Alex Figueroa is not your average Goldman Sachs investment manager. He works for the leading investment banks’ wealth management division and is also a part-time recruiter of MBA students from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
But that’s not the most interesting part of his story. Before managing million-dollar clients and scouring the US-based business school for MBA talent, he was a budding football player.
He had his heart set on a professional playing career in the NFL and went to a state college, the University at Albany, with that express intention.
“If you had asked me, when I was an 18-year-old guy, what I was going to do with my life; I would have told you with a straight face that I was going to find my way into the NFL,” said Alex. “And my fall-back plan was to become a doctor.”
Alex’s diverse background is representative of the modern hiring trends at Goldman Sachs. The banking giant isn’t reserved for those with a clear financial path set out for them.
Before landing a job with the firm and before getting an MBA from Tuck – one of the leading business schools on the East Coast – Alex was something of your average American Joe.
He knows what it takes to succeed at the top of his industry and he is now responsible for initial interviews with MBAs from Tuck whom are interested in joining the blue-chip investment bank.
Alex says that an MBA can be beneficial when it comes to getting a job at Goldman Sachs – if a candidate does not have a finance background. In his case, he believes it would have been harder to have landed his job without one.
Alex said that financial experience is not a necessity to get hired at Goldman Sachs, however. “You need zero professional finance experience to get hired,” he said. “We’re not cookie-cutter in our approach. What we like to see is that whatever sort of endeavour that you were undertaking, prior to business school, we look for there to be a level of high achievement in that context.
“If I had to describe people at Goldman Sachs I would say they are smart, hard-working and humble.”
What is more important than financial experience is a firm grasp of financial topics, persistence in your previous career and confidence. Alex says they look for these three skills in MBA candidates, which are all equally important. “You need a high ‘investment IQ’,” he said.
“You don’t have to ball me over by knowing every single minute detail of the investment landscape over the past decade. But you need to communicate high-level finance and investment topics in a rational way and that conveys that you feel comfortable.
“We also look for a story-line of persistence; where in either your personal, professional or academic background you have a story where you have surmounted the odds through a long-term frame of hard-work, and come out inevitably successful.
“You can share a personal hardship or a professional hardship with us; something that demonstrates that you’ve gone from point A to point B and you had to go against the grain a little bit.
“We also desire a strong ‘presence’; feeling comfortable in your own skin. You need to be comfortable in your communication style so that people don’t get any sense of anxiety when speaking to you.
“You may well meet people who are regularly on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. You need an effective communication style that conveys self-confidence.”
Alex says that the skills you need to get hired at Goldman Sachs are qualitative, rather than quantitative. An MBA will provide you with the latter, but the former is more personal.
“The bottom line is that our recruiting style is finding people that are smart and hard-working, and teaching them what they need to know to do the job,” he added.
“We’ll take somebody with those attributes, train them for the job and we’ll set that person free in a team environment where they have support and mentorship, and they’ll use their own initiative and the firms’ resources to launch their career.”