The following is part two of an interview with Deal Team Lead Manager skylinegtr94 (he manages a small team to surface and source deal flow to middle market Private Equity firms). If you would like to do an interview, email me at [email protected]
He is also available to answer any questions you have, ask away!
- What is the one tip you would give to current students (ugrad and/or grad students) to help them succeed?
Contact your alumni base – younger, more recent grads might be more helpful/responsive but if you can get the ear of a big shot, more power to you. Hustle forand don’t take a non-response to a cold email or voicemail as a “no”. It’s just a non-response and everyone in this industry is busy so send a quick follow up 2 weeks later to see if they can grab early breakfast or coffee. At least with your alumni group you already have something in common to talk about.
Stay in touch with your friends or teammates. I can tell you I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion to find a golf buddy or kid in high school I thought was a prick all of the sudden works in or tangential to my industry and that we might be able to find ways to work together. Old adage of not burning bridges applies here.
- What are some tips for moving up and becoming “the boss” (i.e. a department head / managing director / partner)?
Learn from mistakes. Lead by example rather than lecturing people. Be willing to concede the floor and value opinions of people around you. Make smart hires. Listen to people. Take notes during meetings that border on transcribing them, especially early on in your career. This will serve as your personallater for reference. Even if you don’t know what you’re writing it’s a homework assignment to look into later so you do understand it, thereby teaching yourself something in the process. In the meantime, fake it till you make it.
- Any specific cold-emailing or cold-calling tips you can pass on?
Many tips have been discussed here. Don’t nag and bring something new to the table when you can in order to keep the email chain/conversation fresh. Also, if you’re working on a pitch to a larger list of targets or leads, record yourself a few times before jumping on the phone with live calls. Listen to your pace, diction, etc. to make sure it comes across clearly and that people can hear your phone number. Even if part of the message ends up a bit garbled, if they have a phone number, they can always call you back. I came up with that early on in my current role as there weren’t people around to role play these conversations so I just did it myself and still do every so often even today.
- Any specific
Always bring more business cards to events than you think you need. Amazingly I’ve met so many people that run out of cards and when I give them mine, I might not get a follow up note. Also, make sure to follow up with people within a few days of a meeting or event. Writing notes on cards is a great way to help remember what the heck you were talking about too. It’s funny to see people look upset when you do this like you’re defacing their card. That’s what they’re for. Non-glossy cards are best so the ink doesn’t smudge (yea, enter American Psycho lines here).
you can pass on?
- What is a memorable experience you have of how someone got your attention? (for networking / internship / job purposes)
Something as simple as a junior at my alma mater asking to buy me lunch nearby my office and learn about what I do. Turned into meeting up maybe once per month or so before he eventually got a FT offer. Stayed in touch periodically, he never nags me and seems to genuinely care about what’s going on in my world by sending articles that are relevant every so often. I do my best to reciprocate as well. I may be more willing than some to accommodate cold calls/emails because I come from a situation that I did not leverage alumni or business contact networks nearly enough early on.
- What is your opinion on gaining relevant experience at a lesser known firm vs. working for a brand name firm (with less relevant experience)?
Big names are great but they usually have larger recruiting classes and you therefore don’t always have as much impact at the firm during your time there. I might actually prefer smaller or boutique experience since, chances are, you did some real work and have something to talk about and potentially build on going forward. Also, just because I might not be familiar with a firm doesn’t mean they aren’t a great shop.
- What do you look for in a potential intern candidate?
Intellectual curiosity. Hustle. Personality. You can learn all the finance stuff later but I need to be able to deal with you on a daily basis. I use the “would I have a beer with you” test.
- What do you look for in a potential entry level hire?
Pretty similar to the above with a lower learning curve since you should have some relevant experience under your belt at this point.
- What are your favorite interview questions you like to ask potential new hires?
I like to know what kind of music people listen to, sports they played/watch. Sometimes this tells you more about them as opposed to “what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?” I also ask what the last few books they’ve read were about. Varied reading is a good habit to have no matter what you do.
- What are some of the worst mistakes you’ve seen people make in interviews?
I had an intern candidate stammer and ramble on about wages they earned in their last internship versus what they expect in their next gig. He went on for a solid 4 minutes before I had enough and cut him off saying something to the effect of, “I have to stop you at this point. The next time you are asked that question, you can just say ‘similar to your previous rate or slightly more would be appreciated’ and you’ll be fine.” Not in a mean way and he appreciated the feedback. Everyone makes mistakes; just make sure you learn from yours.
- If you review resumes (or have in the past) - what are some of the most common mistakes you’ve seen?
Grammar, changing font sizes, and silly formatting mistakes that are so easily avoided. Also, don’t list an interest that you like swimming with sharks or other dangerous stuff where there might be legitimate concerns that you might leave the office on a Friday and not return Monday.
- What are your thoughts on this statement: “Wall Street is a more meritocratic place than most. If you are a young person and you have good ideas, people will often listen to them, if you are in the right role” ?
The part I mainly disagree with is the use of the word “often”. You cannot make such a broad statement like that, though I’m sure in some firms it holds true. If you bust your ass and turn out great quality work, are generally well-liked by clients and people around, you actually have a personality and some people skills, you can succeed in any industry.
- Any other interesting stories or wisdom you would like to share with the WSO readers?
While I don’t have earth-shattering best practices to bestow on you all, a few thoughts for the younger crowd on this site:
- Make sure you fine tune your bullshit detector if you want to work in banking and PE.
- Never be afraid to ask a question if you don’t understand something. If it’s something you should probably know then keep it in-house to someone at a more junior level than your firm’s managing directors or client since you’ll probably be fired for that. (just Google it)
- Be prepared for meetings and have your own agenda for what you want to achieve or attain
- Be responsive to people – even if you don’t have an answer to a lingering question yet, sometimes a quick note acknowledging you’re working on it can make all the difference and calm the person on the other end.
- Kill people with kindness. You can be dealing with the biggest jerk you’ve ever met but don’t be argumentative with them (to a point). This is a small, well-connected industry and people might not remember you for a call or meeting gone well, but they sure as hell will remember someone that gave them a rash of crap and likely never return your calls again – holds true for cold-calling and trying to network. You can always curse them after you hang up the phone. Often times they’ll be your best friend again on the next deal or as soon as they need something from you.
- That said, know when to fight back. People respect you for standing up for yourself when you have a leg to stand on.
- Be honest with people. Should go without saying, but there, I said it.
- Know when to escalate an issue to upper management. No matter what your position, some things are above your pay grade. No one cares if some guy was a jerk on the phone, but it’s different when that jerk might be threatening a lawsuit against your firm. Point being, know when to run it up the flag pole internally for how to handle.
- Honor meetings and scheduled calls as if god himself set them up. This goes back to general respect and courtesy. Few things frost me like a no-show to a meeting or call, especially when the other person chose the time/date. Don’t be that guy/girl. If you are going to be late, make sure you give as much notice as reasonably possible.
- Put your contact info in your signature. It’s just annoying to have to search a dozen messages for a direct number or cell phone to call someone back. Also, I don’t need the full signature for every email with the disclaimers and other . Keep it simple.
- Know how to prioritize – the new contact intro call likely isn’t as high priority as a deal you’re working on since you don’t know what might come out of it. Schedule it for early in the day or towards the end. Same with admin tasks if you have any.