How to Answer the "Why Investment Banking?" Interview Question

Though one of the most common banking questions, most applicants struggle to answer it convincingly. Here are our tips for nailing the response, complete with examples.

Posted March 12, 2024

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Investment banking is a popular industry, especially for young grads who are looking for high levels of compensation and good exit opportunities into other career paths. However, investment banking is notoriously difficult with a norm of 80+ hours a week in high-stress work environments. For this reason, banks want to know whether the people they’re interviewing are motivated enough to succeed.

“Why investment banking?” is one of the most common behavioral interview questions, along with, “Why do you want to work at this firm?” In this article, we’ll focus on crafting a great answer to the former question. For the latter, read How to Nail the Second Most Common Investment Banking Interview Question. For other common job interview questions, head to The 20 Most Frequently Asked Investment Banking Technical Interview Questions.

Tips for Answering This Question

Start With Brainstorming

As with any interview, preparing your answers ahead of time is 90% of the battle. To begin, think about what attracts you to investment banking and what your long-term career goals are. If you’re just pursuing the role to pivot to a more attractive industry later on, focus on the skills that are transferable.

For example, with private equity, you can talk about how you’re very interested in growing expertise in valuation and financial modeling and believe that investment banking will help you do so comprehensively and quickly. If your end goal is to start a company, then you can focus more on learning the intricacies of how to raise capital and perform analyses on different companies’ financial statements.

For open-ended questions like this, start by putting down thoughts on paper. It will require self-reflection, but beginning to roughly formulate your ideas will at least set you on the right path.

Be Realistic

As mentioned, firms want to make sure that you are capable of handling the more challenging circumstances that come with a banking job. Not acknowledging the long hours and stress is not an effective way of alleviating this concern. Instead of proving your work ethic, you’ll come off as naive or overly optimistic. Instead, show that you are aware of the job’s difficulties and spend your time showing that you’re motivated and hard-working enough to succeed regardless.

Use Applicable Examples

Choose examples from your professional and personal experiences that show the qualities required of investment bankers. Have you completed a task/job previously for which you worked a lot? Examples may include training for a marathon on top of working a full-time job or starting a business while in school. These kinds of examples show the interviewer that you’re a good fit and capable of working long, difficult hours.

It’s usually a good strategy to pull language from the job description itself. For reference, here is a JP Morgan posting for a 2023 Analyst position that tells you exactly what they’re looking for in a hire. When crafting your answers, reference the attributes in both direct and indirect ways, with specific examples of why you have these skills.

Demonstrate Intentionality

When deciding how to frame your examples, also bear in mind that interviewers want to see how your previous work experiences have led you to investment banking. Your resume should show an intentional progression toward banking, with roles that helped you acquire the specific skills required for an analyst position. These roles are highly coveted and if it seems like you stumbled across the role or are not really committed to the industry, you’ll have a harder time selling yourself.

Get Personal

Most of the articles you’ll find on investment banking interviews will provide examples of answers that all have the same principal talking points: the chance to work in a fast-paced environment, in order to learn, to be surrounded by smart people, etc. The best way to avoid clichés and otherwise boring your interviewer is to be personal. Explain your motivations in ways that are unique to your background. Everyone in finance will know generally why you want to work in investment banking; however, they will have no idea what specifically is driving you to apply for the role.

Don’t Talk About Salary

Don’t use “high salaries” as one of your reasons for wanting to pursue investment banking. While it may be true, it shouldn’t be a primary motivation and definitely not one that you focus on in the interview.

Don’t Infer That You Really Want a Different Job

It’s not unlikely that you are pursuing a career in investment banking as a way to get to a different and potentially more lucrative or competitive field, like private equity or hedge funds. Both of these are common post-banking paths as many of the skills are directly applicable.

If that’s the case, avoid inferring that the role is only a stepping stone. The hiring manager doesn’t need to know what your ultimate long-term goal is. The question is not “What do you want to do after investment banking?” but rather, “Why investment banking?”

Sample Answers to the “Why Investment Banking?” Interview Question

Banking Coach Recommendations

Remember that the purpose of behavioral interviews is primarily to determine whether the banks would be comfortable putting you in the same room as a client. In other words, you’re trying to pass the, “Would I want to sit next to this person on a plane for two hours?” test.

Your answers should be genuine and honest. Practice your responses so that they’ll flow when the interview does happen. Doing a mock interview with an investment banking coach is one of the best ways, but a roommate, colleague, or mentor will also work!

To receive one-on-one guidance when pursuing a career in investment banking, work with a Leland coach for advice that's customized to your background and goals. They'll be able to help you polish your resume, prep for interviews, figure out your networking strategies, learn about individual banks, and much more. Below are some of our highest-rated and most popular IB coaches, browse all of them here.

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