Proof that Britain is dragging itself out of the depths of recession was offered last month, as Big Four services firm EY announced plans to hire 3,700 new employees in Britain by the end of June 2014.
Consulting is one of the most popular MBA Jobs and is revered for its fast-paced, high-earning potential. Business Schools based in the UK will be pleased to hear that a third of EY's new recruitment crop are set to be students. MBAs keen to launch a consulting career will no doubt jump at the 1,300 student spots on offer until the end of spring next year.
EY, that has over 130,000 employees and 11,000 based in the UK, will bring in MBAs for their assurance, tax, transactions and advisory units. This latest recruitment drive will see them close the gap on MBA employment and come a step closer to their nearest Big Four rival, KPMG.
Postgraduates in the consulting industry enjoy some of the most lucrative pay-packets in the MBA Jobs world. According to a 2012 consulting salaries survey, MBAs fresh out of b-school can expect a base salary of up to $120,000 at EY, including a $20,000 signing bonus.
MBAs will be keen to see a return on their educational investment, and consulting firms across the world are gobbling up graduates in higher numbers than ever. An MBA will no doubt help you launch a consulting career.
But how do you break into a top firm like EY?
We spoke to three MBAs from ESSEC Business School, China Europe International Business School and Manchester Business School who have fought off the competition and landed consulting and senior consulting positions at EY.
Khimendra Singh worked as Consultant for over three years in EY's Energy and Sustainability services department and graduated from the MBA program at ESSEC in 2013. He knows what it takes to crack the company's interview process. Khimendra thinks there are three attributes an MBA needs to work at the firm. "Analytical skills are very important, especially for the people who are targeting an entry level position," he said.
"Then there are interpersonal skills: if you are able to convey your message and communicate with a good degree of conviction, you’ll meet a lot of clients which is a good step for your career. Consulting is a people-focused job.
"The third is the adaptability factor when you meet or interact with different people. EY is a reputable brand and very sought-after firm, and its very competitive as well."
For Khimendra, the interview process saw him apply on EY's website, an interview with HR to discover what his motivations were, and then a meeting with the company manager. If successful, the next step will depend on the team you want to enter; you could meet a specific team manager, or meet a client directly. Khimendra also had to take an aptitude test.
He says that showing EY your extra-curricular activities will help you impress the recruitment team. "If you are able to prove that your background has been on a good track, it could be grades or extra curricular achievement, that would really help," he said.
"They will be looking for someone with those three analytical, interpersonal and adaptability qualities, so if you are able to prove or show that you're previous exposure has allowed you to achieve or experience these things, it will be easier for you."
The ESSEC grad thinks an MBA is a big advantage because of the team-work you develop at b-school. He chose EY because the firm had an inherent culture, where people are always pushing you harder; you need to achieve high results. The best thing about working at EY was "being able to deal directly with clients", and the "freedom of giving new ideas which were implemented".
Despite consulting's popularity, Khimendra says you should be prepared to work incredibly hard to land a job with EY. "It’s a very intensive area, a lot of hours and travelling, and the work life balance is not there," he said. "On a personal level, the culture at EY is very collaborative and friendly. You meet lots of clients from different industries, and my consulting was a very good experience."
Ananth Sundarrajan was a Senior Associate at EY for almost two years, after first entering the firm as an Associate in their project management group. He is studying on the 18-month MBA program at CEIBS in Shanghai and is vice-president of the CEIBS Management Consulting Club. Ananth thinks that you need to adapt to succeed at EY.
"In the fast paced life at EY, things on projects may change quite fast," he said. "The number one thing you need for a consulting career at EY is openness to change, and also adaptability."
Ananth was subjected to a case interview, followed by an hour and a half long interview with the group head, and then an interview with senior managers from the project group. Ananth describes the latter as "one of my best interviews I have ever had". He says to land a job with EY, you need to present your life stories that best fit with the firm's value system. "At EY, the company values are not just statements printed on the wall," he said.
"During interviews, the candidate is indirectly tested for the fit to the 'value system' of EY. Ensure you have stories that prove you fit into this value system."
Ananth spurned applying for any of the other Big Four firm's because of his belief that EY could live up to its reputation: "In retrospect, it truly has," he added. "The non-hierarchical structure and opportunities to excel and prove yourself would probably be the two key things that I think make EY an amazing place to start your career."
Ananth doesn't see an MBA as essential for a consulting career with the firm, but says it is "an added advantage to move up the ladder". He says an MBA helps you "view the problem in multiple ways, that you would have never thought of before".
Victor Anzaldo has over a decade of experience in sales and consulting and since graduating from the MBA program at MBS in 2011, he landed a job as a Senior Consultant at EY, with the help of his b-school alumni network. After moving to the UK from Mexico, Victor rose through the ranks at EY to a senior position in the firm's Operational Transaction Services unit.
The MBS MBA says you need a good knowledge of internal strategic initiatives to do well at EY. "You need a combination of excellence in project delivery, tied with internal practice development," he said. "Within EY, it's equally important to deliver engagements to the highest quality in time, and budget to clients in order to secure success of future engagements."
Victor had to crack a case interview before getting hired, in a three-stage interview process. "If they succeed at the initial phone-interview, they are invited to the EY offices," he explained. "During the first half of the interview, the candidate is given a case study to analyse. In the second half, the candidate will discuss and is expected to defend or support his answers to a panel of two or three managers or senior managers.
"The candidates that succeed are invited to a third interview with a partner. In this round they are interested in learning about the candidate's professional and academic background, as well as assessing his or her fit into the firm."
Victor says that industry knowledge is key to blasting through this interview stage and launching your consulting career. "Since not all candidates have previous experience in consulting or transactions, transferable skills and industry knowledge have a great deal of importance," he said. "Candidates need to assess their current professional capabilities and think how can they be useful to EY clients."
The MBS MBA was attracted to the firm because of its prestige in the financial sector and the credentials to engage with high-calibre clients. You should pick EY over the other Big Four firms because of the consulting skills you will learn. "The best thing about working for EY is the nature of the engagements I have been exposed to," he added.
"It has given me the opportunity to gain new skills in different consulting methodologies, such as due diligence and post-merger integration, while learning from high calibre colleagues."
Victor thinks MBAs are an important tool in the consulting world, a Masters degree that is highly regarded at EY. An MBA won't guarantee you a consulting role with the company, but it will give you added weight in what is a highly competitive environment.
Consulting careers continue to be ever popular in the MBA Jobs market. If you want to work in the UK, EY's 3,700 intake of new employees in Britain could be the perfect opportunity for you to launch a consulting career in what is a high-earning, fast-paced industry. But act quickly; these spots won't hang around for long.