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Goldman Sachs recruiting head has responded to your questions on getting a graduate job


Sarah Harper, head of recruitment for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Goldman Sachs, agreed to respond to some of your questions on graduate jobs and internships at the firm.

We started the process by asking Sarah a few questions immediately below. Her answers to your questions are at the bottom of this page. 

Q: Is it worth applying for a front office graduate job in investment banking this year? Have most jobs already gone to last summer’s interns?

Sarah: The aim each year is for us to offer the majority of interns a full time position with us and so a large proportion of our full time class will be filled by previous interns.  However we always have some slots to fill so it is always worth applying.  For this year though our full time deadline for applications has already passed.

Q: How important is it to complete a first year/spring week internship?

Sarah: The benefits of being part of a Spring Programme with us are multiple – it gives you the opportunity to understand our firm, how it differs from others and importantly whether you would like to start your career here, it gives us the opportunity to decide if we would like to work with you longer term and yes absolutely it provides you with the opportunity to secure an early summer internship programme with us well ahead of the usual process (approximately 80 percent of our Spring interns will either receive an immediate offer for the summer programme the following year or will be invited back in for early interviews)

Q: Goldman Sachs has dropped its two-year fixed term analyst contract. Is this something students should be worried about?

Sarah: No, this is not something students should be worried about.  We continue to offer full time analyst opportunities in all divisions and all other aspects of joining as an analyst remain the same (discretionary bonus, training, mentoring, coaching, mobility, etc.).  This change only helps us continue to further invest in developing our peoples’ careers at the firm from day one, with a long-term view.

Q: Is it any easier to get a job in your operations or technology teams than in the front office?

Sarah: My advice to students who ask this is that you should always focus on which division you want to work rather than where you think there might be less competition.  Operations and Technology hire a large number of graduates each year and we are looking for a wide range of students from those who speak different languages, given the global nature of our business, through to those studying Engineering and other STEM subjects.

Q: Should you apply for an internship at Goldman Sachs in London if you don’t have an EU passport or the right to work in the UK?

Sarah: Absolutely.  Although we cannot guarantee the outcome of any applications, we are willing to apply for appropriate work authorisation for any candidates who may require this.

Q: Which languages (other than English) are most sought-after for your graduate trainees in London?

Sarah: All of our divisions, including Operations, Technology, Finance and the other non revenue divisions, actively seek candidates who speak a second language to a native/fluent level and advanced written level.  Given the global nature of our business this is critical to us being able to support our clients around the globe.  We also offer mobility programmes which enables those who speak the relevant language to spend part of their career in another GS office.  For our regions we are very keen to see European language skills as well as some of the Growth Market profiles such as Russian, Turkish and Asian languages such as Mandarin.

Your questions to Sarah Harper:

Q: How many people do you hire annually for your private equity group, and do you look for people with some experience in the MENA region as well as being fluent in Arabic?

Sarah: We hire relatively small numbers into this area compared to some divisions.  We do not expect people at the undergraduate level to have prior experience except perhaps a summer internship elsewhere but if you do have experience in a particular location where you would like to work this would I am sure be beneficial to your application.  You do not have to speak fluent Arabic either.

Q: How easy is it to get a job in investment banking at Goldman Sachs if you only have financial consulting experience? 

Sarah: We hire many people with a consulting background as the skill sets can be very similar.  A number of people at Business School have started their careers in consulting but would not like to switch to banking for example.  When coming in at the graduate level we are looking more for potential and drive to be in this business vs having banking experience.

Q: I have 6 years’ experience of working in capital markets in India and have an MBA from the University of Leicester. Will an ACCA qualification help me get into Goldman? 

Sarah: You do not need to have the ACCA qualification to join Goldman Sachs but if you want to join the Internal Audit or Controllers departments you will need the ACA qualification.

Q: How is the success of the front office summer interns measured and what is the offer rate for the full-time positions?

Sarah: Summer interns in all divisions will receive regular feedback on their performance and support in terms of improving on the areas for development.  There is also a formal review process whereby people you have worked with will be asked to comment on how well you are performing against certain criteria.  The final formal review is fundamental to determining who will be offered a full time position.  You will be assessed against a number of important criteria such as teamwork skills, technical ability, commercial awareness, motivation etc but the key really is that we see a steep learning curve from week 1 to week 10 and that we see you responding quickly and effectively to feedback.  We aim to offer 65-70% of our summer interns a full time position.

Q: How does Goldman Sachs value CFA? Does it help to have the CFA if you want a graduate role with Goldman?

Sarah: The CFA is more appropriate to some roles rather than others however either way this demonstrates a commitment and interest to the industry/role which is key to be able to show on your application.  Having the CFA qualification however is not a necessity for any division at the application stage and the firm will support appropriate training and qualifications once candidates join if they are required for the role

Q: I’m not at a top university and I haven’t had an internship. Can you suggest what I should do to get a job somewhere like Goldman Sachs?

Sarah: If you are looking for a full time role to start next summer it may be difficult to start looking for a role at this stage as the vast majority of positions will already have been filled.  However, the best thing to think about it what sort of criteria you think we are looking for in our employees (teamwork, motivation, entrepreneurial spirit, passion for excellent to name a few) and think about what you have done which demonstrates these.  For example if you have no work experience in the finance industry and did not join any of the finance related clubs at University it will be harder for you to demonstrate your motivation for the industry that someone who has.

Q: Your website says the deadline for applying to your spring internship has already passed. Is there any way I can still apply for this? I’m studying an MBA

Sarah: The deadline for our Spring Internship Programme is 6th January however it is really aimed at students who are 2 years away from completing their undergraduate degree.  The Spring Programme is essentially a feeder for our Summer Analyst programme.