A partner interview is part of the recruitment strategy for the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms in the US, (PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young) and is the last stage in what can often be a lengthy recruitment process.
The purpose of the partner interview is to make sure the candidate is a good fit for the company. There may be some preset questions – and usually a short presentation – but the interview itself is mainly reactive, based on the speaker’s comments, and at times can feel adversarial or combative.The key to a successful partner interview is preparation. For this reason, this article will focus on one specific area of mastery within the partner interview: the Question and Answer segment.
Knowing the likely styles of questions that will come up and preparing practical answers with a speech coach will help you prepare and come across as a confident, polished expert. Almost all of the companies will combine standard interview questions with behavioral and competency questions.
Here are three strategies on how to best prepare for the partner interview Question and Answer portion:
1. Prepare it, then let it go. It’s important to note that preparing for an interview does not mean trying to remember the answer to every possible question that may ask you. While a speaker may formally make notes in advance, and prepare answers with the key talking points, you should not plan to reference the notes in the interview, (even if you are virtual and could sneak them onto your monitor without anyone knowing). Your research and preparation will ensure that you have a set of adaptable answers that you can alter for anything that might come up.
2. Brainstorm the questions you expect to get, and the questions you hope are NOT asked. Below are examples of questions you might be asked at a partner interview:
- With the current [latest world event here, such as a new President or global health crisis], how do you see your market changing?
- Tell us a first in the door example.
- What is your point of view on where the account needs to focus on continuing its growth trajectory?
- How has the [latest topical event or challenge] impacted your market and how you sell and deliver to clients?
And as mentioned above, plan for the questions you hope are NOT asked, which will be personal and unique to you, such as:
- What are our most significant challenges with [topic you feel uncomfortable addressing], and how would you recommend we address them?
- What are your thoughts on the future strategy of our business?
- What do you see as our most significant talent challenges, and how would you address them?
- Tell me about a time you got it wrong.
3. Create a plan to handle nervousness. Despite this being the final interview in the process, it doesn’t have to be the most nerve-wracking. The company has seen something in you, so be confident, open, relaxed, and personable. Simple ways to demonstrate confidence include being aware of your nonverbal communication, (such as fidgeting), having a warm smile when appropriate, and speaking with clear and concise language.
One final thought – we often say as Executive Communication Coaches at The Speech Improvement Company – your amount of preparation should match the level of importance. I’d place a Big Four partner interview at a high level of importance. It’s always better to over-prepare than to under-prepare, especially when it comes to interviews.
We regularly help our clients thrive in partner interviews for the Big Four. Let us know if you’d like to talk about how we can help you with your upcoming high stakes interview.