HANG NGUYEN – “Life is about finding “connections” among people”

I once asked a recruiter of a large company: “Why don’t you recruit at some small (but really good) colleges? She didn’t answer my question directly, but she said: “You know, I believe the best candidates from those colleges would know how to reach out to me”. Hang Nguyen, who got both internship and return offer at PwC Boston, is a perfect example for “the best candidate”.

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When Toan asked me to write my recruiting story, I was not sure if my story would be helpful to anyone since different from most people, I had never participated in any career fairs or recruiting events before I got my full-time offer. I always believe life is about finding “connections” among people – at least it was proven to be true throughout my recruiting process. Needless to say, I was really lucky.

I went to a small, regional liberal arts college in New Hampshire where I was majoring in Business Administration. After the junior year, I was required to have an internship as a part of the major. However, since my campus has no campus recruiting, all I could do was hopelessly sending dozens of emails and online applications without any responses. I gave up trying to stay in the U.S. for the summer 2013.

One day in March 2013, I found a job fair brochure from Stonehill College with a PwC Boston recruiter’s contact on the Internet. Although I was aware that my chance was slim, I took all my courage to send her an email, simply showing my interest in PwC and asking about how I could apply for the firm provided the fact that my college did not have campus recruiting.

A week later, the recruiter emailed me back and told me: “I think it’s great that you got my contact information from Stonehill’s career fair, as you need to be creative at times to accomplish your goals.” She was really nice to show me the timeline to apply for PwC, and ask me to send her my updated resume after the summer break.

Throughout the summer 2013, I stayed in touch with the recruiter by shooting her an email once in a while, as simple as, “I hope you are enjoying the July 4th firework in Boston, my favorite firework show. I miss it this year!”. I tried to maintain the conversation by keeping her updated about my plans and myself as well as trying to find common things between us. By the way, that summer, I decided to take the opportunity to go home and be a Corporate Tax Intern at PwC Hanoi, Vietnam (although I always knew that Tax was not my thing). This experience enabled me to develop our conversations even further.

I got back to the States at the end of August after a busy summer with the internship, GMAT, and an online accounting course. I emailed the recruiter again with the updated resume as promised and told her that I would be willing to travel to any campus to meet her. She quickly scheduled a phone interview for me. (Note: If you don’t hate Tax, apply for Tax, as according to the recruiter, there are more opportunities in Tax).

9/24/13.
I had a phone interview with a manager from PwC. Like a typical phone interview, it was quite awkward. I expected that I would talk (and show myself) more. However, since the interviewer was very quiet, I could not talk much either. There were lots of pauses in our interviews. From the interview experience, I thought the chance was over, but I was neither sad nor nervous. For me, getting this experience and going this far were already something I could not dream of. Also, my mind was set to go to graduate school and participate in recruiting there.

Following the interview, I still stayed in touch with the recruiter. Although I never asked her when the decision came out, she kept apologizing and explaining why they had not been able to give out the decision.

10/21/13.
I got an email from the recruiter, informing me that I was invited to the office visit three weeks later. She also said, “You have really impressed me throughout our interactions. I know you’ll do great when you visit the office”. I couldn’t describe how happy I was at that time.

11/14/13. BIG DAY!!!
My strong accent always makes me unconfident when it comes to face-to-face conversations. Also, as an introvert person, I find it hard time to be in a big crowd. Unlike other candidates, who had visited other Big 4 office either for tours or for interviews, this was my first time to visit a Big 4 office. I was not confident at all for this first career interview. The only person I really knew at PwC Boston was the recruiter, who I had never met nor talked via phone. When I came to the office, I also found out that my office visit session was one of the very last ones for recruiting that fall.
I had 3 different interviews that day.

1st interview with a Manager – By chance, he was a Stonehill College graduate (I was lucky!!). He asked about my college (It’s sad but none of the interviewers have heard about my school…). I told him my recruiting story, and he was also excited about my experience in the Student-Managed Investment Fund. Other than that, most of them were behavioral questions (typical Big 4 questions, which I did not know until I got to graduate school and helped my friends prepare for interviews)

2nd interview with a Senior Manager – He had two year international experience in London, so I tried to bring up “Travel” topic several times in the conversation.

3rd interview with a Partner (the most important one!) – The interview obviously did not go the way I expected. The partner was super chilled. She first asked me to introduce myself, but as soon as I said I am from Vietnam, the partner took over the conversation and told me all the wonderful travel experience during her business trips in Vietnam. We talked about Vietnamese food, Old Town in Vietnam, and literally everything. She was so excited when I told her that I travelled by myself to Chicago before joining my friends in Ohio to see my all-the-time favorite tennis player, Roger Federer, whom the partner loved so much as well. Our chat just kept going on and on until the partner realized we were actually in an interview. The partner marked one experience in my resume– Research Assistant for financial literacy curriculum for teenage mothers, and we spent the remaining time of the interview talked about it. Through the presentation session prior to my interviews, I learnt that PwC also organized financial literacy programs for youth, so I tried to make the connections to my experience and the firm’s program. The partner immediately pulled out PwC website to show me how to download some financial literacy curriculum designed for the youth, which she believed to be helpful with my future research.

The highlight of the office visit was to finally meet my recruiter. She knew that was me the moment I came to her during the social event following the interviews. However, since she had to run to the meeting to finalize hiring decisions, we could only talk for over a minute. I was really happy to see her.

11/15/13.
I got a phone call from the Partner, informing me that I was offered a summer internship position in Boston. Since PwC was the only company I applied, I said yes right away (and I never regretted that decision :D)

Jun-Aug 2014.
I was lucky enough to be assigned to two different engagements during the internship and received good evaluations from both of the teams. I got a full-time job offer following the internship and would start my Assurance job this August, after getting my Master’s degree from University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

During my 9 months at graduate school, I had the opportunities to “experience” recruiting events and career fairs (for the first time) with my friends/co-workers. Seeing them attending over 30 social events and lunches before office visit round, I felt so glad to get the offer through my own way. I was really lucky!

Final words: I am not sure what advice I can give to other people since I did not have lots of experience in recruiting other than assisting some friends last Fall. If you are able to find a recruiting mentor, it will be definitely helpful. Also, when you are able to connect with someone, keep in touch and stay connected with that person (simply drop him/her a message to ask how he/she has been doing. Make sure when the opportunities come, you will be the one whom he/she thinks of). Finally, if you need another look at your resume, I would be willing to help out (I will be “unemployed” till mid-August lol). Good luck to all of you!

P/s: By chance, the partner interviewing Hang during the office visit was the leader of her team during PwC trip to Florida, and she still remembered Hang! 🙂

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