Social mobility remains an issue in the UK, with recent research finding that 70% of the elite companies in professional services are selecting their candidates from a pool of just 4% - 7% of the population. In a move to boost the opportunities at student and graduate level, EY has decided to revamp its admission policy. After research showed that there was no strong correlation between academic achievement and success at the firm, a suite of online ‘strengths' assessments and numerical tests will replace the traditional hard entry academic requirements.
EY is set to change the way it allows candidates to qualify for admission into its entry level positions. Like most of the big professional services firms, entry into their ranks is tightly controlled and the process is rigorous. The current system requires students to have a minimum of 300 UCAS points (equivalent to three Bs) and a 2:1 degree classification to make an application.
In a move to open up the firm to entry from a wider range of potential candidates that, for one reason or another, would be well suited but fell through the cracks, EY has decided to instead allow the present day capabilities of candidates speak. For the applicants of 2016, a new suite of online strengths assessments and numerical tests will be applied to assess the potential of candidates.
The decision to move to a present day form of assessment comes from 18 months of research carried out on behest of the firm by talent management firm Capp – which showed that EY’s strength based approach, run as an experiment in the 2008 intake season, is a reliable indicator of a candidate's potential to succeed in the role. According to Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY UK&I, the new recruitment system provides a way for the firm to create opportunities for talented individuals – from a wide range of backgrounds and life stories – to join its ranks and have access to its profession. "Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door," she said.
While EY is making the right moves to alleviate barriers holding back capable students from professional careers within accounting and consulting, the move has been partly prompted by the government's social mobility watchdog which accused the profession services of “systematically excluding people with working class backgrounds from top jobs with a ‘poshness test’.” The research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that the majority of jobs (70%) in the elite accounting, legal and financial services firms went to those that had attended the most prestigious and selective schools in the country, a group that made up between just 4% - 7% of the population as a whole.
"Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken,” says Stilwell.
The move then, may be seen as part of EY’s bid to improve social mobility within the professional services, and further aims to provide candidates from all backgrounds with online resources which gives the kinds of information and skills needed to make entry into its graduate roles easier. The online resource provides guidance along four core skills, including leadership; commerciality; networking and influence – which were found to be the leading requirements to success within its ranks.