2019 On-Cycle PE Recruiting: Headhunter Ranking

Recruited on-cycle in early December and signed with an upper MM buyout fund in NYC starting Summer 2019 (flagship fund size: $6-9 bn; AUM: $20-40 bn).

Lazy Friday in the office and wanted to contribute here somehow - figured one helpful angle could be an update on the relevancy and efficacy of various headhunters at the Pre-MBA Associate level. The below commentary is purely applicable to private equity recruiting.

Best Private Equity Recruiting Firms

1. Career Partners Inc. (CPI):

Client list on website. Speaks for itself. Seem to place materially more Pre-MBA Associates than any other headhunter. Impersonal vibe initially, but helpful once you earn their respect. Expect a few technicals in your initial meeting. Lighter on the MFs and heavier on the Upper MMs. They were in constant contact when the process kicked off - called me several times per day with opportunities.

2. Henkel Search Partners (HSP):

Client list distributed to candidates in initial meetings. SG spin-off that has taken noticeable share over the past few years. Initial meeting took the deepest dive into my deals, with CPI probably second. MFs: KKR; Carlyle; Warburg. Upper MMs: CD&R; BC Partners; BDT. MMs: AEA; Audax; Searchlight; etc.

3. Amity Search Partners:

Client list e-mailed to candidates after initial meetings. Another SG spin-off that has eclipsed SG. More of a boutique feel. Highly personal. MFs: Bain. Upper MMs: Centerbridge; Towerbrook. Growth: Summit. MMs: Kohlberg; HGGC; Vestar; Roark; etc. Note: Apollo appears on website but was not on widely distributed client list this year.

4. Dynamics Search Partners (DSP):

Client list not distributed to my knowledge. Arguably stronger for HFs. Uniquely strong PE presence in TX and CA. Only names I can give with certainty: Apax; LG&P; Vista; GTCR. Frequently claim to prefer having one large PE client per city to avoid conflicts of interest.

5. SG Partners:

Owned the space before my time. Memorably easy initial meeting. Twelve minutes of smiling and listening. Still have Blackstone and TPG as legacy relationships. Also: Crestview; ABRY; etc. Probably missing some MM names. These were the only four they showed me.

6. The Oxbridge Group:

Client list not distrbuted to my knowledge. Seem to play largely in the middle market. Good people. Highly professional reputation. Been around forever. Deserve a higher ranking on here for those not looking at MFs or Upper MM shops. A few random names I can offer: NEP; Castanea; Pritzker.

7. Ratio Advisors:

Recent Amity spin-off. Did not meet, but said to have poached Apollo, Golden Gate, and Lindsay Goldberg from Amity. Will likely continue to take some solid names in the future.

8. Bellcast Partners:

MM focused. Interesting initial meeting - more geared towards prepping me than evaluating me. Decided I was a worthwhile candidate three minutes in, then spent the rest of the time workshopping my story. Can't give specific names other than a few ~$500-750mm odds and ends.

9. GoBuyside:

Onex is the flagship relationship. I believe they also do Morgan Stanley Capital Partners. Likely a couple others. Platform takes some heat from the old guard. The concept hasn't been as disruptive as envisioned, but the reality is that the brand does have some traction.

10. SearchOne Advisors:

Stronger on the HF side. Jim MacLeod is hysterical. Do have a few legit MM PE clients.

11. Glocap Search:

Legacy ranking. Seems like they used to be stronger. Never met but am aware of some MM names.

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Comments (48)

HBIC Bexely, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm still confused on how this whole headhunter process works. Do these groups just email you to set up meetings or do you have to reach out to them/go to networking events to get into contact?

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Theo_Epstein_2032, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Inbounds are more common. These firms will typically reach out to older analysts in targeted banks / groups for a list of first-year analysts to contact.

Outbound approaches can often be effective, however, and part of my hope in posting is to ensure that candidates are aware of reputable search firms that may have missed them.

HBIC Bexely, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Gotcha, appreciate it. Senior Analyst must feel kinda cucked when a recruiter reaches out and basically says "whats up bro can I poach all your employees from under you"?

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Wreak Peace, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do HH's reach out to people who go to buy-side analyst programs? Do you have to hustle/reach out to these HH firms to get into their processes?

iggs99988, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you're at a group that HH has historically targeted and had placements with, or if you sit in a target group for the particular PE firm the HH is working with, you will be sure to get an email from the HH. Otherwise, it's really a coinflip whether a particular recruiter will email you for whatever roles. More likely to receive outreach if you're a good shop (BB / EB). Otherwise, you would have to take the initiative and reach out to as many recruiters as possible to increase your chances of 1st round interviews.

Gutfreund_, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for this write up. Mind sharing a bit about your background and why you wanted to go MM?

Do analysts usually decide to focus on what kind of fund they want or just interview with all the shops they get a chance with?

Theo_Epstein_2032, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sure. First-year M&A analyst at an EB. Graduated this past year with an Economics degree from an Ivy+ (Stanford / MIT / UChicago / Duke). White male.

My interest in upper MM buyout funds was driven by a desire to work on deals of comparable scale, complexity, and consequence to those at MFs - in a more intimate environment with added potential for career-track opportunities.

HHs typically ask candidates to rank preferences for fund size / type, industry, and geography prior to initial meetings. For obvious reasons, it often benefits candidates to mention a few specific funds of interest in these initial meetings. CPI certainly appreciated hearing that I was more interested in Providence Equity and American Securities than Advent and Silver Lake.

Gutfreund_, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Nice, congratulations. Based on the others in your analyst class and friends who also went through the process, do you have any insight on which MF PE shops are open to candidates from non-target schools? That being said, if you have no chance at a certain position, are recruiters generally open with you about your prospects?


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  • Intern in IB - Cov

These school ratings are hilarious Ivy+ lol. All ratings at this point (M7, etc.)

BananaCrazy3620, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Awesome post. Just curious, how important is having a closed deal on your resume for first year PE recruiting? With the process being pushed up so far, I think it would be pretty tough to have significant deal exeperience on your resume since you're only ~4 months into the job. Is school + GPA the most important factor, given that I'll be in a solid group (EB)?

Theo_Epstein_2032, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ask this question ten times and you'll get ten different answers. My sense is that it is orders of magnitude more important to be able to effectively communicate skills you have developed through dealwork than to be able to reference specific clients and counterparties (with infrequent exceptions, such as working on a sell-side for a given fund's portco). In my experience, not only does the breadth of disclosable information in an interview setting not increase substantially post-closing, but the important information for the interviewer to glean is largely limited to the roles you played and the skills you developed.

To personalize, my resume had three sell-side deals, one of which had closed - I had helped build the model and write the CIM as a Summer Analyst. I had been thrown to the wolves after the second-year analyst on the deal had rolled off a week into my internship. Predictably, nobody gave a shit about what I had done as an intern. It didn't matter that the deal had closed. The entirety of my deal conversations revolved around the two ongoing sell-sides on which I had been staffed since joining full-time.

And no, school / GPA are boxes to be checked, not difference-makers. Your propensity to land a PE job will be largely governed by your technical skills and your personality. My view on the "these kids are 5 months out of college and don't know anything" argument is that you can't develop anything resembling sound investing judgment in ~4-6 months, but you can build a surprisingly robust base of technical skills if given good opportunities and willing to crank.

Yuzu, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for the great insight with this post! Really helpful.

I'm hoping to partake in the next on cycle recruiting as a second year analyst. My understanding is that the process kicked off much earlier this year. Do you have any advice on how to prep or when to start reaching out to these guys for the summer 2020 cycle? With my current position, I don't anticipate on recruiters actively reaching out to me given the team I work in, so if you had to reach out to any of the headhunters you listed, I would love to hear your experiences on that.

Soxx, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Might be a dumb question, but is there any diversity recruiting for PE?

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Simbi, what's your opinion? Comment below:

thank you for being honest :)

gryphonguy31, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Is there any word on this process being moved up even further like seemingly every other timeline on the banking side?

-"Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance."
try hard, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I mostly agree with these rankings - I joined MM PE shop with 1-2bn flagship fund in 2017. As someone who targeted MM, Oxbridge was great (Genstar, Jordan). SG is also mostly middle market, but they love mentioning Blackstone in every email. CPI was my favorite firm, though they only worked with me after the initial recruiting surge (tier 2 BB).

redblue7, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Does anyone know what some of GloCap's clients are?

BigDickMcGee, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've used this post as the basis for a lot of my recruiting and would like to say it is very accurate. All of the descriptions of each of the HH has been spot on with the experience i had.

goodL1fe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Big fan of HSP, CPI and Amity.

Robert Clayton Dean: What is happening?
Brill: I blew up the building.
Robert Clayton Dean: Why?
Brill: Because you made a phone call.

iridescent007, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I believe so? A friend of mine who started his PE gig a few months ago started PE recruiting when he was 4 months into his ib job.

Persistency is Key
  • Intern in IB - Restr

Anyone have updated client lists? Any color on PE and HF is helpful, recent is appreciated as I'll be starting July in a group that is very quiet about recruiting

skullbasher137, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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