Ernst & Young’s Jay Layman is looking to get married
Jay Layman is a partner at Ernst & Young’s advisory services, the firm’s consulting wing. To keep pace with demand — the department boasts an annual growth rate of 20 percent — Layman hires a steady flow of director and executive-level talent to lead the Midwest practice, which employs around 630 in Chicago.
Where’s the beef?
Every interviewer asks about when things went wrong. Layman wants to know when things went really wrong. “Not just a bump in the road, but give me a nasty, meaty, client conflict or delivery issue.” Candidates at the executive level can either point the finger at employees or jump on the grenade themselves. Layman prefers the latter. “Somebody that’s had the courage and values to accept responsibility regardless of what consequences are.”
Layman’s department is not for the faint of heart or the cold of feet. “It’s a marriage,” he says. “It takes time to get to know one another.” Before they ever step foot in Layman’s office, prospects go through a courting process that rivals Victorian England, meeting leaders throughout the company to make sure they pass muster. “Lots of dates before we make it to the altar.”
Silence is golden
Hearing crickets at a comedy club? Bad sign. Hearing them in Layman’s office? Good. “Silence in the room is a good thing,” says Layman, arguing that a long pause is the sign of serious contemplation, even when it gets to the point of awkward. “I don’t like one-sentence responses, so I give a lot of space to let them create, especially at this level.”
Coach ’em up
Layman likes to hear about those times you spun straw into gold. “I’m looking for people that took maybe the B, B+ player and turned them into an A player,” he says. That kind of talent for personnel development requires an outlook that’s driven by more than immediate results. “They’re looking out the windshield versus staring down at the dashboard,” says Layman.
Pay it forward
If you’re sitting in Layman’s office, you probably had some help along the way. “Tell me a little bit about some of the people who mentored you.” Layman thinks those who have benefited from strong guidance are more likely to take the time to share their own wisdom. “There’s an expectation that they know how to pay it forward.”