Rod Adams is the talent acquisition and onboarding leader across the U.S. and Mexico for PwC, one of the largest professional services firms in the world. PwC offers careers in audit services, consulting services, tax services, products and technology, and more.
Adams uses his 27 years of professional experience in HR and talent acquisition to help PwC recruit talent. His team is responsible for hiring full-time professionals and interns across the firm.
As part of Forage’s ongoing “Hiring Diaries” series, we interviewed Adams to gain insight into the PwC recruitment process for students and entry-level applicants. In this interview, he discusses:
- What values are important to PwC that entry-level or internship applicants should be aware of?
- What do you look for on a resume?
- What do you look for in a job interview?
- What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
- What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
- What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for?
- What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with PwC?
- Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
- What is it like to work for PwC?
What values are important to PwC that entry-level or internship applicants should be aware of?
It’s critical for anyone going through the recruitment process to understand what an organization stands for. For us, we’re purpose-led, and our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We do that around our values. We come from different backgrounds and different cultures, but at the end of the day, we share common values important to PwC. There are five PwC values: act with integrity, make a difference, care, work together, and reimagine the possible.
Acting with integrity is speaking up for what’s right, and given the business that we’re in, that is critically important. Making a difference has a few different angles. It’s making a difference for our clients, but also for our colleagues. So, how we treat each other, how we coach, and mentor each other. Making a difference in our society. How do we give back?
Care probably speaks for itself, but how do we make sure we care about each other as individuals? And how do we work together? Collaboration, relationships, and not going at it alone are important for bringing out the best in our entire firm to solve our client’s problems.
Reimagining the possible is daring to think differently about how we do things and challenging the status quo. It’s reimagining the way that we create an experience for ourselves and for our clients working with us.
What do you look for on a resume?
Depending on the role, i.e. auditing, accounting, and cybersecurity, there’s a level of tech skills needed. Beyond that, as we look at a resume, we are looking for individuals with examples of agility. How I can see that in the resume is when people have been involved in a variety of different things. And I’m not specific on what that needs to be; it could be clubs, sororities, fraternities, sports teams, or working, to name a few. Seeing that they’ve got different things that they’re involved in shows some agility in being able to balance school with involvement. We’re also looking for strong academics. We look at the GPA, but the things they do in addition to their academics are really important.
We are looking for examples of individuals who show an interest in lifelong learning and continuing to better themselves. That’s a quality that we look for in the people that we hire. We believe once we hire you, you’re always learning throughout your career. We want to see examples of that in a resume. I lean more toward the outside activities because classwork kind of gets dictated to a certain extent, depending on what your major is. What do you decide to do outside of the classroom that requires you to learn different things? And it’s not all hard skill-building. It’s learning how to be a better leader or learning how to be part of a team or learning how to communicate better. You can glean some of those skills from the different experiences candidates put themselves in. If you are in a student group, are you looking to take a leadership role? There’s a lot of learning in doing that. We are also seeing examples where candidates are learning skills outside of their academic programs. They’re taking courses through Coursera or YouTube. I like seeing that as well.
>>MORE: Explore a day-in-the-life of cybersecurity consulting at PwC with its Cyber Security Consulting Program.
What do you look for in a job interview?
We ask questions to better inform what we think we see on the resume because the resume is a one-page piece of paper (and I advise everyone to keep it to one page) that gives us hints into aspects we want to dive into, but we also have a framework. We have five attributes that we really hone in on when we’re interviewing talent. Whole leadership is one, so the ability to lead yourself and lead others. Business acumen is another. For entry-level candidates, it’s showing that desire and interest in building the knowledge and insight to drive impact.
If you’re entry-level, we don’t expect you to have been in the business world and done a number of things, but that curiosity is important. We look for technical and digital skills, which will depend on the role that we’re hiring for. Inclusivity and a global mindset are important, too. How have the candidates demonstrated or put themselves in a position where they have effectively collaborated across diverse perspectives to solve a problem, to get to an answer? Then, relationships are another attribute of what we call the ‘PwC professional’ that we interview against. The only other thing I would say, in addition to all that, is through it all, we’re observing communication skills. How does someone communicate their experiences? How are they engaging with me as an interviewer? While the question might be about their leadership or about inclusivity, how they communicate is clearly a critical part of the interview as well.
What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
Communication is a big piece of it. We don’t expect everybody to communicate the same way. We don’t want everybody to communicate the same way. We want everyone to have their own style, but be able to articulate their points of view and their experiences and be authentic. That is what I would say sets candidates apart. The piece of advice I’d give candidates as they’re going through interviews is just to be authentic. Because when you’re trying to be someone you’re not, it comes through usually pretty quickly. Be authentic to your experiences, who you are, and what’s important to you. I don’t know how many thousands of interviews I’ve done, but the ones that I most remember are all examples of where it was just an authentic relationship or an authentic conversation. The candidate was really able to suck me in to want to learn more about them, and that’s key. Now you obviously have to be thoughtful about the experiences you’re getting while you’re in college, so you can have something to talk about to foster an authentic conversation.
In addition, being prepared to talk about your experiences will set you apart. A lot of organizations ask behavioral-based interview questions. For example, ‘tell me about a time when this or that happened’ or ‘tell me about an experience in this area, such as leadership or diversity.’ Sometimes it’s hard to talk about yourself. You feel like you’re boasting and there is a fine line between boasting and being confident. In an interview is where you need to talk about yourself and you want to be confident. Be prepared to share what you did to help the team accomplish its goals. Make sure you’re talking about your contributions. It sets you apart because a lot of people have a hard time telling their personal stories well.
The last thing I would say is about questions. We’ll ask you ‘what questions do you have as a candidate?’ You should have questions prepared. Where I’ve seen candidates set themselves apart is when they have probing questions on top of the questions that they prepared. So they ask their question, and they get the answer, and then they probe further based on the answer that they get. Or they ask a question that wasn’t on their list based on the conversation. This shows that the candidate is actively listening, which is an important skill to have in our business, especially being able to really listen to our clients.
What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
I would say types of questions that are current. Do some research so you know what’s going on with the company at the time and try to have a better understanding of how that’s impacting the organization. We’re rolling out a new people experience called My+. A great question would be: ‘I understand you’re rolling out a new people experience, and I’ve read the vision for what the experience will be, but why is that important to the organization?’ Show some depth of research to pull out the details you can’t find online.
What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for?
Behavioral questions are kind of the standard. There are situations where you will have case study questions. You’ll actually get information, sometimes it’s sent to you beforehand, and you talk about it in the interview. The interviewer is looking to get an understanding of how you would solve the problem versus ‘tell me about a time when you XYZ.’ The key thing for candidates to understand is that in almost all cases, it’s not about the answer. It’s about how you get to the answer. Through a case study interview question, we’re trying to understand how does this person think about solving the problem versus do they get the right answer or not?
Another type of interview approach is situational. Instead of ‘tell me about a time when,’ they give you a hypothetical situation, such as ‘what would you do if you were in a situation where you were part of a team, and you had two team members that were not pulling their weight?’ It’s more situational versus actual experience-based questions.
What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with PwC?
Look for an opportunity to engage with some of our professionals. There are a lot of campuses where we are actively on campus and host events. I would participate in and attend those events. We do national virtual sessions as well that we promote on our website where we may host a conversation to talk about a certain practice or one of our programs. Try to find opportunities to engage with our professionals. Because it’s hard to differentiate yourself through a resume. So looking for opportunities to actively engage is what I’d recommend.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
Going back to looking for people who are lifelong learners and who have the desire to continue learning – jump in and be willing to learn. Don’t be scared to make a mistake. That’s how you learn. I tell interns all the time to ask questions. No question is a dumb question. You don’t want to ask the same question five times, but ask questions and don’t be terrified of making a mistake. If there’s something that someone doesn’t know how to do, ask the question. Learn from the answer to the question and use that in the future.
Network and open yourself up to build trusting relationships. You can do that by being willing to share things about you as an individual and what’s important to you personally. Build those trusting relationships, and that’s how it gets easier to get feedback to help you grow and develop. Building your network is critically important, and you do that through strong relationships, so focus on doing that.
What is it like to work for PwC?
I love it. I’ve been with PwC for 27 years, and there’s always something new around the corner that challenges me and helps me learn. I’ve built amazing relationships throughout my career with people with like motivations. People who are motivated to do good work, to work hard, but also enjoy work and people who enjoy life outside of work as well and have fun. It’s been great to be at a firm.
The My+ strategy that we’re rolling out around our people experience is focused on personalization as it relates to the well-being, development, and career opportunities that you get at PwC. We’re leveraging technology to create an experience for our people that’s dynamic and can drive that personalization. To me, that’s bold. It’s different from what any of our competitors are doing. It’s not easy. It’s going to be a multi-year journey to get to where we want to be, but the fact that we take a bold stance on something important like the people experience is the type of thing that motivates me to stay here.
Our senior partner was a leader in launching the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion in 2017, which has grown to be a network of over 2,400 corporate leaders across the country who have pledged to drive more inclusive cultures within their organizations. It makes me incredibly proud that our senior partner was the individual who sparked that movement. I truly believe and know that I have the opportunity to make a difference at PwC, too. We are all involved in making sure we’re living our purpose as a community and a firm.
>>MORE: Guide to Working at PwC
Rod Adams is the PwC talent acquisition and onboarding leader. He has 27 years of professional experience, beginning his career in client service before transitioning to human capital. Rod is passionate about helping people launch and build their careers, and he is responsible for leading the firm’s entry-level, experienced, and catalyst recruitment team across Trust Solutions and Consulting Solutions as well as recruitment-related operations, systems, and strategies. Rod serves as a board member of the Posse Foundation Chicago Advisory Board and Illinois Wesleyan Accounting Advisory Board. He is also a Daniel Burnham Fellow for Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC), working to positively impact socioeconomic progress in the Chicago area.
This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Image credit: Courtesy of Rod Adams