It's been several weeks now since I received my offer from a top MM PE firm. As several other users can attest to, the PE recruiting process can be an absolute grind. After having had some time to reflect on the entire process, I thought I'd share my experience in the hope that it might answer some questions or help some of the other users on this site. Just a quick disclaimer, I could expand on any part of the post below but I'll try to be as concise as possible and if anyone has any specific questions, I'd be happy to elaborate on any of the steps below.
1. Initial Outreach
With a year and a half of investment banking experience under me, I began to think about exit opportunities that would fit my interests. After doing some research (WSO's PE interview guide was extremely helpful here), I knew that the following factors were of utmost importance for me:
- Middle-market experience - Lean deal teams, holistic experience and businesses with more room for professionalization and organic growth
- Sector Focus - I had more of a preference for a generalist fund or at least a fund with a sector focus that differed from my current industry group in investment banking so that I could expand my skill set a little further
- Location - This likely ties into the culture I prefer in the workplace but also brought me closer to friends and family
After establishing my preferences, I began reaching out to a select few MM PE associates that I had worked with on various transactions to get a better understanding for the job and their responsibilities. This was more of a final check to ensure that the things I had read about and researched were accurate representations of individuals who currently worked in the industry.
I spent the months of November and December laying the foundations for my prep and broke it down into the following parts:
- Modeling - Paper LBOs, Quick LBOs and Full LBOs
- & Accounting Refresher - Focused on understanding the value drivers in a LBO and going over basic accounting concepts and more nuanced examples
- Deal Sheets - Detailed summaries of all my deals that I listed on my resume including transaction points, business characteristics, my opinion on the deal and my responsibilities during the deal process
- Resume Review - I spent a considerable amount of time honing my resume and was fortunate to have a few friends in PE who helped me hone it and considerably improve it
- Fund Outreach - I compiled a list of ~ 70 firms in my preferred locations and began mapping out ways I could speak to people there about their experiences and ultimately even interview there, if possible. I also began generally tracking news on these firms (fund raises, new investments, etc.)
- Headhunter Outreach - I began reaching out for initial conversations with HHs and tried to be as specific as possible with my interests
- GoBuyside Profile - I didn't end up using the site much but it was useful to have this set up so I had a general sense of when recruiting officially began and if any of my target firms had already given out offers
I'm happy to go into more specifics on any of the above points but in general, I would stay back after work (regardless if that was 11 pm or 2 am) and spend an hour or two building out models, reviewing my notecards and preparing outreach emails based on my target list of firms. The conversations I had with associates at my target firms allowed me to get a better picture of the firm, its goals and objectives and my potential experience there. This allowed me to tailor my answers during interviews and with other members of those firms.
All in all, I interviewed at 10 firms and had 6 final round interviews (over the course of 3 months) that culminated in 1 offer from my #1 choice. I could dive into a lot of details here but here are a few of my thoughts from the overall interview experience:
- Within each firm's process, the interview structure differed based on the culture, sector focus and fund size. Some firms preferred more behavioral-oriented phone interviews and more technical in-person interviews (quick case studies, in-person modeling tests) while others preferred quick technical questions in the first few interviews (LBO theory and Paper LBOs) and more behavioral in-person interviews coupled with a take-home case study of sorts
- Don't underestimate the importance of being able to speak to your deals. I had several interviews where I was pressed on numerous facets of my deals and my opinions on the business (valuation, competitive strengths, broader industry outlook, transaction structure and risk assessment). Be prepared to expand upon your responsibilities in the process and how those shaped your thoughts on the overall deal/outcome
- Ask good questions. Some topics and examples include - overall fund strategy and recent performance, a specific investment, broader PE industry outlook and background and rationale for making the move to PE (I reserve this one for associates)
4. Miscellaneous Thoughts
- Approach initial headhunter conversations as though they are first-round interviews and try to be specific with your interests. I found that most headhunters were receptive to this approach as it allowed them to categorize you effectively and it made my search more efficient
- Having the backing of my senior bankers was of tremendous help as it helped validate my work and responsibilities on my deals while getting my resume in the right hands early on in the recruiting process
- After a few final round interviews and no offers, I found it extremely helpful to solicit feedback from individuals at those firms that I either knew or had connected well with during the interview process. This ultimately helped me hone my preparation for future interviews
- When speaking to your deals, keep the introduction succinct and relevant. You want the interviewer to get a good sense for the business and the nature of the transaction and let him/her lead the interview with more pointed questions. I found that this helped make the interview more conversational and less burdensome for both sides
- Make sure you practice your modelling on a single screen/laptop to simulate in-person tests. Similarly, your models don't have to be overly complex or elaborate. In crunch-time situations, it's about being effective, efficient and having a simple framework that gets you to the right solution in a logical manner
- The is designed to ultimately give the firm the candidate they are looking for (from a fit and technical expertise standpoint). Fit is crucial for a lot of PE firms and each firm has its nuances and distinct culture
- There will be times when the process seems excruciatingly long and couple that with your regular work, it might seem downright impossible. It's crucial that during those times, you revert back to the prep habits you established earlier and remember that if you continue taking the right steps, things will fall into place eventually
This post is long enough as it stands so I'll end it here. As was the case during my IB search, this site was a tremendous resource to me during my PE recruiting process and so I want to open this post up to any questions people might have on my background, prep work, interview process and such.
Edit: Wanted to thank a few users that I've followed closely and that have offered me advice at various points in the past - @CompBanker, @State of Trance, @thebrofessor, "@Simple As..., @BlackHat, @labanker, @Marcus_Halberstram, @NorthSider, @Candor and many others. Appreciate all the help and the advice - wouldn't have made it this far without it.