Careers at Goldman Sachs
One of the most well-known and prestigious investment banks and financial services companies in the world, Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 in New York, where its headquarters remain to this day.
In 2020, Goldman Sachs was ranked 62nd on the Fortune 500 list with a total revenue of $44 billion. Despite numerous controversies during its 150-year history, Goldman Sachs remains one of the most powerful global institutions and is seen as a leader in the field, attracting the best minds, and the fiercest competition when it comes to its employment opportunities.
Currently, Goldman Sachs has over 40,000 employees worldwide and operates 18 divisions that provide a range of employment opportunities in sectors such as: Consumer and Investment Management, Controllers, Corporate and Workplace Solutions, Corporate Treasury, Finance, Legal, Global Compliance, Engineering, Operations, Executive Office, Global Investment Research, Global Markets, Human Capital Management, Internal Audit, Investment Banking, Merchant Banking, Risk, and Tax.
Goldman Sachs Recruitment Process
There are 4 main aspects to the recruitment process:
- Online Application
- Online aptitude testing
- Video interview
- SuperDay (series of in-person interviews)
The recruitment process for Goldman Sachs is extremely competitive and because of their prestigious standing, they can afford to be very selective about who they take on. In 2016, Goldman Sachs reported they had nearly 250,000 applications for the Analyst and Summer Analyst positions - 130,000 of these were for just 5,000 internships, which means their acceptance rate was around 4%.
While this may seem like impossible odds, there is plenty you can do to be prepared for the process and make sure that you stand out from the crowd.
For some positions, such as Analysts and their Associate Programme, applications are looked at on a rolling basis, so positions can be filled at any time when spots become open. Others are only filled during recruiting season, so when you will hear back depends on which roles and departments you have applied for.
Currently, you are allowed to apply for 3 discrete roles (any combination of locations and departments), so make sure to look through all of their pathways in order to find which ones suit your skills the best.
Stage 1: Online Application
Once you have researched all of the opportunities available, you need to submit an online application for your chosen positions. This includes all of your background information such as educational history, language skills, and CV. For some countries your academic transcripts are mandatory, so make sure to check if this applies to you.
The online application also includes a personal, or "motivational", statement, which is only 300 words, but is your opportunity to show what drives you and makes you unique. An ex-recruiter for the company stated that they look for "unusual" profiles, and they seek out diverse, interesting people - not just those who have the top grades, but people who have unique experiences and skills.
Stage 2: Video interview
Next, you will be invited to do a video interview. Unlike live interviews, you will have to record answers to pre-set questions, which are sent back to the hiring team for review. This format of "interviewing" is growing in popularity with bigger companies as it allows them to get to know far more candidates, but without the time and resource intensive process of interviewing in person.
The Goldman Sachs video interview takes about 30 minutes to complete; there are typically 5-6 questions and for each you get 30 seconds to read and prepare, then 2 minutes to answer. There is a practice section, which you can repeat as much as you like beforehand, but you cannot re-record your answers once you have officially started the interview.
Goldman Sachs uses competency-based interviewing, which means that the questions will be rooted in your previous experience and showing how you demonstrate specific skills and required expertise. The most common CBI questions are:
- Why do you want to work for Goldman Sachs?
- Why this particular division? What makes you suited to this division?
- What is your greatest strength?
- Describe a time you faced a challenge in the workplace and how you handled it.
If you are an engineering applicant, there is an additional stage before you are invited to the video interview - the HackerRank assessment. This is a coding-based technical skills test, which assesses your computer science/programming and maths (such as calculus, statistics, and linear algebra).
You are able to choose whether you want to take just the programming test or the maths and programming test, so make sure you pick the option that shows off your skills the most.
You can also choose the programming language that you prefer, and they will email resources to help you practice once your application is submitted.
These will take a lot more time - The maths section is 60 minutes and the programming/coding is 120, so you will need to plan accordingly to make sure you can complete these. It is also highly recommended that you prepare for these by familiarising yourself with HackerRank by doing their practice tests, and by brushing up on your basic skills as a refresher course.
Stage 3: Online Aptitude Tests
After the first interview, the next step is to take the Goldman Sachs aptitude tests, which consist of verbal and numerical reasoning assessments. These are psychometric tests that show employers your critical thinking and logic skills, as well as your complex language and numerical comprehension abilities, which are key workplace skills.
Typically, Goldman Sachs uses a combination of their own tests and SHL provided ones, so practicing these would be most helpful when preparing. To pass the aptitude tests there is not a set mark, but you must rank within the top 50% of all the candidates, so scoring as highly as possible should be your goal.
Verbal reasoning test
A verbal reasoning test assesses your language and comprehension skills, checking how quickly you process written communication and filter important information from large amounts of text.
Goldman Sachs use SHL verbal reasoning tests - typically there are 30 questions on the test and a time limit of 20 minutes, which means you will have about 45 seconds per question. The test will be structured by giving you 4-5 long passages, then asking you to provide 'true, false, or cannot say' answers to comprehension questions about the passages. This tests your ability to quickly process information, identity key data, and contextualise the information you are given.
Numerical reasoning test
A numerical reasoning test shows your ability to work with mathematical problems and information presented in a numerical format such as statistics, graphs, charts, and equations. These are particularly important for roles in the financial sector as they show employers how comfortable you are with numerical data interpretation and your general intelligence and competence when understanding key mathematical concepts needed in finance.
Goldman Sachs also use SHL numerical reasoning tests, which have an average length of 20 questions in 20 minutes, meaning you get around a minute a question. The questions will be multiple choice answers and are not typically more advanced than GCSE-level, but you will need to work quickly and process a lot of information under pressure, which is one of the key skills that these aptitude tests gauge for employers.
Stage 4: SuperDay (Assessment Centre)
The Goldman Sachs' SuperDay is their version of an assessment centre, during which you will be expected to take part in 2-5 interviews with a cross-section of people that you will be working with should you get the position. These interviews will be to find out more about you as a person, such as how you conduct yourself, interact with potential coworkers, and embody the company's key business principles.
The interview questions can be broken down into these categories:
The "tell us about yourself" questions. On the whole, these will be more general questions about you, your interests, hobbies, and skills outside of the workplace. They will probably not be specifically related to the job you are applying for, however, it is still a good opportunity to show how you apply these passions and abilities to your work as well.
This is where you can really show your unique selling points and what you specifically bring to the table that other people may not, so have some detailed and focussed examples that you can provide.
Teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving are important qualities for Goldman Sachs employees, so these questions will give you the chance to show how you embody these. You will be asked questions like:
- Have you ever had conflict with a colleague? How did you resolve it?
- What would you do if you noticed a colleague in distress?
- How would you keep a team motivated?
Goldman Sachs is committed to excellent service, is highly client-focussed, and leading the financial sector with its innovation and creativity. This means it is extremely important you know as much as you can about the company, the market, its projects, and the global environment in your field.
You will typically get questions about the company's culture, history, how it differs from competitors, and why you want to work for them specifically.
Lastly, these questions are a bit more fun and designed to test your critical thinking and creativity. Brain teasers can be questions like:
- How many golf balls can you fit in a bus?
- Describe the colour blue to a blind person.
- What kind of bank has no money?
They are supposed to be baffling and the point is not to necessarily provide a correct answer (there may not even be one), but to show your problem-solving process and how you approach these kinds of abstract thinking exercises.
Top tips for success in the Goldman Sachs recruitment process
Do your research. - Plenty of candidates have strong academic backgrounds and a myriad of accomplishments, however proving your passion about working for Goldman Sachs and your future career in the field you're applying for is just as important. Make sure you research the company, key competitors, and stay updated on current events, all of which will show what you're interested in and why you want to work in this sector. Goldman Sachs are looking for people to lead them into the future and continue the legacy of the company for years to come, so bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm with you.
Don't sell yourself short. - Goldman Sachs is extremely keen on hiring a diverse range of candidates, not all of whom have the traditional academic or work experience background that one would assume is needed for a financial career. Don't automatically rule yourself out because of stereotypes you feel you do not meet - your unique selling points may put you way ahead of more "typical" candidates.
Pay attention to details. - This is particularly important for the online application and personal statement. Here, you have very limited words and are competing against thousands of other candidates, so ensuring there are no grammatical, spelling, or factual errors in your application can be the difference between progressing or being cut.
Do practice tests. - One of things you can do that will have a huge impact on the strength of your application is practicing for the aptitude tests. Scoring highly on these is growing in importance, especially as competition gets fiercer and application numbers continue to rise. You want to score comfortably in the top percentage of candidates in order to ensure success, which means putting in the time to refresh your knowledge and performing well under pressure.