A Goldman Sachs MD's guide to surviving banking interviews
Good news – you passed the 1st test, your resume has been accepted and they want a 1st round interview with you. A 1st round interview is just another screening tool to narrow the resume file further. Make sure you treat it as such.
Having conducted 250-300 1st round interviews in my sixteen years in banking, of which around half were spent at Goldman Sachs, this is what I recommend:
Preparation is key. You need to get background on the firm you are speaking to, the division, the department. Ideally even something on who you are going to be speaking to. Interviewers want to talk to someone they think belongs in the firm. You need to know how the firm is doing, the latest news around it, recent articles written on it. What are people inside the firm talking about?
The worst interviews are the ones where the interviewee is very nervous, flustered or is just unable to convey what they want. It's frustrating for the interviewer and the interviewee. The simple way to handle this (that I still use) is to take a lot of deep breaths. Smile. Picture yourself succeeding. Its important you walk in there with a positive attitude. Use 'power poses' to help prepare with body language.
3. Be professional
A banking interviewer wants to make sure that you will fit inside the firm. They do not want to be responsible for hiring a rude, unprofessional person. Your first step as you enter the room is to smile, be courteous. Act professionally in how you speak, how you sit and act. Make sure you look the part. Ideally if you can bring something for the interviewer, even better. Check out the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, to know what I mean.
4. Build rapport
The most important thing you need to accomplish in the interview, almost within then first 5 minutes is to build rapport. Find something in common with the your interviewer - or interviewers. It could be their university, their favourite holiday spot, where they grew up. People like people who seem similar to them, and if the interviewer likes you, you will likely get the next round. Find things you have in common, or can connect over. Try to sense what is important in their life. If you have issues with this, then read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.
5. Ask questions
The best interviews are the ones where the interviewer can tell you are genuinely interested. The best way to highlight your interest is by asking questions. If you can’t think of any questions, the interviewer is going to assume that you are either not very smart or not very interested. Neither are conclusions that you want them to reach. Write down at least 10 questions before you go to the interview. It will help to bring a notebook along for this reason.
6. Tell your story
You have to decide what you want to convey in your conversation with the interviewer. What’s your story? How do you want to be remembered? Too many people think an interview is when someone asks you questions and you try to survive. That’s not it at all. An interview is an ideal opportunity for you to tell your story, highlight why you should be hired and what you have done so far. Interviewers like a narrative. I recommend using the STAR technique to help build an impression of your achievements.
7. Be memorable
The interviewer will likely talk to 4-5 other people today, maybe 15-20 people that week during peak interview season. How are you going to stand out ? Will they remember you at the end of the week? The people who are positively remembered are the ones that get called in for the next round.
8. Figure out a way to follow-up
You did your best; things went well. You may get the next round, you may not. But you just met someone interesting. You don’t know what they’ll be doing next, but it's probably a good idea to stay in touch. Find a way to swap contact information, and if possible follow-up to thank them for their time.
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