Forget the green eyeshades; Ernst & Young is not your dad's accounting firm.
For instance, E&Y has its own channel on Pandora, a popular Internet radio site -- its summer interns choose the songs -- one of many reasons why it is seeing increased interest on college campuses.
Off-campus, more seasoned job seekers should note that the financial crisis has brought the firm, one of accounting's "Big Four", a lot of restructuring work and demand for advice, in addition to traditional tax and assurance accounts.
Maureen Kelleher, director of experienced recruiting in the Americas, sat down with me to discuss poaching talent from consultancies, the resurgence of finance and the best way to impress her hiring managers.
Kyle Stock: Earlier this year, the company said that it would aim to hire 2,400 senior-level folks and 5,000 students, are those still the targets?
Maureen Kelleher: They are always changing and those numbers represent the U.S. and Canadian markets together. I think the student numbers are close to accurate; we're a little lower than that on the more experienced hires. With respect to experienced recruiting, going out to bring in assurance professionals -- that definitely has dropped. It doesn't mean we don't have a lot of assurance work, it's just that we've retained a lot of very good people.
KS: Any particular sectors where things are picking up?
MK: Clearly, our foundational business is our assurance function -- the accounting. But more and more clients need a lot of very sophisticated advice. As we work with our clients, they are increasingly asking us for more services to manage their risk. And performance improvement is a very big thing. We go into the major consulting firms, looking for people who have had careers in this to join our team.
Financial services as an industry is one of the ones we're seeing come back first. Not surprisingly, New York is a focus.
We're also seeing a fair bit of restructuring work, simply because of what's been happening in the economy.
KS: Are there any particular parts of the world where Ernst & Young is growing faster than others?
MK: Where the economy is coming back, we're there, too. New York for sure in financial services. Charlotte, NC, is a big one. One of the other ones, not surprisingly is the government sector -- Washington, D.C. With the new administration we definitely had a significant call on us to come in and consult for government organizations. They are looking for very similar financial advice and counsel as other clients are. Around the world, in the Far East and certainly Europe there is lots of activity.
KS: What is the number one thing a job seeker can do to increase his or her chances when applying for a job at your firm?
MK: Of course this is a business that requires people that are very smart and professional, but also very up-to-date on what they will be working on. We always look at whether a candidate has done their homework on us. Do they know what businesses we are in? Are they asking good questions? Do they give us the confidence that they are serious about being a part of this body of knowledge that we offer?
KS: If you're already working at Ernst & Young, what can you do to help advance your career?
MK: It's about being a team player -- to take leadership responsibility but to not be a maverick. This is a group effort and we are an extremely inclusive culture in terms of having a lot of diversity of thought. As they progress through the firm and the various accounts they are put on, we look at the way that they proceed in terms of being thoughtful and considerate and the way they bring people's thoughts to the fore. It enhances the solution for the client, because we really are putting our best brains on the job.
KS: How does Ernst & Young find talent?
MK: We have an internal recruiting organization. There are a number of recruiters in the organization and each of them has lots of different ways of identifying talent. We also have a large and well-thought out employee referral program and a very well-documented and rich alumni group, to whom we reach out to.
Of course, we use the social networking tools -- a variety of forums both professional and otherwise.
We also do use search firms from time to time to identify talent, but typically at the executive level.
KS: Do you hire much from the rest of the Big Four accounting firms?
MK: We all hire from each other and every year is different in that regard. Is that the lion share of our hiring? No. A lot of our people are coming from premiere consulting firms, not our competitors. All four firms have different things to offer, but I wouldn't say by any stretch that it's any more or any less than in the past.
KS: Has the company changed its compensation policies at all in recent months?
MK: We're staying the course, as it were. We have extremely competitive salaries. We reward for performance. Granted, our firm is not immune to the economy, so the proportion of all that is probably not as great as it has been in the past.
KS: Have you had layoffs as a result of the financial crisis?
MK: We've been watching our costs, and that's about as much as I'll say about that.
KS: What is the number one piece of advice you would give to a job seeker in accounting?
MK: It's a good time, but there's a lot of change. Any degree that someone can demonstrate their creativity and their flexibility, I would recommend. Adapting to change, being creative with what you have and being really flexible in the way that you see a situation. Everything is not gloom and doom, as you see on the news, but rather how you can frame something as an opportunity?
KS: If you had to say, would you characterize Ernst & Young as Blackberry or an iPhone?
MK: My 14-year-old daughter will get me on this. I think it's an iPhone, but I don't know why I said that. We all have Blackberries, but iPhones seem more progressive.
KS: Richard Branson or Jack Welch?
MK: Richard Branson definitely pops to mind first, because he was so innovative in his creation of Virgin. But Jack Welch did it in a more traditional way over a longer period of time, so I think we're kind right in the middle -- a hybrid.
KS: Anything else to add?
MK: I would just say that we've been named on a lot of lists of great places to work. We're always honored, but I've got to say it's all true.
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