Mod note (Andy): "Blast from the past - Best of WSO" - while Eddie is away this month in his place we'll be posting up some of the most popular posts from the past. This was originally posted on 12/26/09
I received a number of PMs asking for advice for analysts as to how to successfully position themselves for PE interviews. Instead of PMing responses, I figured I'd just make a post. So, here it is:
The best way to position yourself for PE recruiting will be to develop strong relationships with the senior bankers, particularly the MDs. During PE recruiting, if your MD is not the one who sets up the interview, they will still most certainly be called as a reference. In the PE world, your reference is extremely important. A "luke-warm" reference is instant grounds for dismissal, even if you've successfully navigated the entire interview process.
How do you make the MD like you? The most important thing is attitude. NEVER, EVER complain about the work or how much sleep you didn't get the night before. It will not reduce your workload, it will destroy your mental well-being / efficiency, and no one will like you. Plenty of other analysts will bitch late at night, but its important that you keep a low profile and just agree with everyone. The other analysts don't like the "happy-go-lucky-all-the-time" analyst, so keep this in mind as well.
In addition to maintaining a positive attitude, there is obviously not substitution for high-quality work. Everyone finds their own style, but every successful analyst is well-organized. Try to always have every detail at your fingertips and maintain a well-organized workspace. This gives the impression that you're on top of things and have your shit together. It makes a difference. Oh and -- ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR WORK. If the experienced analysts don't tell this to you every day of training, they are doing your a disservice. You will find mistakes almost every time. Even if they are silly spelling mistakes or poor formatting, these mistakes will give the impression of sloppy work. People will ignore the content, even if its great, simply because of misspellings and formatting. Sounds dumb, but that's the way it goes.
Lastly, make sure you know what you're doing and why you're doing it. It is so easy to be so deep in the weeds that you fail to see the big picture. When work piles up, you turn into a processing machine and ignore everything else. When it comes time to interview at PE firms, you'll be scrambling to remember all the details of the deal, even if you spent hundreds of hours working on them. While I don't have BB modeling experience, I know a lot of MM analysts fall victim to templates. For example, if you're using a template to do an accretion / dilution analysis, that's fine, but take the time to understand what it is your analyzing. Knowing that the deal is accretive in year 1 is great, but you'll be expected to know what is driving the accretion. Is it a low cost of capital, the substantial use of cash on the balance sheet to fund the acquisition, or something else? This is the difference between a good analyst and a great analyst. The good analyst produces accurate work, the great analyst can interpret it.
There are obviously dozens of other minor factors that play a role in your job hunt, but I've found these to be the most influential. You can't change your resume once you start work, so you have to rely on relationships and experience to seperate you from your peers at that point.