Ask the Recruiters – Interview Tips
With years of recruiting and interviewing candidates between them, two of our recruiters based in Asia share their advice and tips. Walter is based in Tokyo with oversight for firmwide campus recruiting across all of Asia Pacific. Mei, based in Hong Kong, is responsible for firmwide Asia Pacific ex Japan campus recruiting.
What can a candidate do to prepare for an interview?
Mei: You should know your resume very well and be prepared to discuss any portion of it in detail. Think ahead and have some talking points ready to articulate a story—you can highlight relevant projects, coursework, and any extracurricular activities that tell us more about who you are.
Walter: It also helps to explain your interest in a particular division, and to demonstrate a passion for financial services or show you want to learn more about the industry. This applies to anyone who is interviewing, not just those interviewing in the Securities Division, for example.
What does it mean to "know your resume well"? Doesn't everyone know their resume?
Walter: I think some people assume the resume is only used to get the interview and then once in an interview, it becomes secondary. In actuality, however, an interviewer will often look at the resume in advance to prepare questions for the interview.
Mei: For example, if you include a paper you have written or an article you have contributed to, even if it dates back a few years, our interviewers may want to discuss the specifics of the topic. So you should be prepared to demonstrate knowledge in the subject.
How can a candidate demonstrate they are interested in financial services?
Walter: A candidate may speak about something current they've read in the news related to the markets, or know what a particular exchange is trading at, for example.
Mei: It’s also important to know the macro and micro of what's happening around the globe and its impact on the Asia region. Something as basic as knowing where Goldman Sachs stock is trading on the day is also important.
What are some of the ways that a candidate could learn about Goldman Sachs?
Walter: The firm's website of course—and by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. That could demonstrate real interest, especially if someone knows the subject matter of what we've been tweeting – that could make for great conversation in an interview.
Mei: I would also highlight our Careers blog on our website which I think is a great tool to gain direct insights into the firm.
Walter: Networking is very important as well. A candidate could reach out to recent grads, go to events on campus, tap into alumni networks, and leverage their school's career center.
Mei: I advise students to go to as many campus presentations as they can. It's a great way to learn about the industry and different firms to be able to draw comparisons and make informed decisions on how your personality may fit into a firm’s culture.
How important is that first interview for a candidate?
Mei: It's important and you should prepare for every interaction you have with our business professionals. However, since we are very consensus-driven, we don’t base any decisions just on one person’s opinion.
What other tips would you give to candidates?
Walter: Candidates should prepare questions to ask the interviewer—this is another great opportunity to demonstrate interest. For Asia, where Mei and I focus our recruiting efforts, it helps for a candidate to explain why they want to work here, especially if they've really never spent any time in the region.
What about advice for the day of the interview?
Walter: Be on time. It sounds basic, but sometimes people don’t plan the logistics of going from the train station to the office, for example. Once in the interview, don't forget that we're people too, so it's fine to smile once in a while!
Mei: Yes, being friendly, demonstrating energy and personality is important. One of the questions we ask ourselves when considering a candidate is, "would I be happy working next to this person?" – so showing us who you are and being yourself really matters.
Any final tips for the interview itself?
Walter: A final suggestion is to be concise and to-the-point. Sometimes people continue talking until they have finished their prepared speech.
Mei: It doesn’t help to be long-winded. We prefer candidates who come across as natural, and not as if they’re reciting a pre-written script. Let’s also not forget the importance of being a good listener.
Walter: Listening to what the interviewer asks versus answering what you want to answer is really important.