It's A Level results day in the UK. The exams, taken by students before they start university and seen as a proxy for 18 year-old promise, have served up another round of exceptional attainment: 26.4% of students achieved A or A* grades, even though the exams were intended to be more difficult than last year.
Goldman Sachs should be delighted. Although the U.S. bank doesn't stipulate that its graduate recruits (analysts) achieve particular grades at A level or even a particular class of degree at university, the U.S. bank has a tendency to hire students with exceptional grades. All those new A grade students are potential future GS employees.
A brief perusal of LinkedIn profiles of the analysts hired by Goldman Sachs this year and last reveals that Wajih Ahmed, the 20 year-old Goldman Sachs associate who achieved three A*s and one A in his A levels between the ages of ten and fourteen, is exceptional at Goldman for having passed the exams so young - but not exceptional in having exemplary A level grades. Almost all the young people hired by the firm are straight A students.
Hence we have people like Shun Kobayashi, hired onto Goldman's fixed income currencies and commodities programme last year with three A*s and two As at A level (after studying at Eton College), or Nikul Shah, with 4 A*s (seemingly in Goldman's corporate treasury division), or Emelia Martin in technology with three As and a B.
In a random sample of 12 Goldman analyst hires in the past two years, the A Level results are fairly uniform: Goldman likes straight A students. And it likes them even if they're not going into the front office.
Goldman didn't respond to a request to comment for this article. Its thing for academic high achievers is undoubtedly one side effect of the 130,000+ people each year who apply for around 5,000 internships. How else can they be narrowed down but through academic grades?
So, what happens if you achieved three Cs (or worse) in your A level results today? Does this mean you should give up on your GS dream? Maybe. However, it's worth bearing in mind that an element of selection bias may be at play in LinkedIn profiles: Goldman analysts may only state their A level results on the site if they were exceptional - plenty don't give their results, so how did they fare?
Equally, there are role models at Goldman who didn't shoot the lights out aged 18, but who differentiated themselves later on. Most notable among them is Joanne Hannaford, head of EMEA technology at the firm. Hannaford didn't take A levels but opted for a more vocational BTEC qualification (where she achieved 14 distinctions and three merits), before gaining a first class degree in computing from Staffordshire University and a PhD in computer from University College London. Now she's a Goldman partner.
Alternatively, you can always differentiate yourself in other ways. Nicola Groves, a member of the 2017 analyst class at Goldman in London achieved a 'mere' two As and a B in her A levels (and went on to get a first class degree), but she's also a professional sailor who was part of the British team in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
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