Candice began working for Ernst & Young as an undergraduate in a summer vacation position. When she completed her combined Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) and Bachelor of Law at Macquarie University, she was offered a graduate position.
The process for getting a summer vacation position is similar to the graduate recruitment process. First, you have to submit an online application, including your resume. Based on this, they decide whether you are given a position at the recruitment day. The recruitment day involves two interviews – one with a manager and another with a partner – as well as a group activity and an online assessment. For the group activity, about six people are put together and given a factual problem to work out. The situation varies each year but the process is the same. The problem isn’t anything too technical – you don’t have to study for it. The idea is to test your communication and negotiation skills – the group has to come to a resolution about whatever problem they’ve been given, while a panel of observers watches on. Following my time in the summer vacation program, I decided that I liked the work and the company, and Ernst & Young liked me, so I was offered, and accepted, a grad position with them.
Nerves are hard to control, but try to relax a bit before the assessment day so that you can be yourself and let your real personality shine through. It’s not that daunting. Everyone here is really friendly. Also, you won’t have to face the two interviews up front. They are spread out over the day so that by the time you have the interview with the partner, you’re feeling quite relaxed from the other activities during the day. You don’t have to study for the assessment day – there aren’t technical questions about tax and accounting, which you might not have studied at uni yet – but you should do your research about the industry and the company. Also, have a think about why you want to get the job. Is it in the area you want to work in? A lot of grads might apply thinking they’ll just take any job, but it’s important that it’s what you really want to do – it definitely comes across in the interview.
During the recruitment process I got to meet a lot of people and, in talking to those people and listening to them speak, I started to get a feel for what the firm’s culture is like and what the people are like. I wanted to work for Ernst & Young because it was the place I thought that I clicked best with. The company was also really professional and polished during the interview process. Out of the big four, I couldn’t have picked one based on who the market leader was because they are all great firms doing similar work. So, for me, it came down to where I thought I would fit best.
It’s different for each graduate. Some people do a lot of compliance – the industry term for tax returns and FBT returns – which is really accounting based. I do a mixture of compliance and legal work. For example, a manager will give me a problem to research for a client. Then I read some of the legislation on it and find some applicable cases or rulings by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and I might be asked to write some advice about it. The cases are similar to problems that you might get in law school. I probably do about 40 per cent compliance work and the rest is advisory work, but other people focus on compliance because that’s what they really like. Ernst & Young, being such a big firm, can more easily accommodate your preferences and where your aptitude lies.
I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in some really interesting work such as submissions to treasury and government bodies on new legislation that’s coming out. I find it really interesting to be involved in influencing future legislation.
I don’t like fiddly admin things, but I probably have to get a bit more organised.
While my position is a grad role, it’s different to being part of a grad program because, at Ernst & Young, it’s not really a question of finishing a grad program and then deciding where we go from here. I’m a grad during my first year and then I move into a consultant position. There isn’t another review process at the end of the first year because there are constant performance reviews.
There is a lot of room for progression and even overseas secondment at Ernst & Young. Overseas opportunities usually come at a management level. For me that’s probably a possibility in the next three or four years. I have to build my core knowledge in tax first because it’s such a complicated area – there is so much to learn before I can take off overseas. Ernst & Young supports staff doing their CA qualifications or Master of Tax qualifications. For example, they give you study leave. I’m not sure about doing this yet, but next year I’m hoping to go to the College of Law and Ernst & Young will give me exam leave for this.