Hiring Lessons From The Company Adding More Than 15,000 Employees In One Year

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If recruiting, vetting, hiring, and onboarding even one qualified employee is a difficult task, then hiring more than 15,000 may seem beyond the realm of possibility. Yet EY will have to do just that over the next 12 months.

The multinational professional services firm, which just announced $29.6 billion in global revenues in its latest fiscal year, is currently on a blitz to fill 15,200 seats across their American offices during the next fiscal year, which began on July 1. To put that into perspective, the firm will be hiring 6,200 more people than the organizing committee of the London Olympic Games.

Of the new hires, 9,200 will be taken fresh from university campuses, while the remaining 6,000 positions will go to experienced professionals.

Dan Black, EY’s recruiting leader for the Americas, says the hiring blitz is a result of "strong demands for our services in today’s shifting business and economic landscape." The bulk of the new hires will fall into the company’s advisory and tax practices, which have experienced continuous growth over the past three years, much as they have in other companies.

"Some of the hotter areas include cybersecurity, data analytics, digital, health care consulting, and human capital consulting," he adds.

Black explains that EY’s approach will require significant efforts on a variety of fronts, many of which will be aided by tech tools. "EY uses candidate-relationship management software that allows us to interact with candidates before they hit the 'apply' button, as well as stay connected to potential candidates when there isn’t a position available," he says.

Once hired, the swarm of new employees will be trained and onboarded with the help of EYU, the company’s digital learning platform, which "allows us to deliver consistent online and in-person professional development courses, so that our people succeed personally and professionally," says Black.

Another of the key sources for new hires at the firm is through its employee referral program, which has seen dramatic growth in recent years. In the 2010 fiscal year the company ushered in 28% of its new hires using employee referrals, but in 2016 the program was responsible for more than half.

"Referral candidates perform better and stay longer," says Black. "In fact, external research has shown that referred workers are up to 30% less likely to quit and have substantially better performance on high-impact metrics." Other studies indicate that even so-called "weak" connections are likely to lead to placement and better job outcomes.

Black says that Ernst & Young paid out more than $8.1 million in referral bonuses during the 2016 fiscal year. Intel has also been tying referrals to compensation in effort to improve the number of diverse candidates in the hiring pool. Such referrals can also significantly boost the chances underrepresented minorities have to get a promotion.

Aside from referrals, the company is also planning on deploying a major campus recruiting effort to attract 9,200 new candidates, which will combine in-person and digital strategies. "Through our campus events, students can speak and network with EY professionals, get valuable training and leadership development, and learn about all the opportunities EY offers," says Black.

Writing for PBS Newshour, veteran tech recruiter Nick Corcodilos has lamented the fact that recruiters don't often do much of this in-person talent scouting on college campuses any more. He wrote:

"In a job seeker’s market, new grads must subject themselves to machine interviews, invest their time filling out online applications, and wait like starving dogs to be fed. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs HR managers get paid to wait for someone else to do their hiring."

Corcodilos says that if there truly is a talent shortage, recruiters need to go out and sell to candidates, a process that "requires personal contact, persuasion and, yes, a soft touch."

Major organizations are taking bold steps to attract talent using social media, such as Cisco's recent takeover of Nasdaq's Snapchat for talent acquisition during National #TechiesDay (October 3). EY is pursuing a similar approach, using social media content, videos, and other digital strategies to leverage its brand and attract new hires.

Black explains that campus recruiting can also act as the ground zero for reaching the company’s diversity hiring targets. "We know in order to achieve the best outcomes for our clients, we need to engage diverse students," he says, citing the firm’s Women in Tech Consulting Conference as an example of their efforts to attract female hires at the university level. Black adds that the company hired 1,400 African-American and Hispanic students in 2016, up 40% from the previous fiscal year.

Attracting 15,200 new hires will also require the company to really push its selling points. For EY that means touting the fact that it recently became the first among the big four accounting firms to expand its parental benefits, which now provides both mothers and fathers, as well as same-sex couples, up to 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave.

"For campus recruits, we offer solutions for repaying student loan debt," says Black. Only about 3% of private sector businesses currently offer this benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The company’s "EY Student Loan program is available to all U.S. professionals and can be used for either undergraduate or graduate student loan debt." Nearly 1,200 EY employees are currently participating in the program.

EY is hoping these strategies will fill a stadium-sized cohort of new hires by next year.

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