The question, “why this firm?” is guaranteed to come up at least once during your investment banking interviews. We know this having collected 300 Glassdoor analyst interview questions from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley, in which this question was by far the most common.
So it’s imperative that you come to the interviews having thought about why you want to work for this firm specifically, rather than its competitors. We’ve put together this guide to help you craft the perfect answer.
Our first tip: Don’t just say “it’s a great opportunity.”
Let’s get started.
- How to answer “why this firm?”
- Why do you want to work at Goldman Sachs?
- Why do you want to work at JP Morgan?
- Why do you want to work at Morgan Stanley?
- Try out your answer
First, let’s take a look at what components make up a great answer to this question. We’ll get an idea of what interviewers are looking for when they ask it, as well as what you can do to meet and exceed their expectations.
1.1 Why interviewers ask this question
Working in investment banking is intense, especially at bulge bracket firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. You’ll be working long hours, addressing last-minute emergencies, and communicating with high-profile, demanding clients.
Interviewers ask questions like “why investment banking?” and “why this firm?” to test whether you’ve got the motivation to last in this environment. If they sense that a candidate is not motivated enough, or has the wrong motivations (e.g. the high salary), then they’re unlikely to hire them.
Interviewers also want to know whether you’ve done your research. As you’ll be doing quite a bit of research and analysis on the job, showing a nuanced understanding of the firm in your answer is a good sign to the interviewer that you possess the right skills for the position.
1.2 Tips for a great answer
Now that we’ve got a better idea of why interviewers ask this question in the first place, let’s get into the components of a great answer.
Tips to prepare your answer for “why this firm?”
- Network: Make an effort to meet with or call one or more current employees of the firm. Ask them what it’s like working there, why they chose that firm, and what is unique about it. This will give you good, specific talking points for your answer, and mentioning their names shows the interviewer that you’ve put in effort to get to know the firm.
- Keep up with recent deals: Being aware of the latest deals in the department you’re applying to will give you an idea of what kind of deals you’ll get to work on, and whether they sound interesting to you. Bringing them up in the interview will show the interviewer that you’ve done your research and stay up to date on market news.
- Make it personal: If you have any examples from your personal experience that tie in with this firm, now is a good time to bring them up: a landmark M&A deal that sparked your interest in investment banking, a family member who used to work for the firm, a leader in the company who inspires you, etc. This will set you apart from candidates with generic answers.
- Make it specific: Of course, your answer for “why this firm?” should be different with every company you’re interviewing with. Test out your answer by swapping another bank’s name with the one you’ve got in mind. If your answer could also apply to this other bank, then you need to fine tune it.
- Rehearse your answer: Before the interview starts, you should already have your answer to this question prepared and ready to go. We’ll give you more details on how to craft your answer in section 5.
1.3 Common pitfalls
Finally, before moving on to a few sample answers, take some time to review common mistakes that candidates make when answering this question.
Common pitfalls in answering “why this firm?”
- Answer is too broad: Simple answers such as “it would be a great opportunity to learn more,” “the people here are very smart and work hard,” or “the culture here is awesome,” won’t make the cut on their own (even if it’s true!). Interviewers have heard these responses many times before, so you’ll need to make it more personal and targeted.
- Answer is too long: This question is frequently asked at the beginning of a longer interview round or during the HireVue screening process. In both cases, it’s important to answer quickly and concisely, so that the interviewer can understand your answer and have time for other questions. Aim for a roughly 1-minute response.
- Answer lacks structure: Think of two or three reasons you’d like to work there, and describe each of them, one at a time. Otherwise, the interviewer will have difficulty following your train of thought, and you are more likely to ramble.
Let’s take a look at an example answer to “why do you want to work at Goldman Sachs?”. First, we’ll go over five details that make Goldman Sachs different from other bulge bracket firms, which you can include in your answer.
2.1 What sets Goldman Sachs apart
From the outside, bulge bracket firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley may appear similar, but there are plenty of aspects that set them apart from each other.
Here are five details about Goldman Sachs that will be useful in crafting your answer:
- Goldman Sachs is an industry leader in investment banking. It has a smaller balance sheet compared to universal banks like JP Morgan, yet it remains a go-to firm for big name clients, especially in M&A. This means that, as an employee at Goldman, you’d be working on a constant flow of industry-shaping deals.
- Goldman consistently ranks as a top activism defense firm, outshining competitors like Morgan Stanley. This means that it defends companies from activist investors and hostile takeovers, such as Sony from hedge fund Third Point, or EBay from Starboard. If you’re interested in working on innovative M&A deals, this will be useful for you.
- Goldman maintains its position at the top of the league tables when it comes to TMT (Tech, Media, and Telecom), bringing in consistent fees and deal flow. If you’re interviewing for a role in Goldman TMT, mention this along with recent deals such as Microsoft acquiring Nuance in an all-cash deal, in which Goldman was Microsoft’s exclusive advisor. Also, Goldman and LionTree advised AT&T’s deal with Discovery to spin off Warner Media.
- Goldman expanded into consumer banking in 2016 with the online banking platform Marcus. They’re investing heavily in growing the platform, such as with the acquisition of GreenSky in 2021, which offers exciting opportunities for diversification and growth to candidates looking to work in investor relations or consumer and wealth management.
- Goldman offers extensive learning programs to its employees, such as Goldman Sachs University for new hires, and a library of digital offerings as well as ongoing training to current employees. This, combined with their track record of high internal mobility, shows an admirable level of investment in their employees’ growth and development.
2.2 Goldman Sachs sample answer
With those points in mind, here is an example answer for you to work with.
Answer: Why do you want to work at Goldman Sachs?
“I want to work at Goldman Sachs for three main reasons. First, I want to take part in industry-shaping deals, something that I could only do while working for the industry leader in investment banking. I came to this conclusion while researching the leading investment banks, and I was impressed that Goldman had a record M&A year in 2021, earning more in fees than both JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
Second, as you know I’m interested in M&A, particularly around activism defense, which is one of Goldman’s strengths. I was inspired by the Allergan vs Valeant deal when we studied it in university, and clearly this track record continues with more recent deals like Sony vs Third Point.
And finally, I’ve had a few conversations with Krish Dixit and Sonia Sanders, associates in the Chicago office, both of whom gave me a great impression of the firm as a whole. Krish in particular encouraged me to apply to the investment banking division, as we share a similar educational background, and he was complimentary of the opportunities he’s been given to succeed.”
Now, let’s take a look at what makes JP Morgan unique as well as how to answer the question, “why JP Morgan?”
3.1 What sets JP Morgan apart
While Goldman Sachs is an industry leader in investment banking, there are many reasons why a candidate would target JP Morgan instead. Here are four of them:
- When it comes to investing, JP Morgan has a market cap that is 3.5 times the size of Goldman Sachs’s, and their shares are up 148% over the last five years. This is because JP Morgan has more assets when it comes to its range of lending-related businesses (e.g. consumer lending, credit cards). This could be a great opportunity for someone interested in investor relations, or who is drawn to a more diversified business model.
- JP Morgan has merged commercial banking and investment banking, something that neither Goldman Sachs nor Morgan Stanley have done. This creates a mix of corporate cultures and business units that offers a range of diverse opportunities to a new employee.
- JP Morgan is very strong in operational risk management, which helps firms understand, manage, and anticipate risks. This is an area that is constantly evolving, such as by expanding the use of the Acin platform internally, which leads to a high level of quality control. For candidates looking to work in an environment with high transparency and oversight, with an eye on cyber risk, this would be helpful to bring up.
- JP Morgan is scaling up its sustainable investing platform with deals like acquiring OpenInvest, an ESG (environmental, societal, governance) fintech company. Wealth management candidates who are interested in sustainability and values-based investing can use this as an example of where JP Morgan’s values align with their own.
3.2 JP Morgan sample answer
Here is an example of how a candidate may answer this question in an interview.
Answer: Why do you want to work at JP Morgan?
“I want to work at JP Morgan for two main reasons. First, as I’m interested in working in investor relations, I’m impressed by the sheer size of JP Morgan’s market cap, which is more than three times bigger than some of your major competitors like Goldman Sachs. If I’m going to be a contact and an advocate for investors, it’s all the more inspiring to do so at a firm that already provides a great amount of value to those who invest in it.
Second, I was mentored by Madhu Vijay, who’s currently a Director in equity research at JP Morgan’s San Francisco office. She’s helped me through my studies and internships over the last two years and gave me a great impression on JP Morgan’s overall work culture. She also told me about how much internal mobility is available within the company and encouraged me to apply.”
Finally, let’s get into why you may want to work at Morgan Stanley, as well as what makes this company unique.
4.1 What sets Morgan Stanley apart
Morgan Stanley has been a rival to companies like Goldman Sachs for decades, so it stands that there are several reasons why a candidate would opt for Morgan Stanley over other investment banking giants.
Here are a few of those reasons:
- Morgan Stanley competes with Goldman Sachs in the high-growth technology sector, having played a part in historic deals at the start of the tech industry boom. They were a lead underwriter for Google and Groupon and worked on the IPO of Facebook, Inc. Candidates looking for a company that takes risks that have paid off will likely enjoy working on deals like these at Morgan Stanley.
- Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division is the second largest in the world, and it delivered a 10% rise in revenue for the company in 2021. This means that candidates who are interested in providing financial guidance to a range of important clients will have a great opportunity here.
- While Morgan Stanley is particularly strong in wealth management, it also advises on impactful M&A deals. For instance, Morgan Stanley advised on the $31 billion sale of Kansas City Southern to Canadian Pacific, which was the biggest M&A deal of 2021. IB candidates with a passion for mergers and acquisitions should take this into account.
- Morgan Stanley runs a range of socially conscious initiatives, such as the Multicultural Innovation Lab, the Morgan Stanley Challenge Nonprofit Program, and a Plastic Waste Resolution. These would be good details to mention for candidates who are looking to work directly on one of these initiatives, or who want to contribute to a socially-minded company as a whole.
4.2 Morgan Stanley sample answer
Here’s one last sample answer for you, this time for a candidate interviewing at Morgan Stanley.
Answer: why do you want to work at Morgan Stanley?
“There are three main reasons I’d like to work for Morgan Stanley. First, I learned that Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division is the second largest in the world. As someone interested in working in wealth management, it’s a huge draw to work in an environment with a constant flow of impactful clients.
Also, I’ve been consistently impressed by James Gorman’s leadership. His move to make wealth management a cornerstone of Morgan Stanley’s revenue stream was transformative, and he’s continued to double down on that strategy by first acquiring Smith Barney, and later E*Trade and Eaton Vance. I’ve followed his career throughout my studies and internships and would love to play a part in his greater strategy.
Finally, I’m as passionate about sustainability as I am about investment banking, so Morgan Stanley’s commitment to reach net-zero financed emissions by 2050 really stands out to me. My goal is to work for an industry leader that acts responsibly given its global footprint. That’s why I jumped on doing wealth management within your Global Sustainable Finance group as soon as I saw the position.”
As we mentioned before, the best way to ace this question during your interviews is to have practiced it beforehand. Here are two steps that you should take to come prepared with your perfect answer to “why do you want to work here?”
5.1 Practice on your own
First, take some time to write out your answer. Make note of what inspires you about the company, which people you’ve met there, and any personal experience you have that aligns with the firm’s vision.
Pick two or three of the strongest reasons you want to work for the firm, and write them out in more detail. Strike out unnecessary details, and keep the ones that are the most clear and compelling.
Practice saying your answer out loud, and time yourself, aiming for about 1 minute. Rehearse it until you’re able to answer the question naturally, without forgetting any key details.
5.2 Practice with others
Next, it’s time to try out your answer in an interview setting. A great place to start is to do mock interviews with friends or peers.
This will help you polish your answer, practice answering follow-up questions, and work with other types of questions like business sense and technical IB interview questions. However, if your interview partner isn’t familiar with investment banking interviews, then practicing with an ex-interviewer will give you an extra edge.
If you know someone who runs interviews at an investment bank, then that’s amazing! They'll be a great person for you to practice with.
If not, we want to help you make these connections. That’s why we’ve created a coaching platform where you can find ex-interviewers at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley to practice with. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.