How to Nail the Second Most Common Investment Banking Interview Question ("Why This Firm?")

Tips for acing the second most common investment banking interview question: "Why do you want to work at this firm?", written by a Lazard Analyst and expert Leland Coach.

Ryan F.

By Ryan F.

Posted March 17, 2023

Table of Contents

Hi, I’m Ryan F., an Investment Banking and Private Equity Coach on Leland. I have coached hundreds of people through the IB interview process, and have seen many of them struggle with this question. If you’d like to work with me on any part of the recruiting and application process, book a free intro call on my profile. I’d be happy to work with you!

Now, there’s no easy way around it: interviewing for investment banking can be extremely stressful. Between PAR stories, technical questions, and case studies, it can feel like there are a seemingly endless amount of topics to prepare for. Despite the vast amount of content that an interview could cover over the course of 30-60 minutes, there are two questions that come up in nearly every interview. Importantly, both questions naturally come up in the first few minutes of the discussion, and therefore directly impact the all-important first impression.

By preparing distinct, thoughtful responses for these two questions, you have the ability to differentiate yourself in the first few minutes of the interaction and set yourself up for success throughout the rest of the interview. This article is focused on how to nail the second of the two questions: “Why do you want to work at our firm?”

While seemingly a straightforward question, well-prepared candidates can use a systematic response to demonstrate qualities that every single bank is looking for in interns and analysts. There are three crucial steps to developing an effective response to this question. Below each step, I’ve highlighted the response that I used for my interviews with Lazard, where I was an intern and subsequently a full-time analyst, as an example.

1. Conduct Research

First and foremost, it is important to spend quality time researching the firm that you are interviewing with–everything from the firm’s website content, LinkedIn posts, press releases, and SEC filings (if the firm is public) can be successfully leveraged. Throughout your research, you should be focused on pieces of insight that help you understand how the firm differentiates itself from its peers.

Every investment bank has a few key areas of differentiation; it could be a specific transaction type that they are leaders in, a cultural nuance, expertise in a specific industry, or something else. As you prepare for your interview, identify those differences as they will form the basis of the first piece of your response. Doing so will demonstrate to your interviewer that you are proactive, diligent, and thoughtful.

My Lazard Example: “I’ve been following many different M&A transactions over the past several months, and one thing that has consistently impressed me about Lazard is how regularly they were engaged as the advisor to acquirors in highly complex Consumer & Retail transactions.”

2. Compound Research with Insight from Current Professionals

Almost every candidate understands the value of networking, but where many candidates go wrong is by only focusing on utilizing networking conversations to obtain interviews. While networking your way into interviews is definitely crucial, almost equally important is using those conversations to help you formulate answers to the fit questions that you’ll get in formal interviews.

With that in mind, you can differentiate yourself further by ensuring that you have done your firm research before you network with full-time professionals. Then, in coffee chats and other conversations, ask those professionals for their unique takes on the differentiators that you identified in your research. By weaving the highlights of their commentary into the response that you give in the interview, you can demonstrate that you have truly gone above and beyond in both your research and your networking.

My Lazard Example: “I’ve spoken with a few of your colleagues about this, and one of the interesting insights that they shared with me was how your firm’s expertise on the buy-side contributes to their ability to develop long-term relationships with acquisitive clients where Lazard is often engaged as an analytical thought-partner across a wider variety of multi-year strategic initiatives.”

3. Relate to Analyst Experience

Many candidates make the crucial mistake of concluding their response with their comments about the firm. However, by tacking on an additional sentence or two about how a firm’s differentiators contribute to the experience that you think you’ll have as an analyst, you can further emphasize qualities about yourself–like your work ethic or your intellectual curiosity–that will help you stand out.

My Lazard Example: “I think Lazard’s clear strength in these areas provides hard-working analysts with an unrivaled opportunity to develop a highly technical skill set while maintaining a broader strategic perspective, which is exactly what I’m looking for out of an analyst program.”

As this article hopefully demonstrates, every response to an interview question is an opportunity for you to demonstrate something positive about your candidacy. With thoughtful preparation and guidance, every candidate has the potential to differentiate themselves throughout every step of their interview process. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can help formulate your response to this question or the most common investment banking interview question, “Tell me about yourself,” which also has several elements that make it much more complex than it seems on its surface! Book a free intro call on my profile to get started.

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