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How to make your application stand out from the crowd

  • ey

EY is one of New Zealand’s largest professional services employers. We caught up with Campus Recruitment Senior Consultants Emma Byrt and Marion D’Cruz to find out what they look for in a graduate and what makes an application stand out. 

The EY organisation helps businesses ‘solve their challenges and realise their ambitions’, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. While this requires a workforce with a diverse range of skills and experience, Marion and Emma agree there are a few key things they look for in a potential graduate. 

Hiring the whole person

Marion recruits for EY Consulting, Tax and People Advisory service lines and says that, when it comes to hiring a graduate, they consider the person as a whole - not just their academic capabilities.

“At EY, a lot of what we do doesn’t require a specific degree, so our applicants can be quite diverse. That’s why we like to see a person’s extracurricular activities on their resume, whether they’ve done any volunteer work or what sports teams they’re part of for example. We’re hiring you as a person, so any experiences you’ve had outside your studies provide a good gauge of who you are.”

Marion says taking part in extracurricular activities can also be a good indication of time management and teamwork skills.

“It shows that you can manage your time effectively and work well in a team, which is so important. At EY, 90% of your job involves teamwork - without it you’d struggle in an organisation like ours, where you have to work collaboratively with colleagues both nationally and internationally.”

Work vs life experience

Emma, who recruits for the Assurance, Strategy and Transactions service lines at EY, says that while having practical work experience is beneficial, a lack of it wouldn’t necessarily exclude you from a role.

“We take people from all different walks of life, so we wouldn’t turn someone down simply because of a lack of work experience. You can still be passionate about what you do and a good fit for the company. So, while it’s certainly a plus, experience isn’t the most important thing.”

Although a lack of practical experience can make job interviews challenging, Emma says it’s possible to draw on examples from other areas of life to demonstrate your abilities.

“If you haven’t worked in an organisation before and you’re asked a question about resolving conflict, it can be hard to answer. But the fact is we come across challenges in our lives every day. Perhaps you’ve been part of a project team at Unitec where you’ve had to resolve some sort of conflict. Or you could draw on volunteer work, sports examples, even babysitting experience. I’m sure when you look after kids there’s bound to be conflict resolution happening!”

Preparation is key

One of the most important things when applying for a role is to be prepared. Marion says key to this is gaining an understanding of the organisation you’re applying for.

“If we can see an applicant has taken time to research the company and understands our values, it really makes them stand out. It’s also helpful to personalise your application - write a tailored cover letter that clearly articulates why you’re applying for the role. Edit your application for spelling and grammar and, if you’re applying for multiple roles, double check you have the right company name! It can be embarrassing if you get that wrong. 

“When it comes to your CV, it’s about quality, not quantity. There’s no ‘perfect length’, just make sure the information is succinct, relevant and clear.”

Marion says being prepared is even more crucial if you make it to the job interview stage.

“80% of an interview’s success comes down to preparation. If you have some examples prepared and questions ready to ask about the role, you’ll do so much better. At EY we’re all about asking better questions, so if someone comes into an interview without anything to ask us at the end, we’d really question how engaged they were.”

The importance of networking

Emma says one of the biggest things you can do to make yourself more employable is to connect and get networking. 

“If you’re interested in a company, follow them on social media. Sign up to professional network platforms, connect with them, make sure you’re across all their events. At EY we hold a huge number of networking events where you can get an understanding of who we are as an organisation and where you might fit in. Every event is different, so you’ll be able to find one that suits you.”

These events are also a great chance to meet people and develop industry connections - hopefully making a good impression in the process.

“We’ve recently had a couple of students come to every single event, so when they apply for a role we make sure the team knows how engaged they’ve been. 

“At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that we’re hiring you as a person - it’s not two dimensional. So, turn up and show us who you are.  It’s completely up to you what you make of your opportunity, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.”


The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst & Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.