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6 insider tips to land a graduate job at BDO

Jaymes Carr

Careers Commentator
We spoke to students who successfully landed a graduate job at BDO and asked for their top tips on how to ace the recruitment process.

BDO (or Binder Dijker Otte) was founded in 1964 and opened its Australian branch in 1975. With 1,360 staff, 10 offices, and 173 partners, BDO is a full-service audit, tax and advisory firm. Its staff specialise in auditing, business recovery and insolvency, corporate finance, forensic services, indirect tax, risk advisory, tax, consulting, wealth management and servicing private clients. Although it operates independently, BDO Australia still belongs to an international network with more than 60,000 people working out of 1,328 offices in more than 152 territories.

BDO offers graduates an opportunity to start their career in a collaborative environment that offers technical and non-technical training to support professional development. It’s known as an environment in which graduates are well supported and individual excellence is encouraged.

BDO has twice produced the Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting Excellence Awards Graduate of the Year, twice (2014 and 2015), and been named Australia’s top tax advisory firm. We spoke to students who successfully applied for a job at BDO and asked for their tips on how to ace the recruitment process.

1. The interview process is ‘friendly’ but ‘intense’: so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!

From start to finish, the recruitment process can take a few weeks or more, and no stone is left unturned. So don’t let yourself get caught off guard: research what’s required (psychometric tests, a video interview, a face-to-face interview, and so on), and start preparing.

“The interview process was not easy, in order to be a graduate I had to go through a number of processes starting with the application, then an online test. Once I passed these stages I did a virtual interview followed by a face to face interview and finally a written exam.”
– Graduate, Cairns

“Very thorough process. Firstly, I had to fill out an application online and attach my CV and transcript. Then I had to undertake various tests (e.g. puzzle based, comprehension, problem solving etc.) before completing a video interview. Then I came to BDO's head office to re-do testing and undertake additional testing (personality, writing skills) before I was interviewed by People & Culture. Lastly, I was interviewed by a partner of the division and a manager.”
– Graduate, Adelaide

2. You’ll be asked a variety of questions, both technical and non-technical

The insiders we spoke to warned students not to underestimate the comprehensive nature of the interview process: you’ll be asked about your personal attributes, hobbies, professional experiences, accomplishments, failures, and more. Fortunately, using a technique such as the STAR method, you can arrive prepared, having identified experiences and skills you can adapt to answer a range of questions. We asked our insiders for examples of the questions they were asked:

“Who are my role models and why? Why I decided to study accounting?”
– Graduate, Cairns

“Why this firm? What are your experiences? What do you do in free time? Why this division?”
– Graduate, Sydney

“Describe one moment in my previous job where there were difficulties. Describe a time when team work went wrong and how it was resolved.”
– Graduate, Melbourne

“What can you bring to the firm? What is one mistake that you made at your previous workplace and how did you correct it? Why do you want to work at BDO? What sets BDO apart from all other competing firms?”
– Graduate, Brisbane

3. Study the values and culture of the company

The BDO values are honesty and integrity, mutual support and respect, professional and personal client relationships, and empowerment and personal responsibility. BDO takes the values very seriously and considers them to be at the heart of its mission to help clients reach their business and personal goals. Several of the insiders we spoke to suggested that applicants should familiarise themselves with the values and be prepared to discuss: you can learn more here.

“I would study the values of the company and firstly decide whether or not you also share those common values and would uphold them in a personal and work setting. Be prepared for any question you may be asked and have a justified answer.”
– Graduate, Cairns

“Once you prove you have the technical abilities (i.e. in your CV), the interview process from my experience is all about team fit and being personable. Also show enthusiasm, drive and commitment to the role you are applying for.”
– Graduate, Sydney

“Learn the corporate culture. Know what you want out of the position and from the employer.”
– Midlevel, Adelaide

4. Don’t let professionalism obscure your individuality: be authentic!

In its own words, BDO looks for graduates who are “passionate and committed to self-development, possess excellent interpersonal skills, can demonstrate initiative, and are keen on working with interesting small to medium enterprises.” This search for well-rounded individuals, say our insiders, has resulted in a culture that celebrates personal authenticity: so don’t be afraid to be yourself in the interview.

“As cliché as it is - be yourself. The firm is trying to learn equally as much about you as you are about them. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and answer all questions honestly.”
– Graduate, Adelaide

“Be yourself. Come prepared with possible answers in mind to common questions asked. Practise with family/friends so you don't get overwhelmed in the interview.”
– Graduate, Adelaide

“Just be yourself and be friendly.”
– Midlevel, Adelaide

5. Draw on your experience as much as possible

Using techniques such as the STAR approach, it’s possible to draw on your own experience to answer a variety of tricky questions with credibility. It’s an approach recommended by the insiders we spoke to, who said that interviewers were particularly interested in times when they’d applied their skills in a practical setting.

“Know the types of questions interviewers ask, be genuine, and ensure you answer the question with examples from your previous experience.”
– Graduate, Melbourne

“Make sure you reflect on previous experience as this shows the employer how you respond to certain events.”
– Midlevel, Adelaide

6. Use your extra-curricular activities and work experience to gain an advantage in interviews

In line with their focus on recruiting well-rounded individuals, BDO values evidence that candidates have engaged with activities outside of their professional and academic lives. So if you were part of a club or society, or play a sport, engage in a creative pursuit, or something similar, use that to show the diversity of your interests.   

“My work as a student ambassador, coupled with my involvement in a variety of other extra-curricular activities and societies have really helped me to communicate with creditors and clients within my current role. A central part of Business Restructuring is getting the appropriate information you need from people and I have been able to successfully do this from the beginning.”
– Brittney Kane

“The experience I gained doing this also helped me with the ultimate success of my application. I would strongly recommend any undergraduates who are thinking of moving into professional services to get some practical work as soon as possible.”
– Jake Chesini

“My advice for those still at university would be to gain some practical work experience as early as possible. There are all sorts of vacation programs out there, and they're very easy to apply for.”
– Hannah Bolton