As we reported yesterday, Ernst & Young plans to make roughly 10,600 hires in the U.S. during fiscal year 2014, which began in July. Approximately 4,300 of those openings are earmarked for experienced workers, split across the firm’s assurance, tax, transactions and advisory units. EY is also hiring in the U.K.
To get a better idea of where most of the hiring will happen – and the best way to go about getting the job – we talked to Larry Nash, Ernst & Young’s director of experienced and executive recruiting.
Where are your hottest sectors?
We’re looking to hire qualified candidates in all areas – assurance, tax, transactions and advisory, as well as our core business services group that supports marketing, finance and other support-type positions. However, the growth of our advisory business trumps all other activity. The group has been growing by more than 20% annually. For this fiscal year, roughly one-third of our experienced hires will be in advisory. Our assurance practice is a driving force in hiring as well.
What key skillsets are you looking for within the advisory group?
Companies continue to face a myriad of issues and challenges. We come in to help them grow, optimize, manage risk and improve performance and IT security. We’re particularly looking for individuals with enabling technology backgrounds like SAP and Oracle. Proficiency in cloud, mobility and data analytics is a big plus. Change management experience is also a key skillset.
In terms of sectors, we’re growing in utilities, healthcare, oil and gas, consumer products and of course financial services.
Tell me about the interview process within the advisory group? Do you do a lot of case studies?
We do more case studies on entry level side – not as much with experienced candidates. A big focus now is having a detailed discussion with a technical assessment to understand a candidate’s core competencies. It’s a rigorous process – from the initial contact with a recruiter to a technical assessment, then meeting with people you’d work with where we’ll look for soft skills. Identifying a good person for the team only comes with repetition.
Do candidates need a background with the technical competency and prior experience in consulting?
It certainly helps to have both. Having a consulting background at some point can be helpful in understanding the environment and the importance of delivering exceptional client services. We don’t exclusively hire people with prior consulting experience, but it helps.
Clients want people with technical backgrounds, but to be successful you need to have a number of other skills: working well within a team environment, thinking with a global mindset, leadership qualities, strong communication skills, and the ability to be adaptive and flexible. Clients have gotten so much more diverse, and we’re now serving nearly all parts of world, so the ability to have a global mindset is critical.
Ernst & Young has been particularly successful with its employee referral program. Can you give some advice to job seekers who are trying to leverage their network?
Our employee referral program is incredibly important. Roughly 46% of our experienced hires in fiscal year 2013 were found through referrals. We hope to bring that number to 50% this year. Studies we’ve conducted show that referral hires perform better and stay longer than others. We encourage everyone within the organization to be a recruiter.
First, I’d encourage everyone to use your online networks to see who you know who works at the company or who knows someone there. Make an introduction and ask for a referral. People should recognize that their network is likely much more expansive than they think. It’s not just who you went to school with or former colleagues, but everyone you know, people you go to church with, for example. Then you can tap into their network.
Also, it’s important to select organizations that you are interested in. It helps you focus on who you should network with. One of the common frustrations is receiving an application for lots of jobs. Some people may apply to hundreds of jobs, making it hard for an organization because you don’t know where they want to work. When networking, it’s good to have a targeted approach.
Does a candidate need to know the person who is referring them?
There are different forms of referrals. When an employee knows someone, they understand their quality of work and there might be more weight given. But if you don’t know the person, it’s still great. Getting a resume into an employee’s hands does draw better attention than applying in other ways.
What are some resume mistakes that you see too often that candidate’s should avoid?
One of them is being less focused on the position that you have the experience for and interest in. Don’t do the peanut butter approach and send your resume everywhere. We want people who are focused.
Also, sometimes people can oversell their experience. We want to hear about your experience and competencies, but if they write things down that are overstated, we don’t feel very good about that.
What about some interview tips?
Definitely do your homework. Research the company and look at the profiles of the people you will interview with. We like to see people who notice what we are doing. Study recent press releases and come equipped with the ability to say “here is what I know.” It will help them understand and communicate how they can contribute.
When interviewing, focus on the job opening and the specific skills and background that you have that will help fill the need. Every job opening is on our website – study them before coming in.
Also, never close a door. If you go through the interview process, it may not work out. Maybe your skills and competencies aren’t a perfect fit for that role. But stay in touch. You never know when the next opening may be right for your skills. Staying connected is a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago.