Ernst & Young plans to recruit approximately 6.500 experienced professionals in the U.S. in its 2015 fiscal year, which started on July 1, 2014, along with nearly 9,000 students, for a total of 15,500 anticipated recruits in the U.S.

The news comes on the same day that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 248,000 in September, bringing the unemployment rate down two-tenths of a point to 5.9 percent. Professional and business services added 81,000 jobs in September, according to the BLS, compared with an average gain of 56,000 per month over the prior 12 months. Those included 3,500 in accounting and bookkeeping services.

EY’s hires in the coming fiscal year are expected to help augment those job gains. The firm noted that the 6,500 positions it plans to hire this fiscal year represent an increase of nearly 50 percent from two years ago.

“This is particularly significant because the positions rank above entry level, they’re full-time jobs, and they’re well-paying jobs,” said Larry Nash, EY’s director of experienced and executive recruiting, in an interview with Accounting Today. “If you combine the 6,500 with our plan to recruit 9,000 students, which are both full-time hires and interns, in the U.S., that will be 15,500 hires at Ernst & Young, which is a pretty big number.”

EY’s hiring can be attributed to strong demand for professional and business services as the economy picks up steam.

“The demand for our services and our success in the market is driving the need to bring in more talented people,” said Nash. “In fiscal year ’13, our revenues grew almost 10 and a half percent in the Americas, where the U.S. is the largest country in that area. This past fiscal year, our revenues in the Americas grew a little over 9 percent, so we had almost 20 percent revenue growth the past two years, which is pretty substantial. We’re seeing high demand for our services, and high demand for our people. Our clients are looking for help in addressing a number of their biggest challenges. Our company, just like all the professional services firms, has an array of services that we offer so we can help with financial audits, working on major transformations, major restructuring, major transactions, new regulations that have come out over the last few years, new technologies and new ways of doing business.”

While the firm is hiring across all service lines, EY anticipates it will see the biggest experienced recruiting goals in its advisory practice and assurance services practice, groups that already experienced strong growth in FY14.

“Our advisory practice we expect will account for 30 percent of our experienced recruiting,” said Nash. “That practice has grown significantly over the last five to seven years. Over the last five years, it’s had double-digit growth.”

Aggressive Recruiting
In a competitive market for highly skilled professionals, EY has shifted its strategy to tap the right talent and meet aggressive recruiting targets in cost-effective ways.

Nearly 50 percent of the experienced recruits in fiscal year 2014 came through employee referrals, a sharp increase from about 28 percent in 2010.

The firm noted that its employee referral program has become the largest and most effective source of its hiring in the U.S., which includes finding candidates through LinkedIn (10 percent), job boards (14 percent) and search firms (8 percent).

“We use LinkedIn quite heavily and that continues to drive a lot of leads for us,” said Nash.

In 2010, the firm’s hiring through LinkedIn was 2 percent, and its hiring through job boards and search firms was 13 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.

Employee Referrals
Some of the things we really focus on to find the best candidates are, first, our employee referral program,” said Nash. “Over the last few years this has been our largest and most effective sourcing channel for us. Back in 2010, about 28 percent of our experienced hires came through referrals. We made a lot of changes over the last four years, from having a dedicated referral team to responding much faster to referrals than we had in the past, to educating our people on what we look for.  In this past fiscal year, almost 50 percent of our external hires came through referrals, so we made a significant jump in that channel. We’re happy when employees are recruiters. We like that. It’s a way to leverage the power of the organization, as they all have a lot of great networks, whether it be the people they went to school with, they worked with, or they know in their community. There are definitely some studies and research, both outside Ernst & Young and what we’ve done inside Ernst & Young, that show that referred workers compared to hires from other channels have better performance and stay a bit longer, because they have a built-in network from people they know.”

Bonuses also help. EY paid over $5 million in bonuses in FY14 to its employees who have referred candidates hired in the U.S. The firm recently raised the bonus amounts for referring candidates at select levels through the end of the year.

The firm’s dedicated Talent Acquisition Team helps identify experienced candidates in the marketplace through proactive recruiting methods, saving an estimated $7 million per year in search fees.

“A lot of the time they’re talking to people who aren’t necessarily actively looking for a job, so they’re passive job seekers, if you will, and we’ll talk to them about opportunities and highlight why joining Ernst & Young and specific practices will be beneficial to them in their career,” said Nash. “By having this team constantly on the lookout for talent, we’re able to develop stronger pipelines of qualified candidates, which has enabled us to hire a lot of great talent and hire talent quicker, and also saved a lot of money from not having to use search firms.”

Video Technology
EY’s technology, online outreach and social media efforts also improve its ability to connect with job candidates. The firm plans to pilot test a new tactic—video job descriptions—for select roles in the coming weeks, along with videos shot by employees.

“In the next few weeks, we’re launching a few new wrinkles to our process,” said Nash. “We’re looking at video job descriptions, which are ways to highlight what we do and what we’re looking for in a more dynamic way than reading a job description on paper. We’re also doing what we call ‘crowdsourced videos,’ which are videos that that our employees shoot, which are very authentic. It’s not a production. It’s just them at their desk, them at a client’s site, wherever, talking about key things that people interested in EY might want to know about, like what they did today, why they love their job, or tips on how to distinguish yourself in the interview process. It gives a peek for a jobseeker into the people who work here and what it’s like in terms of our culture and things that are important to us.”

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