PE Recruiting From IB- Play It Safe Or Reach For Best Fund Possible?

Incoming FT analyst at a mid BB (Barc/Citi/BofA) in an okay coverage group. Looking at my groups exits, nearly all exits are to MMPE, with maybe one UMM exit in the past couple years. 

I'm trying to plan out my PE recruiting strategy because I know things are going to get very hectic once I hit the desk and wondering how people from similar groups weigh the risk of going for a better fund vs just playing it safe and landing a solid MMPE gig. 

From reading on here, it sounds like you really get one shot with headhunters, and if you say you're interested in UMM/MF and you strike out on-cycle, you can be pretty screwed. 

My profile is pretty competitive (target school, GPA + test scores are good), but I just don't work at a bank/group with many large-cap PE exits. I'm scared of trying to go on-cycle, striking out because I will likely never win when I'm interviewing against a GSTMT kid, and then getting passed up by headhunters because they think I'm damaged goods. That being said, I'm really interested in working at a larger fund, and would feel a little bit disappointed if I didn't give it a fair shot. On the other hand, I can definitely see a scenario where I strike out on cycle and am forced to either stay in banking or take some no-name LMM fund because I blew my shot with HHs by telling them all I want to work at a bigger fund.

The other alternative would be to target exclusively MM PE / maybe some UMM PE funds. I know there isn't a clear yes/no answer here, but I'm curious how others have navigated this decision of what you actually want to do vs being pragmatic and trying to target the best of the most feasible options available. 

Most Helpful

Imo go for the best fund possible. big goals = worthwhile targets that keep you passionate and working hard through rejection. If you nail it in on cycle, you win. If not, you’ll be prepared to achieve an excellent off cycle or on cycle UMM / MM outcome. There are a ton of these out there.

In short, I would aim for the fund or funds who have a strategy, reputation and position in the landscape that is really exciting to you. If it’s not one of those funds in the end, those wants will bring you in the direction of similar opportunities which might even be better. 


Based on the insights from Wall Street Oasis, navigating PE recruiting from an IB background involves a strategic balance between ambition and realism. Here’s a structured approach to help you decide whether to aim for the top-tier funds or focus on solid MMPE positions:

  1. Assess Your Profile Realistically: Given your background from a mid BB bank and a decent academic record, you have a competitive profile. However, the historical data from your group shows a trend towards MMPE exits, with fewer moves to UMM or larger funds.

  2. Understand the Headhunter Dynamics: As you mentioned, headhunters play a crucial role in the recruiting process. They often have a significant influence on which candidates get opportunities at top funds. If you aim too high and miss, it might affect your chances in the next cycle, as headhunters might perceive you as less desirable.

  3. Risk vs. Reward: Weigh the potential disappointment of not trying for a top-tier fund against the practical benefits of securing a position at a MMPE fund. Remember, a solid MMPE position can also lead to excellent career development and future opportunities.

  4. Long-Term Career Goals: Consider your long-term career aspirations. If your ultimate goal is to reach a top-tier fund, starting at a MMPE might provide valuable experience that could bridge the gap to a larger fund later in your career.

  5. Networking and Mentorship: Leverage your network to gain insights from those who have made similar decisions. Seek mentorship within your current organization or through industry connections to get personalized advice based on your specific situation.

  6. Backup Plan: Always have a contingency plan. If you decide to reach for a top-tier fund and it doesn’t work out, ensure you have solid relationships with headhunters and a clear plan to pursue opportunities at MMPE funds.

In conclusion, while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, a balanced approach that considers both your career aspirations and the realistic outcomes based on your current position might be the most prudent strategy. This decision-making process involves a careful evaluation of your personal career goals, the market dynamics, and the specific circumstances of your current employment.

Sources: PE Recruiting: Deciding what firm is the best fit, Any PE people considered leaving to pursue search fund/entrepreneurship paths?, Basic Questions About PE Recruiting Answered, The PE career path,

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.

Was in the situation you described at a “mid-tier” BB. Went through on cycle pretty unprepared, struck out at 2 MFs before realizing I was doxxing myself and pulling out of on-cycle. Grinded my ass off for several months to get to the point where I felt really confident, and then told HH’s that I was open to new opportunities. Ultimately landed an MF after 4-5 failed processes at other UMM/MFs. Things worked out well for me because the fund I’m joining is in my opinion a better place for me than the 2 that I struck out at during on-cycle, but that just as easily could’ve not been the case. So make sure you’re very prepared before going into processes for firms you really like. I’d 100% aim high — the quality of looks you get at a “mid-tier” BB is grossly underestimated on this site in my personal experience. If you want to land a MF/UMM firm, and you’re at one of the banks you mentioned, the opportunity will be available. You just need to make sure you’re incredibly prepared, and that you don’t go into a process without confidence in your preparation.


thanks. how important would you say are the HH meetings coming from a mid BB? Im assuming if someone's at GS TMT or PJT RSSG they'll have more leeway. 

Also, were you in a top group? (M&A for example)


If you’re ready, definitely shoot your shot at the best funds you get interviews at. If you get an interview, you’re in the running. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Just don’t interview at a ton of shops during training if you aren’t ready and burn the opportunity to interview there for off-cycle.


Bump - interested in hearing people's opinions on how they would've determined whether they're ready or not after having gone through on-cycle 


My mid BB was the first offer I got. Had interviews at other firms but chose the mid BB as I liked the people. But this wouldn't be relevant to a PE firm (they just assume that's the best offer you got)

Also, I'd like a MF/UMM because I want to maximize my optionality. I don't know exactly what I want so I figure it would be easiest to go from MF/UMM -> LMM for example, than LMM -> MF/UMM


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