'You don't have to be good at everything – but you must excel at something.' The graduate qualifications EY expects

You don't have to be good at everything – but you must excel at something.

Graduate strengths, not competencies

Unlike most graduate employers, EY’s application process (which you can begin by clicking on the 'Apply online' button) focuses on ‘strengths' rather than on skills and competencies. The latter are what you can do (eg ‘I can motivate myself’ or ‘I can lead this team’), whereas strengths are those things you’re naturally good at.

The strengths-based approach is used to see what makes a graduate tick. The principal behind it is that if a graduate enjoys what they are doing, then they will naturally work harder to achieve their goals – in other words, they’re trying to figure out whether you’re suited to the job.

What strengths are EY looking for?

The 16 strengths identified by EY do not all have to be met during the process. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that certain strengths are consistently referred to, either via EY’s graduate website or other marketing materials. These are contained in the list below, with further explanation:

  • Action – is proactive, taking decisive action at the earliest opportunity.
  • Adherence – confident with and preferring to work within specific guidelines.
  • Analysis – enjoys research and likes to delve deeper into things in order to understand them thoroughly.
  • Catalyst – inspires and motivates others, is proactive.
  • Empathetic connection – engages with others by understanding what they are feeling and looking at things from their perspective. If you’re conducting a review of a struggling business as its auditor, for example, then you’ll need to appreciate the levels of stress its employees must be under.
  • Enabler – similar to being a catalyst, this is more about environment and providing the conditions and support for others to progress.
  • Explainer – able to break things down for others, makes the complex seem simpler – as an actuary at EY, for example, you’ll need to break down quantitative and statistical analysis for clients who may not understand those methods.
  • Growth – enjoys searching for and attempting various means of self-development.
  • Incubator – reflects deeply on thoughts over an extended period of time.
  • Persistence – sticks to tasks no matter how complicated or frustrating, doesn’t get disheartened.
  • Personal responsibility – takes charge of their own projects and development, accepts accountability for decisions.
  • Rapport-builder – able to engage in conversation with others and build relationships.
  • Resolver – enjoys problems, in whatever form, and the processes involved in reaching their solutions. If you’re assisting a client with their tax responsibilities, you’ll have to work out what tax rates they would qualify for by streamlining their processes in various ways.
  • Self-awareness – an understanding of yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and emotional reactions to situations.
  • Taking pride in your work – ensures that work is of a high quality at the first time of asking.
  • Time optimiser – take whatever time you have available and put it to the best use – if you’re working in transactions, for example, your clients will want businesses bought and sold to their timetable, not yours.
  • Work ethic – capable of and enjoys working harder and longer than others.

This list is not exhaustive. Referring to any of these strengths in your graduate interview should not be engineered – eg don’t think that because ‘incubator’ has been mentioned above that you have to use that word in your EY graduate interview. Don’t rely on buzzwords: focus on the content of your answer.

Broader requirements from EY

  • Integrity – specifically referred to as engaging with clients and colleagues and ‘doing the right thing’.
  • Respect – as it relates to the diversity of the company and its clients.
  • Good team-working – not simply with your direct colleagues, but also with various clients and third parties.
  • Energy and enthusiasm – evidenced not just with a smile and knowledge of current company news, but by showing an interest in future personal development.
  • Courage to lead – graduate schemes are essentially routes into managerial roles. You will have to be able to show an ability to take command of situations, without being unnecessarily domineering.

In the graduate and intern application processes these strengths are all equally weighted – in other words, there is no one particular strength more sought-after than another.

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