Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Inside the new ways Goldman Sachs recruits millennials

Silicon Valley's Wall St. talent raid
Silicon Valley's Wall St. talent raid

For the last year or so, Goldman Sachs has been selling itself as a technology company. The 146-year-old investment bank rarely misses the chance to tell any audience that a third of its employees are now engineers, and that tech is at the heart of everything it does, including recruiting.

"What we are doing in recruiting is evolutionary, not revolutionary," said Edith Cooper, executive vice president and global head of human capital management.

Two years ago, Goldman started thinking about recruiting in the digital age, looking beyond on-campus visits, alumni networks and the initial one-person review of a candidate's resume.

The changes implemented since then mean Goldman now pursues students from a wider pool of colleges. It is using targeted ads and recruiting messages to attract key segments of the student population, all in an effort to make sure the incoming class of analysts has the right mix of diversity.

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It is also using technology to mine the thousands of online resumes submitted each year to the firm, looking for key words, accomplishments and experiences that are similar to those used by successful Goldman hires.

"The online resume has created a database of experience," Cooper said. "We are looking at ways to leverage technology to get the right people."

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Along with those with the necessary smarts, Cooper said Goldman looks for people who can adapt and step out of their comfort zone. Those are the type of people who will be successful at Goldman, she said.

To find those students, Goldman is casting a wider net, thanks again to the use of technology. The front line of this effort is its website, It features video testimonials by analysts about their Goldman experience.

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On YouTube there are a number of videos Goldman has produced about working at the firm, with one featuring CEO Lloyd Blankfein giving advice to Goldman's summer interns. The firm has also hosted Google Hangouts, has a mobile careers app and more recently started advertising on Snapchat.

These 10-second ads run on Snapchat's "Campus Stories," a series of live pieces that run on select college campuses including Syracuse, Penn State, Texas Tech and others. Anyone looking to post on Campus Stories must have phone proof that they've been in or around the campus in the last 24 hours.

Goldman targets three specific types of students with the ads: community leaders, entrepreneurs and technologists, looking to connect with them in person if the bank has a recruiter in the area.

"We are trafficking in the space our candidates operate in," Cooper said.

Aram Lulla, a national practice leader at the Lucas Group and author of "Recruiting and Managing Millennials," said having a strong social media presence is key to attracting recent graduates. But he also said millennials like to have great culture and a belief in the organization and its mission. It is Goldman's mission and culture that it is promoting in those online testimonials and in the YouTube videos.

The change in its recruiting strategy is one of several Goldman has made to attract and retain its millennial hires. The firm recently revamped its program for junior investment bankers to keep them from bolting for other companies after two years The training program now runs three years and Goldman is changing the timeline for promotions and bonuses, all in an effort to keep these in-demand employees at the firm.

As for first-year hires, despite some speculation it is losing talent to Silicon Valley, Goldman said the applicant pool for analysts, or first-year hires, rose 9 percent this year to 50,000 applicants. It hired 3 to 4 percent of those applicants, many of whom came from schools outside the ivied halls of schools you might typically link to Goldman like Harvard, Yale or Stanford.

Half of the class hailed from 218 U.S. colleges, a 60 percent increase from the number of U.S schools represented in 2004.

"We want our candidates to be as diverse as possible," Cooper said. "And by diversity I mean not just by gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, but to come from different academic experiences and geographies."

The company said there is a comprehensive set of schools it targets, though it declined to give names.

Cooper said the list includes the largest public universities because their size, diversity of population and wide range of majors provide Goldman with a deep pool of talent from which to pull. Goldman also continues to focus its recruiting efforts on liberal arts colleges and top-rated schools in the U.S.

One person familiar with the change in recruiting mentioned Georgia Tech as a new addition to the targeted schools — no surprise given Goldman's increasing focus on technology.

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These days, 35 percent of its first-year hires majored in a STEM, or science, technology, engineering or math disciplines; that is up from 20 percent a couple of years ago. Goldman said the shift is logical given the role tech plays in its clients' businesses and its own increased focus on technology, which touches every aspect of its business from client advice to trading to risk management.

Even the way interviews are done is being changed by technology. A Skype interview now allows Goldman to reach students it may not be able to meet face to face, initially.

"While tech can inform our search, this is also a people business," Cooper said. "Tech cannot replace the human dialogue."

Face-to-face interviews, maybe in the second round, remain a critical part of the recruiting process. Cooper said it remains important not only for Goldman to see the candidate in person to evaluate them, but also for the candidate to meet face to face with Goldman employees to make sure the firm is the right fit for the applicant.