What Goldman Sachs Seeks In MBA Hires

Goldman Sachs Meeting

Everyone has an opinion about Goldman Sachs. From baristas to bankers, the company is a Rorschach for how you view the financial industry. Whether you’re a populist or a plutocrat, there’s one thing that everyone can agree upon: Goldman Sachs is the best-of-the-best in banking.

When companies grow large and wield influence, they naturally become targets. They’re consigned to conspiracy lore and caricatured by their industry’s worst excesses. Every mistake is magnified and every outreach greeted with suspicion.  Soon enough, the reputation becomes the reality – to those on the outside, at least. And Goldman Sachs is continuously swimming upstream in this regard. The firm consistently ranks among the most attractive and respected employers by outlets ranging from Fortune to Universum to Working Mother. Despite this, for example, it is sometimes viewed as a firm that caters exclusively to quants.

FIRM SEEKS STUDENTS WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS WHO CAN MAKE AN EARLY IMPACT

“The reality of it is that we actually have a pretty strong appetite for non-traditional backgrounds,” says Michael Desmarais, a managing director at Goldman Sachs and their firm’s global head of talent acquisition, in an exclusive interview with Poets&Quants. “[That’s] because we really look to all of our recruiting efforts, including those for MBAs, to bring in a diverse set of experiences to the firm. We feel that diversity of thought within the backgrounds that we hire is what helps us best serve our clients. We’re a global firm and we need to think broadly.”

In fact, the so-called “profile” of a Goldman Sachs hire may be altogether different than what most expect. “One of the things that is interesting,” adds Desmarais, “is that a majority of our MBA hires are career switchers, so they’re coming from a different industry altogether.”

In a firm like Goldman Sachs – with 34,000 employees and over $7 billion dollars in quarterly revenue – MBAs might assume that they’d be just another number. In reality, according to Desmarais, the firm offers an entrepreneurial culture where they’re given a voice and expected to make an impact once you join. “Goldman Sachs is a firm that’s focused on meritocracy,” Desmarais explains, “meaning if you’ve shown an aptitude and an interest, you’re provided very early on with development opportunities regardless of your tenure or title.”

Michael Desmarais

Michael Desmarais

HEAVY INVESTMENT FROM MANAGEMENT COUPLED WITH EXPOSURE TO A VARIETY OF INDUSTRIES

And Goldman Sachs regards its new hires as the lifeblood and future of the firm. An interesting statistic Desmarais points to, “is that a majority of our managing directors and partners start at the firm as analysts and associates. So we pride ourselves in our investment in the junior population.” Not only that, you could argue that Goldman Sachs offers similar career prospects as blue chip consulting firms, with the firm’s reputation, rigor, resources, and network offering unbeatable off-ramp opportunities.

“They’re going to develop a skill set that’s really well-rounded,” Desmarais adds. “We operate, obviously, in the financial services industry. But our client base is any industry imaginable. So people will get opportunities for exposure across a broad range of industries.”

And forget the stereotype of banking as all work and no play, a collection of blue shoes who work around-the-clock. Goldman Sachs was the first firm to offer protected Saturdays to junior bankers. Year-after-year, Vault ranks the firm among the top banks for green initiatives and philanthropy, not to mention diversity for minorities, women, the disabled, and the LGBT community. What’s more, the firm has poured heavy resources into benefits like child care and elder care to better free up their employees and help them minimize painful tradeoffs.

“We recognize that over the life cycle of a career,” Desmarais emphasizes, “[that] employees’ needs are going to change. We continue to focus on providing different services that will help integrate personal priorities and professional responsibilities really across every stage of one’s career.”

EXPECTS UPTICK IN HIRING IN 2016

The firm hires most of its MBAs into its Investment Banking Division and Private Wealth Management, but there are opportunities throughout the firm for those with an MBA.  “We use our summer internship program as a feeder for our full time positions, where MBAs come in at the associate level.  This year we’ve seen a slight increase in the number of interns we expect for 2016, and are targeting an increase for full time hires as well.  The majority of our summer interns receive offers for full time jobs,” Desmarais says.

Desmarais himself joined Goldman Sachs in 2002, drawn to the “bright” and “passionate” people that he partnered with when he worked at a different firm. After getting his BA in Accounting from Stonehill College in 1988 he began his career in public accounting at KPMG and earned his CPA.  He subsequently spent nine years in executive search at Vedior Professional Services. Recently, Poets&Quants sat down with Desmarais to learn more about Goldman Sachs’ MBA hiring. How can you get a leg up on other candidates vying for a job at the firm? What are some of the unique benefits that Goldman Sachs offers MBAs? And how can graduates position themselves for success early in their tenure at the firm? Check out our Q&A with Desmarais to learn the answers.

What does Goldman Sachs look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

One of the things that candidates may assume when they’re applying is that we have a large focus on direct finance experience and qualifications. The reality is that we actually have a pretty strong appetite for non-traditional backgrounds. [That’s] because we really look to all of our recruiting efforts, including those for MBAs, to bring in a diverse set of experiences to the firm. We feel that diversity of thought within the backgrounds that we hire is what helps us best serve our clients. We’re a global firm and we need to think broadly.

As a result, we need to make sure [that] we are attracting a broad set of skills. What is really important to us is that candidates are able to discuss the skills that they have developed either in their previous careers or through their academic studies and how those skills translate into adding value to our organization and our clients.

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