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Getting Your Foot in the Door at Ernst & Young

EY Logo BlackAbout Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services, employing over 167,000 people in 140 countries around the world.  Ernst & Young recruits highly skilled professionals who embody its core values:

  • People who demonstrate integrity, respect and teaming.
  • People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead.
  • People who build relationships based on doing the right thing.

Detailed information about career opportunities for students, experienced candidates and executives can be found on the Ernst & Young Career Page.

Dan BlackAbout Dan

Dan Black is the Americas Director of Campus Recruiting at Ernst & Young. He has been recruiting on college campuses for Ernst & Young LLP for more than 15 years. Dan began his career with Ernst & Young LLP in 1994 as an Auditor, and he has never looked back! A licensed CPA with direct experience serving clients, Dan is passionate about building the future of business by providing opportunities to the best and brightest young talent and leveraging their considerable skills.  Dan earned a master’s degree in human resources from Fordham University in 2002 and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Binghamton in 1994.  He currently services on the Board of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE); in July, he will begin his term as the 2013-14 NACE President.

TheCampusCareerCoach.com team spoke with Dan to learn more about Ernst & Young. Here are some insights he shared during his interview.

Tell me a little about your company

I like to say: “Ernst & Young is not your father’s accounting firm!”

Very often, big accounting and professional services firms like Ernst & Young are stereotyped as being old school, people wearing visors, punching away on calculators.

In reality, Ernst & Young does a lot more than that!  In addition to having a thriving Assurance practice and a leading Tax practice, we have dynamic Transactions and Advisory practices and consulting clients on matters such as Risk, Performance Improvement and IT, among others.  A lot of students don’t know that until Ernst & Young’s recruiters tell them

As a result, Ernst & Young recruits students from a variety of disciples in addition to Accounting, such as Finance, MIS, IT, Economics and Law, just to name a few. These are the qualifications and competencies our clients expect of us, so they are also the qualifications and competencies we look for in new hires.

So, no more green visors and arm garters?

Green-Visor-AccountantYou might still find a few old school professionals with visors and garters tucked away somewhere, but Ernst & Young is a 21st-century company.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

We hire from campus for opportunities in all of our client-serving practices: Assurance (Audit), Tax, Transactions, and Advisory Services.

The candidates we hire get the chance to explore a variety of opportunities within their practice.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

Our industry is strictly regulated, so we need to be very specific in the majors we recruit.  Over 95% of our hires are Business majors, and the majority of those are in Accounting-related fields, with the balance in Finance, MIS, Business Law, Economics and other Business-related majors.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

All positions outside of our campus recruiting efforts — from support to management to executive positions — require more experience. To apply as an experienced hire, candidates should start with the online application process on our website.

The Careers section of the Ernst & Young website is a great resource.  It’s not a “black hole” for applications; every application that comes in via our website goes directly to the desktop of the recruiter linked to the requisition and tasked with finding candidates to fill the position.

You can also find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Most importantly — use your network!

Nearly half of our non-campus hires come from employee referrals, so if you have any kind of connection to someone who works for or has worked for Ernst & Young, see if they will refer you.  It doesn’t have to be someone you’ve known your whole life; it just has to be someone who knows enough about you to be willing to help you get your foot in the door.

Face time doesn’t hurt either.  If you can connect personally with someone in a local office, go ahead and do so; just don’t neglect the online application part of the process.

What do you look for in candidates?

Degree aside, we look for the following key competencies:

First, Academic success is key.  While academic performance (your GPA) is not an end all be all, your academic performance does show us how well you are doing your current “job” (being a student).

Communication skills are also critical.  The success of our entire business is based on our ability to communicate effectively with our clients and with each other, verbally and in writing.  We look for this from the get-go.  We even require writing samples from candidates for some of our positions; it’s that important!

Finally, Teamwork is essential.  Ernst & Young is known for being a very diverse and inclusive organization, so you must be able to work well with people with different skills, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, sexual preferences, etc.  We evaluate candidates thoroughly for this competency.

How does Ernst & Young create a welcoming culture for a diverse workforce?

First, through customization — We give our people options in methodology (how they get their work done), technology (what tools they use to get their work done) and work style (when and where they get their work done).  When you can give people options in customizing their work life, you are creating a welcoming environment.  When you say, “This is the way we do things around here,” you are not.

Second, through affinity groups — It is easier to succeed in and assimilate into a new environment when you can work with people with whom you share something in common.  And, we don’t just mean gender and ethnicity. We consider educational background, geography, alma mater, etc.  We offer a wide variety of informal and formal affinity groups, which we call Professional Networks, so our people can join them to help make transitions during their time with us easier.  Some really great mentoring relationships develop out of these Professional Networks.

Third, through listening and adapting — We offer people a lot of ways to express their opinions and suggestions regarding how we can improve what we do and how we do it.  For example, we have a People Advisory Forum comprised of staff from all levels of the organization and chaired by our Americas Managing Partner Steve Howe, our highest-ranking leader.  These folks get the direct ear of Steve and can share what they hear from their perspective.  This open culture and willingness to listen help us adapt our practices to meet the needs of our clients and our employees.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

Find something you are passionate about and be truly engaged in it—whether it is your community, your fraternity or sorority, your job, your internships, or something else. It’s not just about being involved, it’s about being deeply engaged and passionate about what you are doing, taking on a leadership role, and making a difference.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Prepare for the change that is coming.  If you wait until you start working to begin that adjustment process, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.  How are you going to change your overall time management approach overnight?  You’re not!  Trust me, a “full schedule” takes on a whole new meaning once you hit the workforce.

Make connections.  Don’t wait until you get into the workforce to build and cultivate professional relationships.  Networking is a skill you need to nurture, so start early and build relationships.  It will pay off.

Don’t make any decisions about your first job in a vacuum.  Where should you live? What should you wear? What are your commute options? What should you read to stay aware of current world and industry events?  Take the guesswork out of it.  Ask recruiters and future peers for their advice on your workplace.  They will be happy to help and will recognize your initiative in asking for their help.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Talking too much —There IS such a thing as a comfortable silence.

Talking too little — Don’t make the recruiter pull teeth to learn about you.

Bad mouthing other organizations or people — Focus on your positives not someone else’s negatives.

Know the company — Show your interest and motivation to work for that company, not just any company.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

Answering the “Why Ernst &Young?” question well — Particularly comparing us favorably to our direct competitors.

Staying positive — It’s easier said than done, I know, but don’t be nervous and stay positive.

Giving thorough but concise answers —Say enough to answer the question, and then stop talking.

Remember, be specific, be recent, and show what you accomplished and how you contributed.

Also, you should smile! Show you are happy to be there.  It’s okay to show some personality and emotion.

If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Life is a marathon, not a sprint!

Much of what you will do after you graduate will be nothing you would have predicted.  That’s okay.  Don’t be too specific about what you want too early on because you might miss out on something great.

Kick the tires on careers and companies.  Get past the happy talk and brochures and really find out for yourself whether or not a college, company or job is a good fit for you.

Get help.  Seek the advice of others, including parents, mentors and teachers. Make your own assessments, but don’t neglect the wisdom of others when making your decisions.


13 Comments

  1. Raoul says:

    A very interesting read, I’m not the best at networking sessions as I get quite nervous talking to recruiters. Reading this article definitely gives me a good insight on the other side as to what the expectations are.

  2. Steve Smith says:

    Accounting firms such as Ernst and Young closes the door on minorities ( i.e African Americans and Latinos). These firms claim that merit alone will get you in the door. However, the reality is that they discriminate towards people of color.

  3. Dan Black says:

    Steve – I’m sorry you feel that way, and I’m really curious where you get your information from. Last year, 36% of all our campus hires were ethnic minorities – THIRTY SIX! I don’t know any company (in any business) that is so committed to diversity and inclusion. By the way, that percentage is WELL above the % of minorities in the pool of accounting candidates. Please don’t take my word for it; check the AICPA Supply and Demand report (publicly available) and you will perhaps better understand what I’m talking about. We also hire a significant number of international students each year – something many companies will not do – which is further indication of our commitment to diversity. If you’d like to discuss in person, please InMail me on Linked In and I’d be happy to connect….

  4. Sophia G says:

    This article popped up on my Facebook newsfeed and I’m glad I ended up clicking on it! Great insight into the hiring process at Ernst & Young and gave some great advice about interviewing. As an undergraduate student, I will definitely take a look at the opportunities this company might have to offer me. Do you foresee any possibilities of considering Wake Forest University as a college campus that Ernst & Young might want to recruit at? Thanks for the article!

  5. ajmal says:

    Hello Dan, how can a fresh undergrad apply for positions in Ernst and Young. I dont have access to campus recruiting anymore because i already graduated. I did my majors in Economics from U of T and currently studying for SAP Business Suite Solution. Ernst and Young are great leader in the field of IT consulting. Please guide me in the right path to apply for position in your firm’s IT department.
    Thank you

  6. Alexandra Findleton says:

    How informative and helpful! This is definitely a great read considering that I just applied for a co-op position at Ernst & Young in Montreal. I am ready to do whatever it takes to join the Ernst & Young team. Thank you for the tips.

  7. Ty says:

    Found this through my facebook newsfeed as well. Interesting to read into what recruiters look for. Though disappointing over 95% of their hires are business majors. I know E&Y is very industry specific, but diversity should extend beyond ethnic minorities. I imagine those with business minors, for example, could perform successful roles (especially in advisory) with some training to bring them up to speed. They could also offer different perspective, or out of the box thinking that in some cases could lead to more innovations. Otherwise, strong tips to help interviewing in general. Important to get beyond the nervousness and smile and talk about how you are a ideal fit for the company.

  8. […] and, often, information systems.  I recently interviewed Dan Black with Ernst & Young about Getting Your Foot in the Door with Ernst & Young.  Read this article and you will learn a lot about E&Y and the world of multinational […]

  9. Zaneb says:

    Hi Dan,
    What are the chances of landing an interview if you graduated within two years but, unfortunately, E&Y wasn’t recruiting at your school? I also didn’t make any connections until recently with E&Y employees (one is a manager and the other is a senior associate); however, it’s already been two years since I graduated as well. Would I be able to apply for an audit associate position? The fact that I graduated early puts me in the same age range as the other incoming class of 2013-2014; I’m also going for my CPA exams. I don’t have sufficient “accounting work experience” to apply via experienced hire. What would you recommend?

  10. Dan Black says:

    Zaneb – great question…I’ve gotten that same inquiry a few times because of the tougher economy that we are all in. The short answer is that we typically reserve our entry-level positions for current students. You can look at it as a an attempt to be fair: when you were a student, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to compete against recent grads in addition to the other current students. So each year, we primarily focus on that one population. Now that you’ve graduated, the best thing to do is get those exams passed and try to secure some practical work experience to compliment it. That’s the best way to position yourself for a Senior role, which generally requires 2-3 years of experience…

    Dan

  11. mattberndt says:

    Reblogged this on The Campus Career Coach and commented:

    It is the fall recruiting season, so it’s time to be think about how to get your foot in the door at companies like Ernst & Young

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