A new way to attract accounting talent? E&Y might be onto something big

With tax season in full swing, Big Four firm Ernst & Young is already checking out the list of hiring possibilities among accounting students and soon-to-be grads. This year, the firm is taking an unconventional approach to reaching the top talent. That is, it is meeting the students where they "live," online.

E&Y's Facebook page features a short six-question quiz which you can receive on your mobile phone. Anyone can take the quiz, but to win a prize, you have to meet the eligibility requirements. Every Monday, from February 7 to April 4, the questions change. Participants are invited to take all the quizzes and can retry any quiz as many times as they want, with only their best ranking from each week recorded. According to America's Leader for Branding and Communication for Recruiting at E&Y Deborah Compagner, when the quiz is all over, the top three scorers will each win an iPad. The top scores are determined by the highest number of correct answers combined with the best times.

What does this mean?
If you're looking for a job, keep in mind the fact that your public persona is just that, public. Employers are all over the Internet, using the same tools for learning about their employees and potential employees that you use for sharing your life experiences with your friends. This doesn't mean you should stop using Internet tools to communicate. Just the opposite. You should take advantage of Internet tools to project the kind of image you want your employer, or potential future employer, to see. Take a look at the guide, "Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age," for tips on avoiding online gaffes.

What is E&Y hoping to achieve with the quiz?

The firm wants a meaningful outreach to the next generation of accountants, using a tool with which students are comfortable. The quiz is part of a social media connection to those seeking careers in accounting in the near future as well as to those who are looking for career direction. E&Y wants to drive home its brand as a place where talented individuals want to work. Dan Black, America's director of campus recruiting for E&Y, said "We want to find the best and brightest, for internships and for full time jobs." Black said his firm has been on Facebook for nearly five years, so this campaign is more than just a mobile app. "It adds to our accessibility and draws attention to our site."

Compagner told AccountingWEB, "We want to drive awareness. You'd be surprised with respect to what we offer new hires, like our culture. The quiz shows we are forward thinking, entrepreneurial, inclusive." She added that E&Y hasn't changed everything. The client care, the independence, and the quality of work at E&Y are still foremost. But the firm wants to make it known that it is on the cutting edge with technology... it is "newer, faster, more efficient." E&Y offers things that are attractive to the top talent, and the E&Y quiz is one way to reach a different segment of the population.

Now in its third week of this campaign, Compagner said the response to the quiz has been promising. "We've gone through recruiting offices on campus to promote this and the results have been great." As noted above, when the contest is over, three winners will be given iPads. Compagner expects to have at least 200 or more entrants by then.

The overall outreach

The quiz is just one component of the firm's effort to brand itself as a tech-savvy, engaged employer-of-choice. E&Y reaches out to students on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as doing a lot internally to stay connected with current and potential employees. Accountants who work for E&Y enjoy the latest technology which, whenever possible, is used to incorporate flexibility into the job for those who travel to client offices or for those who need to work temporarily from home.

This summer, said Black, E&Y is offering a global internship for the first time. That means a student can work for a couple of weeks in one of E&Y's domestic offices, then spend four weeks abroad in a global location. "We want to expose our top candidates to everything E&Y has to offer," he added.

Also this summer, Black said E&Y is sponsoring its first ever Emerging Leaders Summit in Washington DC. "Two hundred and fifty of the best and brightest early identified candidates will be there to get a look at E&Y. They will be welcomed by the firm's CEO... we are very excited about that."

Sounds great, but... what happened to the formal hiring process?

Black assured AccountingWEB that the traditional path to getting hired at E&Y has not been abandoned. Recruiters still meet people, scour resumes, and hold office interviews. Students can still go to their campus recruiting representatives and find information about working for E&Y. But the firm is shooting now for a coordinating element of casual. For example, the E&Y Web site is more casual in design and approach.

"This is just another way for people to meet us and learn about us, what we do," said Black. "The world is a different place and this generation can sometimes bear the brunt of it. Older accountants say, 'It wasn't this way when I was in school.' But the truth is, this is all these students have ever known." Sticking to the old way just because it's the way things have always been done is not good, explained Black. "It's folly to think you can reach the best and brightest the old-fashioned way. We understand life is different and at E&Y... we want to change with the times."

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