We Actually Learned (and Debunked) a Couple Things After Reading This Interview with Ernst & Young’s Director of Campus Recruiting

Dan Black is Ernst & Young's Director of Campus Recruiting and yesterday, Forbes gave him the chance to say whatever he wanted about E&Y's campus recruiting efforts. Seriously, they should have just let him write a blog post. It's filled with platitudes about training, international opportunities, social media, and kowtowing to Gen Y types, etc. etc. All the droning you're used to hearing from accounting firms of all shapes and sizes. We won't touch on those really because, well, you've heard it all before, but surprisingly, we did learn a few things including that despite all grief we give accounting firms for their recruiting talking points it appears that, at least at E&Y, they're working! 

While we originally projected we would hire 5,200 students in the US this year, we’re on track to close our fiscal year on June 30, 2012, hiring nearly 6% more students for a total of around 5,500.

Smashing job, Dan-o. How'd you do it?

We spend a lot of time on college campuses meeting and getting to know students, and providing them insight into the firm’s culture and opportunities. In fact, nearly 90% of all Ernst & Young LLP campus hires come from the schools where we have a regular presence with a full campus team.

Wait! Catch that? In other words, if you've got aspirations of working at Ernst & Young – or any Big 4 firm for that matter – but you don't attend a school that is graced with the presence of the Black and Yellow, your odds of getting a job there are not so good. Obviously, this is problematic when you're an accounting major in your junior or senior year and transferring to a school where the Big 4 does make an appearace isn't really realistic. And who thinks about whether Big 4 firms visit their prospective campus before starting college anyway? Thankfully, Ernst & Young recruits pretty far and wide (we asked for an approximate number of campuses), but there are still plenty of accounting majors that won't get a chance to chat up some hot recruiter with all their impressive qualifications.

Once E&Y hands out the roses, how does the firm ensure their new superstars don't cut and run after they find out that it's not all 5-star restaurants and globetrotting? Easy! Give them options!

Studies show that the number one reason why there’s high Gen-Y turnover is insufficient career opportunities. What is your opinion on that and what should companies do?

The best way to know if people feel like they are getting the right opportunities is to ask them. Ernst & Young conducts a global people survey annually, and last year when we asked our people if they felt they had access to meaningful experiences that help them grow and develop, 80% responded favorably in the Americas—15 points higher than outside norms. 

The key here being "meaningful experiences." What are those exactly? Snake charmer lessons? Getting your pilot license? Taking some boomies on a camping trip in the desert? No. It might be more accurate to say, "an experience that is pretty similar to the one you just had, with similar bullshit that you just put up with, but the people are slightly different." Perhaps that's a wee bit too cynical, but when early on in a young capital market servant's career, it's pretty accurate. 

But the people! Oh, the people are so great! That's really what keeps people from leaving:  

Companies need to understand that Generation Y is loyal to great managers and leaders. Give them the opportunity to work with great people on challenging assignments—and they will stay.

Great! Except maybe it takes more than that. From an interview at CPA Trendlines:

Dustin Hostetler, a Lean Six Sigma consutant [sic] in heavy demand these days by CPA firms overhauling their workflows, foresees a “coming storm” in staff turnover. In short, he says, CPA firm employees are simply fed up with old, inefficient and ineffective ways of working. 

Annoyingly, I can't embed the video posted over at CPAT, but to elaborate a little bit – Hostetler says that when firms don't give employees, particularly those at the manager level, the tools they need to do their jobs, then they will leave. And it isn't just at the manager level, it is occurring at the senior and associate level as well. And for the most part, it will be the "great managers and leaders" that bolt, resulting in mostly average to downright-awful managers that remain at the firms. You can deduce from there that fewer staff will stay long-term. 

But it doesn't really matter; the numbers show that E&Y is getting a bigger harvest of recruits that even surpasses their expectations. They won't start sowing their seed differently any time soon. 

How 2012 Graduates Can Get Jobs and Advance Their Careers [Forbes]

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