'Graduates are assessed from the moment they walk through the doors.' What to expect at EY assessment centres

Decisions aren't made on the basis of one exercise above others

EY says that graduates are assessed from the moment they walk through the doors at an assessment centre up until the moment they leave. EY does not base its decision on the outcome of one exercise alone. Each part of the assessment centre is equally important.

Structure of an EY assessment centre

Upon arrival you may be introduced to other candidates via an ice-breaker and might attend a brief presentation on EY; these are subject to division and timings. The order of the tasks also varies depending upon the number of attendees, the division applied to and the availability of senior staff. A broad outline of the EY graduate or intern assessment centre is below.

EY case study/reporting task:

One of the initial tasks is likely to be a form of reporting: you will be provided with a large amount of information to condense into a report, or something similar. It is important to understand what EY as a company, and your chosen division, can offer the client as this will form a large part of your case study.

You may also be asked to prepare and make a phone call to a work colleague. This will put your note-making from the task to the test, as it will be these notes that form the basis of your phone call. You will need to break down your recommendations and communicate them to your colleague, often an intern (played by an assessor). This will assess the strength called ‘explainer’.

Around an hour is spent on this task.

EY group exercise:

In many cases you will have received some background information to prepare you for this stage before attending the assessment centre. Alternatively, the exercise will be based upon the case-study/report task from the previous task. The task is likely to focus on EY's services, using a mock company facing difficulties as an example case.

EY says that the ideal candidate will be one who: puts their points forward clearly; listens to and builds upon the ideas of others; helps the group reach its goals; is prepared to change their mind; and, above all, works as part of the team. There will probably be somewhere between six and ten candidates for the group exercises in total – though if there are more than six it’s likely that you will be broken into two groups for this exercise. Normally, these are streamlined according to division, but in assessment centres toward the end of the recruitment period, when a smaller number of places will be available, you may find yourself in a mixed bunch.

Half an hour, or perhaps just a little more, is spent on the group discussion.

EY psychometric tests:

These tests should come as no surprise. Depending upon the division applied to, you will undergo a selection of the verbal reasoning and mathematical tests you completed immediately after sending in your online form. In most cases, this is to ensure consistency of results and to ensure that no graduate or intern applying to EY has cheated in earlier stages. These tests are therefore more likely to be written, rather than conducted online.

You may also be asked to complete a short ‘strengths’ test. This will be based upon the Realise2 Lite tool that EY now uses for its strengths-based assessment procedures. This will not be an assessed part of the day, and is used only to gauge a better picture of where an applicant’s natural abilities lie.


Lunch is another opportunity for you to promote yourself. You will be joined by senior members of staff and, as such, this is a prime time to ask your questions and demonstrate your enthusiasm. Listen to the questions that others ask and be prepared to further the discussions on any topics that arise.

EY presentation/role play:

You will be asked to prepare a brief presentation on the case-study and group task; you may be asked to do this either on your own or with another candidate. This will be presented to a senior manager or partner: many tasks in every division will involve breaking down all the content you have received into smaller, relevant and important points that senior management must be aware of.

A role-play may sometimes be used instead of a presentation. Similar in focus, you and your partner will have to run through the salient points in your analysis, but perhaps in a more fluid style than a presentation. Be aware that your assessors may throw in a new piece of information part way through.

The presentation/role play is usually a very swift-moving task: your preparation time is unlikely to be more than 15 minutes, and your presentation/role-play will need to be no more than 10.

EY partner interview:

A partner or senior management interview will almost certainly be involved at some point. These are normally scheduled according to the availability of the interviewer, meaning that on some occasions these interviews are held on a separate day to the assessment centre. For the most part, it appears that these interviews are typically held at either the beginning or the end of the day, so as not to break up the main content of the assessment centre.

This interview could last anywhere between half an hour and an hour. This is quite a lot to take on board at the end of the day, but it’s designed to be a further test of your strength: if you’re exhausted then it may be an indication that you have not been playing to your strengths throughout the day.

EY's Strengths Spotters

We’ve said a lot about EY's particular approach to recruitment: it’s based around a personnel theory called ‘Strengths’.

It’s not surprising, then, that the firm refers to its assessors as ‘Strengths Spotters’; this might sound a bit sinister, but it just means that recruiters are looking out for your natural abilities. EY's theory is that when people play to their strengths they exhibit greater energy levels, so the ‘Strengths Spotters’ are looking for subtle indicators of this. Note the word subtle: there’s not much use in faking enthusiasm. Besides, if you have to fake it, it’s probably not the right job for you. Be yourself.

Take heart, shy people

Applicants should take heart: EY claims that graduates can get through its assessment centres even if they score zero for certain strengths. For example, a naturally shy applicant can show strengths in other areas: you don’t have to excel at everything, but you do have to excel at something.

General notes about the centres

  • Often, material is provided before the assessment day in order to allow applicants to prepare for the tasks.
  • The assessment centre will include another series of psychometric tests, possibly including an in-tray exercise.

Recruiter view

We aim to have a very natural feel. In the assessment centre there are Strength Spotters who will actually take part in the assessment with you. They will contribute to the exercise and move it along. They are also looking for authentic behaviours – if a candidate is worn out or their mood has dropped during the day, it’s generally a good indication that they haven’t been playing to their strengths.

Steve Isherwood, head of graduate recruitment, UK & Ireland, EY

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