You’ve got great grades in math and economics. You’ve done half-a-dozen internships. You’ve been interested in investment banking since entering university. You are truly motivated and will give your right hand to get into Goldman Sachs.
You think you have everything and have an excellent chance of getting into Goldman, right? Never mind all the talk about the 97 percent rejection rate at Goldman Sachs being higher than that at Harvard or Yale? The answer is no.
In fact, as one former recruiter writes in a blog, you may feel you have all it takes, but your chances might be rather dim: Why? Goldman Sachs (GS) views these candidates as “plug and play types” and is somewhat against hiring them. These candidates have the track record, but are not exciting to GS recruiters. So what are they really looking for?
But before we come to that, why are GS jobs so coveted? According to a top talent-acquisition official at the bank, it is the quality of people and the quality of work that attract job seekers to Goldman. Add to that the learning facilities, networking opportunities, and work flexibility, and you see why GS is considered among the best places to start a career in investment banking.
Notice that we didn’t even mention the salary (the average employee is said to earn a salary in the vicinity of $400,000 a year), the perks (meditation, tai chi, bubble tea), and the inclusive and collaborative work environment.
In this post, we discuss some points that GS job seekers should consider in order to have a fighting chance of reaching their dream career destination.
What does Goldman Sachs look for?
First, Goldman is a big supporter of diversity, and is keen to hire candidates with, say, a history or English literature background, too, rather than from just finance. This is why GS doesn’t have numerical or assessment tests, but rather had many rounds of face-to-face and personality interviews as it goes looking for “interesting people” with character, scrutinizing every application it receives.
Grades, CV, cover letter
But that is not to say that you can get away with average grades if you are unique in some or many ways. Not at all—your transcript should show that you have burned the midnight oil consistently. Not only your grades, but also the school or university you attended is an important consideration for GS. It better be Ivy League in the U.S., Oxbridge in the UK, or a Grand École in France, writes a blogger.
Goldman looks for more. For instance, your CV and cover letter should reflect why getting into GS and not another bank is so important to you. Many candidates get their CVs and 300-word cover letters through the initial rounds only to be shown the red card because they look like they have been made for ten other banks. Make your CV and cover letter GS-specific. Put some good effort into their crafting.
Another must-have ingredient for success is good luck, writers a blogger who worked for GS in New York. He didn’t go to one of the target colleges for GS and handed over his resume to the recruiter at a career fair. There must have been a lot of good things in the resume, because this person was invited to the GS HQ and made a job offer after seven rounds and 55 interviews.
While you’re at it, why not start sending your resumes early? A GS analyst says he must have attended interviews at 50 companies. That gave him experience and built his confidence to attend interviews at top investment banks. Of course, don’t forget to do some research about GS. Try to keep track of your connections and interviews on an Excel sheet.
Goldman likes people with ambition and competitiveness, and some top sportspersons have been interviewed or hired by the bank. So, if you’re a well-rounded person, that’s nice. Can you talk about current events, and also about, say, the economy, music, or wine when the boss takes you with him to meet a billionaire client over dinner? Excellent.
About current events, you need to be knowledgeable about the business world. A clever thing to do while you prepare is to read at least the front pages of WSJ and FT every day. Try to understand finance and accounting, how companies manage their finances, go public, and recruit employees, and how they produce, market, and sell their goods. Any idea what GS does exactly for its clients? Find out.
An MBA helps. A recruiter of MBAs at Goldman has been quoted as saying that if a candidate doesn’t have a finance background, then an MBA may make up for this shortcoming. The firm doesn’t insist on professional finance experience in MBA candidates but a firm grasp of financial topics that shows you are comfortable with them. A “high investment IQ” is also much appreciated.
Stay in touch
Connections are important. Try to find a person in your circle of family and friends who knows someone who knows someone at Goldman or is aware of what it takes. Discuss your GS plan with them and find out what you lack and what your plus points are. Tweak your plan if needed.
An analyst at GS emphasizes that although an Ivy League degree helps, there are a few like him who management to get into GS from state universities, which also have large numbers of alumni spread out all over the world. Reaching out to them through LinkedIn and other social media early enough helps make good, dependable connections. Attending network events also always works in your favor.
Dress well, and don’t try to bluff it out
Tips from a former GS international equities employee: Dress well; greet warmly, with confidence; don’t try to bluff your way through the interviews; communicate your thoughts clearly; write a thank you email after an interview, highlighting points from the interview.
The GS interview round usually consists of two interviews, the first based on your experience and achievements and the second/subsequent interviews to try to find out if you’re a good fit for the company.
We assume you already know that you should expect these questions will: Why Goldman? What makes you well-suited for a job at GS? Which of your passions and qualities can help you add value to GS and its business?
Here, too, homework is important. Read employee profiles, job descriptions, and news bulletins on the Goldman website. Highlight your abilities, such as multitasking and time management. You need to also show that you have the stamina, energy, and enthusiasm to complete your tasks. If you’re applying to more than one division, prepare for suitability questions and motivation responses for each division.
Be ready to say what GS initiatives stand out for you the most. Do prepare. If it is the bank’s sustainability and investment initiatives, for example, see the “Environment, Social and Governance Report” on its website. Try to connect your interests, such as working with schools for the underprivileged in schools, with a GS program, such as the one for urban communities, for example.
You can also get to know about GS initiatives through seminars, open days, and internships. Watch “Talks at GS” on YouTube, a program that has well-known personalities sharing their views. Visit the Goldman Sachs careers page on the GS website. Make sure to read the careers blogs.
The job description will tell you the competencies GS is looking for in a candidate for the position you have applied for, from good judgement, project management skills, and analytical thinking to teamwork and interest in financial markets and products and securities law. So go through the job description carefully.
It pays to get a corporate internship early. It doesn’t matter if the company is not Wall Street as long investors know about it. Corporate experience has great value at GS. It looks for persistence in your previous job that shows that you have fought to survive despite setbacks.
Signs you will not go through
If you think “I’m smart and deserve to work for GS,” you will be smelled out and put out of the reckoning. CEO Lloyd Blankfein has himself said that GS doesn’t hire people who are full of themselves. “This is not a place that recruits entitled kids.” He has said. So, humility works. Along with an “ability to work through adverse situations,” according to a former head of human capital at GS.
If you have not researched investment banking and the jobs you want to do at GS, you are in trouble. For example, if you want to work in sales and trading, which products would you want to trade, and why, and why do you want to do this at GS? Don’t know? Read up, please.
GS may look to hire persons with unique personalities, but if you come across as being even slightly hard to get along with, you will be shown the door. “Boring” candidates with the same profiles of excellence in academics, passion for finance, and several internships may still be selected, unique be damned. But if you’re boring and also unlikeable, you’re certainly out. Legend has it that GS may go so far as conducting over 20 interviews to find out.
If you are the lonely traveler type, you may not clear the interviews at all. GS has a strong teamwork-oriented workstyle, and candidates who may not be able to work in teams are unlikely to go far in the recruitment process.
Although liberal-arts graduates form the second largest cohort of recruits at GS, the fact is that most successful candidates have degrees in economics, math, or physics from the world’s top universities. If you are a liberal-arts graduates with no additional math qualifications, then you’re better off applying for, say, an HR position.
Other ways to happiness
A Quoran points out that there’s a Zen angle to getting a job at Goldman. If you’re trying too hard, you will probably not succeed. If you’re too obsessed, that may put the recruiters off. It’s a little bit like dating, you see.
Finally, remember that it is not the end of the world if you don’t get into GS. There are other boutique as well as bulge bracket investment banks, and other career paths. If you are in it just for the money and don’t care about banking, don’t be 100 percent sure that this career will bring you happiness along with the moolah. Make sure you choose something you love and have a passion for. It will matter in the end.
Some simple but easy-to-overlook tips to keep in mind
- Read business news and other material
- Research GS programs
- Know your job description
- Be confident but humble
- Communicate clearly
– Investment banking vs management consulting
– Best MBA programs for Finance
– From McKinsey Strategy Consulting to Investment Banking: Career change
– How to get a Wall Street job
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16