Answering Morgan Stanley's application form questions

Temper your enthusiasm and stop to think: is your answer relevant?

The application form for graduate positions at Morgan Stanley include questions designed to test your interest in the position and how qualified you are to carry out the everyday tasks of the job. You are typically given up to 1,000 characters to write your winning responses. Read on for our top tips on how to make every letter count.

Operations analyst programme (Glasgow) question: Describe a project or task that you particularly enjoyed and why

How to approach: The ‘why’ aspect of this question is absolutely crucial. A lot of candidates will tail off before concluding, ‘…and that was enjoyable’. What you need to do is explain the different aspects, or a single significant aspect of the project, that really made you want to complete the work.

Your example will ideally relate to the work you expect to be doing as an operations analyst at Morgan Stanley. If you say: ‘I found working with people on a face to face basis especially engaging’, this is reasonably relevant as operations analysts meet with a number of different clients. A better answer would be one in which the people you worked with were of a similar profile (eg job role, type of work or overall scenario) to those you expect to be working with as an operations analyst. Such an answer will put you ahead of the vast majority of other candidates.

It’s a very good thing to demonstrate your personal commitment through your example. This can be shown in a variety of ways: that you made a special effort to the project and ensured that things were followed up properly, but also that you demonstrated how you enjoy furthering your self-development. Jess Lilley is Morgan Stanley’s technology campus recruitment manager. She has told TARGETjobs IT how much she recommends using projects such as building your own website to develop your technical skills.

Any firm will be impressed if you are motivated to learn new skills, and Morgan Stanley is no exception. It will line up training for you when you’re in the post and will want you to take advantage of the fact.

Technology analyst (London and Glasgow) question: Why are you interested in technology at Morgan Stanley?

How to approach: This is a broad question that tests whether you’ve properly researched what technology at Morgan Stanley actually involves.

Because this question is quite broad, there are a lot of things you could choose to focus on. You should do your best to understand how technology fits into the wider picture at the bank. If you can talk about how technology links to other areas of the business, you should be able to build from that and explain why those aspects interest you. Technology does not apply to all areas of the bank in exactly the same way, so commenting on these nuances will show a good level of understanding about where technology fits in. When applying for a post it’s very useful to get a feel for which parts of the job description might also easily appear in material aimed at the employer’s clients. So, for instance, in Morgan Stanley’s advertisement for its technology programme it is certainly relevant to you that you will receive classroom and on-the-job based training, and to point out your interest in that is perfectly fine. But Morgan Stanley will also want to know what you will want to give back – and whether what you give is also what its clients want. So in the same advertisement, the words that interest clients are:

  • ‘Develop new ideas and ground breaking financial products’ – What do you know and like about how Morgan Stanley innovates? What have you done that has broken new ground?
  • ‘Integrity’ and ‘intellectual curiosity’ – What is it about the firm that demonstrates these attributes? How have you demonstrated these in your own life?
  • ‘Partner with our businesses’ – Have you worked in a team that has collaborated with another team successfully, especially if that success is financial or involves some other measure of growth?
  • ‘Solve complex problems in challenging roles’ – The key here is to tackle complexity but make the process simple for the client. Have you done anything like this?
  • Technology summer analyst programme: application development (Glasgow) question: Please explain why you have chosen to apply to this particular area of Technology?

Morgan Stanley will get applications from students who want to work in a technology role for a global bank. As a candidate you have to move beyond that to answer why Morgan Stanley and why this specific role in technology?

What attracts to a post in a development team? There will be specific technical skills you’ll need to enjoy using, but what is it about the process of gathering and analysing a client’s requirements that you enjoy? The process of integrating a bank’s technology with its clients’ systems takes a specific skill. Do you have that skill? Can you demonstrate it and why does it satisfy you? And what is it about testing and deploying and evaluating that gives you a buzz?

What attracts to a role in an infrastructure team? You’ll be in a post whose effects span the organisation – and don’t forget, the firm is global. What are the requirements of a role with that kind of scope that appeals to you, and why and how can you demonstrate them to Morgan Stanley? An infrastructure role puts you at the heart of the firm’s technology so you’ll be working with its hardware, operating systems, databases, end-user platforms and networks. Why do you want to do that, and specifically for Morgan Stanley?

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