(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc elevated 78 employees on Wednesday by making them partners, according to an internal memo viewed by Reuters, capping an anxious few weeks for employees hoping to enter the elite group of Wall Street bankers.

The partnership is a lingering vestige of Goldman's time as a private firm, when partners pooled their own money to support trading and investment banking, and split resulting profits or losses.

Although Goldman went public in 1999, the partnership remains an important part of its culture. A team of senior partners spends months interviewing colleagues of the candidates. They are asked about "commercial excellence," shorthand for work ethic, client relationships and ability to deliver revenue to the firm over the long term.

Goldman's partnership, which inducts new members every two years, has been evolving since the financial crisis as long-tenured partners left to make way for more junior employees.

The new group has eight more people than the prior class, which was announced in 2012 and inducted in 2013. The latest induction will bring the total number to 467, or 1.6 percent of Goldman's workforce. It includes 23 employees from investment banking, 25 from securities, 11 from investment management, four from merchant banking, three from research and 12 from what is known as "the Federation," which includes back- and middle-office roles.

Vice Chairman Michael Sherwood, Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn and Edith Cooper, head of human capital management, led the selection process. Known as "cross-ruffing" in reference to a bridge move that exposes weaknesses in other players' hands, the process is legendary at Goldman and time-consuming for those involved: each candidate's vetting requires a couple thousand discussions.

Becoming a Goldman partner is not only a status symbol. It comes with more responsibility and higher pay. Partners have a higher base salary than other employees, get to share in a special pool of bonus money each year and get perks like the ability to invest in lucrative Goldman-managed funds.

On Wednesday morning, the newly minted partners received a personal phone call from either Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein or Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn.

One long-time partner remembered receiving the call years ago, in which Blankfein said, "I'm sure you're wondering what's on the other side of the curtain. Well, it looks exactly like the side of the curtain you're on right now, but the expectations are much higher."