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The AI Mirage in Hiring: Are Vendors Innovative Solutions or Industry Snake Oil?

March 6, 2024
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      5 min read
      Max Armbruster
      Max Armbruster
      CEO Talkpush

      Building a Better Working World with Larry Nash from EY

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      Episode 45 full coverIn this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Larry Nash, Americas Director of Talent Attraction and Acquisition at EY, talks about the trend in talent pools across every industry to look for companies that align with their values. He says for TA teams it’s a great opportunity to differentiate themselves and attract top talent, centering the process on company values, which in EY’s case is building a better working world. He also delves into his current TA tech stack, and their acceleration with automation during the past year to create faster and more engaging application process.


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      Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


      Max:  Hello and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster, and today I'm delighted to welcome Larry Nash. Larry is Director of Talent Acquisition for Americas EY: Ernst and Young, formerly known as, what was EY called a long time ago, Larry?


      Larry: Well, Ernst & Young but yeah it was Ernst & Whinney and Arthur Young merged a long time ago to form Ernst and Young. I think it was 1989 around that. So it's been a long time since we've been EY or Ernst and Young.


      Max:  Yeah it was, and then EY the acronym became the official name just a few years ago, right?


      Larry:  Correct.


      Max:  All right, great. Well, welcome Larry. Thanks for joining us today. And I'll start by asking you how

      you ended up working in talent acquisition, if you can go back to your pre EY days, which you've been there for over 18 years. So, take us back to the start of your career, how did you end up in talent acquisition?


      Larry:  Yeah, great for at first, Max, thank you for having me on. I'm really looking forward to theconversation. So yeah prior to joining EY, I was at Arthur Andersen, another professional services firm, where I was for 13 years in a variety of human resource roles, mostly in the recruiting space or talent acquisition space. And prior to Arthur Andersen I started out at Price Waterhouse. So I have the theme in my career Max where I've spent all of my career within professional services and have just really enjoyed and love the culture, the focus on people, constant innovation and progressiveness and focus on inclusivity and diversity, so it's been over 30 years in the profession, as you said, almost 1985 and it's been a wonderful experience for me and for the last few years now I've been leading our America's, what we call actually talent attraction and talent acquisition. 


      We used to be called recruiting, but recently we change that to talent attraction and acquisition to recognize the broadness and diversity of our roles, and the focus of not only getting candidates interested in the profession and in opportunities at EY but obviously then having an amazing process to bring them in and assess them and hopefully join the organization. 


      So we have an excellent community of recruiters, or talent attraction and acquisition professionals across the world. And lucky to be a part of that team.


      Max:  You're mentioning this industry. What should we call it, management consulting? Well, professional services at large as being an industry that you feel great kinship to because, from the outside it's something that's always good to have on your resume, something like that so it's a great place to attract ambitious young talents, coming out of the best schools, and that's the main thing right from a talent acquisitions perspective, you don't have to fight too hard to get some pretty good resumes.


      Larry:  Yeah I think we use professional services because there's a multitude of services from consulting and tax and energy work to a whole slew of services that all the organizations in the industry offer. And yes, we do feel we have a really strong brand and part of our value proposition for candidates is an exceptional EY experience, it's yours to build right, we provide the tools the experiences, the platforms to help you grow your career as you want to grow it, whether that's working in different service lines over the course of your career, whether that's making partner, wonderful achievement or having just wonderful experiences and becoming a CEO somewhere else or CFO or Chief Development Officer or starting your own business. So we're really excited over the course of our life as an organization to build careers across industries and within our organization. And I would say though, Max, it is certainly a competitive market out there right now. 


      A lot of organizations, not just those in our vertical, but really in all facets of industries are looking for a lot of the same talent that's technology transformation or strategy work or technology skills or tax consultants, I can go on and on about what we're looking for, but a lot of organizations are looking for that top talent. So we work really hard to differentiate ourselves, and to get to know talent, and hopefully distinguish what we can offer versus what other organizations can. Certainly on the student side we do a lot, we have a lot of programs to offer from a variety of internships, challenges and programs.


      Max: Let's stay on this topic Larry on the competition that's stiff, to simplify things we could say the MBAs, they end up either in consulting industry, or maybe technology is the hot one right now. So are the looming threats today, where a greater proportion of the deep thinkers, the strategics end up working in technology, and that's eating part of your talent pool.


      Larry:  No, I wouldn't say that I think a lot of MBAs, and we certainly hire a number of MBAs, but we also hire a lot at the undergraduate level. I think, continues to be the case as people are looking for a variety of work and I think one of the things that has become more common lately is wanting to work at an organization that aligns with your values and purpose. For us at EY it's building a better working world. And that's not just what we're doing with our people but how we help our clients build a better working world. And that could be working with an organization whose bringing a drug to market faster right, to address and be working with governments or entities to create infrastructure and programs to help the needy. So, we offer a lot, around an individual's purpose and hopefully that's aligned with our purpose of building a better working world. I do think though that individuals like you mentioned MBAs, they certainly are interested in strategy work, working for financial services organizations, technology companies. But I also think, again, that sector is really interested in aligning with their values and purpose and that is a big reason. I think that is why individuals are joining organizations or where organizations might be differentiating themselves is the purpose that aligns with that individual.


      Max:  And almost 19 years at EY and so you must have seen different styles of leadership and adapted to a changing market. So, can you give us a sense for how EY's EVP has evolved during that time. It sounds and I'm reading between the lines that perhaps EY is focusing a little bit more on the transformative power of it's work on the workplace, and I am still attached to the romantic notion of no the road to partnership and the hyper competitive world of consulting, where you come in and you're treated like cannon fodder, but if you rise, then you can rise fast. So that's an image that maybe is a little bit dated.


      Larry:  Yeah, having been at EY for 19 years I would respectfully say that's a little dated, and we've always been focused about offering the right experiences and getting the right training. So training, learning and coaching and being part of an inclusive and diverse culture, I've always been mainstays of what we offer that hasn't changed. 


      But we also recognize that experiences and learning are building blocks to where you want to take your career. And that's why it's evolved into it's yours to build. We as an organization need to provide the tools and the experiences and the learning and the platforms and awesome technology so you could do your job well and learn. And we also provide mobility where you want to take your career, but a lot of it is on the individual, how do I want to grow my career and how do I want to develop in different ways. 


      So you had mentioned how the leadership evolved, and obviously coming out of that pandemic over a year right, it's been a challenging experience I speak for US leadership, where I sit out of our Pittsburgh offic,


      Max: Go Steelers!

      Larry: That's right, the leadership here has just been so tremendous since, we all still were in we're locked down started back in March here in the US and the focus has always been on the safety and health and security of our people and our leadership, Kelly Greyer our US, Chairman and CEO just set a tone from the beginning that we're in this for you and we're going to get through this together. We're going to come out of the stronger and that tone was just exceptional and gave people a lot of comfort in a very unusual right and precedented time, and certainly our recruiting team, just to transition a little bit to what did we do, we had to change everything virtually overnight, and move from a lot of in person events to exclusively using virtual talent agencies from video interviews and virtual onboarding and virtual events, as we were still recruiting students from campuses to a virtual internship program where in the US we had over 3300 interns, a summer ago and we'll have an equal number this year, which we're excited about. 


      So, the ability to pivot quickly, sometimes by choice, sometimes not by choice has been something we've certainly had to experience and leveraging more tools like social media right to engage candidates in a much more and in a much bigger way has been something that has changed and transitioned. We had our interns in fact Max, do an Instagram takeover last year and really showcase a day in the life of, and it was very authentic and real and people got to see what it was like to work at EY. So there's a lot of things we've had to do to pivot over the course of the last year, and some things that we'll continue to endure as we get back to. I don't know the terms are evolving but to what extent will our workplace be reimagined where things will be different.


      Max:  Yeah, and EY probably already allowed for people to spend a lot of time working from home or working remotely. And, you know, of course would have been less impacted than say traditional manufacturing business where you have to show up at the office every day, but the white collar work can be performed from anywhere.


      Larry:  Yeah we were able to do that, although it was a big change, certainly in our business, we're out at our client locations quite often and even there, and that stopped overnight, so our teams really had to pivot and figure out what type of tools, zoom, other tools, Microsoft Teams actually was a lifesaver for us.But tools to collaborate in a way that could accomplish the work and yeah, we were able to surely showcase and demonstrate that but, it takes a lot to change how you've done things for a long time to doing it in a new way overnight.


      Max:  And you're mentioning tools so I want to latch on to that and you know I'm a technologist. I'm super interested in how you were able to transition to 100% virtual hiring. Perhaps you could tell us what we know, what were some of the favorite tools or some of the technology that helped you through that transition.


      Larry:  Yeah, we were fortunate we've been on a number of years ago, invested in video interviewing. So on our campus side we use the yellow platform and we're able to easily switch from live interviews to video, because that has already been going on actually before the pandemic. And then we also use HireVue where we will leverage recorded video interviews and live video interviews and working with those technologies just has been seamless and allowed for just a very real experience and it didn't really impact our ability to meet and assess and compel candidates, so that so that was fortunate, and then Max actually this had started before the pandemic, but we have been on this journey to implement e-based assessments, which is a new thing in our assessment process, which gives us greater insight into a candidate's cognitive abilities and personality constructs and we rolled that out just a few months ago. So, the pandemic gave us more time to profile our high performers and one of the qualities they have that new joiners to have. And so far it's been a great experience getting that additional insight so it's another data point for us as we make determinations on whom we forward in the process. But it's fun, it's engaging, it's quick it's 12-15 minutes of games, not too long. A lot of the feedback has been, hey it's fun, it's challenging, and every participant gets an insight report, which gives them a take, they move from process or not and things that they can learn more about themselves and understand.


      Max:  Yeah, I've even heard of some assessment vendors that would, if they're if they're not a good fit for the employer that submitting them, would go as far as recommending alternative careers, to those who say fail the test, although some tests are impossible to fail because there's no wrong answers. It sounds like in the case of your game, you're measuring the cognitive abilities so there is a way you can fail right.


      Larry:  I wouldn't say there's a failure. No, I would say it's just getting an additional insight to more of your shrinks and, the important part of all this process whatever vendor you choose is, what is it that that you're looking for, and what's the right match and I do think you get better insights, I do think by having a consistent game you're helping to reduce some unconscious bias in the process, and it just adds another data point to making perhaps more informed date decisions, and not going on gut, which sometimes can happen in the assessment process.


      Max:  We know to love and hate our gut. I've had many people on this show, who have shared moments in their recruitment history that they've come to regret, a hiring mistake. A good chunk of them could be put in sort of in the gut basket, where you just go with your gut, and you forgot to ask all the questions,you forgot to go through the process. Larry I am going to ask you the same question, you know in your 18 years at EY, don't tell me you haven't made some recruitment mistakes. We all have.


      Larry:  Never.


      Max:  Been back to one particular thing that's done, and without giving names, could you share with me,what was the source of your mistake?


      Larry:  Yeah, no I mean certainly, of course, we've all made I'd not say mistakes but maybe. Yeah, I mean missteps, I know that's a nuanced word. I think for me when I look back, it's when I didn't probe enough, I really didn't get under the surface of the traits, and capability, someone was bringing in and got a little bit too enamored with this as what was stated on the resume so this had to be the truth. So, getting underneath it more is something I've been focusing, I focused on more after some of those experiences. Pardon me for that noise and interruption. So getting underneath that surface so when I didn't do that enough, then I had certainly some mistakes so you always have to take that resume, take that background and really dive underneath it to understand the worst capabilities and what they did and what they bring to the table to truly know more of what you're bringing into the organization.


      Max: No wishful thinking, basically. No wishful thinking. Don't assume positively. Great. Well, thinking about the last year and changing the landscape view. I'm wondering about the geographical elements and whether you know the longitude and latitude data that we get tagged on to every single individual, as to where they live or where they're going to go to work as that element has lost its weight over the last year. How's that affected the map of the town for you and your recruitment strategy? Are you now looking at North America differently than you were a year or two years ago?


      Larry:  Yeah, I think even before this, just the insights that we're able to get from some of the tools out there, give you a better idea of the supply and demand for skills. And that has certainly helped us focus when we see a bigger supply of talent for a particular skill set, right, in that location a little bit more than maybe we did in the past and there's certainly some shifts going on right there's some shifts in technology from the West Coast down to Austin, down to the other parts of the US. 


      So we've always been following those trends and using the data we're getting from a variety of tools. But yeah, as we are reimagining the workplace, we are gonna, as an organization, work differently. And I mentioned earlier, we're a consulting firm or professional services organization so we spend a lot of time with our clients. And now as we listen to what our clients are thinking of doing as we come out of this, many of them, want a hybrid where we're in person but also working flexibly a little bit more than we did in the past and is something we're able to factor into where should people be hired into and where can they be and open different doors, so I wouldn't be able to tell you right now there's certain locations that we're particularly focused on but it does open up the funnel of where you can find talent and then imagine how we're working.


      Max:  Yeah, I'm not gonna ask you to open the books on the specifics of which state is performing better than others but would you agree with the statements that the big metropolitan areas have a little bit less veneer today than they did a couple years ago, is that a fair statement?


      Larry:  I think it depends on the talent you're looking for right and you've got to get a bit granular, to where that talent is so for example if I'm looking for deep financial services experiences right certain cities are going to come to mind and at a point to come to mind because that's where the talent is. Now some of that talent may be shifting elsewhere so we'll have other areas to look at but we certainly aren't going to ignore where those pockets of talent exist. 


      I do think that there's a personal choice that's occurring for people from the pandemic of where they want to work right and that certainly that's gone on. I do think it's hard to know if that's completely permanent, Max, or that's what's happening now. But things could shift back so I think we have to pay close attention to those themes. I would say where we're headed, if we're looking at an integrated workforce being our full time staff, where does automation play a role, right in delivering work. How does the contingent workforce play a role and how does our global organization also play a role and how do we serve clients effectively. So I think all those levers are parts of our integrated workforce that are getting looked at even more closely and differently with just some of the changes that are going on in the world.


      Max:  And is a portion of your new workforce, coming from location undisclosed to New Mexico,

      Tamarindo Costa Rica or some other exotic places where people can deliver consulting services from any old place now, these days, or we're still attached to sort of more traditional models.


      Larry: Yeah, I'd say right now in the US those working in the US organization are our residents in the US. And I don't think that's changing in the near future but certainly something we need to pay close attention to.


      Max:  Who knows. Yeah, it's becoming a small world. And, well, the small world has brought us together for a nice chat. I certainly am personally thankful for the time that I've spent in management consulting because I thought it was a little bit brutal but I loved it, and I thought that it helped to shape some of my thinking and made me a little bit more demanding to myself on the thinking part. So, I think it's a great career for a lot of people who want to be a little bit more structured, and thanks for coming to share your stories, Larry, on the podcast. How do people get in touch with you if they'd like to?


      Larry:  Yeah, certainly you could always look me up on LinkedIn, that's probably the easiest way, Larry Nash. And I'd say with management consulting Max and I totally get everybody's going to have a different experience. But I'd leave you with this or leave those that are listening, the ability to work with, fortune 1000 companies and emerging companies and being able to see all of those over the course of a career, can truly, right, make you just a more well rounded individual as well as give you experiences that will help you over the course of a lifetime. So I certainly if anybody's interested in a career in professional services look me up on LinkedIn and Max I appreciate your time and talking with you today.


      Max:  Thanks, Larry. Well we'll leave you with those engaging words for EY. And thanks again for coming on the show.


      Larry:  My pleasure.


      Max:   That was Larry Nash from EYI reminding us never to waste a crisis. In the case of EY, they were able to transition a lot of the initiatives to accelerate a lot of the initiatives that they had already started around video interviewing around gamification in order to get a more automated process and to be able to consider a wider talent pool across the last year. Hope you enjoyed this interview and that you'd like to hear from more talent acquisition professionals from a variety of industries. That's what you'll get on the recruitment hackers podcast. So please subscribe and share with friends.    


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