“I just purchased my third pair of Ferragamo loafers, and I think my wardrobe is nearly complete! Looking into my closet makes me harder than I get when I smell the deep, earthy ink aroma of a fresh WSJ.”
I get a lot of questions on good reasons to say you want to be an investment banker.
The good news is that the list of reasons to do investment banking is fairly standardized.
There’s not a whole lot you can say that bankers haven’t heard before, and a solid reason backed up by good supporting evidence still works well (see our full list in the “why investment banking” article here).
The same goes for interviewing, and especially superday interviews.
It’s easier to give a bad answer than to surprise someone with a brilliant answer, because there are no “brilliant” answers: just good answers, mediocre answers, and terrible answers.
Today I’m going to focus on the downside: mediocre and terrible answers to the question of “Why do you want to do investment banking?”
Models And Bottles
This is one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen on “banking lifestyle” (OK, I guess there haven’t been all that many videos on this topic), but it doesn’t mean you should say “models and bottles” when asked why you want to do banking.
You’re not foolish enough to answer with this specific line, but any variant of making money/living the high life/getting beautiful women is a bad answer.
More importantly, you should NOT be thinking about this as your real, unvoiced answer in the back of your mind.
Some bankers foolishly do the job for this very reason, but they fail to realize that it takes a very long time to save up that much money.
Sometimes they try to put you on the spot in stress test superday interviews and get you to admit this under duress.
In one interview they asked me, “Are you motivated by money?”
I answered with something like:
“I’m not motivated if you just hand me a pile of money. I am motivated to work hard and earn money through my efforts.”
(Not the exact answer, but you get the idea.)
Plus, if you actually admit to doing it for the models and bottles, you’ll probably be fired (like A.J. here in the video once HR found out).
You Want an Entrepreneurial Work Environment
I’ve heard interviewees say their long-term goals are to start their own companies or do something independent, and that they’re just using banking as a stepping stone.
Even if this is your actual goal, I would strongly recommend against saying so in an interview.
Working at a bank, especially as an investment banking analyst, and doing something entrepreneurial are completely different.
As Samuel L. Jackson might say, “ain’t the same ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same sport.”
At the very top levels of banking, what the Managing Directors do is somewhat entrepreneurial because they have to build the business and bring in new clients. It’s not the same as building a business from nothing, but it’s closer than an Analyst will ever be.
But as an analyst or associate, you will be taking orders from other people, fixing PowerPoint slides, and making font sizes consistent… not winning new clients.
The other issue here is that investment banks want to see that you are committed to the job for at least 2-3 years.
Even if you don’t want to stay in banking, they would be much more comfortable knowing you want to go to private equity or join a hedge fund, because at least those are still in the realm of finance.
To Say You Could Hack It
You wouldn’t say this, but you might have it in the back of your mind if you want to do something completely different eventually, such as public service.
Although you can learn a lot in 2 years of banking, it is not worth the pain and suffering you go through if you just want to show people “you could hack it.”
If you really do want to do it and then go off and do something unrelated, it would be most rational to be an Analyst for 1 year and then leave for other pursuits.
While it’s still painful, 1 year is better than 2 years – and you can still save a bit of money from your annual bonus payment.
Most of your learning occurs in the first 6 month – 1 year period, so you won’t be missing out on much if you leave after that; the main drawback will be fewer closed deals to discuss.
I hope not… at least if you ever want to break into this industry.