Inside Goldman Sachs UK: Calum Forrest, regional head of recruiting

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1. What does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?

That varies enormously, depending on the time of the year. Among other things, I cover both experienced hiring and campus recruiting for the firm. Right now I spend time charging around from campus presentation to campus presentation. Last week I spoke to 400 LSE students about career opportunities at the firm and introduced our keynote speaker, Peter Sutherland, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs, and then presented at Oxford.

2. Do you have any input into hiring decisions or is it up to line managers?

It's a combination. Interviewers decide collectively. I interview some candidates, but we hire hundreds of people, so of course there are many I don't get to meet.

3. Which six adjectives would you choose to describe the ideal Goldman Sachs employee?

In no particular order; we look for someone who's entrepreneurial, client-focused, and team- oriented. High integrity is absolutely critical, as is the pursuit of excellence; we aim to bring a level of intensity, dedication and flawless execution that will set us apart.

4. I want to work at Goldman Sachs. What should I expect from the selection process?

It depends whether you come in as an experienced hire or through the campus selection process.

If you come from university to join the analyst programme, you'll start with a test to evaluate analytical thinking and verbal reasoning and you will have a first round interview. The test doesn't seek to identify the smartest people, but to screen out those that would, in our view, struggle in an analyst role anywhere in the firm. The test supplements the interview- there is no pass mark.

The interview is usually with two GS people and is designed to determine whether or not a candidate has the core competencies we look for (broadly similar to 3., above). If you have those competencies, you'll go on to a second round interview with up to two divisions. There are usually four or five interviews in this round.

If you come from business school to join the associate programme, you'll go through a similar process, minus the test.

If you join as an experienced hire you will also skip the tests, but there will be a series of interviews.

5. My academic results are good, but not outstanding. Am I still in with a chance?

Your chances of success will be materially eroded, particularly if you want to join the entry level programmes.

6. Why is Goldman Sachs a better place to work than other top international banks?

I don't know that it is, because I've never worked at another firm.

However, my own view and experience of working here is that if you enjoy and facilitate the success of others, your own success will follow: The philosophy of Goldman Sachs is to focus on the client, whether internal or external, not one's own positioning. Team orientation not only makes Goldman Sachs a great place to work, it is also central to our commercial success.

7. Which universities/MBA schools are you targeting for analyst and associate hiring in 2004 and 2005? Does it matter if my school's not on the list?

For our European businesses, we target a broad range of schools, largely across Europe and the US, but hire from many schools beyond this list.

8. Describe the best candidate you have ever interviewed.

I have been lucky enough to interview hundreds of outstanding candidates. They typically have at least the following in common: energy, enthusiasm, humility, confidence, good listening skills. They'll offer well-researched, succinct, thoughtful and insightful answers. They will ask good questions, and clearly be team-oriented, with high integrity. They will be obviously very bright, but have not spent their life 'chasing the A grade', and will have somehow managed to do much more besides.

9. And the worst...?

Some people look great on paper but don't come through. I once came into an interview with someone who was talking on his mobile phone. Instead of finishing what didn't appear to be an urgent call, he continued talking for another couple of minutes. That struck me as somewhat arrogant and made me question whether he would behave the same way with a client. There is a thin line between self-confidence and arrogance.

10. Is Goldman Sachs planning to increase graduate and MBA hiring in 2005? If so, by how much?

These numbers are constantly reviewed in line with overall market forecasts, but in Europe it wouldn't surprise me if we are up 10% on the analyst side and even more than this on the MBA front. MBAs are coming up from a pretty low base.

11. I'm a second-year undergraduate who wants to work in banking, but I haven't got a place on an internship programme. What should I do?

Try to get some work experience, for example, at a smaller financial services player. Anything that is likely to provide a demonstrably challenging experience will helpful.

12. I left university a few years ago and have decided I'd like to work in banking. Can I still come in as a graduate trainee?

We look at this on a case-by-case basis. We do not have a policy to prohibit this.

13. Which other banks do you rate most highly on candidates' CVs?

There are several other banks that we know and love.

14. What's the worst way to go about getting hired by Goldman Sachs?

One sub-optimal technique is to use a bland, standard covering letter and forget to cut the words of a competitor investment bank and paste the words 'Goldman Sachs' in.

To read a Q&A with Goldman's US head of recruitment, Aaron Marcus, click here.

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