From an FT PE ASO: Just Breathe | 2023 On-Cycle

Well, it's that time of year again. Some of you are elated. Some of you are pissed. Some of you are thinking that you may as well just quit now, you're forever doomed to work 1530 hours a week as a scapegoat IB analyst to an MD that doesn't give a flying fuck about you. 

Lemme preface by saying this - this is not meant to be a pretentious post. That's literally the last thing I want to reiterate through all this, it's actually quite the opposite. So bear with me here for a minute, because I have dealt with on-cycle processing on the other end of the table for the past three weeks now. If it makes any of you feel better, it ain't too much better over here. Grass isn't always greener. 

If I wanted, I could start this post off by telling you all about myself, how I got into PE, and how I overcame the barriers and went alpha mode into finance, but that's a) not how this shit works, and b) quite the opposite of my story. This post isn't about me - it's about a lot of the users I see on this forum talking about the shitshow that OC23 is, the culture surrounding breakout hires, and everything involved in the process. 

I don't disagree with you in a lot of ways. This year's cycle was different, especially for me. Last year, I wasn't as involved with the structure and DtD of onboarding and recruitment, but now I did actually get to take a more involved look and wanted to put forth a genuine effort in determining our platitudes and reach for how the newbies are pulled in. 

I think a lot of us have realized by now that you don't have to do the 'typical' route to get into any high finance gig. You know, the classic one -> T10 school -> 2 years BB/EB -> 2 years MF/UMM PE -> Ivy MBA -> UPE/CO/VC/HF/etc to be successful. Is this a good path? Fuck yeah, it is, and you're gonna make a lot of fucking money and feel like the man. But let me tell you - if I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that 60%+ of the people I work with daily didn't do that route. Nothing even close. I sure as shit wasn't smart enough to go that route, and I still made it. Here we are. 

In a way, I think on-cycle recruiting ties into that 'typical' path. Would it be good to hop on the standard onboarding line, bust your ass for a bit, and have that sweet KKR gig by end-of-week? Of course, it would, that's a no-brainer. BUT, if you don't end up with that offer are you an immediate fuck-up who should probably just off themselves because they're worth nothing? You already know my answer is gonna be no to that one. 

Not getting your dream offer in cyclical recruiting season isn't the end of the world. Let me repeat that: not getting your dream offer in cyclical recruiting season ISN'T the end of the world. This isn't some lovey-dovey post to make you all feel better. This is coming from myself & my countless years of fuck-ups, retries, and everything in between to get me to where I am today. A lot of people work in PE around (generally) 2-3 years after they graduate. My journey is now approaching the fourteen-year mark. Fourteen years. Am I a model candidate for you to replicate? No. Am I saying that you probably need fourteen years to land your Blackstone gig? Also, no. 

What I am saying is that every time our calendar year moves up one number, the biometrics of profession inductions change. You don't need to do everything right the first time or else you'll be permanently blacklisted. This isn't the 1980s, you are allowed to make mistakes. PE funds make a lot of fucking mistakes too. We've fucked up multiple times this cycle, probably indirectly screwing a candidate or two out of the job. 

If you didn't get an offer from your firm this week, there will be an opportunity next month. There will be an opportunity after that. There will always be opportunities. Like I've mentioned - yes, in a perfect world, you'd get your cushy dream gig straight outta cycle, get excited to work there and sleep well. But that's not how everyone is feeling at this moment. I get it - shit sucks. You feel like you fucked up, like your friends are smarter than you, and you're letting people down. Brothers... I have BEEN there. So many times. So many failures in my past, all of which I thought meant that I wasn't cut out for this world. 

Well, there's that. On a slightly different note, if you've noticed that '23 was slightly different than '22, you may be right. While this is largely subgroup and firm-team-specific, I can personally attest that a lot of groups are doing away with the 'old style' of interviews. The process is going to be shorter. There are going to be fewer intensive models, fewer case studies, and fewer spread indexes full of memorizable information. This won't make the hiring process easier per-say, but it can speed up the processing time of interviews, and put less emphasis on them in the first place. I have seen that talent can be more quickly decided prior to even meeting the candidate, and HOLISTIC views on resume & CV are going to be emphasized more. 

Why is this? The truth is that there DOES need to be less emphasis on the very limited time we have with you in that room. A case study with one correct answer, in a simulated environment, with fictional circumstances, causing pressure, anxiety, and furious calculations - that just doesn't give us a good indication of how you will perform on the job anymore. It's an hour out of your day, and we're looking to hire you for a lot longer than an hour. While in THEORY, it's a good representation of your skillset, I do believe (and can only speak for my firm here as well as others that I personally know of) that the combination of a) viewing your past experiences and/or performance, b) seeing HOW you answer interview questions and not just WHAT you say, and c) using our personal interaction time to get an indication of how well you actually interact with people is FAR more important than throwing a stack of papers at you and saying "you have an hour to discuss the equity fee structure and the total cost multiple and identify the constraints using this data blah blah blah fucking blah". 

That's it. That's all I've got to say. To those of you who landed your gig, congrats. Welcome to this side of the world. Lots of people hate it, but hey - at least I like it. That's gotta count for something. To those who are still anxiously awaiting that phone call or to those who've already had a bad phone call, just know that this isn't it. A lot of you probably know this. I just wanted to make this post as someone who has literally experienced every single emotion of this process multiple times, coming from the most obscure background that one could imagine. 

To EVERYONE: read the title of my post again. Just fuckin' breathe. I agree that there are a lot of things wrong with the cycle system. There are a lot of things wrong with the way PE firms do recruit. But that doesn't mean that you ain't worth a shit in finance - plenty of more waves to ride out. If you wanna ask some questions, drop 'em in the comments. Besides that - hope you all enjoy the rest of your week. It's a great day to be alive, and I'm gonna go experience the best that I can. 


Comments (6)

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 4, 2022 - 8:59pm

OP I'm curious to hear what your path was like?

Apr 5, 2022 - 8:59am
Stonks1990, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Made a post about it here a little while back. While I'm not encouraging folks to go the route I did, I do think it's a story about bending the path a little bit. Plenty of guys and gals I work with did alternate routes to get to where they are, kind of cool how we all end up.

Edit: let me know if the 'here' hyperlink works. For whatever reason, my posts aren't formatting after I post them. 

Apr 6, 2022 - 9:29am
MacroJunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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