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Do the top investment banks in NYC drug test their new recruits?
December 28, 2006 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I am looking to apply for an entry-level position at some of the large investment banks in NYC (Goldman Sachs, Bear Sterns) as well as some smaller ones. I have friends that work in banking and are encouraging me to become a junior analyst. Do they drug test? How extensively?

Some cursory searches reveal that temp jobs and administrative positions are drug tested at Goldman, which is not what I am applying for. I smoke once a day usually and quit as of yesterday.

My friends are offering me a great opportunity for a leg up (apparently these banks are mythically hard to get into) and I do not want to shoot myself in the foot. I was planning on going in and interviewing within a month but if someone has some first hand experience it would really help -- I'm somewhat stressing out over this. Here's some more background:

- Since graduation a month ago I have taken what can be deemed as an internal consulting job a non-finance related firm. I am family friends with a few executives at the company and work closely with them. I did not interview or do a resume. As you may have inferred the hiring process was very informal and was never drug-tested (nor did it cross my mind).

- I do not want to go to the friends inside the banks because they are largely contacts I have made in an informal setting. While I know them well (and them well enough to ask me to get into finance), I do not know feel comfortable asking them about how drug testing works within the company, I do not know their own views toward drug use well enough.

- I would believe it to be rude to stall any interviews or tell them to get back to me in several months. They are doing me a very large favor, not to mention how odd delaying it might seem.

I'm mainly concerned with reports of tests more invasive than just urine. I don't believe anything will be rolling faster than 3 weeks or so (which time I should be clean). I would have stopped months ago if I knew I was going to get into finance, but this sort of fell in my lap.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total)
 
Why not ask your friends if they drug test? Or just shave your head and be done with it...
posted by jckll at 8:44 PM on December 28, 2006


You've stopped, that's all you can do.

Any reputable company is going to drug test. And they are going to do that before they hire you, so don't count on hiring/training time to get clean.

Most of the "defeat drug test" stuff is fake, hoaxes, or outright shams/frauds. Only try that as, quite literally, a last resort.

Your best hope is to accept the position but tell them you have another job/commitment you must finish first and it will take about 4 weeks to do so.

Then, eagerly schedule the drug test in the days right before you start. Then cross your fingers.

You've graduated, you're obviously privileged, it's time to grow up and be an adult.

cklennon: Urine tests are most common by far, but unless you're willing to shave your entire body, and I mean entire body, shaving your head will not prevent a hair test.

At the place I used to work, a guy was being tested for suspicion, and knew it was coming and shaved his head, arms, legs, and groin. The nurse removed hair from around his anus to test. He failed.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:48 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]



Any reputable company is going to drug test.


This is not true. Some do, some don't. GS doesn't. Or at least it didn't as of 2002.
posted by toxic at 9:00 PM on December 28, 2006


At least one other major firm does urine testing even for contractors on a long-term project. I would assume that they do the same tests for anyone applying for a full-time position.
posted by lackutrol at 9:25 PM on December 28, 2006


I was only given a basic urine test when I entered the analyst program at one large i-bank, then the same routine urine test again when I switched to another firm. And the tests were given only after I had interviewed and received offers, but before I started. I seem to recall that a few analysts managed to delay their tests until the last minute (they got offers in October/November for jobs that started after they graduated in May/June). And plenty of my colleagues had managed to pass by doing the bare minimum to get by (I dunno what that means exactly--I guess they stopped smoking pot a couple weeks ahead of time and drank a lot of water. I'm sure there's a few threads that deal with that question).

I've never heard of anything more intense than a urine test for Wall Street-type jobs. But then again, this was never a personal concern, so I haven't exactly been researching the topic.
posted by mullacc at 10:24 PM on December 28, 2006


I've pot-smoking friends who work or will work IT/programming jobs in a Manhattan finance firm whose name I will omit. Standard urine test. Those who just received offers can apparently schedule it anytime from now until 3 days before their start date, so they're going to spend a month drinking beer instead of smoking up, then do the test.

You've graduated, you're obviously privileged, it's time to grow up and be an adult.

I'm also told half the people at this firm snort coke as well as smoke.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:27 PM on December 28, 2006


I'll be starting in an analyst program at one of the large investment banks this summer, and I've been told that drug testing will be performed a few weeks prior to my start date. Most of the analyst programs work in a similar manner - college seniors are hired during the fall for programs starting the following summer - so if you interview for one of these positions, it's likely that they won't start you until their analyst class begins, since the entire class goes through training together. Unless, of course, you negotiate an early start date, although I can't see what you would do before going through training. It seems to me that if you are hired for a summer start date, you won't be drug tested for several months, so you'll have some advance warning.

Obviously this doesn't apply if you are interviewing for a operations-type role or at a boutique bank that might be willing to start you right away.
posted by btkuhn at 12:23 AM on December 29, 2006


I'm also told half the people at this firm snort coke as well as smoke.

Anyone who's spent any time inside Wall Street will tell you that an estimate of "half" is low.
posted by toxic at 1:27 AM on December 29, 2006


At the place I used to work, a guy was being tested for suspicion, and knew it was coming and shaved his head, arms, legs, and groin. The nurse removed hair from around his anus to test. He failed.

Oh, please. I'm sure that's just a myth they tell new employees to scare them. A quick google session showed that a urine-based test kit costs roughly $6, while a hair-based drug test costs $65.

Realistically speaking, they're testing you in order to cover their asses legally, not because they legitimately care about what you do on your time off.

Without prior suspicion of your drug abuse, investment banks are too smart to go to that kind of trouble.
posted by nadise at 2:10 AM on December 29, 2006


Most of the "defeat drug test" stuff is fake, hoaxes, or outright shams/frauds. Only try that as, quite literally, a last resort.

What are you basing this on?

Oh, please. I'm sure that's just a myth they tell new employees to scare them. A quick google session showed that a urine-based test kit costs roughly $6, while a hair-based drug test costs $65.

This is the company that just paid it's $16 billion in bonuses, right?
posted by delmoi at 6:13 AM on December 29, 2006


If you work on Wall Street you'lll be drug tested for the most part, in particular if you have any kind of sensitive job. I'll second the test kit BS opinion.
posted by sfts2 at 6:25 AM on December 29, 2006


Erowid has a lot of useful information on drug testing: linky

Based on the information there, I'm led to believe that most of the drug test defeating stuff is at least marketed in a misleading manner. That is, nothing can "clean" THC out of your fat cells other than exercise or time. These products simply allow you to drink a large amount of water and pass of dilute urine as a legit sample.
posted by kableh at 7:10 AM on December 29, 2006


Anyone who's spent any time inside Wall Street will tell you that an estimate of "half" is low.

This is true. In fact, after you pass your drug screening (which you will if you stop now as you have), you should do more and harder drugs so you'll fit in better.
posted by Falconetti at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2006


nadise and delmoi: I am a healthcare executive, and my former company had an entire division based on occupational medicine. I am well familiar with drug testing and the methods to defeat them.

The anus-hair test was real, as it was one of my nurses that took the sample. It was actually discussed for about 2 hours ahead of time, as this particular client would only accept a hair sample based test, and these guys knew that, and tried to defeat the test by shaving their bodies, even their eyebrows, the day before the test. The nursing supervisor called me and asked "what do we do"... my response was "do they have any hair anywhere on their body?"... she surprised me with her ingenuity.

It was a marquis car dealership, and turned out the guys were not only taking drugs themselves, but selling drugs on the test drives. Guy comes in, asks to test drive a new Mercedes, buys half a kilo. It was brilliant, because if they did get stopped by the cops, they are not in their own car, it can't be impounded, can't be proven to be in "their possession", etc.

For urine based testing, the solutions are to either a) try to mask the drug with another chemical/adulterant or b) try to dilute the urine to the point that it would fall below detection limits.

a) is well understood by the laboratories and they check for adulterants as a matter of course. b) is addressed by doing specific gravity testing on the sample. If the specific gravity is too low, then it is not considered a valid urine sample, and will be denied. Temperature is also checked at the time of collection.

The only way you might get by with the stuff you order off the internet to "pass drug tests" is if they do what is called a "rapid" test, where the results are read instantly as opposed to being sent off to the lab. But if the sample is lab-processed (or sent for verification of a non-negative response... there is no such thing as a positive, there is negative, and non-negative, until it is verified by Mass Spectrometer and also the results reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO)), you're pretty much done.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:08 AM on December 29, 2006 [3 favorites]


You'll be tested. I worked at a large finance shop in NYC. Urine only.

Just schedule the interviews and then stall them, but only a bit. I think you can easily say, "Wow, this week is very bad for me..." for the first meeting. And then, saying you get to a second / third / fourth interview, continue this procedure.

And then there is the option above to push out your start date a bit. With these two stall tactics combined, you should be fine.

"Study hard" for the drug test!
posted by zpousman at 11:07 AM on December 29, 2006


GS does a urine drug test. For me it was after I got offers and before I could start, I had to pass it. I would be surprised if they asked you to do it in the course of your interviews. You should be fine, don't freak.
It's not in anyone's best interest for Goldman to do more than a urine test-- they don't need you to be a perfect citizen, just not so addicted to a substance that you can't lay off for long enough to pass a urine screen. Also, insurance reasons.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:35 PM on December 29, 2006


Earlier this year I worked as an administrative assistant for Alliance Bernstein in NYC. They only required a urine test and, as far as I understood, this was standard for NYC financial firms. I also had to have a urine test for my NYC paralegal position.

The only time I came across a hair test was while working for my local CT savings bank. Luckily as a summer intern, I was not required to be tested, but the full time employees were all hair tested. Strange.

Anyway, urine drug tests seem primarily to be a way of weeding out those who are either not smart enough to arrange to pass them, or so addicted that they can't hold off for a few weeks. With a few weeks of abstinence and maybe some extra exercising to help release the THC, you should be fine.

Are you thin or overweight? Fat stores the THC in your body. If you were substancially overweight it might take longer to become clean. Also, are you a light or habitual user? Habitual users build up more THC in their bodies. If you are either of these, you should really start excerising now to help the THC along.

My slightly overweight/pothead ex use to quit 3-4 weeks before a drug test and excercise everyday during those few weeks. As of our breakup he never failed a test. ::shrug::

Good luck! Let us know what happens.
posted by amileighs at 2:57 PM on December 29, 2006


Some do, some don't. GS doesn't. Or at least it didn't as of 2002.

They did in 1989.
posted by skywhite at 6:14 AM on February 7, 2007


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