Employers are starting to look beyond candidates’ grades, and EY are leading the way by being one of the first to recruit people based on their strengths instead. They took to DebutLive to talk all about how they’re shaking up the recruitment process by focusing on candidates’ individual skills and passions, and placing less emphasis on academic qualifications.
EY Student Recruitment Advisor Harriet explained: “We were the first in the industry to make this decision […] We did a lot of research and we actually went back 10 years to look at the graduates who had joined us, and the correlation between whether those who had got a 2:1 or a 1st in their degree were the same candidates as the ones who then went on to perform well in their professional qualifications. […] And we found there was absolutely zero correlation between the two.”
She was joined by EY trainee Tryfonas who didn’t achieve a 2:1 or 1st at university but was accepted on to the graduate programme and has gone on to excel in his role. He believes that leveraging his previous work experience from his engineering background helped him stand out in the application process, and impressed the recruiters more than a high degree classification. Here’s a sneak peek of what went down:
The pair answered lots of questions from those listening in, but didn’t quite have time to get through them all, so we spoke to Harriet after the event to get the rest of the answers for you. Don’t forget, you can watch the full livestream on the the Debut app now, where you can also sign up for our upcoming events with BlackRock and Rolls-Royce.
What’s EY’s policy on taking on international graduates?
We definitely accept applications from international graduates. However, there are UK Government restrictions in place for some roles. Please visit our FAQ page for further information.
Do you get a lot of responsibility from day one?
Yes, you will be given responsibility as soon as you start in the role but don’t panic! You’re given lots of training to ensure you know what you should be doing and there are lots of people around to support you.
Is speaking languages beneficial for working at EY?
Yes, definitely! We work with clients from all over the world and the ability to speak a client’s native language can help you to build strong relationships.
What is the environment like in EY offices?
We have 19 offices across the UK, varying in size but all with a focus of supporting our employees to work flexibly and cohesively with each other. There is a mixture of office wide and team social activities that take place regularly, helping to build relationships outside of work. We also have over 20 different networks from sports teams to a women’s network, which are open for all employees to join. Many of our offices have been recently refurbished too – so the environments can be quite high-tech.
Technology in Audit is a very popular topic right now, what steps are EY taking to respond to this?
Technology is a big focus for the firm and not just in Audit. We have introduced new innovation hubs, like EYX, to understand and develop new technologies for us and our clients to use. Not all new technology will be right for every client, so it’s about advising them on how and what technology they should invest in.
In Audit there is a lot of automation taking place, however this does not mean we are taking fewer graduates and apprentices into this area. What it does mean is that junior team members become involved with more complex client work and building strong relationships earlier in their career, which is definitely a positive!
What kind of work experience does EY look for in an applicant? Do you prioritise this over academic results?
We don’t expect graduates or apprentices to have any prior work experience when they apply. Our strengths based application enables applicants to draw from any life experiences, not just work. If you are able to complete internships or work experience whilst you are at University, this can support your application and also allow you to find out which area of the business you are most interested in. If you join EY as an intern and you do well, you could be offered a graduate role with us – meaning you can relax and enjoy your last year of study.
What would you say are the main strengths that EY look for in its graduates?
The main strengths we look for are enthusiasm, drive and willingness to learn.
Will your application be frowned upon if you restart a year due to mitigating circumstances or just restarting a year in general?
No, not at all. We get applications from a lot of graduates who have either retaken a year, changed degree subject or even left university all together and applied for an apprenticeship. This will not hinder your application.
Do you need at least a 2:1 for summer internships or industrial placements?
No, we don’t have academic requirements for any of our programmes, you just need to be in the right year of study to apply to the programme.
Does the company offer any opportunities for travel?
Yes, definitely! We are a global firm, with offices in 150 countries. Whilst you are qualifying there will be less opportunity to travel, although you may be based on a client overseas. Once you have completed your qualification you can apply to complete a secondment or transfer to another office on a permanent basis.
Do EY value Master’s degrees in applications?
When completing a Master’s, my advice would be to make sure that it is something you are really interested in and something that will allow you to develop further skills, which can enhance your application. It is definitely not a requirement that you need to do a Master’s.
What does a typical day for an EY graduate look like?
As cliché as it sounds there is no such thing as a typical day! You may be office based working on a client pitch, or on a client-site having meetings. You will also spend set periods throughout the year at college studying for your professional qualification. Check out our website to hear some of our trainees talk about their roles in our service lines.
What was the deciding factor in you opting to remove academic criteria for applicants?
For us, it was a result of the research we completed, which showed no correlation between high degree scores and success in the professional qualification. It made complete sense for us to remove this barrier and open up our programmes to a more diverse pool of talent.
What can I do at university to gain the skills EY are looking for?
Get involved with things you are passionate about, whether this is joining a society or a sports team, or getting a part-time job. Anything you can do that will give you examples to talk about and demonstrate your strengths in the application process will be beneficial not just at EY, but all types of companies.
How is the job market changing? Why are companies deciding to remove academic criteria now?
The job market is becoming more innovative and disruptive, which means that companies need to respond to the changes and ensure they are attracting the very best applicants. For us, ‘best’ does not necessarily mean the most academically gifted. It’s about combining academics and soft skills to be able to provide the right service for our clients.
Do EY look at which university you went to and is that a factor in the decision making process?
No, this does not factor in the decision making process. Whilst you will be asked to input your university on the application, we operate blind CV interviewing so the interview and assessors will not see your university or course at any point during the process. This ensures we have a fair process for everyone coming into our firm.
What is the most important value of EY?
Integrity is definitely our most important value. Everything we do links back to our clients having confidence in us to deliver the work on time and to the highest quality. Building trust is the main foundation to developing longstanding relationships, which is why this is a key value for EY. You can find out more about our values here.
Do you expect an A-level in Maths?
No, the only requirement is that you have completed or are completing 3 A-Levels or equivalent. There are not specific grade or subject requirements.