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1. When does PE recruiting cycle start?
Varies from year to year, but for the last 3 cycles, the main process has either run during March / April of your 1st year (2012 and 2014 Associate classes) or January / February of your 2nd year (2013 Associate class)

2. When does it end?
Most funds have completed recruiting 2-3 weeks after the process starts

3. If you are in a good group, should you be proactive in reaching out to headhunters, or will they find you? How can you maximize your chances of getting interviews?
Generally, top groups will be contacted by headhunters and you can mostly sit back and wait for emails to come to you. If you notice any glaring omissions, obviously reach out

4. How do headhunters find you? Through their contacts? LinkedIn? Should I keep a nice, updated LinkedIn profile?
Usually they receive spreadsheets with contact info from departing analysts. For the top headhunters, you can rest assured that they will find you if you're in a good group. You will, however, likely hear from some smaller headhunters through LinkedIn. You should be keeping an updated LinkedIn profile regardless of recruiting

5. Who are the top headhunters for PE? Especially those representing the MFs?
HHs that represent at least one of the MFs (TPG, BX, Apollo, KKR, Carlyle, CVC, Apax, Warburg, Bain, Silver Lake) are CPI, Amity, HSP, McKibben, Oxbridge and Dynamics

6. Do the PE firms themselves decide who gets first round interviews? Or do they go through headhunters? If so, should I be networking with PE professionals?
Headhunters play an important role in this process and will many times filter down a list of ~800 candidates, though the ultimate decisions are made by the firms themselves. Many of the MFs have invite-only recruiting events ahead of first rounds where they meet candidates. Networking can never hurt, especially if you have senior-level contacts, but networking matters a whole lot less in the MF process than it does for IB jobs. If you're in a top group, you'll get looks either way; if you're not, networking becomes more essential to get into the MF process

7. If your firm has a ban on buyside recruiting, how do answers to any of the above questions change?
Very little, at least to this point. MS has pretty much abandoned their recruiting policy from what I can tell. And although GS maintains their ban, very few 1st years heeded the warning and most have participated in recruiting the last two years. At least a few MFs have left a spot or two open, but you shouldn't be banking on that option

8. What are the top PE shops out there outside of the MFs?
That's hard to boil down to a list of reasonable length. If I had to pick a few with top caliber reputations outside of the MFs I listed above, I'd go with THL, H&F, Advent, Leonard Green, CD&R, Berkshire, General Atlantic, MDP, Kelso, Centerbridge, Providence, First Reserve (energy focus), New Mountain and GTCR (this is a USA-centric list). Obviously with a list that short, I'm leaving people out, but that's what immediately comes to mind

9. When and how should an analyst start prepping for PE interviews?
Keep your head down for at least the first few months on the job to build a strong rapport with your team and develop some solid relationships that you can convert into references when the time comes. Generally, I'd say February of your 1st year is a good time to start hitting the books and practice LBO modeling (earlier if you're uncomfortable / don't get any experience in your group). There are a few guides out there, but by far your best resource is going to be departing 2nd Years who already have been through the process. If you have a decent group of guys in the class above you, they'll provide you with guidance on questions to expect, give you a mock interview or two, and might even provide you with actual case studies from interviews. Many of the BB and EB groups will have internal folders with materials from previous recruiting cycles as well. If your group doesn't, be sure to connect with your friends in other groups and gather all of the prep materials you can, because they exist

10. Having gone through the process, what are a few things you wish you had known going in?

10a. I was one of the unfortunate people who had a group without many prep materials saved on the drive. Naturally, I assumed that the best way to prep would be just to study the questions 2nd Years offered up. It wasn't until a couple weeks before the recruiting process that I thought to reach out to friends in other groups. After I did, I immediately received a slew of practice models, a few case studies that had been used in previous years at top PE shops and several more interview guides. Definitely should have done that earlier.

10b. Although I took the headhunter intro meetings pretty seriously, one thing that I wish I would have done is follow up more consistently with the people I met during the recruiting process. Do not underestimate the role of headhunters, firms hire them for a reason, and often times they serve a real gating role before first round interviews
10c. Remember, remember, remember: These are NOT ib interviews. They are not meant to be formulaic, and although there will be a small set of questions you'll get in virtually every PE interview, the emphasis on technical prowess is very low relative to IB interviews. Most PE shops, even several of the MFs I mentioned, are small, lean organizations that can be incredibly selective with who they hire. When the MFs bring in a small group of kids almost exclusively from top groups at top banks, the chances of you standing out due to strong technicals is essentially zero. Have a personality, and show it. Take some risks in your interviews

10d. Related to that last point: Because these processes are so competitive, the choice of who receives offers and who doesn't can come down to very arbitrary preferences and - frankly - randomness. This frustrated me to no end. Nothing is more demoralizing than coming out of a final round interview where everything clicked, you had a great conversation with a Partner, and you're just certain you're getting the offer - only to never hear back. Have that happen a couple times (which it inevitably will if you're interviewing at a lot of shops in a short timeframe), and it can hurt your confidence. Do not think this way.

10e. If you're like me, you'll find a few shops where you get to the final round, feel a really strong connection with the team and be just shy of getting the offer. I couldn't understand why this happened, until I met the group with whom I accepted an offer - it was literally a perfect fit for me: exactly the industry I wanted, exactly the type of personalities with whom I work well, exactly the fund size I wanted. What that taught me: When you've found the place, you'll know it and so will they. Until then, keep on moving

11. If your firm bans PE recruiting, do the headhunters know not to contact you on your work email? Because there is a lot of email snooping that goes around, and I don't want to get caught.
The top headhunters are all aware of firm recruiting policies and will keep in touch with you via whichever email address you prefer. Generally, it's advisable to use your own personal email address, not just for privacy's sake, but also so that you can keep in touch with these firms after you leave IB.

That said, you're bound to receive some inbounds from headhunters at your work email address. If you're worried about privacy, just respond via your personal email account. That said, having email traffic with headhunters doesn't violate recruiting policies, so I wouldn't be overly paranoid about this.

Refer to this thread for even more insightful answers by NorthSider!

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Comments (17)

  • m56's picture

    This is a solid overview, thanks for posting! Is the process similar if you're coming from a PE background (like Blackstone's, for instance) or do you just stay on an extra two years in that case?

  • TheBlueCheese's picture

    BOOKMARKED, AND 1! Great post NS +1

    Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

  • In reply to m56
    wso929292's picture

    Seconded.

    How should people position themselves who are coming from buyside programs that recruited out of undergrad (BX PE, Ares, LGP, Sankaty, GSO, Silver Point, etc.) who traditionally don't have many people leave after two years (I guess in BX PE's case it's 3 years)?

    Seems like there would issues related to items 4 and 7.

    Thanks.

  • Quaneaser's picture

    For people looking to lateral into banking, is the March/April the best time of year to reach out to contacts with so many people leaving or do banks just wait to refill with SA/FT?

  • In reply to Quaneaser
    NorthSider's picture

    Quaneaser:

    For people looking to lateral into banking, is the March/April the best time of year to reach out to contacts with so many people leaving or do banks just wait to refill with SA/FT?

    To clarify, the March / April PE processes are for start dates during the year-ahead summer. For example, the April 2013 process was for positions with Summer 2014 start dates.

    IB lateral recruiting tends to start picking up during the March - June time frame, with most people moving near the end of their first year (so no bonus repayments are necessary).

    "For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

  • In reply to wso929292
    NorthSider's picture

    wso929292:

    Seconded.

    How should people position themselves who are coming from buyside programs that recruited out of undergrad (BX PE, Ares, LGP, Sankaty, GSO, Silver Point, etc.) who traditionally don't have many people leave after two years (I guess in BX PE's case it's 3 years)?

    Seems like there would issues related to items 4 and 7.

    Thanks.

    Pretty much all of the groups you mentioned above will be covered by the major headhunters and you won't have to take active steps to contact them. Same advice applies, however: if you notice that you haven't heard from a particular HH by mid-January, it's worth reaching out.

    As for bans on recruiting - again - this is mostly a non-factor. Goldman maintains an "active" ban on recruiting; nevertheless, when the major PE process rolled in April, swaths of GS analysts still participated. Take days off if you must, but scheduling a few hours to be out of the office isn't nearly as difficult as you might imagine. More importantly, I doubt that any of the funds you mentioned would be strictly opposed to an analyst participating in the main process.

    That said, I haven't been through these PE analyst programs, so I don't claim to be an authority.

    "For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."

  • In reply to NorthSider
    wso929292's picture

    Thanks, appreciate the reply. SB'd.

  • TwoThrones's picture

    Thanks for the information, although I'm pretty sure I'll never have a shot at PE.

  • jbone24's picture

    Excellent post. Great write up!

    "jbone is, believe it or not he's getting married". WHAT what an idiot! What a loser! Good, good, more for me and you!

  • JYeung Rutgers's picture

    A friend of mine told me that a lot of people go into IB because of the chance that they could get into one of these PE firms. From this it would be safe to say that you agree to that, correct?

    Another question. What should a sophomore in college be seeking internship wise to build his/her human capital to appear more appealing to IB/PE firms?

    Jason Yeung
    Rutgers Business School
    Candidate B.S. in Accounting
    Candidate B.S. in Economics

  • cityknight's picture

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  • In reply to cityknight
    NorthSider's picture

    "For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."