EY Application Process & Interview Questions

EY is one of the Big Four professional service firms, alongside KPMG, Deloitte and PwC. Because of its size, power and influence, it has a highly competitive application process.

Even as a talented candidate, you will need to be fully prepared to have a good chance of success.

EY has recently adopted a four-stage application process. The steps, in EY’s terms, are as follows:

  1. Learning About You
  2. Learning for a Changing World
  3. Learning on the Job
  4. Learning in Person

In this article, we will go through what each of these stages means and what you will need to be prepared for.

Learning About You – The Application Form

It starts off relatively straightforward. The ‘learning about you’ stage is the application form.

For the most part, it’s basic information: some personal details, which programme you’d like to apply for, which service line, which sub-service line and which location.

Programme

Here you select whether you want to apply for a graduate role, summer internship, industrial placement or deferral programme.

Service Line

Decide which part of the company you want to work for. The options include actuarial, assurance, consulting, tax, technology and transactions.

Sub-Service Line

Within each service line is a couple of possible specialisations.

For instance, sub-service lines to the technology service line are ‘cyber security’ and ‘IT risk assurance – data analytics’.

Select the one that lines up best with your interests, aspirations and skills.

Location

This is where your office will be located. For certain combinations of programme, service line and sub-service line, there may only be a single location available.

So if, for whatever reason, you are unable or unwilling to move – or if you are only interested in one location – make sure EY has roles there beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Entry Requirements

In this section, you must confirm that you fulfil the basic entry requirements, eg a certain type of degree. These can change depending on your role and programme; check them before you apply.

You will also need to confirm that you have the legal right to work at the location you have applied for, declare your nationality, and state whether you have any connections with current EY clients or staff.

Equal Opportunities

Here, as part of EY’s diversity policies and programmes, you are asked to give answers to more personal questions.

EY state that “the information provided does not form part of our selection procedure and you are not obliged to answer these questions”. It is entirely up to you how many, if any, questions you answer.

You are asked about:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion or belief
  • Age group
  • Eligibility for free school meals or household income support
  • Type of school you attended
  • Parents' qualifications
  • Parents' occupation
  • Any time spent in care
  • Refugee or asylum status
  • Any time spent as a carer

And that’s it. Just plug in your details and send it off.

EY will get in touch shortly if you are selected to progress to the next stage.

Learning for a Changing World – The Aptitude Tests

In stage two, you will tackle case studies, multiple-choice questions and an online test based on the theme of how technology is changing our world and the way people work.

EY is assessing your natural strengths around the theme of technology in the workplace.

The test should take around 60 minutes (apprenticeship candidates take a shorter version of the test). Although it is not timed, time is likely to be a factor in your score.

Many candidates who have completed this stage have reported that it is difficult and quite different from other aptitude test formats.

EY recommends that before you begin, you have the following at the ready:

  • Laptop or desktop computer (rather than a smartphone or tablet)

  • Time and space to work undisturbed

  • A calculator, a pen and some paper

During the hour, you will be tested on a variety of skills from numerical reasoning to verbal reasoning to situational judgement. The test contains around 28 questions, followed by a number of situational judgement questions.

The test involves scrutinizing a number of videos, each around two or three minutes long, written information in the form of articles, letters and so on, and data tables, graphs and figures.

To do this, begin by identifying the steps you need to take to solve the problem.

What’s the question? What figures will you need to solve the question? How can you find those figures using the information provided?

Once you’ve identified the steps needed, you should be able to quickly do the calculations while ignoring any irrelevant and distracting information.

After the test, you should receive some personalised feedback indicating what you did well and what you could improve on. These traits are measured based on your ability to be an ‘agile learner’, ‘networker’ or ‘digital architect’.

You will soon be told if you have performed well enough to advance to the next stage.

Learning on the Job – The Job Simulation

For the next stage, you will be asked questions based on a series of scenarios that you may face in your role at EY. You will be asked to film some of your answers.

This stage has no time limit but must be done in a single sitting.

It will take roughly 45 minutes, so make sure you have that time set aside, free from distractions. There are 14 questions to complete.

EY recommends the following:

  • Use a laptop or desktop computer, and have the latest version of Google Chrome installed.

  • Ensure that your microphone and webcam are both working and clear.

  • Check the lighting in your room and adjust it, so that you are clearly visible and your background isn’t distracting.

  • Make sure that your internet connection is stable.

EY also suggests that you dress as if it were an in-person interview.

Also, remember that you will get a practice round for your video answers, so don’t stress too much about getting it right on the first try.

This stage will begin with a series of multiple-choice questions and job simulation tasks.

The multiple-choice questions are broadly along the lines of situational judgement assessments. That is, you will be given a scenario that could feasibly occur during a workday and will have to select how you would respond.

This could be to do with a difficult client, or a conflict between colleagues or team members.

It could be that an urgent decision is needed that would normally be made by a senior colleague or manager.

It might test you ethically, asking questions about whether it’s OK to cut corners for various reasons.

You might need to organise, prioritise and respond to a frantic email inbox, while also completing tasks like compiling a report from data that needs to be with your manager within the hour.

One of the best places to start your preparation for these kinds of questions is to look at EY’s values.

EY states that their three core values are:

  • People who demonstrate integrity, respect and teamwork

  • People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead

  • People who build relationships based on doing the right thing

Begin with these, but also go through EY’s website. What kinds of projects does EY support? What kinds of values does EY promote in articles on its website? How does the company approach cultural issues?

Make some notes about the values that EY hold and keep them next to you. For any situational judgement question, make sure that you are upholding those values in your answer.

The main skills being tested here are:

  • Your ability to stay calm under pressure

  • How you prioritise

  • Whether you can complete day-to-day tasks accurately and quickly

  • Your ability to remain professional and polite at all times.

You will receive some more detailed feedback after this stage. For a sample of some feedback that a candidate received, check out the WikiJob forum.

If you are applying to an apprenticeship programme, you will be invited to a telephone interview at this point.

EY application process

Learning in Person – The Assessment Centre

This stage is called an EY Experience Day; you will attend an assessment centre at one of a few locations in the UK.

You’ll need to display all the skills you’ve shown in the previous stages in person, under pressure and in competition with other candidates.

If you’re selected to advance to this stage, you will be contacted and invited to an assessment centre at a specific location on a specific date. You will have 48 hours to respond to this, accepting the invitation or declining it. Be warned that not responding to the invitation counts as declining it.

You will also be assigned some preparatory work relating to some of the activities on the day. It's very important that you complete this work in good time.

The basic details:

  • Begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4.30 p.m.

  • Lunch and refreshments are served, but not breakfast.

  • You do not need to bring anything other than your prep work along with you.

  • An EY travel partner will assist you in arranging transport to the centre.

More specific details will be sent to you closer to the date, as they can depend on the particular day and venue being used.

On the day, there will be a mixture of aptitude tests, interviews and interactive sessions.

What you will actually face will depend on the programme, track and sub-track you’ve applied for, the location, and what those running the assessment day have chosen to use.

As such, it’s not possible to give you a full, accurate run-down of what will happen on your assessment day.

Instead, below is a selection of example activities that recent candidates have reported being set during their assessment day, to give you an idea of what to expect.

Aptitude Tests

It is highly likely that you will be asked to sit some aptitude tests in-person on the day. This is partly an anti-cheating measure.

Your results here will be compared with your earlier online test results from stage 2 and/or 3. If the two are wildly different (potentially implying that someone else took the online test for you), EY may consider your application at risk of rejection.

Partner Discussion

Often, the pre-assessment centre work you will be asked to do is to prepare one of three topics for discussion.

For each topic, you are also given three sub-questions as prompts for what you should think about.

For example, one candidate was asked to choose between:

  1. How can businesses create value in the 21st century?

    - How can value be defined?
    - What future challenges do you foresee?
    - How can your service line support businesses in creating future value?

  2. What’s the secret to business longevity?

    - Which factors are most crucial in securing longevity?
    - What future developments should organisations prepare for?
    - How can your service line help to promote business longevity?

  3. How do you make an entrepreneur?

    - What knowledge, skills and characteristics are needed?
    - Are individual qualities or external opportunities more important?
    - How could your service line support entrepreneurs?

As you can see, these are broad and wide-ranging topics.

The intent here is for the partner to get an insight into how you think about business, what you think is most important, and how you approach business development.

To prepare for this task, break your chosen topic down into smaller questions, like the prompt questions.

For instance, for the first question, you might want to consider:

  • What does ‘value’ mean for a business? If ‘value’ has multiple meanings (stock value, cultural value, social benefit value, etc.), then which of these should be the primary goal? How do they work towards each other, or do they sometimes conflict?

  • What does it mean to be a ‘21st-century business’?

  • What are some examples of companies that create value in the 21st century? How do they go about doing that?

  • Answer the ‘how’. What is the relationship between the long-term, abstract goals you’re championing and the concrete, day-to-day business steps needed to meet them?

This can also be a fantastic opportunity for you to gain some business insight from a partner.

Be sure not to treat this like a formal interview or interrogation – aim to have an engaging discussion; seek the partner’s opinion and ask them questions.

Interview

There is, also, a formal interview with a partner. Often, this will follow the previous partner discussion, merging the two.

This interview is typically competency-based and will ask many of the usual questions, covered below.

Preparing brief answers for them should give you plenty of scope to tackle whatever you face on the day:

Try to back up your answers with concrete examples.

If you’re talking about your role within a team, give an example of a project on which you held that kind of role.

When talking about your strengths, say what experience you’ve had that proves and justifies that strength.

Remember that anyone can say whatever they like, but not everyone can back it up. And being able to back it up is much more impressive in an interview.

Prepare for this like you would any other interview and try not to be too nervous that you’re being interviewed by a partner.

Take it as a compliment: a partner’s time is very valuable to EY, so if they’re using this time to interview you, it’s because they think you could be a worthwhile investment. You’ve done many things right to get to this stage.

Inbox Prioritisation

Similar to many work-based assessments, this exercise will have you prioritising meetings and other day-to-day activities.

You will be given eight emails in an inbox, each asking you to do something like attend a meeting or a networking event, write up a report or blog post, visit a client and so on.

You must select five of these activities to action, and justify your reasoning one-on-one with an assessor.

Some tasks may be important but less time-sensitive, so it might be sensible to put them off for now. Others might be less important but very time-sensitive.

In general, keep in mind EY’s core values.

Attending a client meeting, for instance, should almost always be prioritised because putting off or delaying meetings can leave a poor impression on clients.

Blog posts, by contrast, could probably be done later on.

Company Case Study

For this exercise, you will be given a pack of information on a company that isn’t doing well and has come to EY for advice on what to do.

You will usually be paired up with another candidate and will have 10 minutes to jot down your solutions.

You will then have a 5-minute conversation with an assessor about your plan. Your partner will also deliver their opinions to the assessor in their own 5-minute slot.

Afterwards, you will both talk about the plans with the assessor together.

This is about employing all your skills to come up with a solution. With only 10 minutes, your idea need only be broad strokes.

Begin by identifying the problem and go from there.

Group Discussion

In a group of other candidates, you will be given a broad discussion topic or problem to consider together.

You will be given 15 minutes to discuss this as a group, and then 5 minutes to write up your thoughts and outcome in an ‘email’ to the assessor.

The topic can be almost anything, but an example that one candidate faced is:

  • EY wants to help young people prepare for the world of work. How can the company do this?

    You don’t have long to discuss this when there’s a number of you with opinions and insights.

    The first step should be to quickly narrow down the question into something more concrete. What does it mean to ‘prepare young people for the world of work’? More business-specific education? More hands-on work experience? More or better opportunities for internships? Clearer paths into and through companies?

    When you have decided on that, the next step is to figure out the issue. What do young people currently lack that is preventing them from being properly prepared for work as you understand it?

    Then, you can work on proposing a solution. Perhaps this could be an EY scheme that offers shadowing and work experience for more 16-year-olds. Or having EY representatives visiting schools and giving guest business lectures.

    Whatever you decide, try to make sure it is concrete and related to the question.

For all group exercises like this one, you need to find a good balance between being a cohesive, amiable team player and showcasing your skills.

It’s a tough juggling act of being both a collaborator and competitor with your fellow applicants. So, try and keep the following points in mind:

  • Be heard, but don’t be overbearing – Make sure you get your chance to speak, but not to the detriment of others who’ve had less chance. A great skill to show in group work is to lead discussions by bringing other people in.

  • Listen – It’s tempting when you’re nervous to just think about what you’re going to say, formulating the words in your head and not listening to others. Being a good team player is also about listening to others and building from their ideas.

  • Stay on topic – Try to notice if you’re slipping into a tangent and bring yourself back on track. Politely try to do the same if others are going off on a tangent as well.

Assessment Centre Advice and Tips

There’s only so much you can do to prepare for an assessment centre, and that’s by design, but here are a few things worth bearing in mind:

  • Do your research on EY. Download the latest annual report and note down the key points from that. Read EY's website. Take a look at its large clients. Familiarise yourself with the kind of work EY does and demonstrate a decent understanding of the company.

  • Look ahead. EY is successful because its leaders and workers look to the future. What coming developments might pose a challenge to the way things are done? What might provide excellent opportunities? Being aware of where the industry is going in the coming years will be highly impressive.

  • Stay hydrated. Water, tea and other refreshments will be offered at the assessment day. This is not just a courtesy; you'll likely perform better if refreshed.

  • Be professional and polite at all times. It’s very easy over the course of a stressful day to slouch back, get frustrated or be unprofessional. Remind yourself that you’re there to impress. Be polite and friendly to other candidates and the assessors, stay enthusiastic, and remain business-like, particularly when on-task.

Further Reading

You may be interested in these other articles on WikiJob:

The Big 4 Accounting Firms: An Overview

KPMG Application Process: A Guide

PwC Application Process: A Guide

Deloitte Application Process: A Guide