Private Equity Interview Questions - 13 Topics to Know

Patrick Curtis

Reviewed by

Patrick Curtis

Expertise: Private Equity | Investment Banking


February 9, 2022

Private equity jobs are some of the most coveted positions in finance. That’s why less than 1% of applicants end up with the job. This guide's goal is - if you follow its instructions - to drastically improve your odds from 1%, so you can land that private equity dream job.

Guide to Questions in a PE Interview

Private Equity Interview QuestionsYou can expect these types of questions during your private equity interviews:

  • Fit Questions
  • Case Study
  • Deal Experience
  • LBO Modeling
  • Technical Questions
  • Behavioral Questions

You can prepare for every one of these types of questions. If you want to land the coveted position in private equity, then you better be ready to put in the hours to prepare for all of these questions and cases.

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private equity interview preparation for Fit Questions

Here are some examples of fit questions:

  • Why private equity?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • What makes you a good teammate?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

All of these questions will pop up invariably as you go through your PE interview, so how do you ace them?

private equity interviewsThere are two aspects to answering these questions flawlessly. First, know your story and tell it like a master bard. When they ask you about yourself, they’re judging whether they would want to work with you. These questions hold serious weight; use them to make yourself a desirable coworker.

Second, have a few backup stories in mind. Stories that effectively portray you as a good teammate, a problem-solver, a go-getter. Have these stories and apply them to whatever the interviewer is asking you. Make sure your resume lines up with these, and check out WSO's free Private Equity Resume Template for more. Tell them with confidence, clarity, and relevance, and you’ll be putting yourself in good territory.

Private Equity Case Interview Analysis

This was originally posted by @TheKing". This post has been edited and formatted.

In the large majority of your interviews, you will get asked to walk through a case study. So what is a case study?

While it varies from firm to firm, here's what it generally will look like.

  • You get a copy of a CIM (Confidential Information Memorandum), usually from an old sell-side process. 
  • In my interview process, I ended up creating a two-page memo that more or less condensed the important parts of the CIM, analyzed the pros/cons of the business, and included a SWOT analysis.
  • So how do you ace this aspect of the interview? Remember, you're trying to determine whether or not the target company is a good candidate for a leveraged buyout.

Factors to Consider in the PE Case Interview

Below the OP reviews the factors that you should consider when completing your private equity case study in interviews.

private equity case interview

  • Historical and Projected Growth and Profitability: 

    Ensure that the company will be able to handle the additional debt brought on through an LBO while also providing for a strong return on investment through growth in revenue and profitability.

  • Diversity of Customers & Products of Target Company: A company might have strong financials at first glance, but you'll want to make sure they aren't overly concentrated in one product area or with one customer. If there is any notable concentration, it had better be able to prove that it's got sticky customer relationships, so to speak. 
  • Differentiating Factors of The Business:This ties in with profitability and customers/ products. Does the target company have specific technology or processes that will enable them to continue to grow and maintain margins going forward or are they susceptible to margin erosion as competition increases?

private equity industry targets

  • Industry Focus for the Target Business 

    Is the company in a growing industry? How will it handle potential economic turmoil? How well is the target positioned in its industry? Is it a leader?

  • Strength of Management for Target CompanyWhat's the management team like? Is it a founder-owned business? Has the team been together a long time? How built out is the team?

    The strength of the management team is very important, and it plays a particularly important role in the middle market. Oftentimes, you'll look at companies with very thin management teams. Or companies with owners who are looking to cash out and take a smaller role in the company going forward. These cases allow a PE firm to potentially add value by placing solid professionals into management roles.

  • Exit Potential and IRR for Target CompanyA company can be an absolute cash cow, but you'll need to be able to exit the investment at some point over a reasonable time frame (generally five years) in order to generate a suitable return on investment for your investors. You'll want to have some ideas as to where suitable buyers might come from.
  • Closing QuestionsNow, reading a CIM will get you pretty far. You'll learn a great deal about the target company, its growth prospects, its industries, and its alleged upside potential. The CIM is a sales document. So, while you can glean a ton of useful information from a careful read-through of a CIM, you'll also want to have something of a skeptical eye. Invariably, you'll have questions and concerns that you'd like to raise with management in the next round of the sell-side process.

    Here are a few examples of questions you might ask.

    • What is the biggest challenge your company faces?
    • Who are the most important members of your team and why?
    • What are your company's pain points, and how can we help to address them?

    This is a great time to come up with specific questions based upon issues you uncovered in your read-through of the CIM.

Private Equity Interview - Deal Experience

This was originally posted by @Candor", a private equity associate. This post has been edited and formatted.

  • I will say that the three biggest areas to focus on are, first and foremost, the deals on your resume, secondly understanding everything there is to know about an LBO (on a theoretical and conceptual level), and third, being able to walk through paper lbos/case studies. 
  • In some of my interviews, we got REALLY granular into my deal experience, and it was good that I had prepped so thoroughly. So, you have to know everything about them.
  • Since deal experience makes up roughly a third of the interview process, preparation is crucial. Read about your deal and understand every facet of it, in order to best prepare yourself for when the questions inevitably come.
  • Read websites/articles about your deal and take notes. Read initiating coverage reports on the two companies involved in one of your deals. Read comprehensive research reports on the sub-industry that the companies are from.

More PE Interview Questions

For more threads on detailed answers to private equity interview common questions and top-notch answers, check out our Top FAQ page's PE section here.

Interested in Private Equity? Here's What You Need to Break In

Private equity recruiting is ten times more cut-throat than anything you've ever experienced before. If you want to break into private equity, you need to be well-practiced in the technical aspects of the interview.

PE Interview Course Here

Patrick Curtis is a member of WSO Editorial Board which helps ensure the accuracy of content across top articles on Wall Street Oasis. Prior to becoming our CEO & Founder at Wall Street Oasis, Patrick spent three years as a Private Equity... This content was originally created by member KeyboardMaster2 and has evolved with the help of our private equity mentors.


I had a recent an interview for a relatively large PE fund (think First Reserve or Hellman Friedman) and I received - for the most part - pretty easy questions. The questions that I kept getting were ones that they used to judge your technical skill; they were "Walk me through a few deals you worked on...your role, how did you model the deal, what were the expected synergies etc..." They also wanted some of the figures(7x EBITDA or 2.5 Price/Book ratio)and the kind of terms you had in the deal (did you use PIK toggles?).


I was asked to expand upon the questions I saw as a consultant interviewing at top middle market shops. I would say 90% of the questions were one of the following:

-Why PE? -Investment-focused cases (a lot like consulting case interviews, but more along the lines of 'How would you think about investing in company X?) -Walk me through your resume -Tell me about case X you worked on -Tell me how companies make money in X industry (where X is an industry I had a lot of experience in) -Do you think there are any opportunities for investment in industry X? What are they?

-When can you start? -Are you sure you want to move to city X?

I was asked to expand upon the questions I saw as a consultant interviewing at top middle market shops. I would say 90% of the questions were one of the following:

-Why PE? -Investment-focused cases (a lot like consulting case interviews, but more along the lines of 'How would you think about investing in company X?) -Walk me through your resume -Tell me about case X you worked on -Tell me how companies make money in X industry (where X is an industry I had a lot of experience in) -Do you think there are any opportunities for investment in industry X? What are they?

-When can you start? -Are you sure you want to move to city X?

Well this is an old thread...but I have a couple of questions.

  1. Whats a good response from a consultant ...when asked .."why PE" ? I'm curious to learn how you handled this particular question at the PE interview that you may have had till now.

  2. A lot of threads and folks on WSO seem to suggest 'Operations consulting' as another way to get into PE space.. what are your thoughts on the same. Did you have any such prior exposure...if did you leverage the same ?

  3. Did you manage to leverage any particular industry focussed experience that you may have had ?

  4. Whats the profile that was offered to you at the PE firm. Did your past as a consultant have any bearing on your workprofile at the PE firm ..was it any different from your peers from finance or consulting background ? Would there be a difference in the nature ofwork offered to folks with different backgrounds at Pre MBA associate level.



At KKR they don't typically ask you modeling questions until the final round, which is a multi-hour "case study" during which you get a 10K and need to build an LBO model from scratch and present your findings to 2-3 interviewers. However, when I interviewed there I was asked some consulting-style business case questions during both the first and the second round. Good luck.



could you just answer one more question: the LBO model you need to build in the final round, is that a quick-and-dirty valuation model or is it actually a full-blown model including forecasted financial statements? Or in general, how detailed do they test you on modeling skills? The thing is that I've built a few LBOs before but am certainly no modeling whiz, ie, I certainly don't know every remote specialty.

If you could give me some advice on this, that would be very helpful.

Cheers, A.


I feel like at this point, the interview process comes full circle and boils down to the softer skills that are typically associated with early interviews: fit/personality/passion.

Explain why you fit the culture of the firm, what about them jives with your personality? Why this firm from a work standpoint? Is it the type of deals? The small/large teams? etc etc. I'd have a couple reasons and make sure you're passionate on both points, You wan't the boss convinced that this is 100% the place you want to be.

In terms of making yourself likable- reading a cliff notes version of How to Win Friends and Influence People might be useful reading before the big day,


Not sure if it's too late, but you're already doing yourself a disservice by having so little faith in yourself.

If you're the finalist and have passed the prerequisite technical tests then your personality, confidence, and fervent desire for the position will secure you that job.

You need to enter that room like you're dragging a 12 inch rod, but do it humbly. Make sure the guy interviewing you knows that you, the guy in front of him, will outwork, out sweat, out bleed every single candidate who is also interviewing. Let your passion for the position shine and be known, all while having a soft encounter and inviting presence, as to not intimidate the interviewer, but welcome him.

There's no WSJ article you're going to spit out that's going to swoon him to your side over someone else. It's about charisma. Now go get em tiger.


I so far only found case studies for consulting companies. Is it similar and then related more to M&A related issues ?

Nevermind. I found it here. So it is about LBO models and doing a presentation on a target company.

So thanks for the help.

"Make 'Nanas, not war! "

Not sure I follow - are you an undergrad who is interviewing for a PE position at a small firm?

In general / for most interviews, be prepared to succinctly answer the following (**these are simple questions, but key is to know answers inside and out, and to be able to tell your story in a clear fashion): (1) Walk me through your resume - **KEY is to tell a cogent, logical story in 2 min or so

(2) Why PE? - **KEY is to understand why are want to work in the industry. common answers include working w/mgt teams to make long-term investment to improves business etc, then tie back to what you've done in past in #1 above

(3) Why X firm? --** KEY is understand firm (e.g., look at past deals, industry, office location, target size, etc.) + how your interest and experience (e.g., #1-2 above) make you an excellent fit


Understand the PE role. Have a pitch ready, was asked before. Know a specific industry if this PE shop being as small as it is, more than likely has a speciality id likes to advise on. Might want to know some deal structure as well. One of the main roles it seems you will be doing is databasing and cold-calling. Explain a situation where you needed to network, and know how to use sort facitilities within excel very well.


TPG is actually in SF.

typically, phone screen and then 1 superday, although it could be several rounds. If you're more local, the firm will be more likely to take its time with you. If you're on the edge after 1 superday, they might give you another chance, but there's a good chance they'll just fill the slot. Several non-NY funds also goto NY to do superdays, since not everyone can bail from work on a business day.


Unless i'm mistaken, Ft. Worth has an office, a partner sits there, as well as some backoffice functions. The corporation is based on TX, for tax purposes.

Everything for North America is run out of SF., the P (pacific) part of TPG.

This is publicly disclosed in this article:…

(not being snarky, just substantiating from public sources)

Best Response

This is something you'll almost certainly see if you move along in a process at a middle market PE firm. I know I had to do it with the firm I ended up working at. You get a CIM and are asked to throw together a basic LBO and to write up an investment memo. The fun of my process was that the end product was very much in my hands. I ended up going with a two pager that more or less condensed the important parts of the CIM, analyzed the pros / cons of the business, and included a SWOT analysis.

As to your questions, here are my thoughts:

1.) Assuming I'm industry agnostic here, I'd try and focus on:

--Historical and projected growth and profitability --Diversity of customers / products (i.e. make sure they aren't overly concentrated in one product or with one customer) --Differentiating factors of the business (i.e. do they have specific technology or processes that will enable them to continue to grow and maintain margins going forward, or are they susceptible to margin erosion as competition increases) --Industry focus. Is the company in a growing industry? How will it handle economic turmoil? How well is it positioned in its industry?

2.) For a generic LBO candidate, I'd rank as follows:

--Profitability (because they need to be able to handle a substantial debt load) --Growth (since you need to make a return on your investment) --Management (since you won't get solid profitability or growth without good management at the company) --Exit (since you'll need to be able to find buyers willing to pay a reasonable price for the company to achieve your IRR hurdles) --Market Share (this is less relevant, a company can be a small player that's poised to take share from its competitors or a growing company with dominant market share)

3.) I'm not entirely sure what you are asking here. But, I suppose you could simply discuss the makings of a good LBO and how you achieve good returns. To which I would say something along the lines of:

--It is important to look for companies with growth trajectories and strong margins that will either be sustainable or expand. Companies that can weather strong or weak economic times and that aren't at risk of being made obsolete by new technology or processes. If you can find a company with a strong and reality-based growth case and solid sustainable margins, you have a good LBO candidate that should be able to deliver solid returns. Ideally, when you invest, you'll want to guarantee a base level of returns. Perhaps through a preferred equity investment (using some sort of preferred / common split will enable the sponsor to lock in a base IRR, say 8%.) However, any serious LBO candidate will deliver returns beyond that over a 5 year time frame. If you can exit the investment early, that's fantastic. But, assume you'll be in for five years or so before you can fully realize all of management's plans for growth and what not. You can go on and on here, but you get the point.

4.) This is essentially a "what are your top questions for management" question. It's tough to boil it down to three questions, but let's give it a shot anyway (from an industry agnostic POV, obviously). These assume that you've spent time with the company's CIM and financials and this is the icing on the cake, so to speak:

--What is the biggest challenge your company faces? --Who are the most important members of your team and why? --What are your company's pain points and how can we help to address them?

5.) I generally look for the following things in a management team:

--Extensive relevant industry experience --Cohesion (i.e. they work well together and have been working together to deliver measurable results for some time) --Hunger for more (not satisfied with where they are at, clear desire to take the company to the next level) --A desire to re-invest in the business as part of the transaction (to get management aligned with the sponsor) --Sophistication to handle PE ownership and increased financial demands (because of the debt load and demands for growth and profitability from the company's new financial investors)

Hope that helps. Would be interested to see what other people have to say.


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