Goldman Sachs behavioral interview (questions, answers, prep)

Today we’re going to cover Goldman Sachs behavioral interview questions, which account for nearly 60% of all questions asked in Goldman Sachs investment banking interviews.

This percentage is based on an analysis of 102 interview reports from real Goldman Sachs candidates, which were recorded from 2015-2022. 

Mastering these questions will prepare you for the majority of interview questions asked at Goldman Sachs. Crack the top 5 behavioral questions alone, and you’ll be ready for over 57% of all behavioral questions reported by Goldman Sachs candidates.

Let’s jump straight into the questions. 

1. 5 most common behavioral interview questions

Before we see our full list of Goldman Sachs behavioral questions, let’s take a look at the 5 questions that you’re most likely to be asked during your interviews.

These questions come up in both the initial HireVue video interview and during the final Super Day (or Assessment Centre) rounds. In the HireVue interviews, you’ll only have 30 seconds to think before recording a two-minute response, and the final-round interviewers will expect you to have clear and concise answers.

So it’s key that you prepare answers to these questions in advance. You can use the sample answers that we offer below as inspiration.

Let’s get started.

1.1 Why do you want to work in investment banking?

This question was mentioned the most out of any question in the Glassdoor interview reports that we’ve studied for this role. It accounted for 21% of the behavioral questions that past candidates reported at Goldman Sachs, and nearly 15% of all questions reported.

Clearly, Goldman Sachs interviewers are interested in your motivation to join the industry (beyond the high salary), so you should plan to answer this question at some point during your interview rounds. Here’s an example to help you prepare:

Sample answer: “Back in high school, we had a class project where we invested a set amount of imaginary money into different stocks to learn about basic finance. I got completely sucked into the project and ended up obsessing over it, even though I made some risky investments and ultimately ended the semester on a loss. Since then I’ve studied financial trends and started investing real money, while pursuing my finance & economics degree, followed by my internship.

I’ve remained just as passionate about finance and investing as I was in the 10th grade. That’s why I’m looking for a position in Investor Relations, where I can dive deep into the earnings and financial performance of companies, while working hand in hand with other passionate investors.”

1.2 Why Goldman Sachs?

The question “why Goldman Sachs?” accounted for 13% of reported behavioral questions at the company. Your interviewers will want to know what made you choose Goldman Sachs specifically, over other investment banking giants like JP Morgan or Morgan Stanley.

Of course, you’ll need to examine your personal reasons for joining this company, but we'll give you an example of a good answer to get you started. For more detailed information on how to answer this question, take a look at this guide.

Sample answer: “I want to work at Goldman Sachs for two main reasons:

First, I want to take part in industry-shaping deals, something that I could only do while working for the industry leader in investment banking, which is Goldman. I came to this conclusion while researching the leading investment banks, and I was impressed that Goldman had a record M&A year in 2021, earning more in fees than both JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. 

Second, I studied with Amira Tazi and later did an internship with Anthony Jones, both of whom now work in Structured Finance in your New York City office. Both of them told me that they are enjoying the job and, knowing my background, encouraged me to apply.”

1.3 Walk me through your resume

Many interviewers will use a question like this, or “tell me about yourself” (see next point) in order to break the ice and start off your interview. That makes this a particularly crucial question, as it establishes the interviewer’s first impression and sets the stage for the rest of the interview.

You’ll want to know your resume inside and out and be prepared to answer follow-up questions on each of the experiences you included. Anything you have put on your resume is fair game for the interviewer to ask about.

Sample answer: “Currently, I work as an associate at Smith & Sons, doing primarily trade and transaction management: helping with settlements, trade reports, and regulatory reporting. I’ve been there for about four years, having been promoted to associate after just under 2 years (which is 1 year faster than 70% of the other analysts at the firm). This is where I’ve really been able to hone my problem-solving skills, since I regularly onboard new clients who have unique trade concerns and restrictions.

Before that, I was an analyst for a couple years at K.Q. Maine, in operations risk management. This was my first full-time position other than internships, so it was very much a sink or swim moment for me. Thankfully, I had great support from my manager, who gave me the project of revamping the risk metrics for our systems, which allowed us to measure and anticipate incidents with 15% more accuracy. 

Finally, I was a summer analyst intern for a few months right out of school, mostly learning the ropes and creating reports for analysts and associates. The best part about this position is that it was where I formed a relationship with my ongoing mentor, Mariam Khan, who works at Goldman’s London office now.”

1.4 Tell me about yourself

As we mentioned above, ice-breaker questions like this one are what set the tone for the interview as a whole. The interviewer will likely follow up on one or more of the details you share in your answer, so be prepared to dive deeper into certain points of your past experience.

Here’s a sample answer to this question to give you an idea of what to aim for:

Sample answer: “As you might have noticed, I have an unconventional background for investment banking. Currently, I’m finishing up an investment banking internship after having taught high school honors and AP statistics for eight years.

The career change came after I realized that what I loved most about my job was the numbers: using data to make conclusions, analyzing trends, and so on. I started up a finance club at my school to share this interest with motivated students, and in the meantime started taking night classes to take the SIE exam. I leveraged my summer holidays to study and do internships like the one that I just finished.

Now I’m aiming to make the full transition from teacher to investment banking analyst, where I can learn and grow full-time in a fast-paced environment.”

1.5 What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A classic in behavioral interviews, this question appeared multiple times in Goldman Sachs interview reports, as interviewers are looking for an honest portrayal of your performance. 

The key to this question is to be sincere with your weaknesses, but to follow them up with the plan you put in place to counter them. The strengths you list should be relevant to the job description and backed up by real life experience.

Here’s an example:

Sample answer: “One strength is that I have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. It’s something I’ve had to perfect over years of client-facing jobs, as far back as being a clothing store cashier in my teens. In my current position, my manager gave me the lead on onboarding new clients, which meant I was able to successfully onboard 53 new corporate clients in 2 years.

A weakness is that I have a short attention span. It’s something that I have struggled with in my studies in particular, but since then have adopted habits and timing methods that help me manage it. I take frequent short breaks as I work, which allow me to focus on long-term projects, rather than spacing out and getting frustrated.”

2. Complete list of Goldman Sachs behavioral interview questions

Now that we’ve dug into the five behavioral questions that you are most likely to encounter during an investment banking interview at Goldman Sachs, let’s take a look at a list of every Goldman Sachs IB behavioral interview question reported on Glassdoor since 2015.

Use the list below to prepare your answers to different types of questions. We’ll give you an answer framework to practice with in section 3.

Note: the questions below come from Goldman Glassdoor interview reports for Analyst positions. While the interview process for Associates or other roles may be slightly different, this list will still provide an excellent starting point for your preparation.

Here are the questions:

21 behavioral questions asked at Goldman Sachs

  1. Why do you want to work in investment banking?
  2. Why Goldman Sachs?
  3. Walk me through your resume
  4. Tell me about yourself
  5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Why did you choose your college major?
  7. Why would you be a good addition to the team you’ve applied for?
  8. Tell me about your experience at (previous employer)
  9. Name something that your previous bosses would say about you
  10.  Why should we hire you?
  11.  Imagine your friend steals the answers to an exam and offers them to you. How would you handle the situation?
  12. Imagine you gave your boss paperwork and later realized you made a mistake. How would you handle the situation?
  13. How would you counsel an under-performing peer ahead of a performance review?
  14. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership
  15. Tell me about a time you failed and how you overcame it
  16. Tell me about a time when a team member wasn’t pulling their weight in a project. What did you do?
  17. Tell me about a difficult time you’ve had working in a team
  18. Tell me about a time when you’ve worked with people from different backgrounds
  19. Tell me about a time you had a problem and how you solved it
  20. Tell me about a time your manager questioned your decision
  21. Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with a tight deadline

3. How to answer behavioral interview questions

You may have noticed that all of the questions above fall into two basic formats: 

  1. General questions, such as “why investment banking?” or “why should we hire you?”, which require individualized responses
  2. Scenario questions that typically begin with “Tell me about a time…...”, which can be answered using a repeatable framework

For general questions, you’ll need to craft your own answers in advance. All of the top 4 most common behavioral questions that we covered earlier are general questions, so you can use our example answers as a start pointing for writing your own answers.

There are a few more questions in the complete list, such as “why shouldn’t I hire you?”, which will require individualized responses as well. 

All of the other questions are scenario-based questions (e.g. “Tell me about a time”), which you can answer using a repeatable framework. Let’s dig into behavioral question frameworks in more detail. 

The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a popular approach for answering this type of behavioral question because it’s easy to remember. You may have already heard of it.

However, we’ve found that candidates often find it difficult to distinguish the difference between steps two and three, or task and action. Some also forget to include lessons learned in the results step, which is especially crucial when discussing past failures.

So we’ve developed the IGotAnOffer method to correct some of the pitfalls we’ve observed when using the STAR method.

3.1 The IGotAnOffer method

Let’s step through our suggested five-step approach:

  1. Situation: Start by giving the necessary context of the situation you were in. Describe your role, the team, the organization, the market, etc. You should only give the minimum context needed to understand the problem and the solution in your story. Nothing more.
  2. Problem: Outline the problem you and your team were facing.
  3. Solution: Explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem. Step through how you went about implementing your solution, and focus on your contribution over what the team / larger organization did.
  4. Impact: Summarize the positive results you achieved for your team, department, and organization. As much as possible, quantify the impact.
  5. Lessons: Conclude with any lessons you might have learned in the process.

You’ll notice that this method covers very similar themes to the STAR method. We like it because a lot of the candidates we work with find this framework easier to use, as there’s no overlap between any of the steps in your story.

3.2 Example answer using the IGotAnOffer method

To give you an idea of how the IGotAnOffer method works in practice, here’s a quick sample answer using the framework.

Try this question:

Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.

 

Situation: “In my last position, I was on a team of analysts working on a live deal to try to bring on a new client. We hadn’t worked with them before, and it was a big name, so this was a huge opportunity for the company.”

Problem: “One day before a key meeting with the potential client, the associate taking the lead on the deal got sick. As her symptoms developed, it became clear that she would not be able to attend the meeting and pitch our services to the new client. We had to decide whether to try to reschedule the meeting, or to go ahead without her leadership.”

Solution: “I knew that rescheduling the meeting at the last minute would make us appear unreliable to the potential client, so I made it a point to maintain the meeting. I called the other analysts as soon as we found out about the associate’s condition, and I volunteered to give the pitch. They agreed, and we rehearsed the pitch together.

The next day, I gave the pitch and did my best to answer the potential client’s questions, with help from the other analysts. I was able to remember most of what we prepared with the associate, and my teammates were able to support me in the other areas.”

Impact: “The client asked for extra time to consider the deal, but did ultimately come back to us and accept. They are now one of our regular clients, and through that relationship alone we’ve brought in a little over $215,000 in revenue for the company.”

Lessons: “So I learned how important it is to prepare in advance for all eventualities. Had we set up a contingency plan prior to the pitch, the associate’s illness would not have created such last-minute stress leading up to the meeting. So now I work to stay aware of needs outside of my job description, and to anticipate risks ahead of time.”

4. How to prepare for Goldman Sachs behavioral interviews

Now that you’ve seen the list of Goldman Sachs behavioral interview questions and how to answer them, let’s talk about four steps you can take to prepare for the interviews.

4.1 Learn about Goldman Sachs’ culture

Before you spend weeks (or months) preparing for Goldman Sachs interviews, you should pause for a moment to learn about the company’s culture. 

This is important for two reasons. 

First, it will help you to clarify whether Goldman Sachs is actually the right fit for you. Goldman Sachs is prestigious, so it can be tempting to apply without thinking more deeply.  But, it's important to remember that the prestige of a job (by itself) won't make you happy in your day-to-day work. It's the type of work and the people you work with that will.

Second, having a clear understanding of Goldman Sachs’ culture will give you an edge in your interviews, because it will help you frame your skills and experiences to align with what the company values. It will be key for the “why Goldman Sachs?” interview question as well.  

If you know any current or former Goldman Sachs employees, see if you can chat with them about the company’s culture for a few minutes. In addition, we would recommend checking out the following resources:

4.2 Practice by yourself

Acing a behavioral question is much harder than it looks. You’ll stand out if you put in the required work to craft concise and direct answers.

4.2.1 Prepare your answers

First, work out your answers to general behavioral questions such as those in Section 1. Write them down, and time how long it takes you to say them out loud (aim for 1-2 minutes). Make sure that you’re hitting the key points without rambling.

Next, for scenario-based questions, work out which stories you’d like to tell. Make a list of key moments in your career (e.g. accomplishments, failures, team situations, leadership situations, etc.) that you can use to answer one or multiple questions.

After you’ve finished your list, write out a story for each key moment in your career using the structure we've laid out in section 3. Be sure to emphasize your impact in each of these examples, quantify the results of your actions, and explain the lessons you learned from the experience. 

Once you have a bank of stories, go through the questions in section 2 and make sure you’d be able to answer all of them either by using one of the stories you’ve written directly, or by adapting it on the fly. If you identify any gaps, add stories to your bank until you’re comfortable you can cover all the questions listed in this article. For reference, we suspect this will require around 10-15 stories for most candidates.

4.2.2 Practice your answers out loud

After you've written everything down, a great way to practice your answers is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate during an interview. 

You should be able to tell each prepared answer and story from your bank naturally, neither missing key details nor memorizing them word-for-word.

Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. Trust us, it works.

4.3 Practice with peers

Practicing by yourself is a critical step, but it will only take you so far.

We recommend that you also do some mock interviews. This is much closer to the real interview experience. Plus, the feedback you get from an interview partner could help you avoid mistakes that you wouldn’t notice on your own. 

You can practice with a friend or family member to start. This will help you polish your stories and catch communication mistakes. However, if your interview partner isn’t an experienced ex-interviewer, then they won’t be able to give you the kind of targeted feedback that will bring your answers up to the next level.

4.4 Practice with ex-interviewers

If you know someone who runs interviews at Goldman Sachs or another investment bank, then that’s amazing! They'll be a great person to practice interviews with.

But most of us don’t, and it can be REALLY tough to make a new connection with an investment banker. And even if you do have a good connection already, it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them extremely well.

Here's the good news. We want to help you make these connections. That’s why we’ve launched a coaching platform where you can find ex-interviewers at Goldman Sachs to practice with. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

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