The Big Four auditors (Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC) are some of the biggest recruiters of graduates around, taking on thousands of fresh-faced new workers each year in the UK alone. There was a time when to land a plumb graduate job with them you needed to have a set number of Ucas points and at least a 2.2 degree as a minimum, but it seems the beancounters are moving away from having such strict criteria.
A couple of months after PwC ditched its requirement for graduates to have certain A-level results, EY is going one step further by opening up its grad scheme to anybody with a degree, regardless of what grade they got (its previous stricture was a 2.1). Instead it will use ‘a new and enhanced suite of online ‘strengths’ assessments and numerical tests’ to find out whether applicants are up to scratch.
‘Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment,’ said EY’s managing partner for talent, Maggie Stilwell.
A cynic might see this as a PR move, especially as it comes so soon off the back of PwC’s decision. And EY will of course still take grades into consideration when making a final decision so it’s not like ‘opening up’ the process will tie its hands at all.
‘Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door,’ Stilwell added.
Ditching the requirement will also get EY access to a pool of graduates who it can employ more cheaply, and who will stick around for longer. But nonetheless the decision is probably a good one, both for EY and for grads. Exams may go some way in rooting our the best candidates in a broad sense but are indeed a very blunt instrument – and three-year-old A-level results seem like a poor way of measuring the potential of a candidate today.
That does of course beg the question of whether A-levels are fit for purpose at all - if they are no good for employers then how useful are they for universities? Still, it’s not hard to imagine Deloitte and KPMG will follow suit soon - even if it is just for a cheeky bit of publicity.