How to Answer the Why Our Bank? Question in Interviews

Where do investment banks recruiting?

Banking Investment / April 20, 2014

James, a recruiter for our Investment Banking Division based in Hong Kong, shared some advice for candidates considering opportunities across Asia during a recent recruiting trip to the US.

What is your background with Goldman Sachs?
I’ve been with Goldman Sachs just over 7 years now, always in campus recruiting. I actually started in our Frankfurt office and moved back to London about 5 years ago. Now I’m based in Hong Kong working on recruiting for our Asia opportunities in the Investment Banking Division.

What is your current recruiting focus right now?
We’re approaching the Asia application deadline for summer internships, which is November 17th. [Editor’s note: information on application deadlines can be found here.] So there’s been a big push to market our programs in Asia, the United States and across the globe. A key driving force is to make sure we’re hiring into our Summer Internship program as it is an important pipeline for all of our recruiting efforts.

Can you describe the qualifications and majors you’re looking for in a candidate?
We’re very open-minded. We take students from all degree disciplines, not just finance, and this is consistent throughout our recruiting efforts across the globe. In Asia, the nuances revolve around linguistics, and since mainland China is a focus, it is important that recruits can speak Mandarin. Candidates who speak southeast Asian languages are also very welcome. We’re really looking for a broad mix of backgrounds and languages.

How would someone who is not majoring in finance convince you that they’re the right candidate?
The first thing for any candidate is to do research about the role prior to going into the interview. We would not expect technical proficiency from a non-finance major. That said, banking is about valuing companies, so we would expect candidates to be aware of some fundamental concepts like valuation models, discounted cash flows, trading comparables and the like. But we would not expect these candidates to walk us through a model.

What advice would you give someone who may be interviewing with you?
As a recruiter, I am really focused on core competencies. Are they team-oriented? Do they have a good ethical compass? Do their communication skills have the necessary potential to build good internal and client relationships? These are consistent qualities we look for globally, but they are especially important when we consider non-finance majors.

How can someone prepare for the interviewing process?
For someone with classical finance training and background, or who may have had a couple of internships previously, we’d expect a certain level of technical knowledge regarding the investment banking business. But for all candidates, they should focus on their achievements until now, whether these are academic or work achievements, and show us how these demonstrate the core competencies we’re looking for.

What is the interviewing process like for Investment Banking in Asia?
Interviewing begins in December and normally the first round is a phone interview, mainly because people are spread around the world. We want our professionals—whether they are in Beijing or Hong Kong or Singapore—to be the ones interviewing. The second round tends to be face-to-face with candidates in the region coming to our local offices. For candidates in the United States, we would most likely invite them to our New York office for face-to-face interviews with our professionals who would fly in to meet them and conduct the interviews. For students who make it to this round and who can’t make it to New York, we find a way for them to interview be it by video conference or phone.

What question are you asked most frequently?
The question we always get from students is, “why should I start my career in Asia, as opposed to New York?” It’s a great question. Whereas New York and Europe are relatively well-established in terms of the business climate, Asia is a developing market. So there’s an opportunity to have exposure to new deals, work through problems for the first time, and navigate regulatory and state-influenced aspects of doing business in the region. All of these are very exciting.

And why should someone consider Investment Banking?
Investment Banking is a really exciting and rewarding place to start a career. Even our most junior people have a seat at the table and work right alongside our senior bankers and clients learning the business first hand. A core part of our culture is the focus our senior leaders place on helping junior bankers advance in their careers – through on the job training, mentorship and other development opportunities. And there’s never a dull moment in banking – the environment is fast paced and stimulating.

In your trip to the US, what have you found?
It has been fascinating to come to the US and to see how many people are genuinely interested in career opportunities in Asia. There is obviously a sizeable population of Asian students who are looking to return to the region, but also US students who see it as a region of growth and opportunity. It has been inspiring.

And what have you been finding locally among recruits in Asia?
Locally, students are embracing international organizations. Obviously there are local banks in the market, but there are unique benefits that Goldman Sachs can offer. We’re a full-service, global investment bank that offers client service across the firm. We find that this is very appealing to candidates.