PwC launches new graduate assessment route with less reliance on degrees

Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PwC) has revamped the way it assesses candidates for its graduate scheme to widen its talent pool and reduce reliance on academic qualifications.

The professional services firm, which is the UK’s top graduate recruiter taking on more than 1,000 university leavers every year, has launched a new way of applying for a place on its graduate scheme, which focuses on the candidates’ capabilities “in the moment, rather than relying on historical academic performance”.

PwC’s new Inspired Talent access route will allow candidates who do not possess the required 2:1 degree or 300-340 Ucas points to still apply for a place on the graduate scheme through a new, broader assessment process. Those with the required academic qualifications will still apply through the traditional route.

Candidates using the Inspired Talent will have to complete online tests that assess their numeracy, judgement skills and ‘intellectual capability’, and then submit a business case to demonstrate their drive, resilience, entrepreneurialism and commercial acumen. If successful at this stage, the candidates will then join the main recruitment process.

Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment at PwC, told Personnel Today the boom in students leaving university with 2:1 degrees had pushed her to want to “actively select talent” based on more diverse criteria, providing graduates with a “foot in the door in a different way to the 2:1 entrance”.

She said: “With the proliferation of students gaining higher qualifications, you can’t just continue all the time to raise that bar as the test.

“I want to recognise diversity of talent and actively select talent rather than de-select because candidates haven’t met the academic benchmark.

“We wanted to create an opportunity and a window for exceptionally talented students who have demonstrated exceptional achievements beyond the academic. We think there are outstanding students out there who have done amazing things but have missed A-levels or GCSE grades because they were doing these amazing things.

“We still want intellectual rigour, but there could be reasons why some individuals just miss out [on the required academic qualifications] and so are doomed, but they may have done amazing things.”

Stockton said 75 of the 1,000-plus graduate places could be given to those candidates using this new route, but it was too early to predict how many students would opt to use the new access route as no firms were currently operating a similar scheme.

Successful candidates will join PwC’s graduate programme across its tax and assurance, and advisory businesses in April, September and October this year.

Earlier this month, a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters found the dramatic graduate job cuts feared last summer had failed to materialise as vacancies in 2009 actually fell by 8.9% – far less than the predicted 24.9%.

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