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Lloyd Blankfein says students have the wrong idea about getting into Goldman Sachs

Lloyd Blankfein career advice

The wisdom of LB

If you thought getting into Goldman Sachs was all about excellent grades and excessive numbers of internships, you were wrong. When Goldman’s filtering through its 267,000 annual applications and deciding which 800 people to hire, it’s also looking for evidence of humanity. It wants people who are complete.

So said Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an address to Chinese students today. “You have to know the content of your field, but you also have to be a complete person, the kind of person that other people want to deal with,” Blankfein said.

This isn’t the first time that Lloyd Blankfein has offered students a distinctive vision of Goldman Sachs’ preferred character traits. In 2013, he said students should stop worrying about where they were going to in future and should focus on becoming a complete person in the present. “You can be liberated from the need to make sure that everything is taking you on some straight line to some place, because turns out not to be a straight line anyway,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, has expressed a similar sentiment. Young bankers need to work “reasonable’ hours” so that they can have a “balanced lifestyle,” said Gorman at Davos in 2014. Bankers who work too long “become very uninteresting advisers to companies because they bring a very narrow perspective,” he added.

Our own profiles of the people Goldman hires into its analyst roles suggest the firm does indeed value extra-curricular activities, but only if they are the sorts of sporting and social activities that can be quantified objectively. Last year it hired a former professional basketball player, a president of a girls’ football club, and an international tennis player. It’s not clear whether these activities make you a more complete person than reading a book or volunteering at your local food bank.

Not everyone was convinced by Blankfein’s remarks. Nancy Qin, a third-year student, told the WSJ that Blankfein’s comments reinforced her decision to intern at a consulting firm, rather than an investment bank. “You have to know how to talk with others in the real world,” Qin said.

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