Should I apply to an internship if failing the interview imperils future prospects at the company?
January 17, 2008 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Should I apply for an internship in Goldman Sachs, even though they have a reputation for blacklisting candidates that fail interviews from further openings?

I am currently a PhD student in a field that has strong applicability to finance, and am somewhat considering the investment bank route after graduation. I recently found out that Goldman Sachs is taking applications for PhD student interns, and that the deadline to apply is quite soon. While I think that having the internship may be a positive experience, there are several reasons I can think of for not applying.

1. I may not accept it even if I get an offer, because doing research over the summer may be more important.

2. My candidacy currently doesn't look nearly as strong as it will in a year or two, once I get more publications out.

3. I have seen reports that Goldman Sachs (like some other companies) will never consider you a candidate if you fail an interview. I am not sure how situations when the application doesn't get to an interview, or an offer is given but rejected, are treated. I don't want to significantly harm my future employment prospects. On the other hand, there is plenty of potential for me to be very well suited to the job, and finding out more about the financial services industry before committing there as a career seems like a good idea.

Given that there's a significant chance that I won't get through the interview, and also that I will reject an offer that doesn't seem perfect for me, is it worth risking being blacklisted by GS? Or do internship interviews not count for this purpose? What about rejections of offers -- are they a sure way to never get a job there again? Especially given the fact that there isn't much time left to write the prefect application.
posted by bsdfish to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The way you frame it, it really doesn't seem worth the risk. You make it sound as though this is really not the right time for you to pursue it.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on January 17, 2008

I don't really know why you're posting this. You are obviously not confident enough to apply, you doubt your experience, and think you would be better off applying in a few years. So, wait a few years. Plus, Goldman isn't doing to well anyway and you might not get a full-time position out of it now, which is a better reason to stay in academia.
posted by parmanparman at 10:26 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd apply if I were you.

Concern number 1 shouldn't be a concern. If you want to get to Wall Street, you want to have an internship -- there is no summer research so important as to change that.

Concern number 2 isn't likely to impact your candidacy. Wall Street isn't terribly interested in the specific research areas of math/science PhDs -- they just want the sheer brainpower, and it is unlikely that any particular publication will affect their assessment of that.

Concern number 3 also shouldn't impact you -- because you won't reject the offer if one is given you (see concern number 1), and because you're not going to get more attractive over time (see concern number 1) and the "blacklist" is thus not material -- if they'd reject you now they'd be highly likely to reject you later, and thus you're not losing anything by applying now.

And regarding parmanparman's comment, Goldman is rocking now -- they are doing far better than anyone else on Wall Street because they were the only major house to hedge their credit risks when everyone else was extending their cuffs like crazy.
posted by MattD at 11:11 AM on January 17, 2008

I can't believe they would look at someone, decide someone else was better for an internship, and put the first person's name on a black list. These folks are all about money. What's the value benefit of maintaining a black list? There isn't one. That sounds more like a myth perpetuated by people on the outside trying to get in.
posted by Doohickie at 2:10 PM on January 17, 2008

The head of GS was rejected several times before he eventually came on board. Is there a short-term blacklist? I wouldn't doubt it for some positions, due to the sheer amount of smart kids with great resumes applying. But at the graduate level, if you are considering GS, then you are also considering several other comparable firms. As stated above, an internship at GS will be more important than any research project you do.

Unfortunately not everyone at GS is doing so well, I don't know what you're applying for, but some of the more quantitative funds such as the Global Alpha Fund have been very volatile and haven't been so great lately. Of course if you're going into a pure quant role, GS is not necessarily the best to get into. So rest assured that if you get rejected from GS, other options abound that shouldn't hinder you. If you're any branch of mathematical finance or a heavy hard science background, expect to make six-figures base salary anywhere you go. While I wouldn't run for a new hedge fund just trying to grab impressive resumes, there is a very good chance a firm like Renaissance would pay at least the same, if not more. At the level you're at, really hit your professors or your school up hard for connections inside GS or another hedge fund. They're going to be your best bet.
posted by geoff. at 4:58 PM on January 17, 2008

If you stay within your field, there's no reason you can't eventually go to GS if you're at the same general level. There's a high level of mobility in the field, so don't assume you won't end up there at some point in time if you don't get in.
posted by geoff. at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2008

The stories of a "blacklist" most likely come from people who didn't get in and can't accept that they couldn't cut it. If you are good, they are smart enough to recognize it.
posted by gjc at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2008

GS does not have a blacklist, unless perhaps you accept an offer and later renege to take a better offer somewhere else. The recruiters for a school might remember people that seem like they will never make the cut, but there is a difference between that and someone that is just not quite far enough along in their education to be ready for the job.
Frankly, though, if you are more than a year or two from finishing your PhD, the odds are not great that they will see you as a serious candidate. It is not in the firm's best interest to get interns that are unlikely to be turned into full-time employees in the near future.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:35 PM on January 17, 2008

Thanks all -- I actually got the answer about the non-existence of a blacklist from a recruiter.

The comment about research being more important was in the context of finishing my degree at a reasonable time. I have no illusions of finance companies seriously caring about my specific projects unless they are ultra-related to a finance application.
posted by bsdfish at 8:03 PM on January 17, 2008

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