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Nail the ‘motivation for applying’ section of Goldman Sachs’ application form

In the final section of Goldman Sachs’ online application form, the bank is explicit about what it wants: ‘Please provide information you would typically include in your cover letter in 300 words or less. Be sure to provide examples of the qualities you would bring to Goldman Sachs and describe your motivations for applying. If you are applying to more than one division, please discuss your motivations for applying to each.'

It's essential that your response is to the point, especially if you are applying to more than one division. Fortunately for your word count, you are not required to use a letter format.

Say why you are well suited to Goldman Sachs

You need to support your desire for a job at Goldman Sachs with evidence. This is important because it demonstrates that you are really keen to work for Goldman Sachs and you aren't just carpet-bombing applications to all banks. The best answer to the question about your suitability for the role is an honest one, backed up by an example. Think about what you enjoy from your course and your life in general. How does this overlap with the requirements of Goldman Sachs particularly to the role for which you’ve applied? What do you enjoy being best at? How will this help you be the best analyst, for instance?

Brushing up on information about the bank is a good way to understand how you mirror its ethos. Doing your homework proves that you are interested in the bank's history and mission; it shows that you are prepared to integrate into Goldman Sachs. There are employee profiles, job descriptions and news bulletins on the website for you to explore and reference.

You may well want to show how your motivations mirror some of the more commonly talked about aspects of investment banking, eg being a multitasker and having time management skills. You might also want to refer to any satisfaction you gain from ‘seeing a job through’ and how that fits with the role; a great deal of stamina is required in order to complete some of the transactions in investment banking.

Say why are attracted to Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs wants you to explain why you have decided to apply for a graduate scheme or an internship with it rather than one of its competitors. 'Why have you chosen us over other employers?’ is one of the big questions employers are keen for you to answer.

Although you should not name other banks specifically in your answer, be aware that a general response about your commitment to a career in investment banking, with a few readily available (though interesting) facts about Goldman Sachs, will not suffice. The bank has often stated that a candidate’s understanding of its culture is as important as the skills and talent she or he can bring to the bank.

Recruiters want you to concentrate on one or two unique facts that confirm it stands out (to you) in the marketplace. It then wants you to marry those facts with your career aspirations or values. For example, if you are interested in Goldman Sachs' current sustainability and investment initiaitves, take a look at the bank's  ‘Environment, Social and Governance Report’ on its website. You can then reference the initiatives when writing about your own interest in sustainaibility.

Always think about what it is about Goldman Sachs that attracts you. If you have the chance before the application deadline, familiarise yourself with its culture by speaking with people who work there. This could be through events, insight days or internships. Goldman Sachs holds a wide range of functions and programmes throughout the year to reach individuals interested in investment banking. If you want to find out more about Goldman Sachs events, you can register with ‘my GS events’ to check its programme. You can also get in touch with your university careers department to see if Goldman Sachs will have a presence at upcoming careers fairs.

Otherwise, or in addition, read Goldman Sachs' website and any news featuring the work of the bank. Interviews with Goldman Sachs’ employees from across the business are available on the bank’s YouTube page, as well as a ‘Talks at GS’ conference series. Spending a bit of time watching these will deepen your insight.

Include examples

Just stating your reasons isn’t sufficient; you need to strengthen them with evidence that you mean what you say. For instance, if you are impressed that Goldman Sachs invests heavily in urban communities and you have volunteered at an inner-city school, link the two in your application. It makes for a particularly powerful and convincing application when candidates can show – with reasons and evidence – that they want to work for a particular employer because it chimes with their values. Choose examples from your time at university, work, extracurricular activities or gap years.

Say what you can bring to the business

You have undoubtedly got a long list of qualities that Goldman Sachs would want in graduate or intern recruits. However, select just a few examples that are directly relevant to the division to which you are applying.

Read through the job description. Read the content on the website about the division. Check out other material that may provide insight about the role. Does what the bank says through social media reveal anything else? Have a look at LinkedIn – see what former or existing graduates/interns or the bank’s own profile have to say.

Jot down the competencies Goldman Sachs is looking for in a graduate or intern, and specifically for your desired role. For example, some of the qualities that the business requires for its global compliance division are sound judgement, project management skills, adaptability and an interest in financial markets, products, securities law and regulation.

Include examples

To help you choose which competencies to focus on, consider if there are any that stand out or seem more important than others. Also establish which of the required competencies you can prove with tangible evidence that you have developed through work, education or other experiences. This will show Goldman Sachs that you have identified what the bank is looking for.

For example, if you decided to focus on the sound judgement competency required for work in the global compliance division, you could refer to a part-time job. Perhaps you worked at a youth club during a summer holiday and you made children buddy up in threes when they were doing outside activities and wear fluorescent jackets on field trips; these precautions would help ensure their welfare and show sound judgement.

Top tips

  • For pre-application research, look at Goldman Sachs’ ‘careers quiz’. It has 14 scenario-based questions, giving you an idea of what area you want to go into as well as what the company is looking for.
  • Don’t forget the obvious: follow instructions. If you are applying to more than one division, state your reasons for each.
  • Link Goldman Sachs’ projects and activities to your own interests.
  • Relate your examples to the division you want to work in.
  • Keep your answers concise but detailed. Specify how your experience will enable you to perform a particular function of the job.
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