UK's PwC to disregard A-level results when hiring staff

Britain's accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - the country's biggest private sector employer of graduates - has announced a radical hiring policy to start taking effect in June. -- PHOTO: PWC
Britain's accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - the country's biggest private sector employer of graduates - has announced a radical hiring policy to start taking effect in June. -- PHOTO: PWC

SINGAPORE - Britain's accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - the country's biggest private sector employer of graduates - has announced a radical hiring policy to start taking effect in June: PwC shall overlook the A-level grades of future job candidates for 90 per cent of its roles.

The present policy includes a pre-requisite on Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) points, which are derived from A-level grades. For example, some of the firm's roles require jobseekers to have attained a minimum of 340 Ucas points, or 2 'A's and 1 'B'.

However, the new recruitment process will be based on candidates' performance in PwC's own assessments and their degree scores, according to reports on Sunday by British newspapers.

This effectively extends a chance to degree holders who performed well in university but not during the A-levels. Moreover, PwC believes that this move will also allow the firm to hire top talent from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Richard Irwin, PwC's head of student recruitment, was quoted by the Independent newspaper: "We found that the potential to be a good graduate accountant or consultant was not related to someone's A-level results.

"Research shows there is a strong correlation between A-level performance and social class, whereas university is often a leveller.

"By focusing on people's A-level grades we are therefore potentially missing out on some very strong candidates. We've taken the view that if a candidate is able to show a strong degree, is able to demonstrate all the attributes and skills sets we need and who can succeed in our assessment process, then we should no longer punish them for having poor A-level grades."

Mr Irwin added that the firm plans to disregard A-level grades when considering school leavers seeking to join PwC. However, this new hiring policy will not be completely rolled out until the firm is confident that its new hiring policy is effective in assessing candidates.

Ucas points will still be used when considering people seeking to join the firm as school leavers, but the cut-off will be relatively low - CCC. However, Mr Irwin said the ultimate aim was to abandon the use of A-levels at this stage too, once the firm was confident it could assess candidates based solely on its own scoring.

However, PwC's Singapore office looks set to continue its emphasis on consistent academic performance, alongside other factors.

Partner and human capital leader Sam Kok Weng told the Straits Times on Monday: "In the interest of serving our clients, we consider all data of our candidates seriously. No one source of information is a definitive basis or not a basis for hiring.

"Our hiring is always based on finding talent with the right competencies and attributes for a professional services firm - historical academic records and trends (including relative academic performance over time) are amongst the various considerations. Recency and relevance of information, diversity conclusions, interests outside of work, communication, resilience are other factors we also value."

In the UK, a number of industry bodies have been calling for reform of Britain's educational system, arguing for vocational qualifications to be given equal footing with A-levels and other academic qualifications.

The Daily Mail said the PwC move may inspire other firms to follow suit, especially when their new hiring policy brings in talent it would otherwise not have acquired.