EY wins big at 2017 gradireland awards

Renewed focus on student outreach credited with financial consultancy firm’s success

Winner of the Graduate Employer of the Year category, the team from EY, led by Caroline McAniff. Photograph: Paul Kelly/Studio 3

Winner of the Graduate Employer of the Year category, the team from EY, led by Caroline McAniff. Photograph: Paul Kelly/Studio 3


EY was the big winner at the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House last Thursday, with the financial consultancy firm collecting awards across four separate categories.

The company claimed gongs for Best Large Internship Programme, Best Student Marketing Campaign and Diversity in Recruitment, as well as the prestigious award of Graduate Employer of the Year as voted for by an expert panel.

Other notable successes included Graduate Employee of the Year award winner Michael Redmond from AbbVie, while in the student category, voted for by over 7,000 college attendees nationwide, Deloitte was voted Most Popular Graduate Recruiter.

Winners on the night included Accenture, Bank of Ireland, KPMG and Aer Lingus among others, and gradireland director Mark Mitchell took the opportunity to commend the companies on their achievements following the largest graduate awards ceremony so far.

Such has been the popularity of the event that the previous format of including graduate and post-graduate awards in the one ceremony has had to be changed in favour of two separate showcases.

Best internship

Another innovation this year was the decision to split the best internship category as voted for by expert panels into prizes for smaller and larger internships depending on how many interns a company takes in.

This year’s figure of 142 submissions for the graduate recruitment awards is an all-time record, according to Mitchell, who outlined the benefits arising from a gradireland recognition.

“It definitely makes it easier for companies to attract top graduates in future years because they’re able then to point to an award-winning training and development programme or an award-winning diversity recruitment initiative or whatever it happens to be,” he said.

“These awards are entered by some of the biggest brands in the country, and what we’re looking for is demonstration of best practice. They’re extremely hard to actually adjudicate on by the panels because all of them are meritorious in their own way in terms of being shortlisted,” he added.

One of the driving reasons behind EY’s success was a renewed focus on the student outreach aspect of its graduate programmes, which has aided the company in getting candidates best suited to the roles on offer through the doors in the first instance.

Overhaul the message

Admitting that EY had perhaps underperformed in this area in the past, its head of recruitment Caroline McAniff told The Irish Times a conscious effort had been made to overhaul the message being sent out to students, which culminated in an award for the Best Student Marketing Campaign.

“We really needed to improve our visibility on campus to get students to notice what we were doing. Basically, we’ve changed everything, so it’s radically different from anything we would have done previously.”

“We were probably a bit more risk-averse in previous years,” added Luke Maycock, recruitment marketing senior associate with EY.

“When we were looking at our campaign we looked at what the market were doing, and all of our competitors were doing the same thing: a couple of graduates wearing suits speaking to camera from a script.

“We looked at our target market and the media they were consuming and it was totally opposite to what we were producing, so we thought, ‘okay, we’re getting this wrong,’” he said.

In order to attract the best calibre of candidate for its 300 graduate positions, the company partnered with a creative agency for its campaign on campuses and commissioned research from UCD Smurfit School on the effectiveness of the EY brand in the market.

Social media channels

A greater emphasis on social media channels and the use of “fast, colourful and engaging” videos featuring past EY graduate recruits ultimately helped to deliver tangible results, and, along with an increased Facebook following, the number of completed applications rose by 234 per cent.

A deliberate attempt to reach out to people from diverse backgrounds was a key tenet of this strategy, according to McAniff, and its achievements were recognised with the awarding of the gradireland Diversity Recruitment Award to EY.

“We were looking for people with diversity of thought – people coming from other backgrounds, not just accounting and finance which were obviously key to us, but we’re also looking at people from arts degrees, science degrees, people who have studied agriculture,” she said.

“The organised graduate programmes take in large numbers, so they always want diversity. Even in the big accountancy firms, no one wants a room full of accountants,” observed gradireland’s Mark Mitchell.

“They’re looking for different backgrounds, different nationalities, different subject-specific disciplines as well,” he added.

A consistently strong performer in the diversity category of the awards since they began in 2007 was Enterprise car rental group, and its HR manager in Ireland Leslee O’Loughlin stressed the importance of reaching out to as wide an audience as possible.

Cross-cultural perspective

“Really just anybody that will bring talent into the organisation and a cross-cultural perspective which leads to innovation, it leads to a better business, a better service-provider for our communities across Ireland,” she said, before offering some advice on diversity recruitment: “Sometimes it’s a very simple change in how you post an opportunity, and how you run your recruitment process can be exclusive whether you realise it or not. Are you sure that the opportunity you’re posting reads inclusively? Does it inherently restrict your candidate pool the way it’s written and how it’s communicated?”

Another huge change has occurred in the intervening period since last year’s awards, although gradireland had little say on this particular development.

The vote for the UK to leave the European Union may have caused widespread panic in political and business circles, but Mitchell is confident that Irish graduates will be able to adjust to the changing circumstances in future.

“Irish students are extremely adaptable and extremely resilient . . . I think that the Brexit situation will ultimately be advantageous to Irish graduates because Irish graduates will always look to see where the opportunities are.”

Graduate Employee of the Year Michael Redmond from AbbVie, with his graduate manager Louise Clarke. Photograph: Paul Kelly/Studio 3
Graduate Employee of the Year Michael Redmond from AbbVie, with his graduate manager Louise Clarke. Photograph: Paul Kelly/Studio 3

Most Popular Graduate Employer by sector

Accountancy/Professional Services: Deloitte

Banking, Investment & financial services: Bank of Ireland

Consulting: Accenture

Engineering: Intel

FMCG: Jameson – Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard

IT: Google

Law: A&L Goodbody

Logistics, Transport & supply chain management: Aer Lingus

Online retail services & telecoms: Amazon

Public sector : Department of Education (ie Teaching)

Retail: Lidl

Science: Pfizer

Utilities, energy & renewables: ESB

Most Popular Graduate Recruiter (ie the company that got the most votes in total in the whole poll): Deloitte

Expert Panel Awards

Best Student Marketing Campaign : EY

Best Innovation on Campus: Accenture

Best Graduate Recruitment Website: Aldi

Best Internship >50 intake: EY

Best Internship <50 intake: AbbVie

gradireland Diversity Recruitment Award : EY

Best Training & Development Programme – specialist/professional: KPMG

Best Training & Development Programme – business/management: Glanbia

gradireland Graduate Employee of the Year: Michael Redmond, AbbVie

gradireland Graduate Employer of the Year: EY