MA Grad Sans Finance Experience Heads to Goldman Sachs

Nicola_TaljaardBy Thunderbird Career Management Center

Who: Nicola Taljaard, ‘11

What: With no financial background, this Tbird turned a genuine interest and classroom experiences into a full-time position right out of graduation.


Career Management Center: How did you hear about the Operations Associate position with Goldman Sachs?
Nicola Taljaard: I learned about it on the CMC’s GlobalConnect job board.

CMC: What attracted you to it?
NT: I had never really considered the financial services industry as an option, but as I was reading the description for the internship it sounded really interesting and challenging, and I thought ‘ I can do this.’ So I applied.

CMC: Describe your research on the company.
NT: Goldman Sachs‘ website is very detailed and they have a number of tools on there (like quizzes and tests to see where you might ‘fit’ in the organization) so I took all of those. I really focused on their community initiatives, like the 10,000 Women program, which gave me something a little different to talk about in the interviews. I also read the annual reports for the past three years and tried to get a better sense about what was being said about the firm in the news. Finally, I used the Hoovers database for some quick facts about the firms leadership and competitors.

CMC: How did your Thunderbird experience help you get the job?
Attending conferences and career fairs were very helpful because they allowed me to practice talking to recruiters in a stressful environment. Previous interviews for internships, jobs, and class assignments also played a significant role in helping me to be more prepared.

I also think that campus involvement definitely helped me to get the internship. By being involved with certain clubs and associations on campus I had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects, which provided great experience to draw from during the interviews. Finally, I believe that classes like Global Leadership, Managing Work Relationships, and Conflict Management helped prepare me, because so much of how well a person ‘fits’ within a company culture has to do with soft skills.

CMC: What was the application/interview/acceptance process like?
NT: The application process was fairly simple and I think quite standard: just an online application with a resume and cover letter attached. I had not spoken with the firm during the career fair prior to applying, so I just went through the process described on GlobalConnect.

There was only one round of interviews which took place in Salt Lake City. The process consisted of two back-to-back interviews of 30 mins each. Both interviewers asked behavioral questions. My first interviewer was really friendly and seemed quite laid back, while the second one was much more intense and a little intimidating – this is something which I believe is quite common in the firm’s interviewing process.

After the interviews, the company’s turn around time was very fast. I interviewed on a Wednesday, and was called with an internship offer by the human resources department the same Friday. Once I had formally accepted there was quite a lot of paperwork, background checks and drug screenings which had to be completed before I was approved to work. The entire process from applying to being approved for work took approximately two and a half months.

CMC: What advice do you have for students in your program looking to get into the company/industry?
NT: For those interested in working for the company, but who do not have a financial background, I would strongly suggest applying anyway. I had no experience in financial services and my finance knowledge was limited to what I learned at Thunderbird. The firm is really looking for both cultural and academic diversity in its employees.

I would also suggest really focusing on developing soft skills – most people can be taught how to do the technical ’stuff’ but your soft skills will help you to make a good first impression and to navigate the company’s very fast paced and challenging work environment. Finally, relax and be yourself during your interview. The interviewers see thousands of applicants, so being sincere and genuine can help set you apart.

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