by Brian DeChesare Comments (253)

Why Investment Banking?

why-investment-banking“I looked at all the articles on your site but nothing told me WHY I want to get into this industry.

Can YOU tell me why I want to be an investment banker?

It’s a question you’ll get in every interview.

But it’s also a question where 90% of interviewees give terrible answers, no matter what their background is.

I can’t tell you exactly why you want to do investment banking… but I can tell you what to say in interviews.

So, why investment banking?

The Conventional “Wisdom” – Saying the Generic

Most websites, books, and other resources recommend generic answers:

  • You want to learn a lot.
  • You’re interested in corporate finance.
  • You like a fast-paced environment.
  • You’ve always done well in finance/accounting classes.
  • You want to work with smart and motivated people.

These answers aren’t “wrong.”

But there is a problem: interviewers have heard them thousands of times and will start dozing off if yours resembles one of the above.

A friend at a bulge bracket bank in Asia said one recent interviewee gave the following answer for his “Why Investment Banking?” question:

“I… just want to learn. Nowhere else would give me the learning opportunity, and I want to learn so much… I’m really interested in learning and investment banking is the best place to learn.”

Uh, so why don’t you just stay in school then?

The Real Way to Answer the Question

It’s not about “honesty.”

It’s about being personal.

You can include some of the “generic” points above in your answer, but you shouldn’t limit your answer to those.

Instead, you need to mention something from your background or interests that NOT everyone else can just look up online and regurgitate in interviews.

We’re going to look at 2 ways you can do this: the “Big Picture” method and the “Slice of Life” method.

The Big Picture

With this one, you talk about how you started out on another path but shifted your interest to finance over time.

This one works best if you’re:

  • A Career Changer (at any level).
  • A Non-Finance/Accounting Major.
  • Interviewing with an Industry Group.
  • Struggling to think of a specific incident that made you interested.

The strategy is simple: Background in One Field +Experience in Finance = Long-Term Success.

This is not the “Tell me about yourself” question, so you need to get your points across quickly – take any longer than 30 seconds and you’ll bore the interviewer, unless you were a male escort in a former life.

Example for MBA-Level Career Changer:

Let’s say you worked at a healthcare policy think tank, started to learn more about the business of healthcare, and then decided to go to business school to re-brand yourself and get into finance.

You would start by mentioning how you were interested in biology/medicine/healthcare originally, and enjoyed the work at the institute at first. But then you had to do a lot of research into healthcare M&A deals, you learned more about business/finance, met a lot of bankers, and you realized you were more interested in that side – in the future you want to advise healthcare companies on business decisions, so healthcare investment banking is the perfect match.

Example for Former Engineer at Undergraduate Level:

Let’s say you’re coming from a technical background, did a few internships, but then realized you were more interested in business.

Talk about how you did well in your internships, but became more interested in business after speaking with friends in different departments, and how you started following startup news, technology M&A news, and recent deals. You’re interested in being an investor in tech companies one day, so combining your previous background with banking experience would let you do this.

I used a similar story in multiple interviews and it always worked.

You need to modify these examples based on what you’ve done, but the basic formula is simple: Background in One Field + Finance Experience = Success in Achieving Long-Term Goals.

If you don’t know what your “long-term goals” are, just make them up to fit the situation.

The Slice of Life

With this method, you talk about how an event early in your life made you interested in business/finance and how your interest developed after that experience.

This one works best if you’re:

  • A Finance/Accounting/Business Major.
  • Coming in with previous finance/banking full-time or internship experience.
  • A “Career Changer” but you can point to something specific that prompted the change.

So let’s say you’ve been a finance major since you started university and you don’t have a “career change” to point to. In that case, you need to think about your family, experiences growing up, school, summer camps, and anything else you can think of that can explain how you became interested:

  • You saw your parents day-trading when you were younger and started following the markets.
  • You went to an event for women in business and met some MDs at banks there, which got you interested.
  • Your friend started working at a bank and you toured his office one day and met lots of people there.
  • You were in an investment club and won 1st place in a competition by picking stocks no one else even considered.

It doesn’t need to be a unique story: it just needs to be something that not everyone else will say.

And don’t overestimate the competition: I know from interviewing people at “top” schools that 99% of interviewees don’t even get the basics right.

Once you figure out what your “event that made you interested in finance” is, start your answer by stating what it is and then how it led you into your major, internships, and jobs, and how you see banking as your next step to achieve whatever you’re thinking about doing in the long-term, which is hopefully related to business.

There’s nothing “wrong” with saying you want to learn or that you’re interested in corporate finance – but you shouldn’t stop there.

You need to set yourself apart by thinking about your Slice of Life or your Big Picture.

And Not Just for “Why Investment Banking”

You need to use this answer for more than just the “Why investment banking?” questions: you have to use it in your “story” and also when you’re networking, because anyone you contact will ask why you’re interested.

Especially if you’re coming from a non-finance background, figuring out your “reason why” is critical because most peoples’ rationale consists of “I want to make more money!”

Other Possibilities

You can combine these two methods as well – just make sure your answer is short, because there’s nothing worse than asking this question and having someone ramble for 5 minutes after you’ve lost interest within 30 seconds.

Keep it to a few sentences and explain how your own background or some specific experience makes you a good match for the group you’re interviewing with.

Whatever you do, avoid stating the generic and talking about how you “want to learn.” You need to tie your “reason why” to what you’ve done in the past and what you want to do in the future.


There are a few situations where you may need to modify or add to your strategy:

  1. You’re coming in from an extremely non-traditional background and have changed your career so many times you don’t know where to start.
  2. You interviewed for banking positions before, but didn’t get any offers and ended up at a bank in a non-investment-banking position – and now you’re interviewing again.
  3. You did an internship but didn’t get a return offer and now you’re interviewing for full-time positions.

For #1, avoid the temptation to make your story “complicated.” Skip less relevant details and simplify your background so that it’s understandable in 30 seconds.

For #2, if you’re speaking with a bank you’ve interviewed at before, you should emphasize how you’ve learned / improved a lot since your initial interviews and have realized you’re even more interested now after completing your internship.

If it’s a bank you haven’t interviewed with before, say that you only became seriously interested over the summer and don’t mention your previous interviews.

For #3, say that you did well but didn’t like your group and didn’t fit in with the culture. You can’t lie about receiving an offer – but you can position it as being a “lack of cultural fit” rather than you not performing well.

Why Investment Banking?

That’s your homework: go and spend 30 minutes planning out what you’re going to say and which approach you’ll use.

And whatever you do, please don’t use the word “learn” 10 times in your response.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi Brian,

    Hope you are doing well. I am an Electrical Engineer who graduated with a Bachelor’s In Electrical Engineering from a SUNY Stony Brook, NY in 2015. I have been working at an engineering firm ever since graduation, and over the span of time, I have exposed to the business side of the company I work for, and also met few investment bankers via peer networking that reinforced my interest in IB or PE. But I am very much lost about how to break into the industry given my academic background, and also the fact that I do not have an Undergraduate Degree from a top Target Schools for Financial Companies.

    So, currently I am self-studying for GMAT. But I know I MUST score over 740+ in GMAT if I have to get into any decent MBA, if I am not wrong. But I am not sure if shooting for Fall 2017 admission would be feasible or make me a better candidate for admission into a top MBA program given that by 2017, I would have accrued around 2 years of post-graduation work experience. Moreover, I was a part-time senior Supervisor at an event management company in NYC for 3.5 years during college. I heard good business schools normally do not give admission to any candidate with less than 3 years of work experience.

    So I am very confused what to do, and if I have to wait until Fall 2018 to get into a good MBA program, and also if it will look good if I pursue technical profession before I join MBA and then switch to IB/PE?

    I will be grateful and obliged if you can help me with proper guidance so that I do not fall behind and resolve my mid-career dilemma to have a clear plan to work on. You elaborate and thoughtful message will be much appreciated. Thank you for your time and consideration.



    1. To get into IB at this stage, you’ll almost certainly need an MBA along with a pre-MBA internship at some type of finance firm.

      It’s better to have 3 years of work experience when you enroll in business school and to spend the extra year doing something a bit more business-related at your company, and then to get the pre-MBA internship right before the MBA program begins.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I did an internship as corporate banking role. I was wondering if i can say I want to do Ib because I did some DCF and comps in this internship, and I realzied I love doing financial modeling, and wanted to get mor exposures to some bigger deals to polish my modelling skills?

    1. That can be part of your reasoning, but it’s not good enough for the entire reason. You have to act like you were interested in deals from the start, got some exposure in corporate banking, and then wanted to change X or work on more Y, so you now want to do IB (where X or Y equals more varied or complex deals, for example).

      1. Hey Brian,

        Thanks for your prompt reply.

        What about I say this:

        1. I have been very interested in deals. I will check deal news like M&A, IPOs on a regular basis and did some research on them.

        2. Then I interned as a summer corporate banking analyst, where I was responsible for writing credit memos and performing enterprise valuation models for our clients(in case they default and cannot pay us back so we can sell the client companies).

        3. Then I realized I love financial modeling, and have done very well in the valuation work for this internship.

        4. So I wanted to move from working on credit analysis to purely doing financial modelings, as a way to better analyze deals.

        I bought your online tutorials for networking, and they were VERY helpful!! Looking forward to your new articles!!

        1. I would say that’s still not great reasoning. You should say that you liked the analysis in corporate banking, but you wanted to work on more varied and complex deals, and complete the entire *process* for those deals, which is what attracts you to investment banking. So you want to combine your modeling, credit analysis, and deal skills to work in IB and advise a broader set of companies on different deal types.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I am hoping to schedule a meeting with an evercore MD (informal meeting) and would like to turn it into an informal interview or at least leverage it to get an interview. I studied in the UK, just graduated with a first class in computer science, and have done 2 HF internships (one being the best in my country). However, I’m afraid that after hearing my story and looking at my CV, he may think that I’m simply looking for exit opps.

    What do you think is the best way for me to spin my internships into a good story towards IB?

    Btw, I have purchased your BIWS course and do you think studying the accounting interview module will be sufficient? (I think it’s module 3 or 4 of the fundamentals course)

    Thank you!

    1. The best way to position yourself is to say that your plan all along was investment banking, and that the other internships have just served to move you closer to investment banking. Say that you became more interested in deals during the HF internships.

      Studying the accounting modules will probably not be sufficient, because you’ll get questions on valuation, DCF analysis, M&A, and more. Please see the quick start guide to the course.

  4. Hi,

    I meet with a Director with one Investment Banking firm. Told him about my interest in investment banking. He asked me where do i see my self in 10 years and i replied that in 10 year i see myself starting my own investment banking firm after gaining the required experience.
    He then went ahead and asked me why? I told him because I have a strong passion for investment banking and also to be relevant.

    Then he told me to think about the why(i.e why i want to start my own investment banking firm in 10 year) question again and get back to him within a week.

    Please, how best can I answer and give him the best reply.

    Best regards.

    1. Um… well, what makes you interested in investment banking? Why do you actually want to do it? “Passion” for something is too vague. What *specific* deals or client types do you want to work with? What personal experiences have led you to the conclusion that you want to work with those deals or clients?

  5. I am currently working in oil and gas sector from past 1.5 years and i have had a Bachelors degree in engineering. I want to switch my profile to finance, So I thought of pursuing MBA in finance. But What should be my response to this question of pursuing finance, a switch from my technical field, at the interview session ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d just say that you’ve got interested in finance because of XYZ reason, which is why you decided to change your profile.

  6. I know the “walk me through your resume” is typically 1-3 minutes. How long would you recommend the “why investment banking answer be”? I am currently clocking in at 1.5 mins.


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I may even keep it to below 1 minute.

  7. Hi Brian,

    There’s one question that I feel that always holds me back in interviews: “why did you choose this university?” I get this question alot simply because I graduated from a fairly low ranked univeristy in the UK, around 80 in the league table. I never could convincingly justify this question. The reasons for attending this uni were simply because it was my local uni and the most financially convenient for me given that my parents are first generation immigrants – I didn’t come from a privileged background. Although I did have the grades to attend a reputable uni, I made the best of what I had and ultimately graduated first place in my year group.

    Now given my context how would you best answer “why this uni?” I don’t want to sound like I’m looking for too much sympathy etc.

    Many thanks in advance,


    1. I would just say that you had a good financial incentive to attend because of the deal they gave you, and given your family situation, you were not able to afford a higher-priced school. You did have the grades to get into a better-known school, but did not want to take on the amount of debt required when you made the decision. Make it more about the business trade-off, not sympathy.

  8. Hi,
    I’m mighty impressed with the info you’ve put up here. I graduated with a Bachelors in Information Technology in 2009 (from an average grade college in India) and very early moved to Big 4 in 2010. I focus on Technology Risks, Process Reviews and Compliance related services. Banking clients and Invement management Outsourcing providrs form one of the arctors we provide services to that are relevant to Finance. I have about 5 years in the domain peppered with an active lifestyle outside work. I’m really keen on breaking into that rarified space of banking/ finance that is PE/ IB. Would really appreciate suggestion and a broad roadmap. I have lived/ worked abroad extensively – about 40% of 5 years

    Thanks !!

    1. Your best bet is to make an internal transfer to the TAS group at the Big 4 firm or the internal bank there, and then leverage that experience to get into a pure-play bank or other finance firm. This article may be helpful with the transition to TAS:

      1. Thanks Brian !!

        Your reply is really helpful in giving me a starting point. Right now, I’m a Year1 Manager with the Big 4 firm I spoke about. I have just broken into the mid-management. Making an internal move to TAS would be really difficult because a. No finance academic knowledge. b. Fit – it’s easier to move when you’re an analyst than a manager.
        Now, personally, I wouldn’t mind going at an Analyst/ associate level, but the partners will have issues – No one wants a manager in a practice leave and join another as an associate.
        Do you think retooling with an MBA would make sense ?
        If MBA is the way forward, Do you suggest I spend a few months (before I join my MBA) with a Broking/ Trading/ Interning at a smaller India based equity fund – basically anything that boosts my credentials in finance ? Would really love to have your thoughts on this. Also, is there a paid service where I can have a mentor to direct me.

        I know that’s a lot of questions in a post…so thanks in advance !!


        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes retooling with an MBA can potentially help you, but only at a top school: Yes I’d suggest you spend a few months pre-MBA at a fund to broaden your exposure. We are not 100% sure of paid services for mentors.

  9. Thanks Nicole, appreciate the advice

  10. Hello Nicole / Brian

    I have a telephone interview next week for a mid-market boutique in London (this is my first ever interview over the phone).

    I just want to find out some of the etiquettes when answering and ending the call? Do you think its a good idea to begin like this….”Before we begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering me etc.”?

    Can you give me some tips on how to begin/end the conversation? I’d like to know of anything that I could say that will differentiate me, show my enthusiasm and perhaps leave a lasting impression on the interviewer?

    Many thanks,


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Al, I’d just keep it short. Thanks for calling is a good start. And to end the conversation, just end it naturally – thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I’m very interested in this opportunity and I look forward to joining the firm. I think its easier to impress the caller throughout the conversation (perhaps the first 10 minutes) and the tone of your voice matters a lot (shows enthusiasm etc). In terms of exactly what to say, it’s hard to say here because it varies according to the person and the interviewer.

  11. Hi Brian / Nicole,

    I’m currently applying for a ECM internship at a well-known boutique as no M&A vacancies are available at the moment. My intention is to get my foot in the door and hopefully switch to their M&A team (should this be possible) once I finish this internship. However in my app, I wrote something along the lines of “I want to go into ECM because I see myself in an advisory role, but also very much interested in working closely with the markets… and ECM combines the two etc. Would it be at all possible to make a strong water-tight case to move to M&A (a purely advisory role) as I would be contradicting myself in the app / interview?

    Keep up the good work!


    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you’re applying for an ECM role what you wrote is fine. I’m not sure if I understand your last question. No, you’ll need to choose between ECM + M&A – which one is your top choice? And then craft your story from there.

  12. Thanks for the great content on this site. I am currently a junior and spent my sophomore summer at a regional commercial bank. How can I use this to explain why I want investment banking? My initial thoughts were that I wanted to work with companies on a larger scale and in a more challenging environment, but corporate banking also fits that bill. I could also say that I want to advise companies on M&A, but that would only be specific to M&A (I’m also targeting other industry and product groups). Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Just say that during your summer, you’ve work on XYZ project/met with XYZ bankers and you realized that IB is more suitable for you given (i.e. faster paced, more deal oriented environment, etc)

  13. If I said I’m interested in banking b/c it can give me the skills to strategically learn how to select stocks/ help me reach my LT goal in becoming an investor, does that seem like I’m more interested in investing than banking?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes. This answer is more suitable for buy-side/research roles.

  14. Hi there,
    This is Ankit from India.I just finished My Bachelor of Engineering (in Mechanical Engineering), I got interested in financial sector in my final Year. I did some online courses and read some economics books to gain more Knowledge, I’m eager to learn more.My question is shall I do an MBA(finance) or look for some internship or Job, problem is I cant find any because of my technical background.
    Any Suggestions ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes an MBA from target school may help you retool yourself

  15. Hello,

    I’m not a finance major and am planning to go with the “big picture” method. I was wondering if you could give me advice on how to build a more polished story from my current situation.

    I’m currently a rising junior and I’ve interned at an embassy, a law firm and am currently interning at a boutique-ish firm in IBD, specifically M&A. Previously, I was interested in law, but gradually gained more interest in finance because it was related to what I had experienced at the law firm (corporate law). Currently I don’t have a LOT of knowledge on the field of finance, but am taking online courses to learn more about it. I want to somehow convery through my story that I enjoy how IB helps bring together results that are “greater than myself,” in a concrete manner. Additionally, I enjoy using the critical skills in valuing companies and trying to finding the best combination of maximizing that value through M&A by studying the industry.

    Is this inappropriate in fully illustrating my interest? If so, how could I spin it?

    Once again, thank you so much and I look forward to your advice!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Very quickly – if you don’t have lots of knowledge on finance, you need to gain that knowledge and talk about why you’re interested in banking. We don’t review stories on our comments forum here in fairness to BIWS customers. In your case, please read

  16. Canberk


    I just received a phone interview with a bulge bracket through an employee reference.

    I worked for a mining company for the past year in their project finance department. I am right now in the process of preparing an answer for Why IB; here is what I am thinking of focusing on:

    1) I know that it doesn’t separate us from other candidates when we talk about how we love being busy, challenged and perform better under pressure. But I have a personal story behind: My father grew up in an orphanage, and his achievements inspire me the most, and I look up to him. He has come a very long way, and I want to achieve at least as much as he did for my children. In a career path within IB, the sky is the limit which excites me very much.

    2) Focusing on why I want to leave project finance even though I like projects- the bottom line is deal flow. The deal flow within the company that I worked for was very low. Although, I tried to fill my free time by reading about different industries and build valuation models on my own, the amount of real work I do is very minimal. As a recent graduate, I want to obtain as much hands-on experience as possible, because this will determine the shape of my career path, in which I seek endless opportunities.

    Please tell me if you have any advice.

    Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Sure I think what you wrote sounds reasonable. If you can add in that you’ve spoken with bankers (any experience with IB), that may make your pitch better.

  17. Makram

    Hi Brian,

    I was wondering if I can contact you by email so that I could send you my one pager professional project and get your opinion on how to formulate it as a 60-second short answer for the “tell me about yourself” question.

    P.S. I just signed up for the interview guide on Breaking Into Wall-street which might help me with that too.


  18. Hi M&I,

    I am an undergrad at a non-target Canadian university and I have an interview coming up at a top 3 Canadian IB for a summer analyst role. Prior to that, my internship experience have been at a large Canadian P&C Insurer as a payments and reconciliation intern, and a public utilities company in internal control/risk management. As they don’t have much to do with finance, I have gotten involved with my school’s investment club as a portfolio manager and won a stock competition but I really do want to to pursue a career in the capital markets. I cold-called boutiques and applied to major IBs the previous year but failed to land any offers. I feel the interviewer may wonder why I didn’t secure any capital markets-related role prior to this as some of my competition would most likely have done.

    Can you kindly provide any tips how to spin it in a more positive light?

    Much appreciated, thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d focus on spinning what you did that was interesting that summer. You can then talk about how your experience over the summer made you more interested in IB (perhaps you met someone in the industry) and what you love about IB, and why you want to be in IB in the long run. I’d also make it sound so straight forward that working at the insurance company was the logical decision at that time.

  19. I had a degree in Physics 13 years ago and worked in retail banking for about 7years. I decided to leave the bank and did a professional course in Accounting. When I finished I started working in a small accounting firm but will like to switch into investment banking since that has always been my interest. How do you think I can link all that up.

    1. I would take a look at some of these stories: And go to the “From the Big 4” category.

  20. Hi, I’m struggling a bit with the question why Investment Banking versus why Sales and Trading. I’ve applied to both types of internships because I know some bulge brackets combine the two positions in a rotational summer analyst program, but I still want to make sure I can correctly answer the questions why IB instead of S&T and vice versa?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps you’re more interested in the deal-oriented culture of IB. You prefer working with corporates vs. just the markets. You are driven by executing deals versus trading

      1. Thanks Nicole! And what would be a good reason why someone would prefer S&T instead of IB?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          They prefer the markets, investing, and dealing with institutional investors

  21. Hi,

    My undergrad program is in Finance, I had internship with a mid-market IB in China in my second year summer. But after that, I didn’t put too much time on IB, I did internship with pwc,united nation, and a commercial bank in Toronto. Now i’m doing Master of finance in Oxford, and trying to break into IB, how should I round up my story? Is there a good way to explain why I only did a internship with IB on my second year, and then diverted to other areas? Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes perhaps you wanted to try something else out but you realize that you wanted to go back to IB given its faster pace and deal-oriented environment.

  22. I want to be a INVESTMENT BANKER so guide me where should i start. I had done computer science engineering last year.
    Also, let me know whether i should do MBA in dual specialization Banking & Finance or PGDM in finance or MBA in Finance only?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think it makes a big difference to be honest…

  23. Nicholas

    Hi, thanks for this great posting!
    I am now pursuing a Bachelor Degree of Arts in English in China, as well as a Dual Degree in Finance. How can I use my art background in English in answering the why IB question? It’s not like other majors such as IT or healthcare that have a specific industry to focus on. Is it weird if I say that I would like to combine my expertise in English and my interest in finance? Please help me on this.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You may want to talk about your finance spark – what got you interested in finance, and how your communication skills can be valuable for financial firms.

  24. Sebastian Strug

    This is gold, thank you very much!

    I was rejected recently for student work experience/internship at Merrill Lynch but I have another opportunity next year, and I’m determined to get in with the help of your blog. Thank you.

  25. I’m doing a bachelor in accounting at a second-tier school, what can I do in my first year to put myself in a better position for year 2 BB summer internships?

    Will doing a summer internship at a local financial management firm ( beneficial at all?

    I’m starting to network but don’t know how I should follow-up with contacts. Please help! Thank you so much :)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Since you’re only in your first year, yes this internship will be helpful. In your junior year however, what’ll really be useful is experience with an IB.

      To follow up, please refer to

  26. How should I best answer the short term and long term career goals in investment banking summer internship interview?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Please see below for a basic guideline you can use. You’ll have to craft an answer based on your own personal experiences to make it more personal.
      In the short term I am interested in learning specific skill sets so I can assist seniors to pitch to clients and advise clients on their financing efforts. In the long-term I’m excited about getting the opportunity to start bringing in deals.

  27. Sorry Nicole, forgive me. typed Brian in error.

  28. Hi Brian,

    I majored in Banking in undergrad and now work for a commercial bank in Zimbabwe. I am applying to top business schools in the US for the Fall 2013 entry. I will have 5 years experience on matriculation( one in treasury at Barclays; two in Microfinance and the other two in retail banking at Ecobank Zimbabwe. I would like to get into investment banking and will leverage on business school to do that.

    I am not sure of how I can craft my story on the ‘why IB’ question. Do you have any leads.

    I was doing very well in Microfinance. I crafted new products and worked on project appraisal for the start-up. I however left to try out banking when I got offered a job as a Relationship Manager at the bank.

    I really want to venture into investment banking. Please help on how his kind of background fits IB.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You should ask yourself what draws you to banking first. You can always say that after taking several classes in bschool (assuming you get in) & meeting various contacts in the industry, you realize you have a passion in banking given [why you’re interested in banking and why you prefer banking over microfinance]

      Difficult for me to help on comments page. Hope you get the gist of what I’m saying

  29. If i have previous banking internship experience is it ok to point to a past deal that solidified my interest? Or should I even explain before that why banking?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Sure. It works

  30. I just finished an internship this summer at a merchant bank this summer, so now I have finance experience to put on my resume so I can apply bigger firms in the IB position. My prior experience is all retail such as grocery and clothing stores, which has nothing to do with IB. Should I still put them on my resume to show I have been active and busy while being a student? Or should I just put my summer internship experience on there?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You might still want to list your experience in retail briefly. List your impact and what you did there. I’d focus on your summer experience though

  31. I’ve been reading this great website for quite a while, but its my first post. I wish i read this site a few years ago. Ok, so in short, i just turned 27, have a us bachelor economics degree and a master in management degree from a prestigious european school, i started my own company and its not doing bad, but its in a really bad market (my home country which is pretty poor). So my question is can i still try and break into IB, and do I have a chance for an MBA even if i dont have work ex with major companies. Thank you so much

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Can be challenging if you don’t have prior IB experience!

  32. I think I understand the differences in the functioning and purpose of the different divisions at a bulge bracket, but what kinds of differences in day to day work, lifestyle, atmosphere, pay, etc. are there between investment banking, investment management, securities, etc.? Are some easier to get into from a more quantitative background vs. liberal arts? You can apply to more than one for internships, is it okay to do this/are there some that go together? Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, some roles like structuring/trading are more quantitative and requires one to be able to calculate numbers on the spot. Some like sales in S&T/marketing in AM are more qualitative. You might be interested in Yes, it is ok though you might want to do some research on your own and figure out which divisions suit you most

  33. Great article. I was an undergraduate psychology major, then worked for a real estate company as a project manager in an emerging market for 3 years and was recently accepted to a top MBA program in the US. I am looking to break into IB, specifically real estate investment banking. My long-term career goals are to provide developers in emerging markets with financing options as well as advise real estate companies on business decisions. Is that a good long -term goal? And how would I link working in a developed country such as the US to a goal I have that is related to emerging markets?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  34. Hi i am doing an Honers degree in International Business Management and i want to get into investment Banking. are there any recommended courses post grad or other that i should apply for?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Get into a top tier target MBA program

  35. I am not sure about my answer for this question: I usually start out by saying IB is my personal fit because I am a competitive person. Then I explain that I am studying 5 class, work for 2 internship and 2 part time job. I love being busy and under pressure. Then I tie back to IBD that “I know in IBD there is always competition to close deal, to pitching ideas to client” and “with me, Investment Banking is a personal fit”
    Do you think that sounds personal enough? Is that a little bit cliche’

    1. M&I - Nicole

      That sounds cliche and no it doesn’t sound personal enough. I think you should “personalize the spark” a bit. Maybe tell a story that attracted you to IB or something…

      1. Thank you! I actually add on 2 others reason that I like the transaction business (curious abt strategy behind the deals,etc) and learning opportunities. But I want to show that it’s a personal fit for me. I had a Banking experience before and realized that I thrive in a fast paced, multi-task,pressured environment where I have lots of responsibilities. Do you think that sounds better? Should I spend 10-20sec to tell my banking experience to personalize it? Thanks!

        1. If you had banking experience before, yes, definitely talk about it and use that to set yourself apart.

        2. M&I - Nicole

          Sure. Personalizing it would help.

  36. i came into my undergraduate as a business economics major, got a wealth management internship with merrill lynch through a contact, but then didnt make the gpa requirements to make it into the actual major to take upper division classes, so i ended up graduating with a degree in european studies. ive taken a few trips to germany and spain and taught math there, so i told interviewers that i switched majors after coming back because i was so interested in understand my cultural background. i took 2 years off after undergrad and tutored, and now im in a m.s. accounting program. im having a hard time connecting my european studies BACK to a grad degree in accounting/related field to banking). did i even spin my unrelated major correctly in the first place? any help would be really appreciated. thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t quite understand how you switched from European studies to MS Accounting either. You would know better than I do why you decide to get a grad degree

      1. well after i graduated with european studies, i was still interested in finance, but more so who actually makes sure the numbers people play with are correct (auditing). so i took some time off and took classes in accounting because thats what i wanted to do. i ended up applying to a m.s. in accounting in order to finish up my the required courses to sit for my cpa. after getting into the program, i now have an interest in ib. im having trouble tying all of my switches in interests together in order to show the interviewer a logical reason im truely interested in ib. i would have a total of 4 sparks: 1. wealth management, 2. studying european studies, 3. accounting, 4. ib? is having 4 sparks in my life too much? i feel like i need to explain all my changes in interests, in order to make my “story” believable. please help.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          You should explain why IB clearly and focus. You should focus on your why IB/finance spark

          1. how should i frame my response if they ask why the change of interests so much?

          2. M&I - Nicole

            I think you’d know better than I do because its your story. Difficult for me to help you on the comments page.

  37. Hello,

    I am currently a sophomore majoring in economics. I have never had a banking or even business internship, however I am interested in applying for an internship position at an IB firm this summer. I have never worked before and do not have much of a resume to speak of. What should I say as my reasons for wanting to go into the field of investment banking.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You should ask yourself why you want to get into IB. We can’t help you if you don’t have the answer to it

  38. Where can I learn how about the technical questions they will ask me, I have a good amount of time to become a wizard at these technical questions (years) so how should I go about learning the content that they could possibly ask me?

  39. Hello,

    Great article, this site is one of my favorites on this internet. I wanted to ask what your prediction for investment banking will be going into the future. I am currently a high school senior interested in finance and was wondering, once I get out of undergrad, will there still be as much money and opportunity in investment banking (or I guess finance in general) as there is now or do you think it will diminish in the coming years?

    1. It will always exist because companies always need to buy, sell, and raise capital. Trading is more likely to suffer than banking because regulations there have gotten stricter. Average pay will come down, but you will still make more than in any other field (unless you start your own company and are mega-successful).

  40. How much will it help if an MD is helping me A LOT (i.e. setting up a visit to the office, giving me contacts, etc)? Do I still have a chance coming from a non/semi-target? I even got a call from HR because of him.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes. It helps a lot. Now forget about the fact that you came from a non-target and focus on your interviews!

  41. Brian,

    like the question above, can you clarify little more about how I should approach “walk me through your resume” versus “why investment banking?”

    1. Also, do they ask BOTH walk me through your resume and why investment during the interview or do they just ask one question?

      1. M&I - Nicole

        Yes. Both – even if the questions are not framed that way because you have to address why IB and why you’re there interviewing

    2. M&I - Nicole

      Walk me through your resume – your experience, what you’ve been through (education, internships, work experience, etc), why you made the choices you made
      Why IB – Why are you interviewing for this job in IB? What makes you so eager to get into IB?

  42. Hello,

    For some reason your method for “Why Investment Banking” is very similar to the method for “Your Story in 5 steps”

    What are the main differences in the way I should answer those two questions?


    1. They are quite similar. The main difference is that with the “Why Investment Banking?” question, you don’t spend as much time explaining your spark and growing interest, and it’s a shorter response overall.

  43. I am reading, my first year, Investment and Financial Risk Management at Cass Business School in London. I have attended a number of networking events and talks. In particular the events organised by Women in Business Society and the UK India Trade Event, gave me greater motivation to become active in the industry. I’ve always had an interest in political and economic world events, finance allows me to focus that broad interest to study and predict what will happen next in the markets as a result of these events.

    What do you think of this? it is honest and genuinely does reflect my feeling about wanting to go into finance, however I am worried this isn’t what employers are looking for.

    thank you

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest you to get an internship in finance to boost your chances.

  44. A couple of questions regarding phone interview:

    1) Since I was working in relevant field before (PE in summer), What kind of questions would I be expected regarding my previous internship? Would they go really deep into it?

    2) For phone interview, would the interviewer ask me every single job experience, or he/she would focus only on the finance-related internship?

    Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole


      2. It depends. Perhaps he/she will focus on finance-related internships but he/she cld also touch upon your previous roles in other industries too

      1. Hi Nicole,

        1) Since this one will be an IB interview, will it still be the same format as the link you provided with me?

        2) My internship was mostly focused on research and didn’t involve much about modeling, what would be a good response if the interviewer asked why didn’t I do much modeling?

        3) And in terms of phone interview, will they be around 30 minutes as well?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          1. More info on IB interviews:
          2. Say you’ve had some sort of exposure to modelling and demonstrate your knowledge of it. I’m sure you’ve been exposed to some sort of modeling/quant work in research. However, if you don’t know something, admit it. And don’t focus on your weakness, emphasize your strengths in interviews; impress them
          3. Yes. Longer/shorter depends on your chemistry w interviewer

          1. I am planning to write “I met this friend in a finance club and since he worked in boutique investment banks before, he really got me interested about banking because of the fast-paced environment and excitement of working on various deals.” — Is that considered a “good response” for “Why investment banking? If not, what could I do to improve/make it sound better?

          2. M&I - Nicole

            You may want to be a bit more specific because “fast-paced environment and excitement of working on various deals” sounds generic. You’ve got to address the why IB over other divisions. If you want specific guidance on how to make your case sound better, perhaps you could check out our resume & CL editing/coaching services

  45. How is this not different from “tell me about yourself”? If an interviewer asks me “tell me about yourself”, do you add this “why banking” at the end?


    1. Just to be more clear, isn’t this question the same as Step 5 of “Tell me about yourself”? So when I am answering the 1st question should I add the answer to this question in or should I wait for the interviewer to ask “why M&A/banking” and then answer?

      Thanks once again!!

      1. M&I - Nicole

        Go w the flow. When timing is appropriate talk about why banking. But don’t blabber on. Pls refer to previous answer I posted

    2. M&I - Nicole

      Tell him/her your background. Talk 20 secs. Wait for him/her to ask you more questions. Then talk..then lead to why you’re interviewing (why banking)

  46. Hi,
    so I am interviewing again this year. I would take your advice to say I have completed investment banking internship and are more interested in joining them. My question is if they ask why did I fail last year, is it ok to explain like this, I applied on the last day before deadline, or I was not well prepared for the interview? Does it sound I was not serious with them? Thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No. Come up with a better reason – spin a story at a positive light

  47. Hi there,

    I networked with an analyst and he asked me some technical questions on the spot, and I couldn’t answer most of them since I have not started preparing for the technical questions–does that mean I have no chance with the firm at all?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I wouldn’t say so because I wasn’t there though chances might be slim if you couldn’t impress him. But then again, an analyst doesn’t have much say in the hiring process. If you can get someone w the hiring power to like you, you will increase your chances significantly

      1. So would you recommend me to continue networking with more senior level people in the firm? Or practice the technical (which is what should be done anyways) and then “impress” him later.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes continue networking & practise the technical at the same time

  48. Hi,
    I have been working in healthcare industry (In pharmaceuticals,operations- SALES and Marketing)for 14 years. Currently,I am at middle level management. I intend to do a MBA from an international school and am interested in getting into investment banking in the healthcare industry.
    The desire is driven by my basic strengths – analytical, strategic and learner. Am interested to get into M&A’s in Healthcare industry / strategy. Request your opinion on this shift at this point of my career.

    1. M&I - Nicole should help when you land an interview. To land an interview, network extensively during your MBA

  49. Hi there,

    I was interning at a PE firm before and now would like to try ibd for a summer internship. What would be some good responses if they ask “Why would you move PE to IB?” Can I say that, being on the sell-side is more challenging and I definitely enjoy working under pressure?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      More transaction-based in an IB & more deal exposure. No, because working on buy-side can just be as challenging.

      1. Thanks for the response! And what would be a good answer when they ask “Why IB over S&T?”

        Moreover, do you think is a good idea to network with as many people as possible with one firm, since some of them might be the ones who interview me?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          IB = want to learn more about how M&A process works, understand how to value companies, be involved in due diligence process
          S&T = market driven; very fast paced; not project oriented like IB

          Yes. And other firms too.

          1. In terms of networking, I met this MD in person a couple months ago, and we had a good chat, but after a while I tried to set up another coffee chat with him, which he did agree and forwarded to his assistant to arrange it but his assistant never did, and afterward whenever I tried to e-mail him, he never replied back.Since now is recruiting season, do you think is a good idea for me to call him up?

            2nd question, I know normally you need a good reason to follow-up with the connections, but what would be a good reason or excuse to follow-up with them? And I guess since it’s recruiting season now, I should try to stay in touch with them at least once in every 2 months?

          2. M&I - Nicole


            Yes. Just follow up. They know you want a job, no need to sugar coat it.

  50. Hi,
    I’m currently pursuing my Bachelors degree in Electronics and Telecommunication (Penultimate year) in Bangalore, India. I’m planning on switching to finance or consulting at some point in the future. So, basically I should do an MBA after working for a few years? Are there any internships I could do before though? I get only about 4-6 weeks in Summer and a month during Christmas. Most of the companies I looked up offer an internship for a minimum 8-10 week period. Will this be a problem? And should I concentrate on my field now or try for training/internships in Finance (Which I have no knowledge about at the moment)?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d suggest you to network with people in finance to see if they can make an exception for you so you can intern for a month. If you know you want to be in finance, focus on finding internships in finance so you have a better idea of what working in finance is like–this will allow you to better make decisions down the line

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