This Student Conference Is Part of a Big Four Firm's Diverse Recruitment Strategy - Black Enterprise

This Student Conference Is Part of a Big Four Firm’s Diverse Recruitment Strategy

(Image: iStock/Steve Debenport)

Last week I braved whiteout conditions in New York to attend part of “Discover EY,” a three-day conference in its 12th year that exposes diverse students to opportunities in the professional services industry.

Strategies for Diverse Recruitment

Ken Bouyer, EY Americas director of Inclusiveness Recruiting, told me that the definition of diversity at EY is broad.

“We look at gender, ethnicity, veterans, the disabled, and LGBT, and take a holistic approach.”

Unlike other firms that may dismiss college freshmen—scroll down to read more—EY engages in pre-identification efforts at the high school and even middle school levels to address the diverse pipeline issue in accounting, Bouyer told me.

“We’ve brought 180 students from 88 campuses, all expenses paid, to demonstrate the opportunities at EY.”

Bouyer ought to know—this is his 27th year at the professional services firm. “We are intentional about investments in diversity and inclusion,” he says, “and our investments are unwavering. It’s about exposure and awareness.

“We’re looking for future-focused skills, not just accounting—like data analysis, artificial intelligence, cyber and tech skills. The firm has evolved.”

An Evolving Industry

Indeed, “evolving” was a kind of theme of the conference that day.

As I listened to Global Chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger’s one-on-one presentation, he told the students that the work world is changing, and described EY in no uncertain terms: “The work is hard, high-stakes, and demanding.”

The students seemed to relish the challenge. Many asked pointed questions during the Q&A session, including what Weinberger had learned from his failures.

Dan Black, EY’s Global Recruiting leader, adapted this quote to impress on the students how the world is evolving: “We are preparing professionals for jobs that don’t yet exist… using technologies that haven’t yet been invented… to solve problems we haven’t yet identified.”

But Black said disruption means opportunity and demands bigger and broader inclusion. He also emphasized that today’s students need to develop mindsets as well as skillsets, and identified three that students should cultivate:

  • Innovation
  • Analytics
  • Global

The global mindset, Black stressed, needs to comprise intellectual, psychological, and social capital. He advised the students to make friends with failure, find their purpose, and embrace optimism.

EY Embraces a Freshman

Black may have been thinking of a student like Prince Adablah, a Ghanaian-American from New Jersey and sophomore at Boston College, a Jesuit school.

Adablah has already had a summer internship at EY. The finance major, previously a student at Fordham University, attended a career fair on campus and encountered many companies—but most showed little interest since he was a freshman. EY, however, was thrilled with Adablah’s initiative and drive.

(Image: Prince Adablah interned at EY as a rising sophomore.)

“I was prepared with questions, and EY was excited to talk to me. They weren’t at all put off by my being a freshman.”

Adablah says he followed up with the representatives he spoke with and was brought in for an interview. He didn’t realize at the time that this was part of the process for an internship, but he arrived prepared and early.

A behavioral interview was part of the process.

“We were given a case study to show how you think under pressure—to see if you would give up or panic. They want to see if you’re organized and determined and can work with others.”

Adablah followed up with thank you notes and last summer worked a regular eight-hour day, 40-hour week. Out of about 70 interns, only two were rising sophomores.

“I wasn’t given any busywork,” Adablah says. “I attended meetings and networked with other people. Everyone was very welcoming.

“The person I reported to clarified concepts for me and showed me how to improve my reports. I thought I was proficient in PowerPoint and Excel, but she showed me a few things.”

Adablah is now a kind of EY ambassador at Boston and will be returning to intern this summer.

To learn more about EY, visit its website.