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Ernst and Young (EY): how to pass aptitude tests, interviews and get a job

Ernst and Young (EY, E&Y, Ernst & Young) is one of the largest and most reputable audit firms and enters the “Big Four” audit companies along with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG.

The business structure of Ernst & Young is a global partnership of national audit firms, which means that the national office of the corporation in Delhi, Moscow, Beijing or Paris can be viewed as an independent organization that has a greater degree of independence from the head center in determining the practice of corporate culture.

The company’s activities include audit of company reports, consulting services in any area of activity of corporate clients, tax and legal issues, process optimization, consulting in transaction support, business restructuring and fundraising.

It is one of the largest audit and consulting firms in the world in terms of the number of employees. As of October 2020, about 271 thousand people work in E&Y worldwide. The company has 728 offices in 150 countries of the world and the number of its clients reach about 30 thousand.

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Corporate culture at Ernst and Young

Ernst & Young is committed to helping its employees unleash their potential. Their achievements are the key to success. For E&Y, its talented and energetic employees are the company’s main asset and potential for development.

All departments of the company can be divided into two groups: departments working directly with customers and support departments. The first group includes the audit department, tax department, corporate finance department. The second is the finance and marketing departments, the information technology department, the personnel and training department, and the intellectual resources management department.

The structure of the company is built in the same way in all divisions according to a rigid career growth scheme, depending on the experience and length of work in the position:

  1. Trainee (Intern) – up to 6 months;
  2. Specialist (Staff A1) – 1-2 years;
  3. Consultant (Advanced staff A2-A3) – 1 year;
  4. Senior Consultant (S1-S3) – 3 years;
  5. Manager (M1) – 3 years;
  6. Senior Manager (M2-M3) – 3 years;
  7. Director;
  8. Partner.

Ernst and Young is a company with a highly developed corporate culture and well-structured administrative processes. Among the advantages of working in this company, the employees of the company themselves name:

  • clear career prospects;
  • valuable working experience;
  • high demand in the labor market after working at EY;
  • good team;
  • valuable corporate training and internships;
  • prestige of working in a company with that name;
  • corporate clubs, sports sections, parties.

Each employee in the company has a manager-level mentor who is dedicated to advising and evaluating your professional development at EY. One mentor can have up to five mentees.

Disadvantages of working at Ernst and Young

A characteristic feature of all large consulting and audit companies, Big 4 and Ernst and Young, in particular, is a huge volume of daily work. 10-14 hours is considered the norm in these companies. Processing is not paid additionally. The main aim at Ernst and Young is to deliver a project to satisfy a client and meet the interests of the company. But employees have to devote all their time and effort to do this. Lots of work for a very small pay. EY Consulting Dept has groups where business travel takes up 80-90% of working time. People there do not have time for any private life. At EY it is not common to work till 20-21 every day.

There is always a lot of staff turnover in E&Y in all positions, except for partners. During the busy season, auditors especially have a lot of overtime, they work almost around the clock and seven days a week. As we indicated above, there are many trainings, but the employees themselves say that there is no time to attend them.

According to Ernst and Young employees, it is difficult for them to achieve a normal work-life balance. This is a job for young people who are ready to look at the monitor 24 hours every day.

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Overwork and stress from responsibility often lead to exhaustion and illness. In Big 4 companies, audit and consulting firms, there are frequent cases of problems with blood pressure, heart, eyes, nervous system in people under 30.

At EY, you have a personal mentor to help you. But as the employees of the company say, your progress will very much depend on your personal relationship with the mentor. Due to the general overload, the mentor will not have time for you. Some of the newbies will always be left out. In reality, this leads to the fact that newcomers have to curry favor with managers, do their best to please them.

The company culture is called the “dog eat dog” principle. It’s hard to make friends at EY, staff turnover is sometimes higher than at McDonald’s. And there is no time for communication and personal connections.

Salaries at EY

Starting salaries at EY are low. Everyone has the same pay level (excluding bonuses for overwork during the busy season and autumn bonuses). In Eastern Europe and South-East Asia employees get their hands on:

  • Trainee – about 500 USD per month;
  • A1 specialist – staff – 550 USD
  • Consultant A2 – advanced staff – 600 (660 with a grade of “4”)
  • Senior Consultant S1 – senior 1 – 1000-1200USD
  • Senior Consultant S2 – senior 2 – 1100-1500USD
  • Senior Consultant S3 – senior 3 – 1300-1800USD
  • M1 manager – starting from 2000USD

Salaries in Western Europe and the USA are about 40% higher. The increase in payment depends on the annual estimate, which is made up of your estimates on projects. With career growth, the spread in wages becomes larger. Bonuses are paid based on your performance as judged by senior colleagues. The amount of bonuses largely depends on the availability of money in the project.

The main challenges at Ernst and Young regarding working conditions are as follows:

  • high responsibility – high cost of error
  • long working hours (70-80 hour working week)
  • overloaded offices in most large locations
  • for beginners, the most thankless job is given – document processing (one document has to be brought to the proper form for 6-8 hours)
  • vacation dates are determined not by the employee himself, but by his manager
  • low starting wages

The employees of the company themselves laugh and call the corporate slogan of the company instead of “Building a better working world” – “Building a world of cheap slaves”.

To summarize the above, if you are young, ambitious, and willing to work 80 hours a week for a relatively low pay, you can grow fast at ERNST AND YOUNG. For graduates by the age of 30-35 there is a real opportunity (according to our calculations, the chance is 1 in 30-35) to receive the status of a department director and a partner of the company.

If you want to know more about the Big Four companies and learn how EY is different from the other firms, read our articles:

The Big Four – PWC, E&Y, KPMG, Deloitte: everything you wanted to know

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) pre-employment Tests & Interviews

Deloitte worldwide: how to get a job, pass aptitude tests and interviews

Working at KPMG: pre-employment aptitude tests, interview and employment tips

How to get a job at Ernst & Young

Ernst and Young is a prestigious company and the competition for 1 job place can be up to 600 applicants. According to company statistics, only 2-3% of applicants get a job offer after the selection.

According to the EY HR, applicants are required to show:

  • high motivation to work;
  • purposefulness;
  • developed communication skills;
  • professional knowledge;
  • responsibility;
  • ability to work both in a team and independently.

As noted in the HR department of ERNST AND YOUNG, candidates for the company’s vacancies are required to have several mandatory skills:

  • the ability to confidently use EXСEL and other office and accounting programs;
  • the ability to thoroughly understand basic economic terms;
  • knowledge of the basics of macro and microeconomics;
  • the ability to explain these things so that any people can understand them.

Pre-employment selection stages at Ernst&Young

EY uses standard pre-employment selection procedures. If you want to get a job in EY you should:

  1. Submit an application on the official website of EY;
  2. Pass Ersnt&Young aptitude test (online or in office);
  3. Pass an initial interview;
  4. Do well at final interview.

In some departments, assessments can be added that include group exercises, case studies, group discussion and business games.

Submitting an application

All EY vacancies are posted both on large HR portals and on company’s own website. We recommend using the official EY website – this way you can get a faster response and more attention to your application.

You need to register on the official EY website, create a personal account and enter data on yourself: education, work experience, personal and contact information. At this stage:

  • make sure you qualify for the job you want to apply for. The primary selection of applications and resumes is made out by the ATS (applicant tracking system) software. If your set of skills and experience significantly differs from the requirements, you should not even try to send your application since it will not pass the selection through ATS;
  • fill in all the required fields of the form – this is mandatory;
  • attach a resume and a cover letter with full information about you: university, work experience, professional qualities, projects in which you participated in the university or at your job, achievements in sports, participation in charitable and social projects;
  • check your resume and cover letter for literacy – mistakes are punishable by sending the application to the trash.

Tip: try to impress EY HR representatives already at the stage of submitting your resume. Write a cover letter and resume that gets noticed. Write not like everyone else but make a personal story that connects you with Ernst&Young and it will surely catch attention.

We recommend reading our articles from the Training section on how to write and make your resume and cover letter visible.

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Applying at EY if you are a student or graduate

When analyzing your resume, a lot of attention is paid to the university, if you are a student or graduate, and previous work experience, if you are a specialist. Graduates of top economic universities have a certain priority. We recommend graduates of other universities to show experience in working on business cases, participation in economic societies or clubs.

Tip: Many auditing and consulting companies offer summer internships for students. For example, EY invites students for 3-6 month internships as an assistant manager. Participation in such internships is a huge advantage for your career growth. Firstly, it is almost 100% guarantee of subsequent employment in EY or any other audit company. And secondly, such internships are a very interesting and valuable time. EY offers trainees both a lot of training and a lot of entertainment events. If you are still a student, we recommend that you take part with an internship from E&Y or any other audit/consulting company.

It should be noted that getting on such an internship is not easy. The selection of participants includes all the same stages as for applicants for EY jobs: submitting an application on the official EY website, online aptitude tests and an interview. And in the same way, only 4-5% of applicants get it to the end of the selection and get onboard.

Besides lengthy internships you can take part in numerous short sessions that EY employees make for students and graduates all over the year. These include meetings with EY partners and managers, training sessions and cocktail parties for those interested in working in Ernst&Young.

EY pre-employment aptitude tests

You have a chance to skip this step and get an invitation right to the final interview if you:

  • were the winner of the EY tax contest;
  • have passed GAAP or Banking Audit training courses.

EY uses On-target aptitude tests, which are very similar in format to SHL aptitude tests. Each department of Ernst and Young uses its own selection test, which consists of questions to assess professional knowledge (accounting, finance, taxes), the level of knowledge of the English language, personality and aptitude (numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning tests). In some departments only some of these tests are used, in some additional professional tests may apply.

If you get a job in the department of audit services, you will have the following tests:

  • Verbal reasoning test;
  • Numerical reasoning test;
  • English proficiency test or video interview in English;
  • Professional aptitude test for knowledge of the basics of accounting.

The Tax and Legal Services Department conducts the following tests:

  • Abstract reasoning test;
  • Numerical reasoning test;
  • Essay in English on a given topic;
  • Professional aptitude test.

EY English language test

To work in Ernst and Young, you need to know English at a level not lower than Upper-Intermediate in TOEFL.

If you took business English courses, you can read business accounting publications in English fluently and know financial terminology, then this stage will not present you with any difficulty. But if your knowledge and practical experience is rather superficial, and you do not read business literature in English, it will be difficult for you.

EY English proficiency test takes 45 minutes and includes the following topics:

  • Example of company reporting and 5 “True – False” questions. Based on the text, you need to determine whether this statement is true or not.
  • 10 business definitions in English and it is necessary to define the term to which they refer. This task is not difficult, but it can take a lot of your time if you are not familiar with business terms.
  • You receive a text on accounting with some blank spaces. You need to insert words from the given options. Or an example of the company’s reporting and it is also necessary to insert the missing words into it.
  • Find correct answers in 5 numerical reasoning test in English.

Tip: Don’t rely on basic knowledge and prepare thoroughly for this test.

Professional knowledge test in EY

This test includes (using the example of the audit department): primary accounting, basic accounting records, knowledge of the tax code of your country, knowledge of the Civil Code of your country, the basics of IFRS. Usually it consists of 30 questions, which you need to answer within 60 minutes.

Examples of questions: reporting forms, the effect of depreciation, the formula for calculating inventory balances, the turnover period of resources, compiling a balance sheet and a statement of financial results based on specified data (balances on some accounts), transactions for the sale of fixed assets (including depreciation), inventory audit.

As for aptitude tests in EY for logical, verbal and numerical abilities, they serve as a stage to assess your intellectual skills to quickly and correctly count and understand complex texts, graphs and tables. According to employee reviews, EY aptitude tests are not difficult if you prepare for them.

EY numerical reasoning tests

Ernst&Young numerical reasoning tests usually consist of tests from Kenexa, On Target, and SHL. They all have graphs, tables and charts. You don’t need to solve complex calculations but only four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as determining percentages and ratios. We recommend repeating the principles of finding percentages and relationships, since if you have not solved mathematical problems for a long time, this can cause difficulties.

Almost always, numerical reasoning tests include questions for converting currencies and measures (currencies, weights, distances). So, pay special attention to this during preparation. You will have 60-90 seconds for each question and usually a numerical reasoning test consists of 20-25 questions. Colsulting department has more complex numerical reasoning tests and more of them – up to 35 questions.

Below you can see an example of a numerical reasoning test SHL-style. Similar tests are used in EY.

numerical reasoning test SHL-style

You can find the correct answer and explanation of this numerical reasoning test at the end of the article. First try to find the correct answer by yourself to test your numerical reasoning ability. You have 60 seconds to do this.

EY verbal reasoning tests

In EY they use verbal reasoning tests of “true-false-cannot say” type. As their name suggests, you need to find if the statement of the question is true, false or this is not possible to understand if it is true or not basing on the text passage.

The main problem of such verbal reasoning tests is to decide between “wrong” and “cannot tell.” If the text does not provide an explicit refutation or confirmation of the text of the question, then it is better to put “cannot tell”. Besides they have very short time limit – usually just 30 seconds.

In EY you will have to answer 20 verbal reasoning tests within 10 minutes. Below you can see an example of such test:

verbal reasoning tests

See the bottom of the page for answers and explanations of this verbal reasoning test. Try to find the correct answer by yourself first to assess your verbal reasoning abilities. Will 30 seconds be enough for you to find the answer?

EY abstract reasoning tests

Abstract reasoning tests are not common within EY and other Big Four companies pre-employment process. Many departments use only numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning tests to assess intellectual abilities of applicants. So, we recommend you asking your HR representative in advance about the types of aptitude tests that you need to take for your position.

Abstract reasoning tests are used to test such abilities of candidates like imagination, spatial ability and logical reasoning. Please see below an example of an abstract reasoning test used in EY:

abstract reasoning tests

Please try to find the correct answer of this test by yourself to test your logical reasoning abilities. You can find the correct answer and explanation at the bottom of this article.

EY situational judgement tests

Just like abstract reasoning tests some departments in Ernst&Young do not commonly use situational judgement tests but we recommend you asking about this in advance. Recently more and more offices of EY all over the world start using them especially when selecting candidates for managerial positions. Also, situational judgements tests in EY are used to test candidates for promotion for a higher position. So, we recommend you practicing such tests in advance.

Below you will find an example of a situational judgement test for office administrative staff.

situational judgement test for office administrative staff

See the bottom of the article for the answer and explanation of this test. Try to solve the test yourself first.

EY job interview

During the Ernst&Young interview, 2-4 company representatives will talk to you, this will be a representative of the HR department, your department manager and either a senior manager or a department director.

You will receive questions about the results of your tests and then on the details of your resume. The questions can sound completely different. We recommend preparing for the answers to the standard questions:

  • What are your most significant achievements?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite subjects at the university and why?
  • Have you taken part in educational programs, grants, exchanges?
  • Are you a member of any public organizations?
  • Besides Ernst & Young, have you or are you trying to find a job in other companies?
  • If you receive invitations from all the companies, which one will you choose and why?
  • What attracts you to Ernst and Young?
  • What do you know about the company and working at Ernst and Young?
  • How can you contribute to Ernst & Young?

As you can see, most of the questions are about personality and motivation. It is also very important for Ernst & Young that you can demonstrate skills in teamwork and a focus on results.

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We recommend reading our articles on the intricacies of a successful interview:

How to answer the question: “Why do you want this job?”

How to handle a pre-employment stress interview

2 most common job interview mistakes

You are expected to show adequacy, professionalism and the ability to think quickly and not get lost. Be calm and confident – if you have passed all the stages of selection at Ernst & Young, you clearly deserve a place in the team of this company.

Tips from Aptitude-Tests-Practice:

  • make sure you are up to date with the latest news that is important to the audit and consulting industry;
  • prepare to tell about yourself and what is important for you in your future work at EY, list what you would like to work on;
  • think about the main reasons why you want to work at Ernst and Young and in the direction you have chosen;
  • try to instill confidence that EY is the company of your dreams and you won’t quit in a couple of years;
  • very often a conversation can be conducted with you entirely in English, be prepared for this!

In conclusion, you will be told about the system of work in the company and how the work will look like in that particular position where you are applying.

During the interview, you can and should ask questions, because this is a chance for you to find out how the work at EY suits your goals. We recommend that you read our article 8 Smart Questions for an Employer As the HR specialists of EY say, competent counter-questions at the interview are an indicator of the applicant’s intelligence. If there are no questions, it can play against you.

We recommend that you take our block of psychological tests when preparing for your final interview at Ernst and Young. After them, it will be much easier for you to navigate the answers to situational tests and interview questions.

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Only prior preparation will give you the knowledge of what awaits you in tests and interviews at ERNST AND YOUNG. After preparation, you will be significantly calmer and more confident in testing and interviews, and your chances of success will increase many times over. It is better to prepare now than to regret the missed chance for a long time later.


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