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

It's not easy to get a job at Goldman Sachs. As we reported a few months ago, Goldman rejects 96% of all the people who apply to work there.  Most applications to 'the firm' are clearly wasted, therefore.

Nonetheless, Goldman recruiters tell us that human beings in Goldman's recruitment function read every single application the firm receives - no one's rejected electronically; everyone's in with a chance - even if it's a very, very small one.

Before you apply to Goldman Sachs, however, there are some things you need to avoid if you want Goldman's recruiters to like you. Be warned: any of the points on the list below are likely to lead to instant rejection.

1. You think you're 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. CEO Lloyd Blankfein has said himself 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," declared Blankfein. In a separate interview,

Edith Cooper, head of human capital at Goldman, told us the firm likes to hire people who have, "“an ability to work through adverse situations.”

If you've never encountered an adverse situation and your path through life has been greased by privilege, Goldman may not be interested in you.

2. You think you want to be an 'investment banker'

When we spoke to Goldman's head of EMEA recruitment, 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, proclaiming that you want to be an 'investment banker' without understanding exactly what an investment bank does. Do you, for example, want to work in M&A, or do you want to work in Goldman's securities division (sales and trading), or do you want to work in the 'Federation' (operations, risk, compliance, and technology)?  If you want to work in sales and trading, which products do you want to trade? Why? And why do you want to trade them at Goldman Sachs?

The more detail you can bring to the application the better. Look at Goldman's own website and check our Graduate Guide for more information.

3. You're very boring and very difficult to get along with

The ex-Goldman recruiter we spoke to, said Goldman Sachs is deluged with applications from a very similar type of person: very academically excellent, very interested in finance, and with more banking internships than you can count.

This is good, because those people are grafters. It's bad, because if Goldman only hired that type of person it would become a very boring place indeed: "What Goldman Sachs really wants are people with unusual profiles. This is where the emphasis lies – it’s all about trying to attract a diverse group of applicants who’ve studied history, or English Literature instead of just finance," said the recruiter.

However, being boring won't kill your Goldman application on its own.

What will kill your chances of getting hired outright is being boring and being obnoxious - or simply being obnoxious. What not many people know is that Goldman doesn't put its graduate hires through an assessment centre (known as a superday in the U.S). Instead, Goldman subjects people to round after round and after round of interviews with its staff. In extreme cases, you may have 20 interviews. These interviews are all about finding out of you're a likable person - if you're not, or someone takes against you, you're out.

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

Goldman Sachs is all about working together. Edith Cooper, Goldman's head of HR, told us one of the key things the firm looks for when recruiting is, "how effectively you work as part of an overall organization.” This was echoed when we interviewed Gregg Lemkau, Goldman's global head of M&A. Everyone at Goldman works together, "to get the best results for our clients and for the firm," said Lemkau. "That teamwork-oriented approach is at the root of the culture of success that the firm has built."

If you say you prefer to work alone, you will not go far in Goldman's recruiting process.

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. 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 suggested 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. When we looked at who Goldman Sachs hired as analysts for its securities class, they were more likely to have studied economics, to have been a member of a finance society, or to have run their own fund (real or imagined).

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...

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Tr
    TruthNe Told
    14 July 2017

    @Roy Cohen

    well put Sir. Sadly we live in a society where honesty is a mirage, an the hypocrisy these people present is infinite. Every system has its end and this one as well.

  • Ro
    Roy Cohen
    15 April 2014

    Odd and not entirely true about nepotism. Blankfein's own kids have worked at the firm as well as friends of the family. Goldman is still a safe haven for the Ivy League and children of privilege. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.

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