Why Investment Banking?

It may be the most common question in an investment banking job interview. But answering it in an uncommon way will give you the edge in landing an investment banking job.

“Why do you want to work in investment banking?” The first step is avoiding, or touching only lightly on the pat answers, such as you like a fast-paced work environment, love learning, want to work with smart, motivated people, etc. So does everyone else.

Instead, suggests Mergers and Inquisitions, talk about how you became interested in business and finance. How you started following news about M&A, deal-making, and your particular industry focus. A good formula to follow is the “Background in one field + finance experience = success in achieving a life goal.” Meaning, for example, you’d mention that you have had an interest in tech companies for some time, so combining your interest in tech with more in-depth finance experience would help you become a full-time tech investor one day. In other words, investment banking is a means to a larger goal.

Mergers and Inquisitions has a lengthy summary of other approaches that may work for you. Including the “slice of life” approach, where you talk about how an early event in your life transformed into your love for business and finance. This approach might work if you’re already a finance, accounting or business major.

The key is to do your homework and have your “story” down pat and ready for the question. Don’t settle for a dull recitation of facts or clich├ęs. Tell a story of discovery, of how you became enamored with investment banking and where you think it will lead you.

Along the way, work in examples from your background that subtly prove that you have what it takes to work in investment banking. To succeed in IB, you need to provide fast, accurate, complex valuations and financial models. You need great interpersonal skills, because you’ll be dealing with many different types of people. And you’ll need a ton of stamina, because you’ll be working ridiculous hours. There will be times when you’ll have to power through exhaustion through sheer force of will. So what stories from your life experiences, sports, or internships can you bring to your answer to demonstrate these qualities?

And finally, this advice from the Richard Ivy School of Business. Many bankers love their jobs because of the visible and positive impact it has on society. Yes, that’s right. Positive impact. Not a very popular point of view these days. But it might be worth acknowledging that M&A transactions and other deals can affect entire industries and have a positive effect on society as well. As an investment banker, you’ll have the opportunity to work on multi-billion dollar deals and often read about your work on the front pages of newspapers. That sense of power and accomplishment is a big motivating factor for many bankers.

What advice would you offer on answering the question, “Why investment banking?” Add your comments below.

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