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How consulting firms are trying to attract young graduates

On a Tuesday morning in April, the audit firm’s entire HR leadership team had gathered on the 13th floor of the Mazars tower in Paris’ La Défense district to present the group’s new strategy for recruiting and retaining young graduates to the press. Mazars France plans to recruit 1,500 employees this year, including 1,100 young graduates, but there’s a problem: The job is no longer as attractive as it used to be. “We face two challenges,” said HR director Mathilde Le Coz. “On the one hand, the firm’s culture is seen as very hierarchical and rigid. On the other, accounting’s somewhat old-fashioned image is a problem. People picture a man in a dark suit with a briefcase. The question is how to dismantle the myths surrounding our profession.”

This is not the first time Mazars has addressed the issue, and the firm is not alone. In November 2023, seven leading audit and consulting firms (BDO, Deloitte, EY, Grant Thornton, KPMG, Mazars and PwC) held a conference on the same topic: “How can we make consulting firms more inspiring and attractive to the younger generation?” While the “Big Three” (BCG, McKinsey and Bain & Company) for strategy consulting and the “Big Four” (PwC, EY, Deloitte and KPMG) for auditing and consulting still feature at the top of rankings of students’ favorite employers, the sector partly needs to reinvent itself to remain appealing.

“Auditing is undoubtedly less popular with young graduates,” said Manuelle Malot, director of careers at EDHEC Business School. For a long time, audit and consulting jobs were the top choices for business and engineering school graduates, but from the 2000s onwards, they have been overshadowed by the rise of tech companies and the growth of start-ups. “Their second disadvantage,” continued Malot, “is that they have not been able to explain the usefulness of their mission at a time when our surveys from 2016-2017 onward have shown that young generations aspire to be useful to society.” This has been compounded by a dynamic job market that is favorable to young graduates.

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To help the firm adapt, Mazars called on Malot and the NewGen Talent Centre she runs. Created in 2013 by EDHEC, the center looks at young graduates’ expectations, both at the end of their studies and at the start of their professional lives. It confirms the trend: Business and engineering school graduates, the main recruitment pool for audit and consulting firms, now seek not only good training and pay but also good working conditions and the opportunity to contribute to society.

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