You want to work for EY? You're in luck. In 2016, EY has plans to hire 30,000 people at an experienced level. This is a big figure, but is easily dwarfed by the number of applications it receives. Last year, 1.4m people applied to the firm globally – this means you have a 2% chance of getting in.
Breaking this figure down a little further shows just how high the barriers to entry are. Of the 30,000 new experienced hires, around 25% of people globally come through internal referrals, and another 30% are what Nancy Altobello, global vice chair for talent, calls “boomerangs” – namely, former employees coming back into the fold.
“There tends to be a better cultural fit when someone is referred – they have better sponsorship and support and are higher rated faster,” she says. “For the most part our employees leave for industry, or a consulting house or another Big Four firm, and they easily fit back into our ecosystem.”
EY is not alone in receiving huge numbers of applications for its roles – and being very selective. Goldman Sachs hired 3% of the 313,000 people who applied last year, while Deloitte and PwC take on 4% and 2% of experienced applicants respectively in the U.S alone.
But removing the referrals and 'boomerangs' from the equation means that there are 13,500 jobs available to external applications this year. Assuming the same application rate, there's less than a 1% chance of being handed an offer at EY.
This year, EY is hiring 18,100 people in the Americas, 4,000 people in Asia-Pacific and 24,700 in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA). The biggest division will be assurance, with 20,000 new hires, followed by advisory (13,400), then tax (10,400) and transaction advisory services (3,000).
Getting in early
One key to getting into EY is to start (very) early. This year, EY will hire 60,000 people for its campus recruitment programme – 20,000 of whom will be interns. 96% of internships are converted into full-time offers, says Altobello, and depending on the location, anything between two thirds to 80% of graduate hires come from the intern pool.
“We have 2,000 recruiters who spend time on campus and by their second year of school, most interns will have been to seminars on resume writing, leadership and career planning,” she says. In other words, by the time the recruitment process really starts, there’s a pool of well-prepped students lining up to get in.
EY has a list of target universities, but this doesn’t just include the Ivy League. In the U.S., for example, the University of Texas, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, University of Georgia and the University of Notre Dame are all happy hunting grounds.
Similarly, the profile of graduates getting hired has changed. Previously, EY obviously targeted accounting majors and this later moved towards including finance students. Now, accounting and finance majors make up 50% of its graduate hires, while engineering, IT, data analytics and even pre-meds and nursing students constitute the remainder.
“Our clients are looking for sector expertise more and more,” says Altobello. “Engineering, IT and data analytics are a big focus for us.”
Globally, EY’s retention rate is 80%. People are most likely to stick around in the U.S. or UK, says Altobello, and most likely to leave in the ASEAN region, or in Brazil or Mexico.
Altobello says it's hard to retain good people when they're out of the office every day working with clients and other professional services firms who might want to hire them: "It’s constant exposure and people see how good they are,” she says.
As we’ve mentioned, around 55% of experienced hires at EY either come from internal referrals or through taking on former employees. If a new recruit comes through this way, the recruitment process is “smaller”, says Altobello.
However, outside of this – and assuming you make it through the application process - experienced candidates can expect anywhere between six to ten interviews before an offer is extended. Candidates will meet with partners, managers and their peers, as well as EY’s recruitment team.
Candidates will be tested on their technical knowledge, but by the point of interview the focus is on ensuring that there will be a cultural fit. “We ensure they meet enough people on the team so that they can make an informed decision about us,” says Altobello. “We’re looking for very strong assessments, but interviews are also part of the onboarding process so that they can start working as part of the team from day one.”
EY may also come looking for you if you have the right skill sets. In the advisory sector, there’s “intense competition for IT skills” says Altobello, with a particular need for IT security and data analytics.
It’s also hiring from investment banks for its transaction services advisory division, with bankers joining at manager to executive level.
“What we increasingly want from bankers is sector expertise – it’s more important for clients as sectors evolve so quickly,” she says. “Ten years ago, Amazon was a retail company, now it’s a technology company, for example. Bankers’ sector expertise is incredibly helpful.”
Like most large organisations, EY is trying to appeal to millennials and ensure that they stick around. Increasingly, however, those joining EY are not just seeking flexible working arrangements or demanding to being involved in interesting work, but also want a stable and secure employer.
“They want to ensure that the decision to leave is in their hands, not in the hands of the employer,” says Altobello.
EY’s millennial retention strategy appears to be based around a combination of ongoing training, flexibility in the workplace and providing a lot of communication. It has, for example, what it calls a ‘counselling family’ for more junior employees, where they’re given access to senior team members in smaller groups.
Millennials have to accept that working for a professional services firm will require hard work – long hours, work that can be repetitive and quantitative is all part of the deal.
“What they want to see is where the work fits into the big picture,” says Altobello. “They may have to spend time entering numbers into Excel, but they want to see how that impacts the business and the team they work in.”