EY Using Facebook to Attract Students
As an accounting/ethics professor in college, I was interested to learn that Ernst & Young, one of the four largest public accounting firms in the world, has discovered facebook as a way to attract student interest in a career with the firm. The firm is meeting the students where they "live," online. Based on market research and analysis, Ernst & Young has determined that more than fifty percent of its target recruitment audience said that they would be interested in receiving more information about potential employers on their mobile devices. A mobile version of Ernst & Young’s Careers site also launched last fall at http://www.ey.mobi/US/en/Careers/Mobile-Careers---Home.
EY’s facebook page (59,993 likes as of February 23) features a short six-question quiz which students can receive on their mobile phone. Anyone can take the quiz, but to win a prize, you have to meet the eligibility requirements (see http://www.facebook.com/ernstandyoungcareers) Every Monday, from February 7 to April 4, the questions change. Participants are invited to take all the quizzes and can retry any quiz as many times as they want, with only their best ranking from each week recorded. According to America's Leader for Branding and Communication for Recruiting at E&Y, Deborah Compagner, when the quiz is all over, the top three scorers will each win an iPad. The top scores are determined by the highest number of correct answers combined with the best times.
According to the online publication accounting web (http://www.accountingweb.com/topic/education-careers/new-way-attract-accounting-talent-ey-might-be-something-big), the firm wants a meaningful outreach to the next generation of accountants, using a tool with which students are comfortable. The quiz is part of a social media connection to those seeking careers in accounting in the near future as well as to those who are looking for career direction. E&Y wants to drive home its brand as a place where talented individuals want to work. Dan Black, America's director of campus recruiting for E&Y, said "We want to find the best and brightest, for internships and for full time jobs." Black said his firm has been on facebook for nearly five years, so this campaign is more than just a mobile app. "It adds to our accessibility and draws attention to our site."
Now in its third week of this campaign, Compagner said the response to the quiz has been promising. "We've gone through recruiting offices on campus to promote this and the results have been great." As noted above, when the contest is over, three winners will be given iPads.
I have looked at the EY career page on facebook and it is quite informative. Students can e-mail questions about internships, full-time positions, the CPA exam, the accounting profession and so on. The responses are quite helpful in providing direction for students and suggestions on where to go for more information on recruiting and career issues.
I have thought long and hard about EY’s use of facebook. I know some of my students will read this blog and consider what I have said. I want to be fair to the firm and what it is trying to accomplish. I believe the use of social media to attract students while at the same time providing valuable information is a great idea. Whoever thought of it should be rewarded. However, in the interest of creating a dialogue I ask the question of whether using the quiz as a way to attract talent to EY and dangling an iPad as the reward is an ethical action? It's not only the iPad that concerns me but the blatant commercialism of the effort. What message does it send to impressionable students that firms have giveaways to get what they want? Could that translate into the attitude that we should giveaway unqualified audit opinions to keep a client happy? Then again, maybe I'm reading too much in it. If you believe that is the case, please respond so we can get a dialogue going on this important issue that may revolutionize student recruiting in the public accounting profession.