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Advice for graduates about answering 'why us' question on application form for financial services job

Answering the ‘why us?’ question on financial services application forms

Many graduate application forms for retail banks, actuary and insurance jobs ask something along the lines of ‘why do you want to work for us?’ Here's how you should answer.

Your research should provide you with reasons – or confirm your reasons – for applying to the organisation.

Financial services recruiters seek out graduates who want to work for the organisation in the specific role that they've applied for, as recruits with a genuine interest tend to become their ‘star performers’. The application form is designed to find out if you are after more than a job.

Some firms have been explicit in their requests – for example, by asking, ‘What appeals to you most about establishing your career at [employer name]?’. Employers that require covering letters 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.

Research the employer and what makes it different

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. The first step is find out more about 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. Will you be able to study towards any professional qualifications?

You can find this information from:

  • Our employer hubs
  • The employer’s website: the corporate site, its press office webpages and its 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: 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 the information 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.

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