Generally, any interviewer will ask you a question related to why you want to work in that specific industry during your interview. It’s a simple and easy way to see whether you understand the realities of the industry, the role you’re applying for and to what extent you are committed to the work.
It’s the same with investment banking. Your interviewer wants to know that you fully understand what will be required of you if you're hired, and what investment bankers do.
Investment banking is known for its high-pressure environments, long working hours and established hierarchy. Graduates and juniors can expect to have a working week significantly longer than average, extensive workloads and last-minute requests from senior staff.
There’s also a steep learning curve for new employees, as they learn to scrutinise data and rapidly develop soft skills so they can communicate effectively and concisely.
This means the question “Why investment banking?” is a good way for an interviewer to work out whether you’re aware of the structure and style of this work.
They can also use it to understand whether you are committed to the role and the industry, or if you aren’t aware of the full range of challenges involved.
- Why Is This Such a Hard Question to Answer?
- What Does the Interviewer Want to Hear?
- What Not to Say
- Example Answers
- Further Reading
Why Is This Such a Hard Question to Answer?
The reason “Why investment banking?” or “Why do you want to work in investment banking?” are such difficult questions to answer is because they are quite general, which often results in generic answers.
People looking to get a job in investment banking are highly likely to repeat the same sorts of things in response to this question.
These might be answers that focus on:
- Having opportunities to learn;
- Enjoying a fast-paced environment;
- Having great mathematical skills;
- Wanting to work with motivated people.
These responses might be relevant for you but, while they’re not wrong, they are quite vanilla.
That means your answer, and you as a candidate, are unlikely to stand out to the interviewer.
You may also find it challenging to answer this question as your answer needs to showcase your knowledge of yourself, the role and the industry as concisely as possible.
This can be difficult, but thinking ahead and working through the steps in this article are two of the ways you can prepare yourself.
You also need to show you’ve thought personally about the answer. The question is why you want to work in investment banking – not why someone else thinks you should, or what you’ve been told about the industry or your abilities.
Your interviewer wants to know why investment banking appeals to you as an individual, so you need to provide a specific and unique answer.
What Does the Interviewer Want to Hear?
There are three points your interviewer is listening for when you respond to this question. These are:
- You understand the industry;
- You understand the role;
- You understand yourself.
1. You Understand the Industry
As mentioned, investment banking is a fast-paced, often high-stress field.
People working in investment banking are often responsible for closing financial deals that affect entire economies and industries.
You’ll be working on mergers, acquisitions, IPOs and a whole host of other high-level financial industry activities.
Your interviewer wants to see that you understand the scale, power and impact that investment banking has, so they can feel assured you fully comprehend the realities.
2. You Understand the Role
Due to the nature of the work investment bankers do, you will be working very long hours, often late at night.
You’ll report to senior staff and receive last-minute requests from them, have a large workload and be learning new information and skills every step of the way.
In answering this question, your interviewer wants to see that you’re aware of the nature of the role and you’re prepared to take on the challenge.
3. You Understand Yourself
Importantly, this question helps the interviewer see whether you can connect your education and work experience with your current ambitions.
They want to see that you know why you are interviewing for a position in investment banking, and that you have a clear understanding of yourself and what’s important to you.
They also want you to demonstrate that you can see how your skills and attributes could work well in the industry. You’re applying for this role for specific reasons – this question is a way for them to find out what those reasons are.
What Not to Say
There are a few things you should avoid when answering this question:
- Don’t say you’re in it for the money. Despite this being the financial industry, your interviewer wants to know money isn’t the most important thing to you when applying for a job.
- Avoid saying that you want to use this role as a stepping-stone to another role. Your interviewer may feel that hiring you could be a wasted investment.
- While mathematical skills are important in this role, don’t say you want the job because you’re good at maths. There are many other parts to working in investment banking, including crucial skills like negotiation.
- Don’t say that you think it would be interesting. This answer is too vague and imprecise, especially for investment bankers who are used to dealing with facts and figures.
- Don’t only say “I want to learn”. While this is important, saying this and giving no other reasons could give the interviewer the impression you are only in the role to receive an education, rather than giving anything back to the organisation.
- Be careful not to talk for too long when answering this question. As with all your answers during an interview, keep them concise and to the point, but be prepared to answer any follow-up questions.
- It’s very important you provide accurate information in this answer, so don’t lie. You might be tempted to make something up to help you look good – for example, that you invested in some shares when you were younger and made a fantastic profit – but this is a bad idea. Your interviewer is very likely to leave the interview and conduct further online research about you.
One way for you to start constructing an answer to this question is to think of an experience during your life that steered you towards investment banking.
This might be an internship, your degree, an event, a hobby or a person you know.
You can then add details about why the role of a graduate in investment banking interests you, highlighting specific skills you would like to learn or employ.
Make sure to indicate you understand what working in investment banking is like, such as mentioning the hours, fast-paced environment or motivated colleagues. Prove that you are suited to these conditions with firm examples.
Your answer should be relatively concise, so spend some time practising with a friend or family member to help you keep it short and feel confident in what you’re saying.
Example Answer 1
“I want a career in investment banking because, during my placement at university, I worked with a local financial firm and shadowed one of their investors. I found the process of investing exciting, particularly when we closed a deal, and enjoyed preparing data analyses for my mentor to consider. I want to now step up and work in a faster-paced, higher-profile environment and contribute to valuations that will lead to bigger deals.”
Example Answer 2
“I want to work in investment banking because when I was younger, my parents would often invest small amounts in companies they liked. I became interested in their choices and began to invest small amounts myself. Analysing the information that would help me make good investments was fascinating. Now I want to develop my technical skills in financial modelling, to learn about what it takes to make great investments. I’m prepared to put the hours in to make this happen.”
Example Answer 3
“I want to be an investment banker because, throughout my degree, I’ve found it most rewarding when I used my mathematical skills in real-world settings. I want to understand how to positively contribute to high-profile transactions which influence economies and markets, and build on my existing skills with detailed technical knowledge gathered from hands-on, practical work and learning from senior team members.”
Investment banking is a high-profile, high-pressure environment where you will rapidly learn new skills alongside juggling a large workload and long hours.
The experience you’ll gain in the financial industry is second-to-none, making investment banking an exciting choice if you have strong mathematical, analytical and financial skills.
Answering the question “Why investment banking?” is difficult because it’s very open. But it’s important to remember your interviewer is looking for how well you understand the industry, the role you’re applying for and yourself.
The most successful candidates will be able to construct a unique and developed answer. To get to that level, consider the following:
- The growth and development opportunities available to graduates in investment banking;
- Learning about structuring M&A deals, strategic advisory services, and other aspects of investment banking;
- The transactional nature of the business;
- The educational experience and world-class training;
- Developing a fuller, more well-rounded business acumen;
- How your previous hobbies and past activities demonstrate your interest in finance.
Common mistakes can be easily avoided: don’t say you’re in it for the money or because it’s interesting. Avoid only saying it’s because you want to learn and remember not to talk for too long.
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