• Opinion: Reject the blunt instrument of academic grades

  • 11 Aug 2015
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Maggie Stilwell explains why EY has dropped qualifications from its initial recruitment process

Students all over the country will be receiving their A Level results this week and for many, these results will determine where they continue their studies or the employer they go on to work for. However, it’s not necessarily bad news for those who may not have received the grades they were hoping for.
Last week, we announced that we have removed academic qualifications from our entry criteria for graduate, undergraduate and school leaver programmes in 2016. Specifically, we are removing UCAS points, and even more importantly, degree classifications from the filter that allows candidates to apply for a role with EY.
We haven’t taken this decision lightly. We have spent 18 months undertaking an in-depth analysis of our student recruitment process and we found that doing well at college or university is not necessarily a clear cut indicator of future success at the firm. The process now begins with a suite of different tests, which assess numerical skills alongside some of the strengths that we think allow people to be really successful with us and with our clients.
We still value academic qualifications and they remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole. But they will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door. By putting academic qualifications towards the end of our recruitment process, we are placing greater emphasis on the key strengths of people that do well at EY, combining these into a much more diverse and inclusive testing process than we’ve conducted previously. Skills like commerciality, influence and networking are all things which we believe are far less subject to the biases of how and where you’ve grown up.
Ultimately, we want to secure the very best people and we are more likely to achieve this by widening access to the profession. Transforming our recruitment policy is intended to create a more even and fair playing field for all candidates, giving every applicant the opportunity to prove their abilities. There are lots of different skills that people bring from many walks of life, and academic qualifications will now only be considered once we have a better sense of everything a candidate can offer. Our first round of interviews will be conducted “blind”, with no awareness of academic experience on the interviewer’s part.
As one of the UK’s largest graduate recruiters, we believe we have a social obligation to break down the barriers that exclude talented people from certain backgrounds. It’s our hope that this new process will encourage those who would never have previously thought to apply for a role at EY to consider it. We want a more diverse culture at EY to drive us forward, and ultimately deliver better results for our clients.

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  • Interestingly, Peter Saville (co-founder of Saville & Holdsworth) was saying this over 30 years ago.