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Nine random factoids about interviewing and working at Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs has beefed up its online career center recently with a mobile app, a new Twitter feed and, just launched last night, a series of live virtual information sessions aimed at students who may be interested in joining the firm.

We signed up for the first of 15 webinars – a general overview of the firm hosted by Chris Hussey, a member of the firm’s research management team – to see what they’re like. Buried beneath the clichés common to all recruitment videos were a few interesting nuggets, some more obvious than others.

Back Office Wins: Only 42% of the Goldman employees work in client-facing roles: investment banking, securities, investment management, global investment research and merchant banking. The other 58% work in what Goldman calls its “federation division” – back office employees like compliance officers and tech specialists.

Finance Degree Not a Must: Yes, it’s a disadvantage to have not studied finance in college, says Hussey, as you don’t yet speak the language, but having a non-finance degree will not rule you out. Hussey himself was a medieval history major. “You will have to do more convincing, but I’m living proof you can do it,” he said. He’s not lying. Liberal arts are the second biggest cohort of Goldman employees, behind finance graduates.

The Hours are Long, Duh: Hussey answered a question I submitted online: What kind of hours do you put in? He typically shows up at the office between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. He’s in the office for around 12 hours, then logs in from home and puts in another hour or two before calling it a day. He said he averages between five and six hours of sleep. “Work-life balance isn’t about how many hours you work, but how much you enjoy the work,” he said.

They Dig the “Gov’t Sachs” Nickname: Or at least Hussey does. Goldman earned the nickname for the number of alumni who have taken government positions after leaving the firm, most notably former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin. Some have used the nickname in a derogatory fashion, using it as an example of Goldman’s close ties to Washington, but Hussey said it’s all about giving back. “I’m proud of that,” he said.

Everyone Volunteers: Every employee is required to take one day off each year to work at a charitable organization. You can choose your own charity or ask to be assigned one.

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Ice, Ice Baby: Goldman is one of the biggest ice makers in New York City, at least according to Hussey. The Wall Street building holds ice-making tanks in its basement that are used in the summers. Water is frozen at night, when electricity is the cheapest, and melted during the day for cooling purposes.

Culture Wins: Hussey was asked who Goldman’s rivals were and why the firm may have an advantage over such competitors. He listed the usual – J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Citi, HSBC, Wells Fargo and others – and said, while admitting obvious bias, that Goldman’s collaborative culture helps it stand apart.

Mobility Encouraged, But Not Right Away: Hussey was also asked about Goldman’s willingness to promote mobility across divisions – moving from a group like investment banking to asset management, for example. He said the firm is open to it (he made at least one internal move himself) but cautioned that employees should stay the course, at least for a little while. “We want you to focus for at least a year – preferably more – before moving,” he said. “We want you to give it a good try. Don’t jump too early,” he said, while acknowledging that not all people chose their career in the first job.

Meritocratic Interviews: When in an interview, it’s a meritocracy, Hussey said in response to a question about whether Goldman recruits from top schools. He said he was recently in Salt Lake City, Utah and sat down with 27 people from 14 different schools. “Once you’re in interview process, it doesn’t matter what school you went to,” noting that hiring decisions are all about how you answer the questions. Hussey didn’t comment on whether top schools help you get that interview (likely, they do).

The Audience for These Things is EVERYONE: It was a pretty interesting event and, from someone who has seen plenty of these things, Goldman did a nice job. But if potential hires needed all this information, well, they probably won’t be hired. The phrase “investment banking” was explained, as was “first half,” and it was made clear that Goldman Sachs is not a hedge fund. Hussey also explained that “securities” has nothing to do with police work. If that’s news to you, it’s probably best to skip the other 14 webinars

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