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Friday, 18 April 2014

Six signs you will be rejected when you apply for a job at Goldman Sachs (and how to overcome them)

by Sarah Butcher

It’s not easy to get a job at Goldman Sachs. As we reported earlier this month, the bank rejects 96% of applicants for its analyst (junior) positions and receives 43,000 applications each year. Most applications to ‘the firm’ are clearly wasted, therefore.
How can you establish whether your application to work at Goldman Sachs is destined for electronic annihilation? Before you even bother applying, check yourself against the following points. Any one is likely to be fatal.

1. You think you are God’s gift to banking

Believe it or not, Goldman Sachs likes to hire people who are not big-headed. The people who work there are, “smart and humble” according to one of its MBA recruiters. Lloyd Blankfein himself said last year that Goldman doesn’t like to hire people who are full of themselves or think they deserve to work there. “This is not a place that recruits entitled kids,” said Blankfein.
Instead, it seems that Goldman likes to hire quietly confident types who have overcome a difficult start in life. Curb your self-love. Show that you have achieved things despite, rather than because of your background.

2. You think you want to be an ‘investment banker’

When we spoke to Sarah Harper, Goldman’s head of EMEA recruitment late last year, she said the best applicants to Goldman Sachs are those who have ‘thoroughly researched’ the jobs they’re applying for. It’s no good, therefore, thinking that you want to be an ‘investment banker’ without understanding the derivations of that term (Eg. M&A advisory, equity capital markets, helping junk rated companies to sell debt on public markets).
Before applying, make sure you’ve very clear what you want to do and what it involves. Look at Goldman’s own website and check our Careers in Financial Markets Guide for more information.

3. Your parents filled in your application form with you

As well as looking for people without a sense of entitlement, Harper said Goldman likes to hire ‘self-starters and ‘innovators’. If you’re applying for a graduate job at Goldman Sachs because you’ve been forced into it by your parents, you probably won’t get very far. You’ll need some motivation of your own. It will help if you can demonstrate how motivated you are by pointing to various extra-curricular activities you’ve done and things you’ve achieved without being prompted by anyone else.

4. You prefer to work alone and are not afraid to admit it

Goldman Sachs is all about working together. The culture is one of “teamwork and collaboration” according to Harper. If your application stresses your partiality to solitude and preference for getting things done without the complexities of working with others, you won’t get far. Cut this stuff and emphasize your huge belief in cooperation.

5. You went to a Goldman Sachs recruiting event and said something memorably stupid to a Goldman representative

Like most banks, Goldman tours leading universities to help encourage students to take up financial services careers. Harper told us it’s even possible to secure an interview if you make a strong impression when you meet a Goldman representative on campus. Equally, if you say something memorably stupid or facile to a Goldman representative (“How much money did you make last year?” “What kind of car do you drive?” “Show us your watch,” etc.), your name may be noted and you will be dinged.
Therefore, before you attend any recruiting events, make sure you have some good questions to ask.

6. You’re applying for a trading job and have a degree in history of art

Goldman Sachs hires a lot of people with liberal arts degrees.  The firm itself says that liberal arts graduates constitute the second largest cohort of its employees. However, our own analysis of Goldman hires into from office jobs in London suggests that most new recruits have in fact studied physics, maths or economics and come from universities like UCL, the London School of Economics or Oxford.
If you don’t want to get rejected and you’re a history of art graduate, you may want to take an additional maths qualification, or alter your application to something like human resources…

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