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The EMEA head of recruitment at Goldman Sachs has answered your questions here

Goldman Sachs

Do you want to work for Goldman Sachs? Sarah Harper, Goldman’s head of recruitment for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has agreed to respond to some of your questions on graduate jobs and internships.

We’ve started the process by asking Sarah five questions below. Your questions have been added below that. Questions are now closed.

1. So, this year’s graduate recruitment round has started. Are you already seeing a flood of applications from students interested in jobs at Goldman Sachs?

Sarah: Yes we see a number of applications come in every year for new analyst and associate roles. The majority of our graduate class is filled by students who have interned at GS but there are still positions available and an early application is advised.

2. What’s your advice to students in terms of the timing of their applications? Should they apply as early as possible to maximize their chances of getting an interview, or do you advise that they take their time and apply only when they’ve fully researched the market?

Sarah: The best applications are from those students who have thoroughly researched and prepared, so this should always be the guide. For some of our roles, we interview on more of a rolling basis – particularly our full time roles and to a lesser extend our summer intern applications. For the spring internship programme we will interview after the application deadline.

3. Are there any particular students you’ll be looking for this year? Do you have a need for particular language skills or country knowledge?

Sarah: Given the diversity of clients we advise, all across our region, we will always look for students with language skills and country knowledge.

4. In percentage terms, how much importance would you attribute to each of the following factors in student applications to Goldman Sachs: academic track record, extra-curricular activities, previous finance internships?

Sarah: We probably place equal importance on all of these three attributes. We are looking for students who can demonstrate that they have a ‘self starter’ attitude and having a combination of skills and experienced under your belt demonstrates that you are an ambitious individual who is motivated to progress.

5. What makes the students who receive full time job offers at Goldman stand out from the rest?

Sarah: The most successful students are those who can quickly demonstrate that they work well in the GS culture – one of collaboration and teamwork, a desire to improve and excel with an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset – and that they have the motivation to work hard and learn about the finance industry.

Your questions to Sarah Harper:

1. Dear Sarah,
It seems when candidates apply for graduate programmes, they are often “filtered” out upon first scans of achievements such as A-Level and GCSE grades – perhaps even electronically. I appreciate with the high level of applications, there has to be ways of cutting the applicants down to give you the best possible chance of recruiting top talent. However, I am wondering how candidates can get a chance with companies like Goldman Sachs on their graduate programmes when they don’t necessarily meet school level requirements, but are still excellent academically. For example, my A-Level results put me on less than 300 UCAS points, but since school I have obtained two Masters degrees in both Engineering (Newcastle – 2:1) and Finance (Cass Business School – Distinction). As well as this, I demonstrate a very good self starter attitude, have an entrepreneurial mind set and have directly related work experience to my desired field (obtained while studying). Despite this, all large IBs have continually denied my CV at the very first stage of application.

How is it that people like me can get ourselves noticed by the HR departments of large firms, so that we have a chance on the graduate programmes? Or, should we resign to the fact that we must try and bypass HR and make contacts within the departments we wish to work in – to see if they will consider us differently?

Many thanks,

Sarah: Goldman Sachs looks for people who have strong academics but also a number of other attributes such as a demonstration of teamwork and leadership skills, a hunger to do well and an innovative mindset.  So, if you are able to demonstrate these qualities in your application you still have a chance of being selected by us as we do not automatically (electronically) filter people out based on grades.  If you feel there were certain reasons why you did not perform as well as you would have liked in you’re a Levels then you may want to mention this in your cover letter.  The other way to try and secure an interview is to make an impact at one of our recruiting events on campus.  If a GS representative meets you and thinks you have potential then s/he may recommend that you are part of the interview process that way.

2. What is the prospect in getting a place on the six month placement programs if you are coming from an engineering working background? Is it better to apply for a summer internship instead?

Sarah: The 6 month programme is specifically for those students who are asked to take time out, usually in their third year of their degree, to work.  We hire many engineers onto our work placement programme but we also hire engineers onto our summer programme so it really depends what stage of your university degree you are at – there is further detail on our website at www.gs.com/careers which may be helpful.

3. I’m a South African citizen who came 1st in the my finance honours class at the University of Cape Town, but don’t have a visa/sponsorship to work in the UK. Is it still possible to apply and will coming from SA affect my chances negatively?

Sarah: We hire a number of people from South Africa, and other parts of Africa, each year.  The firm will assist with visa applications and there is no reason to assume that this would be a barrier for you.  Take a look at our website www.gs.com/careers to see which programme you are eligible for and the deadlines for applications.  We look forward to receiving your CV.

4. How is your internship programme structured and what safeguards do you put in place to ensure that interns receive meaningful training and work experience and are not simply used as cheap labour ?

Sarah: Our internship programme is designed to generate interest in having a career at Goldman Sachs. Most of our analysts and associates were interns with the firm before they took a full time job with us. If you were an intern you would receive a mix of classroom-based and on-the-job training during the 10 weeks you are with us and you would do real work on important projects for clients.  You would also be given a mentor to turn to for advice on building a career and navigating the firm and a buddy for day-to-day queries. Managers would give you regular feedback on performance and you would also have ongoing discussions about the type of work you enjoy and what you would like to be involved in.  We encourage interns to speak up, to make suggestions and be vocal about how they can add value to the firm from day one.

5. Would GS consider someone looking to move after spending a year at a graduate scheme at another investment bank? Or would they need more experience?

Sarah: Anyone who has experience at another firm would really be considered an ‘experienced’ hire rather than a graduate hire and yes occasionally we will have positions for someone who only has a year or so experience.  You should be prepared to answer a number of questions around motivations for leaving relatively soon.  You would need to apply through the experienced hire route on our website www.gs.com/careers

6. For off-cycle internships, does Goldman Sachs sponsor visas?

Sarah: We will support the visa application process for any hire, regardless of the specific programme.

7. What is the main theme of telephone interview? If the line has problems, would it be possible to use Skype?

Sarah: We conduct many first round interviews over the telephone, particularly as we recruit from all over the globe and it often doesn’t make sense for someone to come to London for an interview.  The themes will the same as if you were in a face to face interview – you will be asked about your motivations for applying (to GS and to the specific division/s you have applied for) and you will be asked a series of questions which give you the opportunity to sell your skills relating to some of the attributes we look for in our hires (teamwork, leadership potential etc).  If for some reason the telephone line is problematic we do sometimes organise for video conference interviews to take place of you are near one of our GS offices around the world.

8. Within EMEA, especially the UK, to what extent are students disadvantaged when applying for front-office positions (IBD, Securities) if they attend non-target universities?

Sarah: We do not have a specific list of universities that we only accept applications from so you should apply to whichever division/s you are most interested in and best suited to.  We are very focussed on hiring a diverse set of individuals into the firm who come from different backgrounds and study different degree disciplines so we look forward to receiving your application.