The Partner Panel Interview is a feature of the Big 4, Magic Circle and large accountancy, law and consultancy firm’s partnership admissions process. Given that in your Partnership Panel Interview you will be interrogated by a number of partners on the merits or otherwise of your business and personal case, it can be a terrifying prospect. This is why in this blog post we look at the likely questions you will be asked in your Partner panel Interview.

Partner Panel Interview: What is the purpose of this?

Before we go any further it is worth taking a moment to set the context for your Partnership Panel Interview. This is where your partners get confirmation, hopefully, that:

  • Your business case is commercially sound, robust, sustainable and likely to generate a decent profit margin for the partnership
  • There is enough evidence to suggest you are the person who can implement successfully the promise of your business case
  • You, as an individual, are acting, thinking and feeling like a partner. I.e. someone they would trust to be their business partner

When you understand this context it becomes a lot easier to consider the questions you will get asked by your partners in your Partner Panel Interview

How can I influence what questions I get asked?

Example Talk Sheet

Before you get to questions you will often have delivered a 10-20 min presentation on your business case to the partners. One of the best ways to influence the questions you get asked is to use a Talk Sheet in your presentation and as the basis for your presentation. A Talk Sheet is a one-pager which highlights the key selling points of your business case, i.e. your 3-sentence sell. Click here to download a template for a Talk Sheet you can use in your Partner Panel Interview. This template was built and based on a client who we worked with and made partner in his Big 4 firm.

By focusing on your 3-sentence sell in your presentation you will find that questions will naturally be focused on these. After all, your partners don’t know what they don’t know.

Who is likely to be on the panel in your Partnership Panel Interview?

It’s not just partners who will be in your Partnership Panel Interview. There could be representatives from HR or external people who have been invited because your partners value their insight and judgement. The partners in your Partner Panel Interview may be from your part of the firm or they could be from a completely different office, service line and geographical location. This is why it is exceptionally important in your answers to questions to make sure you:

  • Don’t use jargon or acronyms as these may not be used in the partner’s part of the firm
  • Avoid cultural references or slang, e.g. “two bites at the cherry” may be well understood in the UK, but in the US Mid West (as I found out last night) they would normally say “two bites of the apple”

What questions are you likely to be asked in your Partner Panel Interview?

As mentioned earlier in this article all the questions you are going to be asked are there to understand the commercial promise of your business case and your suitability to deliver the business case as a partner in the firm. Some of the questions will be digging into the weaknesses of your business case, for example:

  • What could stop you achieving the targets you set yourself?
  • What evidence have you got to substantiate the forecasted increase in new business?
  • What would happen if…. , e.g.
    • Your business case seems to be based on servicing one large audit client for the firm. What will happen in 2 years when we are forced to rotate off this client?
    • Given that the UK financial services market seems to be moving to Europe as a result of Brexit, what’s your evidence to say that there will be a 10% increase in work from this sector in the UK?

Some questions are there to understand whether you are thinking, feeling and acting like a partner already, e.g.

  • If you make partner what would be the first few things you do?
  • What would happen if you didn’t make partner this time around?
  • Why should we make you up this time? After all, you seem to be doing pretty well as a director/senior manager?
  • What do your team think about you going for partner?

Many of the firms, e.g. PwC in the UK, are fairly hot on their potential partners being very self aware. They want to make sure that you understand your strengths and weaknesses, and how you will use or compensate for them. E.g.

  • What areas of development do you have? And how will these help or hinder you to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself?

One of our most sought-after courses in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner is called “How to Build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner”. We think it’s a must-have in your arsenal of tools and guidance to help with your career progression. There is also a section on the Partnership Admissions process with guides and recordings to help you find your way through the system. Check it out!

An idea of the size of client portfolio you will need to be a partner in a Big 4 firm

What due diligence should I do on my firm before buying in

6 tried and tested tips to ace your Partner Panel Interview

The definitive guide to building a business case for partnership

See whether you are a good fit for partner in your firm

Download this free guide today to take the fear and mystery out of writing your business case for partnership.

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