Answering the 'why us?' question on financial services application forms

All graduate application forms for retail banks, actuary and insurance employers ask you ‘why do you want to work for us?’ Here's how to answer it.
'Demonstrate that you have not only researched what we do, but also who we are and what we stand for' – Aviva

Recruiters at finance employers want to hire graduates who particularly want to work for the organisation in the specific role they've applied for, as these recruits tend to be the most motivated and their ‘star performers’. The application form is designed to find this out. Some firms ask you explicitly – for example:

  • Aviva: What appeals to you most about establishing your career at Aviva?
  • Santander: What do you find personally appealing about working for Santander?
  • RBS: We would like you know why you think this programme is the right programme for you. Please tell us what excites you about the programme and why you think that it is a good fit with your future aspirations.

Employers that require covering letters, such as HSBC Bank plc, will expect you to address the ‘why do you want to work for us?’ question within it.

Other firms will assess your motivations for applying via your answers to other types of questions, such as the thoroughness of your research when answering the ‘what do you know about us?’ questions – the better your research, the more you are really interested in working for an employer, so the thinking goes.

How Aviva thinks you should answer the 'why have you applied to us?' question

With some research into the employer, you shouldn't find it too tricky to answer the question about why you want to work for them. Emma Barbour, graduate and school leaver recruitment delivery lead at Aviva Plc, looks for candidates to be aware of what the job role they're applying for will involve at Aviva. In effect: ‘Demonstrate that you have not only researched what we do, but also who we are and what we stand for,’ she says. ‘We don’t see ourselves as “just an insurance company” and we are keen that potential employees identify with this and relate to it.’

Research the employer and what makes it different

The first step is to do some research into the organisation and, crucially, what makes it different from its competitors. You need to focus your research on:

  • What the employer does – what markets does it operate in? What services does it provide? Which services/markets are most relevant to the graduate job you are applying for?
  • The way in which the company presents itself to clients and to the public via its press releases and the research it provides. Does it present itself as an authority on certain subjects? In the case of retail banks and insurance companies, what is its customer/client service like?
  • The nature and structure of the graduate scheme and the training provided – including what the day-to-day work will involve.

You can find this information from:

  • Our independently researched employer hubs and advertised employer profiles
  • The employer’s website – the corporate site, their press office webpages as well as their graduate recruitment site
  • The financial press – the Financial Times and the business pages of broadsheets
  • Meeting recruiters and graduate employees at careers services skills sessions and careers fairs
  • Other people who work at the organisation – you can read the honest views of graduates at different retail banks and insurance employers on TARGETjobs Financial Services online and your university careers service should have a database of university alumni who would be happy to talk to you

Show that what you’ve found out means something to you

Your research should provide you with reasons – or confirm your reasons – for applying to the organisation. In your answers, you need to explain exactly what you’ve found out means to you personally. If you say, for example, that you are impressed by the level of research they do on financial markets, say why that means something to you. Does their research indicate that they’re the best in the market at what they do? If you’ve met representatives of the organisation at a careers day, talk about the impressions they gave you and why that makes you want to work for them.