Department of Economics {College of Business}

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After Graduation

Economics provides excellent preparation for a wide variety of careers from business to public policy to academia. By the time you graduate, you should be well-versed in basic quantitative skills, policy analysis, and presentation and writing.

For a few ideas about what you can do with an Economics Major visit CareerThoughts.

Students from our department have many opportunities after they have graduated. Most students go directly into the labor force in the Bay Area, at various private and public agencies. Many of our students also go on to graduate school in Business, Public Policy and Masters and Ph.D. programs in Economics. If you have questions about what to do after graduation, please contact one of us.

See how median earnings by economics majors compare to other disciplines in this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If you are interested in a Ph.D., please talk to our faculty.

Below is a collection of questions from actual interviews for an economist position that our department collected in recent years.

Questions for a financial analyst position

  • What do you know how to do in Excel? (vlookups, pivot tables, sumifs, countifs, concatenate, formulas within formulas, linking data between tabs, etc.)
  • What about the job description interested you? Why do you want to work here?
  • Do you know GAAP and some basic accounting principles? (an accounting class can come handy here)
  • What makes you want to work for corporate retail versus other companies? (e.g. seeing my hard work come out in the actual stores, and being more in touch with it in my daily life - everybody knows … and their high quality products).
  • So what was your R-squared? (know your STATA project)
  • Why did you choose to study Economics?

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Questions for a position at a web marketing company

  • Tell me about your organizational system? And if you have a list of 5 priority items for the day and I come to you with another 5, how would you handle this? (The question is left vague for a reason. The interviewees that do well put some thought to it.)
  • The interviewer often asks brain teaser questions to see how the interviewee reacts under pressure. For example, here is one from the movie Die Hard: How do you fill a jug with exactly 4 gallons of water using only a 3 gallon and a 5 gallon jug?
  • The interview always starts off with a simple question like: "So tell me about yourself." (The interviewees who do well on this question always tie it back to why they should be hired and seem to have been prepared for that question.)

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Questions for internship at the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Leadership Center

  • What does a public sector job do?
  • Why are you interested in the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Internship?
  • Have you had any previous experience in public sector?
  • If yes, what exactly was your role?
  • What are you going to bring to the internship?
  • How is your experience going to help the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Center?
  • How is the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Center going to benefit from your background?
  • What are your future goals?
  • Will you be pursuing a public sector job in the future as well?
  • How interested are you in the internship?

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Questions for a position of Treasury analyst, at United Commercial Bank

  • If you want to make a cross reference table, how would you do that in Excel? (pivot)
  • If interest rates go up how will that affect the short/long term assets (securities, loans) and short/long term liabilities (deposits) and what portfolio a bank should have so as to be a match and minimize loss. For example, there should be normally a match between short term assets and short term liabilities and long term assets and liabilities. This article is very helpful to read on this issue and in general tells about the business of banking and compliance with regulations (I read it before the interview and it helped a lot I think)
  • Bond pricing and relation to interest rates (opposite relationship)
  • General economic question that I can't remember but not difficult. An Economics major student would not have problems with them
  • General economic question that I can't remember but not difficult. An Economics major student would not have problems with them
  • Very helpful is to know a bank's balance sheet components and how they are affected by changes in interest rates. Knowledge if Federal Reserve and monetary policy is impressive on the interview. (all these things I learned in Money and Banking class and they are in the textbook, Wikipedia was a major help as well)

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Questions for a position in economics consulting company

  • If SD=0.5, what is the variance?
  • How would you define confidence interval?
  • How would you explain regression to a jury? Why do we do regressions?
  • The firm has a new CEO. People say that his style is very risky. How would you go about testing it?
  • There are 2 gas stations on one street. Gas station A buys gas for $1 and gas station B buys it for $0.90. What price would you charge if you were an owner of gas station B? What factors would affect your decision?
  • Annie makes 500 copies per hour and I make only 200/hour. Why does company have me making copies and not her?
  • The grocery store was alleged that its prices are above competitive level. How would go about testing it? What could be the objections to your solution?
  • How would you test if a company XYZ is a monopoly?
  • What would you choose 4 million now or million every year for next four years? Would you change your decision if the interest rates would go up?
  • What is your thesis? What paper did you work on? How did you verify your sources?
  • Describe a detailed project (step by step) that you worked on recently.
  • Where do you see yourself in 3 years?

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Questions for positions at consultant companies and investment banks

  • First of all, they all start with a brainteaser question (What is 7*7*7 or if it is a quarter past three how many degrees are between the hands).
  • Hereafter, they have asked me about some financial figures eg. what does P/E (Price-earnings ratio) measure?
  • Thirdly, they have all given me a case to test my analytical skills. With the banking companies, this has been very financial orientated, digging into corporate finance theory. Here I have had to explain the duration of bonds, different valuation methods and options theory. On the other side, the consultant companies focused more on financial (quantitative) data from a company which I then had to analyze. This was more a test of my mindset, the ways in which I reached the answers and logical thoughts - no so much about the answer itself. At one interview, I had to go through an income statement as well and calculate some ratios. In the end of the interviews, I had five minutes to round the interview off with a conclusion where I was the consultant and the interviewer the client.

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Questions for a position of business analyst with main roles in metric analysis, forecasting, and deriving insights from data.

  • What data tools are you most comfortable with?
  • What (probability) distributions have you run into before?
  • Are you familiar with advance Excel features? Macros? Pivot Tables? Look-up's?
  • What is the largest data set you have dealt with?
  • Tell me about what regression does.
  • In the regression statistics, there's an r-square. Can you tell me more about what it does?
  • Must the r-square be positive?
  • Let's assume that it is 9:30 at the moment. What is the approximate angle that is made by the hour and minute hands? How about the exact angle?
  • Tell me about your experience with research work.
  • Can you tell me more about the F-distribution and the Student T distribution?
  • Do you have any experience dealing with sequential sampling?
  • What kind of variables have you dealt with when you tried to run regressions?
  • How do you approach a problem when someone comes to you and ask you to run a regression?
  • What is your logical process when you want to understand numbers?
  • What was the topic of your research in graduate school?
  • Are you planning on publishing the work you did in graduate school?
  • If you have to estimate the number of mail that goes thru the Dresden main post office in Germany, how do you do that logically?
  • How about if the internet is down?
  • How about if the main post office is closed?
  • Do you work better in a team setting or alone?
  • Do you have experience in Clustering and Segmentation?
  • Given this set of banner ad's that we run and the following performance stats, can you tell me what you think about them?
  • What does sensitivity analysis do?
  • Tell me how you handle pressure.

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Internship at San Francisco Center for Economic Development interviewers asked me.

  • Do you know how to use Excel?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Are you able to get along with many different personality types?
  • What are you career goals?
  • Why did you choose to major in Economics?
  • They listed many different aspect of the internship; research data, Taxes, Economic Statistics etc and then asked if I am interested in these topics.
  • Also this internship required a cover letter, resume and three writing samples.

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Software Questions

  • What programming tools have you used to analyze data? Such as Excel, Access, SAS (or SAS Enterprise Guide), SQL, Visual Basic, Java, C++, TSO, etc...
  • How familiar are you with Excel? Pivot tables, VLOOKUP, SUMIF, Filter, Macros, Analysis Toolpak, Solver Function should be mentioned. Also, one or two interviewers have asked this (and if not then your students should try to mention): How often do you use the mouse when you're in Excel? Those efficient with Excel uses mainly shortcut keys.
  • How familiar are you with Access? Creating fields and writing queries should be mentioned.

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Data Analysis Questions

  • Give an example of when you analyzed a large set of data.
  • Give an example of when you created a predictive model or when you "backed out" to solve an equation.
  • Give an example of when you presented your data analyses to "non-technical" people.
  • Give an example of when you question the quality of your data and how you verified it.
  • Give an example of when you tied the numbers in a report you created before presenting it.

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Miscellaneous Questions

  • Give an example of when you made a process more efficient.
  • Give an example of when you created a report in a tight deadline.
  • How much direction do you need?

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