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.

My ranking of headhunters, largely based on scope and quality of client base, would be roughly as follows:

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 (26)

Feb 10, 2018

+1 really helpful insight

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Feb 10, 2018

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?

    • 1
Feb 10, 2018

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.

    • 1
Feb 10, 2018

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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Feb 10, 2018
HBIC Bexely:

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"?

It's often from 2nd years who they had already placed or otherwise spoken with in the prior cycle.

    • 1
Feb 10, 2018

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?

Feb 10, 2018

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.

    • 1
Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Feb 10, 2018

Ratio took Apollo, Golden Gate, Lindsay Goldberg

Feb 10, 2018

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?

Feb 11, 2018

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.

Feb 11, 2018

How does the potential career-track opportunities thing work? Will firms outright say you could potentially stay on longer term or come back after business school during interviews

Feb 11, 2018

Yes, they often will.

Moreover, it speaks for itself when a critical mass of MDs and Principals joined a firm as Associates and never got MBAs.

Feb 14, 2018

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?

Thanks!

    • 1
Feb 16, 2018

Also interested

Feb 11, 2018

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)?

Feb 11, 2018

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.

    • 3
Feb 13, 2018

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.

    • 1
Feb 14, 2018

Good post.

In my experience, I thought CPI, Henkel, Ratio, and Odyssey were all very responsive and sent me a lot of opportunities. CarterPierce emailed a lot of opportunities too, although a lot of them were for opportunities that didn't match my skill-set/interest.

    • 1
Feb 14, 2018

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

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Best Response
Feb 15, 2018

Yah, sometimes they look at white males from non-targets

    • 17
Feb 15, 2018

I spit out my coffee at this, bravo.

Mar 28, 2018

thank you for being honest :)

Feb 16, 2018

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."

Feb 19, 2018

Thank you for the post

Mar 2, 2018
Mar 28, 2018