You have an interview with Goldman Sachs, or any other leading bank. Aside from familiarising yourself with the firm’s Business Principles and Standards, what must you do to prepare? Fortunately, Goldman Sachs' ‘Careers App’ includes a helpful application checklist.
Goldman's app suggests you won't succeed at a banking interview if you haven’t given consideration to the following five points. However, Goldman only provides the headline suggestions, so we’ve elaborated upon them for you below.
1. Research the company you’re applying to
If you’re interviewing with Goldman Sachs, or any bank, you should know something about its principles, about its strategy, and about the issues affecting the business area you’re applying to.
How can you unearth this information? Goldman doesn’t make any suggestions, but banks’ principles are usually listed on their websites. For information on their overall strategy, go to the investor relations section of a bank’s site and look at its most recent quarterly and annual reports.
You should also pay a visit to, ‘Seeking Alpha,’ and look at transcripts of banks’ calls with investors (Tip: You can find these most easily if you search for the name of a bank’s chief executive) – pay particular attention to the Q&A section of these transcripts, in which rival banks’ analysts ask the executives questions about strategy. These questions can be illuminating about the big issues of the moment.
2. Read newspapers and blogs covering the areas you’re applying to. Attend networking events
Needless to say, you should be a regular visitor to the eFinancialCareers editorial section and to our student page. You'll also need to read the generic financial press like the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal (Tip – If you're not a WSJ subscriber you can sometimes access WSJ articles for free if you enter the headline into Google News). You should also look at Bloomberg's finance industry section and you could follow things like Business Insider's finance page. You can set up a customized search on Google News for the banks and business areas you’re interested in – ‘M&A’ if you want a job in mergers and acquisitions, ‘IPO’ [meaning initial public offering] if you want to work in equity capital markets. If you’re applying to M&A or capital markets, you should also find out about any recent deals that the bank was involved in. What made those deals interesting? If you're applying to fixed income, look at interest rate trends and bond yields (both crazily low). Have an opinion about where yields are likely to go next. If you're applying for a job in equities, you'll need an opinion on the direction of equity markets and to be able to point to stocks that you like and stocks that you don't.
If you really want to get behind trends in a particular area of banking, you can also do so by going directly to the quarterly reports of ‘information companies’ like Dealogic and Thomson Reuters. Both offer quarterly reports on trends in M&A, debt capital markets and equity capital markets by region and industry sector (click here for Thomson Reuters' league tables, click here for Dealogic's). If you want to work in sales and trading, look at the Markit Magazine for broad industry trends.
If you’re applying for a sales and trading job, you should also look at where the bank you're applying to ranks on polls run by organisations like Extel (for equities) or Euromoney (for FX) – point to these rankings as a reason why you want to work there.
For broader advice, you should also check forums like Wall Street Oasis, advisory sites like Mergers and Inquisitions, or banks’ own careers blogs such as that run by Goldman Sachs, here.
And as for networking? – Banks usually provide a list of the networking events they’ll be attending on their own sites. Here’s an example from Deutsche Bank. Check these event lists regularly.
3. Have a good idea of the division, position and location you want to apply to
It’s no good simply saying that you want to ‘work in banking’. You'll need to apply to a particular banking business area in a particular region or country. During the interview, banks will drill down on your choice. You will therefore need to know exactly why you want to work in M&A as opposed to sales, or sales as opposed to trading, as well as why you want to sell equities rather than bonds. Goldman says specifically that you will need to be ready to discuss your motivation for applying to a particular division and a particular company.
How can you prepare for this? Banks will have information on what it means to work in a particular division on their sites. Study these and read as many profiles of people doing a particular job as possible. For further information on different banking divisions, look at our student careers guide here. Try talking to people who are already in the jobs you’re interested in – ask your university careers service if they can put you in touch with alumni who are in those roles. Go to banks’ networking sessions, ask the bankers in attendance what they do on a typical day, ask what they enjoy about their jobs.
4. Be ready for the ‘competency questions’
Goldman also advises that you come to an interview prepared to, ‘discuss any relevant leadership experiences that you have held in the past two years’ along with any, 'cultural activities you've been a part of.'
What are banks like Goldman looking for here? Fundamentally, they want to know that you can exhibit the kinds of behaviours ('competencies') that they look for in their employees. You'll should therefore step into your interview equipped with solid examples of times you've 'shown leadership', 'turned a negative situation around', 'encouraged a team to work with you to achieve a goal' and generally overcome problems to achieve something tangible.
The best way to answer competency questions is using the S.T.A.R. technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Click here to read our article on STAR. It's worth running through the STAR points for each of your situational examples before the interview. That way, you will be clear how you'll respond.
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