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Investment banking and investment
Careers advice: graduates interested in investment banking

'Why have you decided to apply to us?' Plan well ahead to give investment banks the answer they want

Graduate schemes and internships at investment banks can all look pretty similar at first glance. How do you convince, say, Goldman Sachs that you'd prefer to work for them than J.P. Morgan or Deutsche Bank?
You need to make a convincing case for why you would prefer to work for this particular bank rather than its competitors.

Almost all investment banks and investment management companies will ask the question ‘Why have you decided to apply to us?’ – AKA ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ – in online applications or at interview for graduate schemes or internships.

To answer this question successfully, it’s not enough to demonstrate your interest in a banking or investment career and show you’ve done some research into the employer in question.

You need to make a convincing case for why you would prefer to work for this particular bank rather than its competitors. There are unlikely to be many obvious, graduate-scheme-relevant differences between them, so it pays to plan ahead to discover those that do exist.

Why understanding a bank’s culture can help you get a job

Investment banking and investment management employers at the TARGETjobs Investment Banking and Investment Recruiters’ Forum stressed that an organisation’s culture is a key differentiating factor, and one that they would be keen to hear students cite as a reason for applying to them.

Joanna Thompson, graduate recruitment and development partner at Citi, suggested that ‘interactive media and interviews with senior staff online’ could be a useful starting point; however, all recruiters highlighted that there’s no substitute for actually getting out there and meeting current employees face to face. Suitable opportunities include:

  • Internships
  • Spring insight programmes
  • Presentations at university
  • Careers fairs
  • Employer events, for example, Women in Investment Management, organised by TARGETjobs Events
  • Asking friends and family whether they have contacts they can put you in touch with
  • Contacting alumni working for the relevant employer – your university careers service may have a database of those willing to advise current students.

However big or small your chance to interact with employees is, do take the initiative and make the most of it. For example, banking and investment group Macquarie comments that many of the stronger applicants to the organisation’s graduate scheme have been those who ‘had engaged with recruiters during the application process’.

Ask yourself whether you like the people you meet and whether you can see yourself being happy spending long hours working with them. Advice from recent graduates surveyed for the TARGETjobs Investment Banking and Investment Recent Graduate Survey includes:

  • ‘Apply to the place you liked the people the most and not just because of league tables; there’s nothing worse than working long hours with people you do not get along with.’
  • ‘Make sure you select the job that suits your personality and make sure you get along well with the team you are going to be working with.’

If you are genuine in your choices, this will come across in your applications and at interview.

What else you need to research

Your answer should demonstrate that you:

  • Understand the basics of what bank does and what the job you are applying for involves
  • Have a prior interest in this type of work (and evidence to back up your claim)
  • Have motivations for wanting the job that go beyond the salary.

Make sure therefore that you have a basic understanding of the following:

  • An overview of the bank’s size, history and other ‘distinguishing features’
  • Its main divisions, and which ones it regards as its key strengths
  • What the job and division you are applying for involve
  • If relevant, the types of clients and products and the size of deals you could be working with
  • Recent deals, news and events
  • Relevant awards and rankings
  • Current strategy and future direction.

TARGETjobs employer hubs will help you with this research.

Find one or two nuggets that particularly appeal to you or that tie in with previous interests or experiences. If you are particularly attracted to the organisation’s ownership structure or attitude towards risk, for example, this is relevant to mention and shows you have done your research.

Or perhaps you have completed work experience with the types of clients you would be working with, or studied a relevant financial product in detail as part of your degree.

Finally, don’t forget to convince recruiters that you’ll be in it for more than the money. This does tend to be students’ main motivation for entering this career (as shown by the TARGETjobs Investment Banking and Investment Student Survey), but recruiters don’t want to hear that this is your main driver.

Instead, highlight what else you want to get out of the position, such as experience with a particular type of transaction or a step towards a long-term career goal.

Follow us on Twitter @TjobsFinance.

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