competitors can offer you the same thing! You need to explain what it is about Deloitte’s training in particular that attracts you. How can Deloitte’s training benefit your personal career progression more than the training at one of their competitors?
Oh, and one more thing: never, ever answer with something that you’ve lifted straight from Deloitte’s own website.
Question #2: What do you expect to be doing in your first year in the service line you’re applying for?
Take note: the emphasis here is on what you will be doing specifically, rather than the service line you hope to be in as a whole.
To answer this, you need to be able to understand how your role fits into the wider scheme of things at Deloitte. You may already have laid out the blueprint for answering this in your response to the previous question. Now you just need to break things down even further.
Think in terms of case studies – if you were working as a junior member of a Deloitte team conducting the re-audit of a troubled company, what would you need to investigate to address any complications arising from the initial audit? Or, if you were a junior associate on a team working on a merger between two corporations, what kind of due diligence would be required from someone of your level?
Your responses must reflect the extent of your research and understanding of the role you are applying for. It should also show awareness of the types of training activities you will be involved in during your first year of work. Try to craft your answer in a way that demonstrates your familiarity with Deloitte’s corporate culture and the way they do things.
Question #3: Describe the key responsibilities and achievements you achieved in a previous job.
Expand on the positions of responsibility you’ve listed in your CV. Remember that “responsibility” is a subjective term – suitable experiences could range from project managing a large team, helping a past employer roll out a new product, or running an event for a university society.
Bear in mind that Deloitte wants to see details that are relevant to both the firm in general and the service line you are applying for. If, for example you’re going for a position involving more research than client contact (such as the valuation group in Deloitte’s corporate finance department), your emphasis should be on positions or roles that involved the effective use of your research skills. Make sure you talk about the results that you achieved from putting those skills into practice, too!