spoke to EY South Africa’s Karen Mudaly on what it takes to find talented graduates to work in one of the biggest global firms!

Suitably positioned as Building a better working world, EY is proving that talent needs both room to grow and at the same time a solid working environment to achieve success.  

What are the challenges of selecting and employing a graduate fresh out of university or college?
The biggest challenges are high unrealistic expectations graduates set for themselves when entering the corporate world for the first time. Many of the concerns that linger at the back of a graduate's mind need to be addressed at the interviewing stage as this is an opportunity for them to really ask those difficult questions as opposed to guessing what is expected of them.

Are employers or companies looking always for book smart individuals or do you need to be an all rounder?  
Students demonstrating leadership abilities and have been exposed to extra curriculum activities on campus is a bonus. Having achieved high academic success are equally important, however if a student can demonstrate both or either of these it will definitely be to their credit
What are the misconceptions of graduates entering into workforce?
EY offers a broad view of diverse industries and allows graduates many experiences both within South Africa and across Africa. The misconceptions of graduates are the normal 8 to 5 job and salary expectations according to the skills acquired at varsity. Whilst this is an important criteria for overall workplace effectiveness, satisfaction and overall employee wellbeing, graduates are required to work over time and adopt an attitude of willingness and pro-activeness.
What can graduates do to improve them chances of being employed?
Graduates need to thoroughly research the Industry they are interested in. Produce effective cover letters (this includes spell-check!) and to assess their own skills against the requirements of the job at hand.
They need to assess what their strengths and weaknesses are, to know themselves well - and to gradually start adopting an open-mind to creativity. These skills will be assessed during the interview stages - practical examples should be provided as to how they have reached this stage.
How dependant should a graduate be on their university or college qualification?
A graduate will be assessed on whether they have successfully completed their degree /Post graduate studies at the end of the year. Most students that apply for example within the Advisory space of EY will have an opportunity to be exposed to the business in a form of an internship during mid-year. Further in terms of advisory, we consider graduates that have obtained a Bachelor of Commerce or a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology/Information Systems, Actuarial Science, Internal Auditing and a range of other qualifications i.e. Finance and Post-graduate Diploma in Management. Having obtained the correct qualification is something we take seriously as the Advisory's business is diverse. Creating a first impression for the employer as to what skills the graduate is currently capable of and how it could be developed further and applied to enhance career growth.
Becoming a qualified individual is hard enough, how much more challenging are careers becoming once individuals head into the working world?
Depending on the business requirements - consulting is an example, where there is a great demand for graduates to produce new innovative thinking and fresh added insight into the business.
EY encourages growth and development opportunities both personally and professionally. Development is solely dependant on the individual- being able to demonstrate initiative, produce new creative ideas, have the willingness to go the extra mile and do what is required of them. The challenges in the working world is that you are now fully responsible for yourself both in action and choices that you make on a daily basis.
It requires experience as well as staying open-minded to all new approaches.