Real world experience with a professional services internship programme

Every year global professional services firm, PwC, hires over 70 interns as part of its internship programme. We spoke to Maeve McSweeney, PwC's Internship Coordinator, and Claire Doyle - a 21 year-old UCC student studying finance, who completed the internship programme in 2014 and has been offered a graduate position - about the programme.

Q. Maeve, can you give us an overview of PwC’s internship programme?

The PwC internship programme is an extensive eight week programme that gives students the opportunity to gain a unique and in-depth insight into working life at PwC. The internship not only allows students to gain a real life view of what a graduate career with PwC would be like but we also run weekly business skills workshops which help students gain important skills such as networking and leadership skills . The programme runs from June to August and offers in excess of 70 fully paid internships across our Assurance, Tax and Advisory practices. In addition to our Summer Intern Programme, we also take part in the Co-Op programme offering places to more than 90 students over the course of the year.

Q. Claire, can you tell me about your specific role in the company during your internship?

I worked in the Assurance practice, specifically with Insurance clients. I was responsible for filling out templates on PwC's system for the client. I also did many call overs (doing checks on financial statements). One of the most challenging aspects was when you were given a task, and you might become unsure about some aspect of it half way through. However it was always possible to ask my manager for help. My work was always reviewed before approval was given, which built my confidence.

Q. Maeve, can you tell me about the application process and any tips you’d have for future candidates?

Our application process involves an online application form that can be accessed via our website. When applying for internships we would advise students to make sure their application is targeted to the position and employer they are applying to and that they display the skills and qualities that match the selection criteria.

At interview, competency questions are used to ask the applicant to provide detailed answers, based on personal experience, to demonstrate the skills required for the position. As there is likely to be a series of questions covering a range of personal skills, avoid using the same scenario twice. Draw on the breadth of your work, personal interests, activities and study to provide a variety of answers.

On commencing your internship make sure to make the most of your experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, have fun and take advantage of the network of people around you.

Q. Claire, how did you find the process and why do you think you were chosen over many of the other candidates who applied?

The application process can seem quite daunting but afterwards it is definitely worth it. After completing the online application I was invited to a breakfast presentation with all the other students that were selected for interview. We got to hear from PwC partners and also people who had completed the summer internship so it was a great way to learn about the firm and it helped me to relax before I went through to the interview process. My interview was the day after the breakfast presentation and I was given a case study to review for about 20 minutes before my interview and then had to discuss it with my interviewers. It served as a good icebreaker.

I feel I was chosen for the internship due to my previous work experience which gave me more clarity on the direction where I wanted my career to go. Also my Irish dancing interest was a major point of focus during the interview. The interviewers were extremely interested in my dedication over so many years and my commitment to team events.

Q. Maeve, can you tell me about the benefits for both the student and the employer of the internship programme?

An internship is a great opportunity for students to gain a real life insight into what their graduate career could be like. It gives them the opportunity to see if this is a career that they really want to pursue and likewise, it gives us the opportunity to see if they are the right fit for the position and the firm. Ideally most, if not all, of our interns will join us on our graduate programme.

Q. Claire, what advice would you give students thinking about doing an internship at PwC?

I would really encourage students to apply for the internship as it provides the opportunity to gain an insight into the professional services world. You will know after the internship if a career at PwC is for you or not. The social aspect is great and every Friday all the interns work on a group project and learn skills to adapt into this line of work. The building in Dublin is also a very pleasant place to work, with benefits such as on-site gym. The internship is paid, and as it finishes at the beginning of August, so it gives you a chance to travel before college starts back.

Q. What about training? What was available once you started the internship?

We were given a full weeks training when we first arrived. It gave us all a chance to relax and settle in. We also made many friends as we were put in teams. In our second week we began to work with clients. We were all assigned a ‘buddy’ through the PwC buddy system. This was one of the most helpful aspects of the internship as you could approach them with any kind of question, even asking about how to use the printer!

Q. After the internship, you were offered a graduate position. What does that mean for you to have that now as you return for final year?

It’s great. It has meant I am able to focus on college without the added pressure of looking for a job. I plan on having all my CAP 1 exemptions before I start so I only have two years of exams left when I start the graduate programme. As the graduate programme doesn’t start until October I hope to have some time for travel before it begins.