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Student Testimonials


Spring 2016 Student Career Assistants interviewed students and asked them about their job search experience. See below to read their stories. The Career Center is here to help with your career search process.


Kabir Sarjan ’16,  International Student, Major: Economics/Political Economy

Transfer Pricing Analyst, Ernst & Young

Suneet: Could you tell me how you got this awesome job?

Kabir: I learned pretty early in my job search that if I wanted to go for a large organization, with a brand name perspective, that deals with hard core clients then it would be a really big step up. I really wanted to work for a big organization and I knew how competitive it was. I started to realize that applying online was not a good way to go. Your resumes and cover letters will just fall into a black hole of thousands of people applying for the same jobs you.  The first thing I did was contact Carleton alums from every major large organization that I wanted to work for. I was on the fence regarding management consulting because it was very travelesque, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. And I was confused about what economic consulting is, because it is not as client facing as I would like it to be. Then I learned that there was a 30 Minutes appointment at the Career Center with a partner from Ernst and Young coming in. We actually really hit it off and I dealt with that conversation like a first round interview, even though it was supposed to be an informal conversation. I approached it as me trying to impress someone and then I tried to ask as organically as possible and bring up jobs at Ernst and Young. I told her what my worries were about consulting and what I was nervous about. She told me transfer pricing is client-facing and economic-focused. It can set you up to go get a masters in economics or in taxation. Also, you can work in advisory after about a year. I gave her my resume and I got an interview a few days later. There were three rounds worth of interviews-two phone interviews and a super day. My first phone interview was very behavioral and I talked to a manager about my interests. For my second interview I was asked to walk through a data set that I had worked on in the past.

S: Did you prepare before you went?

K: I should have but I did not because I genuinely did not expect to be asked the level of depth that I was. I was invited to the super day, an 8:30am to 2pm day [of interviews], where you meet your competition and a bunch of other managers and analysts. You hang out with them, get to know them, have a nice breakfast, and meet managers. From 8:30am you are on display. You have to be on your game all the way through. You have to be very careful, very tactical, showing yourself in the most positive light. That was the first aspect of it, then there were three 30-minute interviews back-to-back. I had to interview with a manager, senior manager, and a partner. After that everyone got together and had lunch. Everyone was assigned a liaison-an analyst from the organization, one year or two years out of college. Their job was to make sure you made your interviews on time, but more importantly to make sure you were your most client presenting self. The manager interview was the most hardcore. The questions were about how competent you are for the job, and what you know about the job. I got into it and answered the questions in as much detail as I could.

S: How many days after that did you get your offer?

K: The next morning. I actually had another super day for a different position the day right after that. So I finished my super day for Ernst and Young, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to go to the cities for my next super day. I was in that info session, the equivalent at breakfast, and they said, “We’re giving you a job.”

S: Did you leave the interview?

K: No, I stayed and did the whole thing because I wanted to see if I could get an offer and compare it to the Ernst and Young offer. The Ernst and Young offer was much better.

S: That’s awesome. You said you applied to several different places, can you tell me when you started applying to these places, how you learned about them, how many places you applied to, and how you applied to these places?

K: I used my summer as an opportunity to narrow down all the organizations that I would be happy working for. The list of organizations ran in the hundreds. There were 324 organizations I had to apply for. I had a spreadsheet with every organization’s links to positions, where their job portals were, another column that said the different things they required and when they opened. I made it so they would light up in green if they were open that day and I would just go through and apply as soon as they turned green. I started doing that during July and I was done by the end of July. I started applying at the end of August. Most applications opened up at the end of August and early September. The season really kicks in at the end of September and beginning of October. By November you’re done. By November you’re moving on.

S: What time did you get your Ernst and Young offer?

K: I got my EY offer mid-October. Those larger firms always try to lock down talent really early because for them, people are applying for other firms too. So, getting offers out early is really important.

S: If you are comfortable sharing, of the 300 you applied to, how many got back to you?

K: TINY numbers. Out of 300 I applied to, maybe 30-45 got back to me. A lot of them were problematic because half I actually couldn’t apply for because they weren’t comfortable having international students, which adds another level of complexity. I was applying for a corporate finance position at Union Labor and I got the first round interview. When I did the interview, the manager asked if I was an international student, and I said yes. They said, “Oh wow, we will get back to you,” and I got an email the next day that said, “I’m sorry we can’t have international students.” That happened a number of times.

S: Did you apply online for a lot of the positions?

K: I had some that I applied online. I applied online and got an interview for only about 7 or 8 positions. Everything else was through talking to people and asking if they would be okay taking my resume.

S: What’s your advice for Carleton students going through the recruiting process who are interested in business?

K: Honestly I do believe it is a numbers game. The economic related positions that come through the Tunnel are few. When it comes down to it, competing with Carls is not like competing with people outside. I am not one of the top economic students at Carleton by a long shot. I realized early that I would not be able to compete with anybody who has a higher GPA than me or has received scholarships. Honestly the best way of doing it was by leveraging my skill, and talking to people. My general piece of advice would be starting early and being in a position that when you get into the job search, you have everything ready to go. Resumes and cover letters ready to go, you know who to contact, and you know what organizations you want to work for. Having all of that information is absolutely crucial. When you’re applying for these number of things, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re writing everything from scratch. It will take you forever. The best way to do it is have a stock cover letter that you can use to apply to different organizations as opposed to redoing everything. Of course for every application you should mend your cover letter.

S: That’s so helpful. What advice do you have for interviews?

K: Every person is different but practice is key. Practice interviewing with your friends, with supervisors, with anybody you know. The biggest thing is to switch up the people you interview with. When I was practicing my interviews with the Career Center, I practiced with three different people over the course of two weeks. Everybody has their own approach to conducting interviews and it is very important to be able to deal with all of them. Another aspect is narrative. You need to develop a very solid and consistent narrative about yourself that should be true because the second you’re not trying to be yourself, it blatantly shows, and it is not worth doing. It is just practice and being able to develop a brand for yourself, who you are, what you like to do, and something that sticks with someone. Develop a narrative as simple as your strengths, your weaknesses, how you overcome your weaknesses, how you leverage your strengths, and thinking about how to show them in such a way that you come across as humble and hardworking. That’s really hard to do. It just takes practice.

S: What’s the hardest interview question anyone has ever asked you?

K: For my senior manager interview, before I even sat down, he said, “Tell me something that’s not on your resume,” and I freaked out, I had no idea what he was asking me. I asked, “Do you want an academic answer or an extracurricular answer?” He said, “Whatever you want.” I answered and said that I started rock climbing last term and I love it and I’m getting really good at it. That question caught me completely off guard. I’m guessing that what the person was trying to do was put someone on the spot, where they’re not ready to react and see if they come back and give a cohesive answer. Essentially, can they be consistent towards their narrative? After practice it gets easy enough to do, it becomes like clockwork.

S: Thank you, this was so helpful. Do you have anything you want to share?

K: No, just put in the time for it.


Vivian Do ’16, Major: American Studies/Mathematics/Statistics

Data and Policy Analyst, Acumen, LLC

Lydia: Can you tell me a little about your job search process, about when you started, how it went, and everything from the beginning?

Vivian: A lot of my job process started in the fall because I was not sure what type of jobs I wanted. I ended up applying to two jobs and the Watson fellowship. It was super stressful. I felt like fall term was really the time when I was able to rely on the Career Center and ask for advice on how to organize.  In terms of actual applications, I applied to one company around the Twin Cities that does consulting, and one in California that does statistical analysis work. I [received an offer for] the consulting one earlier, but I preferred the California position more. So, I talked to a career counselor on how I could plan that out, or how I could interact with the recruiters to get an extension. I sent a career counselor a couple of drafts and she replied ASAP about how to maneuver that. One counselor upfront told me how as a woman, and a woman of color, I would really need to focus on negotiating and not selling myself short, because it is super important in the long run for future careers. I figured out that I wanted the statistical analysis job and I asked how to turn down the other one in a graceful way. Then I accepted the California offer and I used a lot of the skills and tips the counselor taught me to try to negotiate my salary without feeling bad, or thinking “Do I really deserve this much money?” Negotiating is a really awkward process because it deals with money and if it’s your first time negotiating you want to come off comfortably.

L: How did you find these opportunities?

V:  I learned about the consulting position from the Career Center because the consulting job partners with undergrad [career centers] and really tries to streamline the process. I applied to that through the Tunnel. After that I found the California position in the Math Skills Center, but they also partner with the Career Center. The Career Center hosted alums who work there, to Skype in and talk about it.

L: Did the Career Center help you prepare for your interview process?

V: For both interview processes, the Career Center helped me a lot. I just needed to know what type of practice style I needed, so I went back home with the questions the Career Counselors gave me and I tried to practice the points I wanted to convey. One of the counselors asked, “Have you thought about these questions?” and she gave me flashcards with common and uncommon questions that asked about my strengths and weaknesses. After that I was really prepared.

L: Did you do a practice interview with the counselor beforehand?

V: Yeah, she also helped me prepare for the Watson Fellowship interview.

L: What’s some advice you would give about interviewing?

V: My advice about interviewing is that it is going to be awkward at some point. So it’s better to know how to navigate it because a lot of the career processes and applications involve navigating. Once you get that down, you can really build your confidence, and you can also share that knowledge with other people.

L: What were some of the hardest or most unexpected interview questions you encountered?

V: When I was doing a recorded interview [for the consulting company], they would have questions pop up on the screen, you would have about 3 minutes or so to answer and you could see the countdown. One of the questions was “Of these five characteristics of our company, what stands out to you the most?” and luckily, because the Career Center has encouraged me to do my research, I knew beforehand to look into the company and see what their characteristics are, and really think about them.

L: How would you answer the strength and weaknesses question?

V: It’s always good to play up your strengths. Some people can feel really uncomfortable because they don’t want to brag about themselves. Everyone has their own strengths and that's what makes everyone awesome and unique. But practicing how to say it in a humble way and conveying that you have incredible strengths is important. For the weaknesses question I start off with my strengths but then point out a weakness in the strength. For example, I’m a “big picture” person and I push people and myself to reach goals but in doing so, I sometimes forget about the smaller details. I’m aware of my weakness so I take post-it notes and write little details on my computer. I always start out with a strength, pinpoint the weakness, and then point out a way I am addressing this weakness.

L: In terms of the job process, did you network with alums?

V: I did not although I should have. I think it would have helped me. I should have networked with alums who were working at the California company because one of them actually interviewed me.

L: How long did you prepare for your interviews?

V:  It takes me about two weeks to really be comfortable with it, but it’s also the stamina, you just have to know that it won’t be an hour-long thing, it will be more than that. It’s getting yourself mentally prepared to be bombarded by questions. 

L: For both of these full time jobs were there more than one interview?

V: Yeah, they had several steps. You have to submit a resume, cover letter, and for the consulting one, I had a recorded interview, and then I was invited to go out and interview with them in the physical location. And for the California one, because it’s so analysis based, they gave me a “test” to analyze a dataset. After that test, I got a phone interview, made it to the next round, and flew out to have a four hour interview.

L: Cool, thanks! That’s all the questions I have.


Libby Ferris ’16, Major: Sociology/Anthropology/Educational Studies

Weitz Fellow, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Service Learning Academy  

Suneet: How did you learn about the Weitz fellowship and when did you decide you wanted to do it? 

Libby: I first heard about the Weitz fellowship in the fall, through the Career Center and since I’m a SOAN major and there are two SOAN majors currently as Weitz fellows, the office was really publicizing it. I didn’t decide to apply until winter term. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was looking at a lot. I was looking at City Year, the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) and Epic. Winter term I was accepted into the LVC but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that. Then I looked more into the Weitz fellowship and finished up my application. I had my interview with my boss next year, and talked to him about it, it sounded really interesting. So from that, I was hoping I would get it, and when I got the call, I immediately accepted it. I was so excited, and it is something I would really like to do.

S: When did you start looking at jobs? 

L: I started to look around the Career Center website in the fall. It was a little bit hard because I had to wade through a lot.

S: Were you mostly looking in the Tunnel or were you looking at other places too? 

L: I was mostly looking at the Tunnel. I also used a job site, but that is terrifying because there are so many things that come up. 

S: Did you start applying in the fall also? 

L: I started my application for City Year and then I withdrew it in the fall. Lutheran Volunteer Corps has two different deadlines. I applied for the January one so I was working on it partially in the fall, and some over winter break. It was a long process of applications.

S: Let’s talk a little more about that process. For most of these positions, what was it like?

L: It was a lot of resume and online applications and there were a lot of different questions. For example, for Lutheran Volunteer Corps there were questions like, “Who are you?” “What do you like to do?” “What does sustainability mean to you?” and questions related to their mission statement, and what they are doing.

S: After you applied did they reach out?

L: For Lutheran Volunteer Corps, they sent out an email saying, “We accept you for this round!” And then you go and look at all the placements, cities, and positions and you can apply your top ten. Then they reach out to those organizations and give you another list and ask you to pick three, then you go through interviews with them, and see which organization you fit with. I stopped at the organization placement step.

S: Did you mostly interview with the Wetiz fellowship?

L: I did a phone interview with someone from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps as well as an [in person] interview. I did a phone interview with Epic as well.

S: How was the phone interview? What type of questions did they ask?

L: Lutheran wanted to get to know me, my personality, how I feel about their program and why I wanted to do it. They were general questions like, “What’s your major?” “What year are you?” “How committed are you to doing this?” and “What kind of other things are you applying to?” 

S: What position were you applying for at Epic? 

L: I applied to be a Software Tester. It was a very basic conversation about why I was applying, what kind of skills I have, what kinds of things do I like to do, and going through what the first year would be like. 

S: Did you have any difficult questions, during your interview process?

L: I think the ones that were the hardest were from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps because they want you to be really dedicated, they want to know your feelings and what kind of injustices you are concerned about, and well-that’s a huge question. 

S: How was the interview for the Weitz fellowship?

L: It was face to face. It was a little more formal but it was a lot of getting to know me, asking about my resume, the things I was involved in at Carleton, my interests and how that could fit in with what I would be doing next year.

S: For someone at Carleton who is also interested in doing similar things like teaching or volunteering, what advice would you give?

L: I would definitely say come into the Career Center and talk to someone. I did that a couple times, which was helpful. I also went to the [Minnesota Private Colleges Job and Internship Fair] in February. That was definitely helpful because I learned about several positions I could apply to. For teaching and volunteering, you need to be sure that you are committed and really think through everything that could happen. For teaching, the educational studies department was very helpful. They talked with me about the licensure programs that exist in the country. The Tunnel is also helpful.

S: You came into the Career Center a couple times, did you just mostly talk to the counselors?

L: Yes, I came in the fall and I met with a counselor. She directed me to City Year and Volunteer Corps and showed me all the info sessions that were coming up. It was easier to talk through it with someone rather than just looking at it online and trying to figure it out.

S: Is there anything the Career Center could have done to better help you through the process?

L: No, it was really helpful. The emails kept me thinking about it and the fact that it is easy to make appointments was helpful.

S: Do you have anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?

L: No! I think that covers everything I was doing.

S: It sounds like the Weitz fellowship is a great program.

L: Yeah, I’m really excited!


Johnny Zapata ’17, Major: French and Francophone Studies

Attended Minnesota Private Colleges Job and Internship Fair, February 2016

Lydia: Could you tell me a little bit about the job fair process?

Johnny: I really enjoyed the job fair. I enjoyed seeing how many companies were in one space and how everybody was ready and eager to share their work experiences. One of the things I liked about it was the fact that it was fast paced and it put you on the spot. And how the workers and companies ask you questions that you don’t think they are going to ask. The process was great.

L: Would you recommend it to future students?

J: I would recommend it to future students. It is a way to practice your public speaking skills and practice marketing yourself and brand to other people. And even though there are people who are also doing the same, it really shows you, and reinforces your ability to stand out in a group of people.

L: What would you say is the best way to prepare for it?

J: The best way to prepare for it-Have an idea of what you want to do. When you market yourself  make sure you have your work ethic and your passion for the topic. Don’t be something that you’re not.

L: Did anything come out of it? Did you get interviews?

J: Yeah, I had many interviews. One was for Ameriprise and one was for Keyot. They went well. It was a good experience, I would say. Unfortunately, I did not [get a job]. But it did teach me how to better brand myself and market my experience.

L: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

J: I would say, go for it! Definitely have your resume ready and just be prepared! Meaning, even if you don’t know the company, be prepared to talk about yourself, and talk about experiences that you have had.


Career Center pages maintained by Andrea Kubinski
This page was last updated on 18 February 2019