2020 On-Cycle Recruiting Anecdote

On-cycle PE recruiting is a nightmare. Your sense of self-worth becomes tied to a result that is ultimately out of your hands. Rejection is inevitable and crushing. Remember this is a small step in your career and working in private equity is not actually that sick. From my understanding, it's a lot like banking with mildly better hours and comp.

(My CV: HYPSW, EVR/LAZ/MOELIS, accepted offer with 30bn+ PE fund)


August - September: Asked second years for HH's contacts and emailed them. This was basically a waste of time.

October: The headhunters email you...

Tier One:


  • Only HH that had me do a paper LBO
  • Blew me off until they had opportunities for me (can't really blame them for this, but it hurt at the time)
  • Have massive client list (not distributed) / arguable the best
  • Set up a number of cocktail events and interviews with funds that were great fits despite not being very communicative with me directly


  • Really professional and play a critical role in on-cycle process
  • Called me 2am on Saturday night before process kicked off just to check in and let me know I didn't have any interviews the following day
  • Eventually got me my offer


  • Pretty much blew me off, but have awesome client list including Centerbridge, Bain


  • Blackstone
  • Sent me a lot of opportunities early on that never turned into interviews

Tier Two:


  • work with a few solid clients, Harvest, Veritas
  • Didn't hand out client list / mostly off-cycle


  • Really nice, but not very helpful with on-cycle for me


  • Really nice and communicative throughout process
  • Apollo / distributed client list in full


  • Surprisingly helpful, spoke on the phone with a few HHs
  • Set up interview for me with a $20bn fund on afternoon's notice

Tier Three / Off-cycle:

Exchanged Emails with: GloCap, Oxbridge, Search One, Odyssey, Opus
- Basically played no role in on-cycle process, but I've heard Oxbridge was helpful for others


  1. The model component of interviews is easy. I showed up to a model test that was canceled because "there wasn't time." Most models are income statements and returns -- no balance sheet projections and interviewers don't have time to look at your work. Make sure you can do a paper LBO though and speak about the drivers of a model, but don't obsess over this aspect of the process. When you are given a model test, make sure you READ the prompt and think about the big picture. I know it sounds cliche, but it's how I screwed up.

  2. Know your deal experience cold and don't bullsh*t. This was the main component of my interviews and where I screwed up the most. Realistically, when you interview you will be the second analyst on your deals and will not have done much. Actually spend time with the company model and make sure you understand the rationale for the transaction even if you've been on the deal for two weeks. Be able to answer any questions about the business. Read the company's 10-k. Ask your Mom/ Dad / GF / BF to quiz you. Don't put anything on your resume you don't feel comfortable taking about.

  3. Don't take anything personally. If you don't get an invite to interview with a firm, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. Communicate with HHs and try to create the opportunities you want. When they aren't responsive, don't worry about it, just follow up and be patient when needed.

  4. Networking may actually matter a little in this process. Don't take it for granted you will get interviews. Figure out which HH covers each firm you are interested in and express a specific interest in these funds. Generally, narrow your focus as much as possible.


  • A lot of firms aren't filling their entire classes on-cycle. Apollo said they are interviewing for certain groups ad-hoc by the end of the year, but are done for now.

  • You have a huge advantage if you wait to recruit in your second year. This may mean you will have to do three years or banking, but seriously, you get better looks / interviews.

  • When it comes to doing your job, you have to accept you are going to let others down and screw up. Just do you best and overcommunicate throughout.

Everything works out.


Comments (28)

Nov 10, 2018 - 9:18pm

Could you describe in a bit more detail what the modeling portion looked like? If not completing a full LBO with balance sheet projections, is it as simple as forecasting out the income statement with a revenue model - basically a paper LBO in excel with some additional details from a CIM?

Nov 11, 2018 - 2:41pm

Also went through the process a few weeks back -- really depends on the firm, but I had three model tests that varied widely in terms of intensity/length. One top-tier MM gave me a CIM and 2.5 hours to build a full LBO (didn't really care about BS, but still pretty comprehensive) and to prepare an investment recommendation. Another UMM gave me a pretty straightforward prompt and two hours to fill out a pre-formatted shell, but that was actually kind of annoying bc everyone builds their models a little differently. Once you have the actual model fundamentals down, the key is to hone in on what your cases are going to be and be thoughtful about what haircuts/adjustments you're making to the management case. Like OP said a lot of it is seeing the big picture once you have the muscle memory side down.

Nov 10, 2018 - 9:32pm

In my experience, yeah essentially a paper lBO, with a debt schedule.. think circ. / kill switch. Also for paper LBO questions, don't assume they will be structured in a straightforward way. You may have to back into a multiple for example.

Things to be able to do:
- Set up sources and uses
- Project income statement and WC with reasonable assumptions
- Build debt schedule with cash waterfall
- Calculate returns and build in sensitivities i.e. data tables, OFFSET functions for "Base", "Upside", "Downside", circular IFs, whatever you want

Nov 20, 2018 - 5:27pm

You mentioned that analysts recruiting during their second year have a large advantage.

If an analyst doesn't land anything during the recruiting cycle of their first year, is it possible to recruit again during their second year?

Nov 25, 2018 - 11:35pm

I think this is actually changing -- HHs are more forgiving to candidates who recruit in their first year and then go again for on-cycle as second years. For this to work though, you need to be a top ranked analyst and you need to have preserved your rep with HHs by making it reasonably far in processes your first time around and being selective about which interviews you take in your first year i.e. if you take 15 interviews from October - March and blow them, Amity isnt going to put you in front of Bain when on-cycle comes back around.

Nov 25, 2018 - 11:22pm

Semi-target / non-target kids did fine if they were prepared, focused and confident. One second year from a semi-target I work with is going to a MF, a few kids from non-targets decided to hold off on recruiting or target MMs in cities near where they grew up / went to school though in part I think because they thought these opportunities were more realistic. As a result, they are doing more off-cycle.

Preparation, confidence and search focus are under-acknowledged variables in this process I think. Non-target kids who are set on the MF route may have to hustle a little harder to get interviews, but they are used to doing this from IB recruitment and are better prepared technically than kids from Princeton who studied Global Affairs in college and have been coasting. Theres a contingent of hardos from Ivey/Queens/SMU/Indiana for example who seem to crush it and they have a tight group of alumni who really help each other out, potentially more so than kids from Wharton who might be less likely to go to bat for one another because theyre a dime a dozen.

Nov 23, 2018 - 2:09pm

+1 on this post.

Just finished on-cycle recruiting as a 1st year and it was a whirlwind of a process. OP couldn't be more right when saying you get caught up in tying your self worth to the firm you land with or the firms you're rejected by - a bad way of thinking about a process that can be extremely at random when it comes down to it in the end. Getting a MF offer was relieving, yes, but it was such a brutal process that comes with a real lack of information and disclosure that you don't really know what to expect from your future team/firm. Is comp better? Yes. Hours better? Yes (from people I've talked to at the firm). Is it guaranteed to be everything you've ever wanted? Probably not.

We're still essentially fresh out of college, and tying your self-worth to the second firm you ever work for seems crazy, but we all fall victim to it at some point.

Have confidence in yourself and see everything as an opportunity to learn more, have more responsibility, and become better. Not the end all be all to achieving ultimate prestige.

Stay humble fellow monkeys.

Nov 26, 2018 - 11:06am

Thanks for doing this. I'm an incoming FT BB analyst for 2019. You mentioned to know your deal experience cold. An analyst in my group texted me and told me that the first-years started interviewing for PE at the end of October. Their start date was mid August. With interviews starting at the end of October leaving analysts with ~ 3 months of experience on the desk, how do you navigate the deal experience portion of the interview process effectively if the majority of your time is spent on an IPO (little modeling) compared to an M&A deal?

I'm in a coverage group that does both M&A and financing so I know I will get my M&A experience, however, I am worried about not getting that experience in the first three months. What would you recommend? Did you have any friends that had this situation recruiting? Thank you.

Nov 26, 2018 - 8:42pm

I had great deal experience on paper going into recruiting (M&A buyside, sellside, RX) but the problem was I hadn't built any models for these projects and was staffed with second years so I was updating annotated stock charts, scrubbing comps and doing very basic stuff that wasn't impressive sounding at all.

Going into interviews I realized a little late I didn't really understand some very basic stuff about my deals and clients. I was reading 10k "Business Descriptions" the night before interviews feeling like an idiot. Interviewers understand the absurdity of the situation and don't expect you to have run a sellside all by yourself in you first two months on the job. Your staffing are out of your control, but my advice would be to become an expert on the businesses your working with and try to have a nuanced view on your industry if you're in a coverage group. You'll spend 80% of most interviews on this so you need to have things to say.

Nov 28, 2018 - 10:22am

In a similar vein to banker832, I found it more effective to have 1 or 2 deals on your resume that you know top to bottom cold, rather than the reverse. I realized that when I had three deals on my resume I increase the chances that my interviewer knows a lot about the transaction or the space, and you just leave more room for not knowing something, as they can get VERY granular if they are familiar with it.

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