Hey guys! First off, obligatory massive thanks to posters on this forum, thanks to whom I have received an offer from EY for their 2018 assurance graduate scheme!
Lately there have been a lot of shady posters offering unspecified services to help people through the process, most of which seem to involve paying money for materials of an unknown quality. So I thought I’d share my EY experience here, specifically with the online tests, telephone interview, assessment centre, and final partner interview, with a view to helping out anyone who’s looking for guidance. Any other questions you may have, feel free to message me – I’m not going to ask for any money!
The EY online tests were some of the easier and more straightforward Big 4 application tests I have taken. They are made by Capp Assessments. As with any of the other Big 4 tests, you need to practice. I personally used Assessmentday to prepare, though there are other providers like graduatemonkey. For something like 35 quid you get access to literally hundreds of practice tests: numerical, verbal, inductive, pretty much anything that any employer will test you on. Best advice for the tests is to practice repeatedly several times a day for a few days before the tests. This will not only teach you what to expect, but also give you confidence going into the real thing. Made a huge difference for me.
EY’s phone interview is “strength-based”, which means you should expect questions about specific times you used a particular competency or strength. They want you to be animated and enthusiastic. It sounds silly, but try smiling when you’re on the phone to them. The interviewer won’t see it, but they will hear it. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the qualities EY is looking for, and find a way to weave them into your responses to interview questions. I was asked questions like:
- What achievement are you most proud of, and why?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- When would your friends and family say you are at your happiest?
- Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you.
- Describe a situation in which you feel most like ‘yourself’.
- How do you work with someone with whom you have a challenging relationship?
- Do you prefer to start tasks or finish them?
All told, my interview lasted about 35 minutes, and the lady who interviewed me was really lovely and put me at ease. They want you to succeed, so be confident, don’t be arrogant, and talk about what makes you you.
I realise this is the step that a lot of people are most interested in, so here’s a detailed description of the day from start to finish, which I have previously sent to posters who asked about it:
After being led into a quite well-appointed conference room and doing some brief introductions, the six candidates were put in pairs to discuss the “pre-work” we’d been given, which in our case was to research the ways in which technological innovation will change the company and the assurance service line. I, and everyone else at the assessment centre, had brought notes. I probably had about three or four written pages worth – probably best not to bring any more than that because you don’t want to waste time rifling through your long and complex notes when really you should be talking and listening. For the first ten minutes of the exercise, each pair discussed a set of questions the assessor gave us in relation to our research, and then the assessor, playing the role of EY’s Head of Change, quizzed us on our responses to the questions for about 15-20 minutes. Nothing to worry about if you’ve done the pre-work – I mainly used EY’s website and ICAEW Economica as sources and they were both quite helpful. When you’re discussing with your partner and then relating the discussion back to the assessor (who, by the way, has just watched your previous conversation with your partner), try to participate on an equal footing with your partner, which is to say don’t drown them out. My opinion is that the assessor is really looking for your ability to behave professionally and amicably with someone you’ve never met in a pressured situation. Keep your cool, discuss your research with confidence, and facilitate the other person’s contributions, and you’ll be golden.
The second exercise was a group exercise. All the candidates reentered the conference room and we were asked to sort through about 50 cards as a group, each card with a different trait written on it. We first had to choose the top ten traits we thought necessary to succeed at EY and discard the remaining cards. We were then given eight large paper cards with a different business scenario on each, and we had to pair each of these scenarios with one of the ten trait cards we had selected, jointly agreeing on each pairing. And finally, we were asked to choose from those eight traits the five top traits necessary to succeed at EY, and to put together a five-minute group presentation discussing each trait and why it was essential for success at EY. The whole exercise lasted a total of about 40 minutes, which is to say it was quite time-pressured, and in our case, we didn’t actually allow ourselves enough time to run through the presentation before ultimately delivering it – though I think in our case it turned out alright.
The final task was the individual written exercise. We were each given a computer with a Word document open. The task basically consisted of some multiple choice maths questions relating to attached charts, graphs, and other data, and we were also asked to generate an email based on the information. This exercise only lasted 20 minutes – again, very time-pressured. My advice would be to solve the math questions first, and then focus on the email. In the case of the document provided at my AC, there were a couple math questions, followed by the email assignment, followed by another few multiple choice questions, so it’s not hard to imagine that some candidates might lose track of time on the email assignment and not realise there are still outstanding math questions to complete.
Finally, we gathered for lunch and some current associates at the office came in for an informal chat with us. My impression was that the whole day was really well-organised, and that the people in the office – assessors and associates alike – were really lovely and focused on getting us in a mindset where we could perform our best. I came out of the AC really excited about the possibility of working at EY!
I guess my best advice for the AC would be to spend at least two or three evenings preparing the pre-work. If your AC is anything like mine, every single other candidate is going to arrive very well-prepared, and if you aren’t as prepared, it’s going to show. Maybe also do a few practice numerical and verbal reasoning tests as this will come in handy for the written exercise (although there are no actual repeats of the straight psychometric tests we had to complete just after initial application).
If you’ve gotten this far, you should relax: I’ve heard that this step is mainly for the partner in your business area and office location to ensure that he or she wants you on their team. So don’t be arrogant, don’t be a d*ckhead, don’t waffle, and don’t worry – at this stage, an offer is yours to lose.
My interview lasted a little over an hour, and the partner was keen to put me at ease from the moment I arrived. The partner first asked me to introduce myself, so I talked briefly about my studies, my extracurricular activities, and a couple of my favorite hobbies. I also tried to smile as much as possible – I wanted the partner to know how excited and honoured I was to be given this opportunity. It’s worth bearing in mind that partners are extremely expensive; you don’t take them out of their revenue-generating work for an hour just willy-nilly. So I wanted to make clear I was grateful and understood the significance of the meeting. Demeanor matters.
In advance of the interview, you will be sent pre-work to complete. In my case, this was to prepare a five-minute presentation on a story in the news that affects EY and your chosen service line. The partner warns you that they will cut you off if you exceed five minutes – so don’t. That wouldn’t be the nicest way to start your hour-long interview. I used the FT to find my story, though there are plenty of other places you could look. Once you’ve found your story, prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. DO NOT read your presentation from a paper. I brought mine on a paper just for confidence’s sake in case I lost my place, and the partner had no problem with that. But I was not reading from the sheet.
Afterwards, the partner will give you feedback on the story and the presentation, and will ask some probing questions about why you chose it. And after that, he or she will ask you about your background, about how you interact with others, and about why you have chosen your service line. Be prepared to answer these kinds of questions.
Some questions I remember in particular were:
- How do you feel when someone on your team isn’t pulling their weight?
(The correct answer is something to the effect of “frustrated, but sometimes you’ve just got to get on with it and accept that this sort of thing happens”)
- What are your views on Brexit?
(Make sure to temper your answer with “this is just my personal opinion, but…” I think a good answer, regardless about how you personally feel about Brexit, is to say that it’s happening, there’s nothing we can do about it, and EY’s clients will now need to succeed in Brexit Britain, so they look to us for solutions – not complaints.)
- What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself? … and then: give me one situation for each of those adjectives.
Be honest on this one: it would be awful to have to make up a story for an adjective that didn’t actually describe you very well. Also, be concise: remember that you’re being asked to relate three stories back to back. If you’re not concise, you’ll find yourself blabbering for five minutes or more. Not a good look.
Two days after the interview, I received a call offering me the job and giving me feedback on my performance in the final interview. You have 14 days to respond to the offer from the moment you receive WRITTEN CONFIRMATION. It was a fantastic feeling: complete elation. If you’re fortunate enough to reach this stage, be gracious and say thank you – EY has invested a lot of time in you, just as you have in them.
All in all, my experience over the course of the application was very positive. EY recruitment representatives were responsive, helpful, and polite throughout, and during the AC in particular, the staff at the office really went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. 10/10 would apply again.