Grad Diary have been lucky enough to discuss interview tips and advice from Goldman Sachs Graduate Recruiting Manager Helen Ouseley. She has told us their application process and some inside hints with regards to what to avoid doing in an interview!


How long do you think a candidate should spend preparing for an interview?

The preparation for an interview really begins before an application to work at Goldman Sachs is submitted, when you do your research on the opportunities available. With regards to pre-interview preparation specifically I think that as you may be interviewed by firms at any point from application onwards students should start as early as possible to ensure enough time to be able to learn about the role, the company and the industry. They will then have the best possible chance of performing strongly if given the opportunity to interview.


What would you advise a student do to prepare for an interview at Goldman Sachs?

It may depend somewhat on the role but the two broad areas that a student should focus on are their key competencies and how to demonstrate these, and developing their knowledge of the industry, Goldman Sachs as a company and the position they are applying for.

When it comes to learning more about the company specifically it is important to look on our website to learn about what we look for in our recruits. In addition, there is a wealth information readily available now through careers services, the Internet and other publications that you can use to develop your knowledge. Talking to friends and family to obtain any advice or information that could be useful when it comes to an interview is also a great way to prepare.


What do you think you gain from an interview that you don’t get from looking at a CV?

There is only so much you can learn about a candidate from a piece of paper and interviews are important to see how an individual will conduct themselves and interact with a person face to face.

It is a good opportunity to see how an individual is able to demonstrate their competencies and are massively informative, not only for us, but as they are two way conversation it is also an opportunity for the candidate to decide if they are suited to Goldman Sachs.


What are the main competencies that you look for in a candidate?

We are looking for candidates to demonstrate a range of competencies, which would include commercial awareness, judgment, and leadership. More broadly I think our website is a great source of information on what we look for from applicants.


How much time in the interview is spent talking about your CV?

Our interviews are focused on competencies rather than directly talking through a candidate’s CV. However, whilst discussing examples of what you have done to demonstrate particular skills you will discuss aspects of your CV. For example we may ask for an example when you have demonstrated leadership and the likelihood is that your CV will contain an example of that behaviour.


Do you believe that first impressions make a lasting impression in an interview?

While it is really important to try to make a positive first impression our interviewers will always look to assess a candidate on the entire interview and no decisions are made straight away.


How long do your interviews typically last and how many people interview a candidate?

This can vary depending on the role or division you are applying for but each interview will usually be about 30 minutes long and typically one or two people will be interviewing you at once.

The number of interviews again is dependent on the individual program, for example in our 2-week Spring program for first years there is only one interview whereas for a full time position you would generally have two separate rounds of interviews and may meet in excess of five people during that time. This allows us to gain a good insight and breadth of opinion on a candidate and it also means that those who are selected would have already met a fair amount of people working within the organization before joining.


How do you think a candidate should react to a question they don’t know the answer to?

I would advise against guessing! Your reaction again depends on whether it is a question about knowledge on a particular topic or a competency example. In many cases there may not be a right or wrong answer but what we look for in a candidate is the logical process regarding how that individual came to that answer. I would advise candidates not to try and make up an answer on the spot but to respond to the question to the best of their knowledge.


Do different interviewers ever have different opinions on a candidate?

Yes, it happens on occasion and is expected in a process such as ours where the individual meets numerous people. In those situations we will sit down as a group and discuss any patterns and trends in the feedback and work through evaluating the candidate taking it all in to account to come to a consensus hiring decision.


Has your interview process changed much since the downturn?

As we continue to recruit large numbers of students and graduates at Goldman Sachs our process has not really changed. Perhaps one thing that has changed slightly has been the questions received by the candidates as interviews allow us the opportunity to discuss any queries they may have regarding the current environment.


What bad habits do you generally see from candidates in interviews?

There are a couple in particular that stand out to me. The first is overconfidence, a number of candidates are slightly overconfident and it can come across in a negative light. Obviously it is good to be confident however sometimes a candidate needs to be cautious about giving off the wrong impression.

The second bad habit I have noticed is that occasionally candidates speak negatively about their experiences or other organizations which is something that is not advised in an interview. It is important that they focus on themselves and position their experiences in a positive way.


Are there any phrases that a candidate should avoid?

Yes, in the context of an interview it is common for candidates to try and demonstrate their knowledge and so some will use jargon and language that they don’t fully understand. My advice would be to avoid this unless you are able to speak eloquently and explain the meaning of the jargon you are using.


In the selection process is there any preferences towards candidates from particular universities?

We look at a candidate based purely on their individual merit rather than their university. To give an idea of our diversity in selection, this year we have recruited interns from over 100 different schools in EMEA.


What do you believe makes your selection process different from your competitors?

What is unusual about our selection process is that it is interview-based, so there is no testing, online or in-house. We believe this makes our process straightforward and transparent and also gives the candidate the opportunity to meet with lots of people during the process.