Working in Assurance – James

James studied a Master of Science in Geography with Quantitative Research Methods at University of Bristol graduating in 2015. He now works in Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services in Assurance in London.

When did you start thinking about which industry and employer to apply to, and what did you do to set the ball rolling?

"During the winter to springtime of my third year, I started looking at internships and browsing the University of Bristol careers website. I came across several Forensic Accounting roles that seemed to be a perfect match for my skills and what I enjoyed. I applied to a couple of internships but was unsuccessful, so decided to spend the summer travelling instead. When I returned in September, I was much more focused and applied early for graduate jobs once I had finished my Masters degree. Browsing through the careers website and finding the description for forensic accounting and matching them to my skills was definitely the catalyst for applying to EY."


What made you realise you could get a job at EY with your degree, and what drew you to EY in particular?

"When I started applying, I have to admit I was much more interested in getting a job anywhere than one company in specific. Similar to other people I met at the interview and assessment centre stages. I had applied to all of the Big 4 and another firm (it was similar to sending my 5 UCAS choices off as I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket right from the start). It was only during the application that my attitude changed; EY was always the quickest to respond to me at every stage – there were personal phone calls from my interviewers and they were usually within 24 hours of the interview/assessment centre finishing. The people that I met from EY during the application process were always very open about their experiences at the firm and made me feel very welcome at each stage."


What skills and experiences helped you through EY’s application and selection process?

"Many of my skills and experiences were not degree specific – being treasurer at the university football club and developing an iOS application in my spare time gave me different things to talk about during the interview process. Using your time at university to do a wide range of different things, not just focusing on your academic studies, is very important."


What skills from your degree have you been able to transfer to your role at EY?

"Many of the statistics and data analysis skills that I learnt from modules of my geography degree have been directly applicable in the Forensic Data Analytics department at EY. Being able to construct arguments and essays in writing has also been helpful when writing reports or communicating with clients via email."


How has EY supported your transition from a humanities degree into business? 

"There have been a number of training courses to develop the skills I need to perform well in my role at EY. On top of the studying I have carried out for my professional qualification, I feel that I am currently learning more content, more quickly than I ever have done before. While theory and training has been important, I have found the best way of learning is on the job – there are always people on my teams, or sitting near me that are willing to help me out if I have any questions. Usually, they are happy to take an hour to explain something to you that would take them several hours to complete themselves."


What’s your most important piece of advice for students studying the same degree as you did and how to go about getting a job with an organisation like EY?

"The key factor that changed between unsuccessfully applying to internships in the spring of my third year and being successful in my application to EY was having a much better knowledge of what the role that I was applying for entailed. When I first learned about forensic accounting I didn’t particularly know what it involved, only that the job’s requirements matched my own skills. When I started reading about specific cases and developing a wider understanding of how forensic accounting differed from other forms of accounting I found that I was able to express what made me a good fit for the role in a wider sense, rather than just ticking the boxes laid out on the careers website. Applying early was also hugely beneficial, having a job offer by November allowed me to concentrate on securing my 2:1 for the remainder of the year."

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