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Goldman Sachs placement exam experience

Note: This article or you can say interview experience is contributed by Mr. Pulkit through email to (email id: First of all, winnerscience is thankful to him and wish him all the best. You can also share your experiences with our users so that they can take tips and also be successful. Here is the complete experience shared by Pulkit:

I have many stories to tell, like how I never got down to studying, how we never gave the CCNA exams, how I couldn’t clear DE Shaw’s written test, etc. But one story overshadows them all. And that’s the one I’m gonna tell.

Goldman Sachs visited the Thapar Technology Campus on 8th and 9th October (Friday and Saturday), 2010. The written test was conducted on Friday morning, by the same company who had conducted the TI preliminary test. There were 35 objective questions (25 aptitude and 10 technical), followed by 2 algorithm writing questions and a short essay. After a minor fiasco (which cannot be detailed here), I managed pretty well with the written test and expected to clear it. The topic for the essay was “A venture capitalist has `4000 crores, propose a business plan”. I proposed that he start a chain of gaming arcades :D.

The PPT was held in the evening. Before the presentation started, each student was handed a booklet about the company. The look and feel of the booklets was amazing, enough to get us keyed up. The team finally walked in at around 5. One of the members of the group was a white man called George, and that was enough to get the audience excited.

After saying what he had to say, George started asking questions.
George: How many of you know how to program in C?
[No hand goes up. The audience probably didn’t catch what he said]
George: Okay, I guess C is obsolete now. How about C++?
[A few hands go up. There’s still doubt among the audience]
George: Java? SQL?
[Finally we catch on, and a lot of hands go up]
George: There you go.

At the end, a 3rd year girl asked a question.
Girl: Sir, what exactly will be our work?
George: [Propping up his fingers as if he’s typing] You’ll code!

I’ll be honest. When the notice for Goldman Sachs got put up outside the placement cell, I was unsure of even appearing for the company. I wanted to go into proper technical work, so a financial firm seemed like a bad option. I’m glad I gave my name anyway. The PPT erased all my doubts. If I got selected, I would be creating new things and working with technology, just like I wanted to.

The written test results were announced late in the evening. 24 people had been shortlisted. I got through. The remainder of the process for NAPA (New Associate Programmer Analyst) candidates was to be conducted on the next day, while the interviews for internship applicants started straight away. Like Juniper, I had some time to prepare myself. I chose to start spending that time by watching an episode of Criminal Minds (Do check out the series. Pretty awesome :D). Once again, I made a list of things I wanted to study. And once again, I ended up sleeping even before starting.

I woke up early on Saturday morning. Like 5 AM. That’s really early. I started reading through interview questions from a website (which didn’t help much in the end). My list had impossible things like “Revise Java” and “Review projects”. Before I knew it, it was 8 AM – time to get ready. I put on the same shirt I had for my Juniper interview.
I’ll tell you a secret: I had bought the shirt over a year ago. Ever since I’d set eyes on it, I knew it would be my “placement shirt”. I wore it for my project presentation last year, and that went awesome. I let the “placement shirt” idea slip to Harry once, and he had a good time making fun of me, saying that you can wear only plain shirts for placements. Turns out he was wrong. You can wear any shirt you like :-).

So, the day’s process started with a “group exercise” at 9 AM. There were 2 groups of 12 people each. Just like Juniper, the process started almost on time. But that was to be expected from a company like Goldman Sachs.
Scenario: Seven people are stranded on a lifeboat. You’re given the profiles of 6 of them. You’re the 7th, and you have to nominate a captain and a vice-captain out of the 6. Discuss, and determine who should be nominated.
We were given 15 minutes to read and make notes, and then 30 minutes to discuss. The discussion gave rise to quite a few funny moments. Most of the guys kept referring to a certain Sue as a “he” and one of the guys got stuck on “a process of elimination”. Some of the participants (like Harry) hardly spoke at all. But in the end, we were able to reach a conclusion, and the evaluators seemed happy with that. Later, we learnt that the other group hadn’t been able to reach a consensus. Only two people were eliminated after the group exercise. The interviews started shortly afterwards. I’m usually pretty nervous before an interview, but once I enter the room a sense of calm sweeps over me and I somehow manage to think straight.

My first interview was with George.
Excerpts –

G = George [Interviewer]
P = Pulkit
[G is British, imagine the accent yourself]
[P follows G into an interview chamber. They shake hands]
G: Sit down.
P: Thanks, sir! [Puts his certificate folder on the desk]
G: [Pointing to the side of the desk] Not needed!
[P, smiling, puts his folder away]
[G is looking at P’s resume. P is waiting nervously]
G: So, you gave the National Cyber Olympiad. What is that, exactly?
P: Sir, it’s an exam to test a candidate’s awareness about computers. [P has a silver merit certificate in the Cyber Olympiad]
G: Okay, very nice. What about the Maths Olympiad?
P: I did give it, sir, but I didn’t have a very good rank.
G: What was your rank?
P: I don’t remember sir.. maybe around 2000.
G: Okay. That’s not too good. [P smiles sheepishly]
[G is making detailed notes of P’s answers]
G: You had a rank in the IIT-JEE. Why did you choose to come to Thapar?
P: Sir, I had made up my mind that I wanted to study Computer Science. I simply chose the best institute which was offering CS.
G: Very good.
G: Okay, Pulkit. Have you implemented a recursive function to generate a Fibonacci series before?
P: No sir.
G: Okay, then, do it for me.
[P thinks for a while, then starts writing the function. He starts with int fibonacci(int n) ]
G: Very good! You’ve made the right start. Most people don’t even get the prototype right.
[It takes a while and G’s help, but P is eventually able to answer the question]
[G asks P a few other standard questions, which P knows already]
G: Why Goldman Sachs?
P: Sir, I’ve thought about this. My primary concern was being able to do creative work. Initially, I had doubts over working in a financial company, but in your PPT I got to know that you make software for yourself, create synchronization solutions and databases, etc. Goldman will give me a perfect blend of good work and a good work life.
G: Okay. Do you know about Object Oriented Programming?
P: Yes, sir.
G: Assume that there are a number of shapes, and you have to find the total area of all the shapes. How will you proceed?
P: We will take a general class called “Shape”, and specific classes implementing various shapes can inherit from this class.
G: All right. Now how will you calculate area?
P: We will have an area function that can be overridden in the inheriting classes.
G: Write me the prototype to that function.
P: [Starts writing] “float area(___________)” – Now that’s the tricky part, sir. What will the parameters be?
G: You tell me!
P: [Thinks about it] Each of the shapes will have different parameters. Umm.. maybe the perimeter of the figure?
G: Come on! [Unsaid: “You can do better than that”]
P: [Thinks some more. Suddenly it strikes him] Sir, the area function will have no arguments. The specifics required to calculate the area of each shape will be available in the inheriting classes.
G: You got it!
G: All right, Pulkit. I’m impressed! Wait outside, and we’ll call you in again.
First round cracked. Bawa sir had said that we could face up to seven interviews, so I wasn’t too hopeful of getting through, but clearing an interview certainly gave me some confidence. The interview lasted around 40 minutes. When I got out of the room, the crowd had thinned considerably.
“Where’re the others?” I asked Harry. “They’ve been sent back,” he said.

My second interview was with Umesh. He seemed pretty impressive during the PPT, and I was looking forward to interacting with him. He lead me to one of the rooms in the Alumni Cell. The interview turned out not to be too pleasant after all. I don’t remember much of this interview.

Excerpts –

U = Umesh [Interviewer]
P = Pulkit

U: Tell me about yourself.
P: [Stupidly] Sir, what would you like to know?
U: Tell me generally.
P: Sir, I’ve been coding since Class 11th, and I really love to create new things. My hobbies are football, quizzing, and I love reading and writing.
[U is expressionless]

[U asks P a few technical questions, which he is able to answer satisfactorily, but not too well]

U: Write a piece of code to print odd numbers.
P: [Confused. The questions seems too easy] That’s it, sir? Simple odd numbers? [Maybe he thinks I’m stupid]
U: Yeah.
[P writes the code correctly]

U: What is your favourite subject?
P: Networks.
U: You’re giving conflicting answers. You say that you wanted to study Computer Science, and you say your favourite subject is networks.
P: [Confused] Yes, sir?
U: Maybe that’s because you have a very good teacher for networks.
P: [Smiling. P actually smiles a lot] Yes, sir.
U: Well, Networks is not Computer Science. Some other subject you like?
[P is at a loss. He hasn’t thought about an alternate answer to this question, and under pressure he is not even able to remember all the subjects he’s studied. LOL]
P: [Finally] Sir, Operating Systems.
U: Okay. What have you studied in operating systems?
P: Scheduling, caching, paging, etc.
U: Okay. What all operating systems have you used?
P: Sir, Windows obviously, and Linux to an extent.
U: What differences did you find between Windows and Linux?
P: [Stupidly] Sir the Windows is much more user friendly. The GUI is much more easy to use..
U: [Cuts him short] Even a kid can tell me that. I’m asking for a technical perspective.
[P is embarrassed. Luckily, U’s phone rings and he steps out for a minute. When he returns, P is able to give a better answer, though it is still not very good]

U: What is your strength?
P: Sir, I like to code. I like to create things.
U: Anyone can take a 2 months course at NIIT and learn how to code. What’s so special about that?
[P stays silent]
U: Okay, what languages do you know?
P: Sir, I know C and C++. Plus I made my project in Java.
[U asks P a few questions, which he’s not able to answer straight away, but he manages to answer them after hints from U]

U: You’ve not been able to give me very good answers.
P: Sir, it’s just that it has been a long time since I’ve studied these things.
U: What long time? It’s been 15 years since I passed out of college.
P: [Bravely] Sir, I assure you. I know my stuff, it just needs some brushing up.

U: Okay, it was nice talking to you.
[P shakes hands with U and leaves]

I took a gamble when I said “I know stuff, just needs brushing up”. My interview wasn’t good by any standards, it was mostly bad. I was certain I would be kicked out. It lasted 40 odd minutes, and by the time I came out, the crowd had thinned further. At the end of the second round, only 7 people remained.

I made it.

Almost every one of the remaining candidates were called for their third interview before me. I was clearly among the least probable of the remaining candidates.
The third interview was being conducted by a panel of two people. When mine started, only one person was in the room. My fears were confirmed. I was on the verge of being eliminated.

Excerpts –

N = Nataraj [Interviewer]
P = Pulkit
N: Tell me about yourself.
[P gives the same answer he gave to U]
N: So, you like reading and writing, huh.
P: Yes, sir, quite a lot. [P tells N that he is the Editor-in-Chief of the college newsletter, and also about a writing project he has taken up with some friends. N seems impressed]

[N asks P a few puzzle questions, which P answers. It’s obvious that P already knows the answers to these puzzles]

N: How will you make a random number generator?
P: [Harry had been asked the same question, but he had not been able to answer it correctly. He did give P some ideas though] Sir, we could use addresses as they’re pretty random.
[N shakes his head. P himself gives an argument as to why that’s the wrong approach]
N: Okay, I’ll give you a hint. Use the environment.
P: [Thinking] Sir, maybe we could manipulate the CPU utilization at any given instant.
[Once again, N shakes his head, and P gives an argument refuting his own idea]
[Suddenly, something strikes P]
P: Sir, we could use the system clock, as it keeps changing continuously.
[N says nothing, simply moves on to the next question]

N: How will you represent a dictionary in memory?
[P proposes a couple of ideas and discusses them with N. N leaves P with a question to think over. P tries to think, but he’s feeling cold. He wishes he could switch the AC off. N comes back after 5 minutes with another guy, who’s name P couldn’t catch. P is confident again]

A = Second Interviewer
[They discuss the dictionary representation for a while. P proposes a database, the “trie” data structure. The interviewers propose a binary search tree]

[After a while, they discuss complexities. P is not very comfortable with complexities, the interviewers can see that. To check his basics, they ask him to arrange some complexities in descending order, which P manages. Then they discuss the complexities of the various representations of the dictionary, and with their help P is able to answer the questions]

[They ask P about virtual functions. U had asked the same question, P had not been able to answer satisfactorily. Luckily, U had given P the answer, so he managed to answer it here]

A: [Draws a linked list] How will you reverse a linked list?
P: Sir, I once read a recursive function to reverse a linked list. [He tells them about the function]
A: We want you to think afresh. How could you do it in a different way?
[P thinks for a while, and is able to develop an iterative way of solving the problem. The discussion turns to complexities again, P manages somehow]

A: Okay, that’s all from us Pulkit. Do you have any questions for us?
P: Sir, I was wondering about your working hours?
A: [Sarcastically]: We won’t let you sleep.
[P grins]
A: Seriously, we work 9 hours a day including lunch. During project submission deadlines, etc, it may be longer.
P: Of course, sir. And do you have a dress code?
A: Yes. Jeans are not allowed, but we don’t insist on ties and blazers. Our dress code is what we call “business casuals”.
P: Okay. Your setup is in Bangalore, right?
N: Yes. Any issues with relocation to Bangalore?
P: No, sir. In fact, I grew up in Hyderabad, so..
A: Okay, that’s it Pulkit. It was nice talking to you.
[P shakes hands with A and N, and leaves the room]

As soon as I left the room I had a feeling that I’d done well. I was sort of all smiles. But of course, I couldn’t be sure.

The team conferred among themselves for a while. George came out at some point, asking for the chaiwala.

We were waiting outside the placement cell for around half an hour before the results were announced. Mohit(he got through DE Shaw) was waiting with us. He made a deal with us. He said, “You’ll get through. Just promise me that you’ll give me half of whatever gifts they give you”. I made the deal. So did Aseem. We were the only ones who got through.

When I heard my name I felt jubilation, a sense of pure joy, and a certain pride. This had to be the biggest achievement of my life so far. I felt like pointing and the world and saying, “Look! I did it!”.

They called us in for a few minutes. “Guys, don’t look so tense, this is not a practical joke! You really got through,” said Anuj (He was the HR person). We smiled a little. Everyone congratulated us, gave us some feedback, and wished us luck. Umesh said, “This is the only time in your lives you can study basics. Don’t miss this chance.” Anuj said we would receive email communication very soon, and goodie bags would be sent to us. He gave us his card, which is awesome btw. They decided that they wanted to take us, the placement coordinators, and the interns out to dinner! Awesome guys, nay?

As I called home to give them the good news, George and Anuj requested those who weren’t selected not to be disheartened, saying that they all had amazing careers in front of them.

After many congratulations, endless kicks to the behind, and everyone insisting on calling me “Goldman”, we made it to dinner. It was an awesome experience, interacting informally with my future employers. They insisted that we ordered for everyone. I had a mug of beer with George and Umesh. They told us many stories (which I’m not going to discuss here). We got to know more about them, and they about us. We had a fun time guessing their ages :D. Umesh raised a toast to us new recruits. The evening was capped off with a group photograph.

When I finally returned to my room, I was really tired. It had been a LONG day, but also probably the happiest day of my life. I felt.. satisfied. I slept like a log that night.

And that, friends, is the story of how I got a job.

Note from winnerscience: Kindly also read TCS, Accenture and Aon Hewitt interview experiences.

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