How do you deal with Head Hunters?

Have some HH intro calls coming up and trying to get an understanding of what to expect. I've heard that you need to be straight forward with them in telling them exactly what you want. I'm in the position where I want to interview for the best opportunities on the buy side regardless of if that's with a PE firm Or a HF. How should I play these intro calls??

Comments (12)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 7, 2022 - 3:18pm

You sound like you don't actually know what you want which is the biggest red flag.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 7, 2022 - 3:36pm

First of all, you absolutely need to decide on HF vs. PE for a few reasons, not least of which is that they are pretty drastically different ways of investing. You should look into the HF/PE forums and google if you do not understand or agree with that.

Another reasons is because HH will not take you that seriously if you tell them you are down for both HF and PE. They will not put you in front of their "better" (more prestigious) clients in either style of investing because those processes are already so competitive that the kids who end up at those firms demonstrate dedication to the style/firm. If you are truly indifferent to either style of investing, then you should tell some HH's with better PE clients that you want PE only, and tell other HH's with better HF clients that you've always wanted to work at a HF and nothing else. I would not tell the same HH firm that you are open to both PE and HF at the beginning of recruiting.

Another reason is because the recruiting processes between HF and PE are also drastically different. PE does the whole "on cycle" thing, so if you want to be at the best PE firms you need to be prepared for PE interviews and ready to go through the 48 hour crazy on-cycle process. If you do well, you will have an exploding offer and won't have time to look at other PE shops let alone HFs. To follow this point, HF recruiting is wayyyyy less structured. There really isn't a "cycle", it is a lot more hiring needs driven and you'll probably have the opportunity to interview at all of your top PE fund choices before you even get a HH call about one top HF. Not only is timing way different between HF and PE recruiting processes, but the actual interviews can be pretty different too. PE firms all have pretty standard formulaic interview processes, but HFs are generally going to be way more variable and outside the box. One major difference between HF and PE interviewing that will certainly come up is that HFs expect you to have stock/bond pitch ideas. In a PE interview, you might get asked "tell me about a company you have been following" and satisfactory answers can be pretty high level industry/company walkthrough and rattling off some high-level annual numbers like revenue and EBITDA margins. If you get the same question in a HF interview, you will be expected to be able to walk through the thesis top to bottom as if it was a deal on your resume. You will be asked about revenue and margin assumptions, management team quality, competitors in the same industry, etc. You will be asked to put a price target on the company/security and be pressed on why you think that is the right price and what variables would change to get you to invest at a different price. In short, it will be very difficult to find the time to prepare well for both HF and PE interviews.

Finally, the "best' HFs traditionally do not want to recruit straight from banking anyway. They rarely want to be the first buy-side gig that someone has on their resume. As a result, you are just going to have way fewer opportunities at "best" HF than you would at similarly "prestigious" PE gigs.

For all of these reasons, good HH will likely roll their eyes if you tell them in an intro call that you are down for PE and HF. Practically, you kind of have to decide. From there, you can be more general and say "i want the biggest/best PE funds to get the best training/txn experience" etc. HH do understand that there are way more kids who say they would work at KKR than who actually get there, so they just want to know if you're targeting the prestigious places or if you are okay with smaller/lesser known places. If you end up talking to HH about hedge funds, you do need to be a little more focused in having preferences because the HF industry is generally a lot more unique and HH will expect you to know what you want more than a kid recruiting on-cycle for PE.

As you might expect, all of these factors become more important if you are the "less prestigious" of a candidate you are. HH probably won't dismiss a HYP kid who already has two buyside internships and is starting at GS TMT if they say they are open to HF and PE opportunities, but a semi-target kid at a mid-tier BB can really only set themselves apart from the pack by being very clear and focused in their recruiting goals when talking to HH.

HH are not here to serve you. Their goal is to put the best, most prepared kids in front of their clients, who are the buyside firms.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Aug 7, 2022 - 3:39pm

Yeah definitely do not say you want to interview for both PE/HF. Those are very different jobs and you look unprepared saying you're just interested in the best opportunities. If you really don't know what you want, wait and you will have more time to evaluate opportunities during off cycle or oncycle year 2

I would narrow down as much as you can, the more specific you can be the better. If you want UMM/MF, make sure you are truly competitive for those spots or you're wasting your oncycle opportunitity. Have a reason for why those shops beyond just "it's the most prestigious". 

Also have good reasons for why buyside/HF (why not IB) and why the specific strategy/fund size you're targeting. Think about location, are you open to NYC only or other cities too

Make sure you can do a paper LBO as some HHs will ask for that on the opening call

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 8, 2022 - 7:06pm

can you elaborate on wasting the oncycle opp part? if one were to go on-cycle now, would off-cycle and on-cycle as a 2nd year analyst not be possible? 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Aug 8, 2022 - 7:13pm

Not who you're responding to but you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you bomb your KKR interview first year on cycle (and the HHs do get feedback on everyone), why would they put you in front of BX off-cycle or next years on cycle?

Unless you can convince them you're a materially better candidate for some reason, they're just going to view you as a "worse" candidate. Like everyone on here says, HHs could fill the PE class at every UMM/MF many times over with candidates from BB/EB. There's just too many good candidates to give someone a second chance if you know they messed up once

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Aug 9, 2022 - 8:54am

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