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How I went through the application and interview process and got an internship at Goldman Sachs

Girl Banker

Girl Banker

In December 2003, I made about five to seven internship applications using an uber slow dial-up connection in Malawi where I was on Christmas holiday. Come early 2004, I received many rejection letters and a couple of acceptance letters. As confidence-bashing as rejection felt, I chose to think of this as “their loss.” To make myself feel better I assumed that it was because I was a foreign student and they couldn’t be bothered to apply for my work permit.

The Goldman Sachs recruitment process

The Goldman Sachs recruitment process is the one I most remember, so I’ll take you through that. The University of Cambridge is one of their key hiring venues and so for round one, they came to me.

Goldman hired out a lot of rooms in a hotel for a day and invited candidates for an aptitude test and an interview. I arrived at the hotel to find a multitude of other people who were just as well qualified as I was. Within 15 minutes, we were chaperoned into a testing room. I recall the test requiring a lot more logic than numeracy skills. Some of the answers weren’t at all obvious, and no calculators were allowed.

After 30 or 45 minutes, we were led to a waiting room and successively called up for interviews. Some of these were in hotel bedrooms. I was led into a room where two guys from Goldman’s FICC (Fixed Income Currencies and Commodities) business interviewed me. I remember being asked: “How would you value this hotel?” I answered it quite well, although I remember thinking that they weren’t supposed to ask technical stuff in the first round. The rest of the interview involved competency-based questions. I felt good about the interview; I felt ok about the aptitude test.

A week later, I got an invitation to the second round of interviews which was held at Goldman’s offices in Fleet Street. Goldman takes diversity seriously. In addition to inviting me to round two, they advised me that they were signed-up to a programme that provided free pre-interview coaching to people of Afro-Caribbean descent. It was up for grabs, so I signed up immediately.

I had two coaching sessions: one group session involving role-play and another one-on-one Q&A in which a recent intern evaluated the strength of my responses. Coaching boosted my confidence immeasurably.

Interview day two involved people from several universities, both Ivy League and non-Ivy League. I had three interviews. The first was with a Chinese man. The second was with an Irish lady and the final one was with two men whose backgrounds now elude me.

I blundered on the first question with the Chinese guy. “Tell me which story has aroused your interest in the press recently,” he asked. I repeated the details of some M&A story which had been on the front cover of the FT for weeks. He wasn’t impressed and asked me why such a bog standard transaction would amuse anyone. In his opinion it was too “vanilla” to be exciting and he shared a few stories which he thought were far more interesting.

Things could only improve after that. I spent the rest of the interview trying to win the Chinese guy over and by the end of it, I felt I had.

The Irish lady was quite nice, but also scary. She looked at me in a way that suggested she wasn’t sure about me and was sizing-up every sentence I spoke.

The third interview with the two men was the best of the three. I had a good rapport with the two guys from the beginning. They drew an economic cycle on the white board, jotted down some industrial sectors and asked me to point out which sector would make profits at each point of the cycle. As an economist, this question was right up my street.

I received an internship offer a week or so later.

This is an amended extract from ‘To Become an Investment Banker’ by Girl Banker, Heather Katsonga Woodward.  

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