Graduate Recruitment at Ernst & Young South Africa!

What does it take to work at one of the biggest Accountancy Firms in the World? We spoke to Carin Stern (Ernst & Young, South Africa) to find out more about cracking the nod for a graduate position at Ernst & Young!
What are the various graduate opportunities that Ernst & Young offers, is there a full focus on the accountancy sector?
Our main focus is on students studying BCom accounting who intend on studying their Honours in Accounts in order to pursue the CA career option. They would then serve 3 years of articles with EY. Occasionally we do look for internal audit students – studying a degree and honours in internal audit and the same goes for IT students studying an IT degree and honours.  

At what stage of study can someone apply for a graduate position at Ernst & Young?
Accounting students can start applying from grade 12 and then obviously we recruit at a university level- from 1st year – to Honours level. We would suggest that students do not leave it too late to apply to the Firm of their choice. Many Firms like ourselves only recruit a specific number of students and once we have reached our desired allocation of numbers- we stop recruiting.
We have a 2 day work experience programme (WEP) for our Grade 12 applicants and a 4 day business experience programme (BEP) for our university students. The programme is designed to give students and insight into our culture and the profession.  Once again these programmes are strictly for accounting students on CA stream
What is the sort of individual that Ernst & Young looks for?
We look for an all rounder – somebody who is able to demonstrate their group and leadership abilities. Sure academics are important but we tend to focus more on the individual that will fit into our culture and who will benefit from being in the EY environment where they will be able to achieve their potential. It is important that the student participates in some sort of extracurricular activities – sport, community work etc.
What are the processes to being selected into the Ernst & Young Grad program?
Firstly the student needs to be on CA stream and their marks need to be consistent. If these criteria are met, the student is then invited to come meet with us to talk about what they are looking for and if we are the Firm that can help them. If the meeting is a successful one, we would invite them to our Business Experience Programme to enable them to gain a better understanding of our culture and the profession. After the programme a decision is made. Alternatively if the student is unable to attend BEP, they might be required to meet with another EY representative. Students that are applying for a bursary are required to have an interview with a partner of the Firm.
After selection how long does the program last and what are the different phases that individuals are put through?
The student would be required to serve 3 years of articles with EY. This is the SAICA requirement. During the course of their articles they will undergo various training and will be provided with all necessary technical updates. Trainees will go thru the 3 years where they will learn along the way and ideally be promoted – the process of promotion is very specific. During the 3 years the trainee will write two board exams – hopefully at the end of their 3 years they would have successfully completed their exams and achieved their core hours as stipulated by SAICA and qualify as a CA(SA).
Once you leave the graduate program are you obliged to stay at Ernst & Young?
Once the student completes their 3 year training contract and they are successfully signed off by the Firm and SAICA – their contract is complete. They can apply to stay on within the Firm as an Assistant Manager – their options are not limited to Audit – there are generally opportunities in other areas of the business ie Tax, Fraud and Investigation Dispute Services, Corporate Finance etc.
Do you find that individuals who can be future CEO’s or MD’s enter grad programs and are then put forward as future leaders of the company?
Everybody has the potential to be successful-it just depends how badly they want it or just how big their dream is.
Having a solid foundation to start your working career is so important, does Ernst & Young provide that push that is needed for the individuals new to the working world?
Yes- the training, counselling and development that each individual receives whilst serving articles at EY definitely prepares and equips the trainee for their future.  Trainees are given a great opportunity to network . We have an open plan office and the primary reason for this is to encourage communication and networking between trainees, managers and partners. Everyone is approachable and willing to help each other.
Why Ernst & Young?
Our culture and our people make EY a very special place to be. From a trainee perspective –the variety of clients and the training and exposure that they receive is of a very high standard. Articles are only for 3 years but one may as well choose a place that they feel comfortable in, where they identify with the culture and like the people around them .
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