67 Big 4 Interview Questions(and How to Answer Them All)
Luckily, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s PwC, Deloitte, KPMG or EY.
There are some unique ways that you can answer the most commonly asked Big 4 interview questions and really stand out.
Because if you don’t stand out, you won’t get a Big 4 job. It’s that simple.
Answer the Most Common Big 4 Interview Questions
You want to know:
- What questions are most likely to come up in my Big 4 interview?
- How do I effectively prepare for those questions?
- What kind of answers are the Big 4 recruiters expecting from me?
- Do you have any top tips from other industry experts, particularly the kinds of people that will be interviewing me?
- You also want to know whether there are any nuances depending on whether it’s Deloitte or EY, audit or consulting, internship or full time, and whether you’re a graduate or an experienced hire.
Well, my friends, I’m here to share the secrets with you.
But first, let’s hear what EY Partner Dan Black recently told me were THE most important considerations for a Big 4 interviewee…
We are not just looking for academic performance, but for someone who is insightful and has a curious, global mindset that can work inclusively in an increasingly diverse workforce.
In turn, this will unlock deeper insights and innovation for our clients and allow for more fulfilling work.” Dan Black
Fortunately for you, there are only five types of questions.
- Case Studies
That means your number one most important job before a Big 4 interview is to prepare for each question type.
Notice I didn’t say each individual question. That’s because you need an overall strategy which works across the board, and that doesn’t mean memorizing a hundred different answers.
We’re going to go through each question type in detail, when each one might arise, and then show you a detailed list of Big 4 interview question examples in each category.
But before we get into all that…
How to Approach a Big 4 Interview
But think about it, plenty of other aspects matter just as much.
If you’re dressed in a 25 year old suit and you’re not wearing any shoes then your interview technique probably won’t be the deciding factor.
There are three parts to preparing for an interview and you must nail them all.
#1 – Background Preparation
Actually, lots of research.
You need to know:
- Exactly why you want to join that specific Big 4 using real examples
- What the job entails, both at a high level and day-to-day
- What clients that firm serves, in what industries and any recent news stories
Then you need to practice your interview technique. We’ll get to the questions later, but right now you need to practice shaking hands and looking people in the eye while talking.
You need to practice in a real life interview situation.
But you can’t just practice anything, you need to know what you’re practicing.
Undertake as many mock interviews as you can. Many schools offer mock interview services, but you need to make sure they know what they’re doing.
If you can swing it, a mock interview with someone already in the industry is pretty much invaluable.
#2 – Mental Preparation
This is the most underused interview strategy.
By a mile.
You’re dressed to kill and you’ve memorized every question ever asked in the history of mankind. But you’re a nervous wreck! That’s just not going to work.
Think about it this way, do Olympic athletes just walk onto the track without any preparation?
No. They. Don’t.
They have a pre-race routine that they follow to the letter. They warm up their body and they focus their mind. Sometimes it’s pretty inspiring and crazy at the same time.
Running an important race is no different to entering an interview room. It’s a stressful, competitive environment where you need to perform at your best.
Check out this helpful infographic on using power poses.
#3 – Physical Preparation
Get a haircut, shine your shoes, eat mints (but don’t chew gum!). This is all stuff you know but it’s amazing how many people forget about it during an interview.
You’ll almost definitely be taken out to lunch by junior staff to see how you interact. As well as speaking up, ensure that your eating habits are not off-putting.
Don’t order soup or spaghetti.
Don’t just say that you want the job and that you are a leader, show us.
Show us that you want the position through your passion for a career.
Show us your ability to lead and work in teams through stories of your involvement.
Your resume should get the interviewer really excited to meet you. Don’t disappoint them by having nothing to say beyond what’s on that paper… prepare to show your personality and bring the resume to life.” Christopher M. Lovasz, CPA
How the Big 4 Will Interview You
If you’ve spoken to more than a few Big 4 professionals you’ll already know this.
Whether it’s PwC, EY, Deloitte or KPMG, the Big 4 are all pretty similar.
Yes, they have their own strategies and the cultures are somewhat different, but in general you’ll be doing the same work for the same clients and you’ll be working with the same kind of people.
Surprise surprise, this ties over to interviews.
We can use that to our advantage because even if you have multiple Big 4 interviews, you only need one approach.
(Side note: this Big 4 interview guide does not go into detail on pre-interview screening, phone interviews, assessments centers, group tasks or aptitude/online tests. Sign up to our newsletter below to get more on that).
Almost every interview you’ll ever have at the Big 4 will combine traditional and behavioral questioning.
If you’re applying for advisory or consulting, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be some case study aspects thrown in.
If you’re applying for a specialist role like Cyber Security, then expect some specific technical questions too, maybe even a technical case study. Even auditors usually get some accounting questions.
How do you know what to prepare for?
We’ll get to that.
How to Get a Head Start on Your Big 4 Interview Research
Well, it’s true.
Then how about the fact that the EY Seattle office is more aligned with the Deloitte Seattle office than the EY Dallas office? Also true.
If all this is true, then how can you ever know what to expect in an interview?
Some interviews are very relaxed and they will just have a casual conversation with you. Others will ask you more typical questions “Tell me about a time…why do you want to join this firm…why audit/tax…what have you done so far”.
Usually the other part of the interview is where they will let you ask questions, so be prepared to have some thoughtful questions to ask. It helps to just get them talking about their own career decisions, why they chose their firm, what makes a great consultant, etc.
You have to be ready for anything, but also be yourself.” Jeff Elliot, CPA
What if you turn up for an interview having practiced behavioural questions for hours, only to be given a case study when you walk in?
Well here’s a little pro tip.
Remember that professional network that you spent months building up? Those people are still useful even after you’ve secured an interview (that’s why it’s so important to network effectively).
It’s pretty likely that you already know someone in the office and position you’re hoping to get.
Send them an email.
This is an actual email sent by one of Big 4 Career LAB’s candidates to a KPMG network contact and the reply she got.
Treat it Like a Conversation With a Friend
I say this not to brag, but to show you that I know what works.
What is the one piece of advice I would give every candidate ?
There is nothing worse than an awkward or weird interview.
You’ve done all the hard work with your GPA, leadership experience and getting the interview itself.
Your job now isn’t to brag about your internships. It’s to answer the one question that every interviewer is trying to answer:
“Would I be able to work with this person for 8-10 hours every single day?”
Your job is to convince them that they would.
It’s Not Just the Questions You Answer
Finally, you need to be able to ask relevant questions.
Candidates get hung up on answering questions, but to show real intent you need to be able to ask the interviewer something relevant. At the end of the interview (and sometimes during) they will ask:
“So, do you have any questions for me?”
You’d better have some seriously great questions at the ready.
The best advice here is to take a pen and paper into the interview and write down some brief notes about anything to interviewer says.
It’s always a good idea to try and remember some key points the interviewer said.
You then ask:
“Well, you mentioned x and y, and I wondered how it might apply to z?”
It’s a straightforward tactic but works a treat.
The more you can get the interviewer to talk about themselves the better (people love to do that).
If nothing comes up in the interview that you can refer to, then prepare some generic but relevant questions such as:
“How did you decide that this was the right career for you?”
Just make sure you ask some questions, whatever they may be. Not asking questions when you have a chance is a sure-fire way to not get the job.
Oh and just one more thing…
Make sure you send a thank you note!
Before – do your research, understand the organization and come up with some great questions.
During – be confident, friendly and remember to breathe – you should be listening as well as talking.
After – send a thank you note within 12-24 hours. This can make or break your interview!
The exposure you get at a Big 4 firm lays the foundation for whatever direction your career takes you. Amy Pitter
Behavioural Interview Questions
Are you concerned about behavioral interview questions? Good, because so is everyone else!
But there is no need to be nervous.
All that is needed is a strategy.
Behavioral questions are pretty unique to early career requirement because they are designed to determine how you would act in certain situations when you don’t have significant (or any, if you’re a student) relevant work experience to rely on.
They are worrisome because you could literally be asked anything.
In reality this is a good thing, because there is an intrinsic part of behavioral questioning that we can turn to our advantage.
The questions you will be asked are vague enough that you can systematize your approach.
And that’s what we’re going to help you do here.
“It can sometimes be a challenge to motivate a team to complete a project with so many conflicting priorities in life. Describe in detail a time when you were successful at achieving results even though you were part of a team that was difficult to motivate. How did you help to set goals and ensure that those goals were met?”
Approach to Answering
That’s a pretty tough question to answer, right? Especially with no planning.
But you are going to plan!
First off, you need to arm yourself with a great set of example scenarios. These scenarios should fall within general categories such as teamwork, research, flexibility, etc.
Think of at least two scenarios for each of these categories.
If you’ve done this well you’ve already got a huge head start on almost every other candidate.
The best thing is that your general scenarios can apply to multiple situations. This is a much better approach than diving straight into practicing behavioral questions where you’ll be focused on explaining one very specific point.
The final phase of the Big 4 behavioral interview strategy is to break the question down into its parts and build up and answer using those parts.
Once you’ve done that, the approach to answering becomes easy!
(P.s. we don’t do it here but we go into the exact process for building up a perfect behavioral answer in our other guides.)
Traditional Interview Questions
Before behavioral interviews and case study questions there were traditional interviews.
You would be invited to the office, would sit down with your potential boss and would be asked a barrage of questions like:
“Why do you want this job?”
These questions can be tough to answer, but as always there’s a strategy.
The thing about traditional interview questions is that they’re all the same.
For example, I would bet my house that you’ll be asked some variation of:
“So David, why PwC over the other Big 4?”
This is where your research comes in. You already know exactly why you want to join PwC.
“Well, Mrs interviewer, PwC works with some of the biggest and best clients and is led by industry experts in every field. The prospect of working alongside and learning from such influential thought leaders is a highly motivating factor for me. Also, I understand that PwC is focused on promoting diversity which is fantastic and shows real commitment to positive change…”
Now learn your own version and practice until you’re able to deliver it naturally.
Technical Interview Questions
You’re an econ major. There are going to be questions about the proper use of discount rates.
At some point in every interview there will be technical questions. There might only be one, there might be 20.
Your best approach, as always, is to be prepared.
But how can I prepare when I don’t know what on Earth they’ll ask me?
Here’s your answer:
You need to dig deeper.
Fortunately, there are a wealth of online resources available for exactly this.
Let’s take a brief glimpse at the goldmine right here.
And while you’re at it, why don’t you check out the r/Big4 subreddit (which is moderated by Big 4 Career LAB!).
Glassdoor is the other super helpful site that has a unique interview questions feature.
Candidates review their interview experience with various companies and, lucky for us, they list out the types of interview questions they were asked.
In many cases they even give exact questions asked in each field.
Case Study Interview Questions
Pretty much guaranteed if you’re a consulting candidate, potentially going to happen for advisory or tax consulting, unlikely for audit or tax preparation (but not impossible).
To explain the need for case study style interviews, here’s our friends at Management Consulted.
Each of the Big 4 uses a slightly different case interview format, but typically it will be a one-on-one (or two) with no data provided before the interview.
A typical case interview question might be:
“Our client is Mexican restaurant chain with falling profits. How can we help them?”
You will then explain your ideas to the interviewer and attempt to solve the business problem.
The key here is to focus on the business discussion aspect, you should be driving towards the answer you consider to be most relevant, rather than reacting to interviewer questions.
In saying that, a common mistake in case interviews is not listening.
You might have 50 great ways to save the restaurant business, but you won’t pass the interview if don’t let the interviewer speak.
Always explain your thought process and expect some math to be involved. There may even be technical and behavioral questions thrown in too.
Much like the traditional questioning, there is a theme to case interviews. You should come up with a list of ideas in relation to solving typical business problems.
Then you practice. A lot.
Well, brainteaser questions are anything that an interviewer could ask you that does not fall into one of the above.
These questions are often crazy. Some interviewers may ask a lot, others may not ask any at all.
Thankfully, this type of questioning is becoming rarer because it’s not very insightful, particularly in accounting or tax interviews. You may get one or two, so it’s worth being ready just in case.
Brainteaser questions are designed to test your ability to think on the spot without getting flustered.
If one of these questions arise, you need to think through all your assumptions first before even getting to the math:
“Will the seats remain in place?
Can I use all the storage areas?
Will the balls get squashed?
What about the pilots?”
Stay calm and think out loud – that’s the best you can do. The worst you can do is say “I don’t know”.
Automatic fail right there.
*In an interview setting that is…the actual answer is 22,870,000.
67 Big 4 Interview Questions
The 67 most common Big 4 interview questions.
My advice would be to practice each of these questions individually using the strategies mentioned above.
Remember that we’re not trying to remember every single answer here. The aim is to improve your interview technique across the board.
Get a pen and paper, find a willing mock interviewer and apply everything you’ve learnt. When that Big 4 interview comes around you’ll be sailing home victorious.
Behavioral Question Examples
- In our business, we need to stay well informed about the marketplace. Tell me about a time when your research of a particular topic allowed you to make an informed decision. How did you approach the research?
- In order to grow the business, we identify client needs and recommend solutions to address those needs. Tell me about a time when your knowledge of a topic allowed you to make a recommendation to resolve a problem or fulfill a need.
- Strong communication skills are critical to the selling of services to clients. Tell me about a time when you were successful in communicating with a difficult person or under difficult circumstances.
- Our business requires flexibility when negotiating with clients. Tell me about a time when you had to adjust your negotiating position in mid-process in order to achieve an objective.
- We often have to rely upon our innovative thinking to solve problems. Tell me about a time when you came up with a breakthrough idea or saw possibilities that were not obvious to others. What were the circumstances? Describe your idea and how you developed it.
- When working in teams, the ability to obtain the commitment of others is critical. Tell me about a time when your positive example influenced others to be more committed to a project or task.
- With so many conflicting priorities, it can be challenging to motivate a team to complete projects. Tell me about a time when you were successful at achieving results even though you were part of a team that was difficult to motivate.
- Sometimes we have to sacrifice individual recognition in order to help a team be more successful. Tell me about a time when you put the needs of a group before your own when completing a task.
- Knowledge sharing is an essential part of our firm culture. Tell me about a time when a willingness to share your knowledge significantly enhanced the outcome of a decision or situation.
- Describe a time when you needed to consider a range of options before zeroing in on a solution. What was the situation? How did you handle it?
- Exhibiting personal ethics is critical to gaining buy-in from a team. Describe a personal, team-based situation where the resolution clearly reflected your level of integrity.
- Listening to our clients is essential to understanding their needs. Tell me about a time when your listening skills allowed you to exceed the expectations in the delivery of a task or project.
- In order to serve our clients well, we must be interested and knowledgeable in our clients’ businesses. Tell me about a time when you made an extraordinary effort to learn about or understand another person’s interests or perspective.
- We are very focused on exceeding the expectations of our clients. Tell me about a time you worked with significant time constraints and exceeded someone’s expectations.
- We are often faced with time constraints and balancing multiple tasks while delivering a quality product. Tell me about a time when you influenced/convinced a group to stay on target to achieve a defined objective when they considered changing the approach to save time or effort.
- Can you remember a time when you needed to deliver a sensitive message to someone whose reaction you were unsure of? What happened? Give an analysis on your part. What was the situation? How did you approach it?
- The ability to “get at the heart of the matter” is a valuable tool in Consulting work. Can you recall a time when you successfully did so when dealing with a problem?
- We believe we make better decisions when we solicit input from others. Tell me about a time when you actively sought out input from others prior to making an important decision.
- In business, decisions frequently have implications beyond what may initially be obvious. Tell me about a time when you sought additional information that broadened your perspective and changed your initial opinion regarding a decision.
- To manage effectively, leaders must clearly communicate expectations. Tell me about a time when your ability to clearly express expectations allowed a team you were leading to be successful.
- You will frequently have competing priorities and put in long hours at times to serve our clients. Tell me about a time when a non-academic activity competed for your attention and you prioritized your time appropriately.
- Being an effective manager of your own expectations is as important as managing the expectations of those around you. Define your standards for success in your last job. Describe what you did to meet those standards, and if you fell short, how did you become comfortable with that?
- Project teams’ members must rely upon each other to succeed. Describe an event that portrays you in this type of scenario.
Traditional Question Examples
- Why KPMG?
- Why international tax?
- What are your strengths?
- What’s your biggest weakness and how have you tried to overcome it?
- Tell me more about yourself
- Where do you see your yourself in 10 years?
- What is your dream job?
- What do your first 30 days in this job look like?
- What can Deloitte offer you that the other Big 4 can’t?
- How well do you work do in a team setting?
- Walk me through your resume
- Describe your personality
- Do you like to travel? Why/why not?
- Tell me about your hobbies
- How would you describe your leadership skills?
- Why should I hire you?
- What makes you stand out?
- What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
- Sell yourself to me
- When are you the happiest?
- You’ve mentioned [x] on your resume. Why is that relevant to this job?
- How would you go about firing a troublesome employee?
- Do you have any other job offers from the other Big 4?
- How do you handle criticism?
- Will you be comfortable working 50 hours a week? How do you know?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- Why didn’t you do an internship with us?
- Do you prefer to be criticized or praised?
- What books are you reading right now?
- Are you into the big picture or the detail?
- What’s the one skill you have that will be most valuable in this position?
Case Study Question Examples
- Your client is a mining company that was consistently earning $500 million a year. This year it has lost $50 million and no one knows why. How do you turn it around?
- Your client is Microsoft. The year is 1985. They have just released the first version of Windows. They want you to estimate the demand for this product over the next 30 years and tell them if there is a market for this invention (and prove it).
- Your client owns a number of beach resorts. Half of their portfolio was recently hit by a giant tidal wave and suffered significant damage. They are currently deciding whether to liquidate the assets or rebuild. What would your recommendation be and why?
- Your client is a movie theater and the market is so competitive that they make no money on the movies. All the profit is made in food and other related sales. What is most effective way to layout the theater to increase profitability and why?
- Mercedes claims it is the safest car in the world because fewer people die in a Mercedes than in a car made by any other manufacturer in the world. What’s wrong with this conclusion and how could you test it for accuracy?
- Your sister runs a lemonade stand. Yesterday was Monday and she was open from 2pm – 5pm and sold 2 cups. What should she do differently tomorrow?
Brainteasers Question Examples
- How do you define greatness?
- What is the similarity between a milk carton and a tractor?
- What is the meaning of work?
- How long would it take to move an average sized mountain from one side of the U.S. to the other using a teaspoon?
- If you were an animal what would you be and why?
- How much water is contained in all the world’s oceans?
- If this room was completely sealed and covered in concrete, how would you attempt to escape?
This isn’t a mistake. By their nature technical questions are almost infinite depending on your specialism. Check out the resources we mentioned above to get more information on technical questions.