AMA: 2nd year BA/A/AC at MBB going to UMM/MF in 2020

embeebee's picture
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Graduated from a non-target university and joined MBB at a mid-size office. Just signed a UMM/MF PE offer during 2020 on cycle.

Feel free to ask me anything related to experience at MBB, PE recruitment, etc.

Comments (59)

Dec 13, 2018

Congratulations, great to hear. And thanks for doing this. Two questions:

1) Historically, has the firm you are joining hired consultants or are you one of the very few?
2) Coming from consulting, was your interview process different? Technically-wise, did you have just a paper LBO, a one-hour computer LBO, or a full-blown 3 hour LBO? Did they ask a lot of technical questions in general?


Dec 13, 2018

To answer your questions:

1) I'd put UMM/MFs into 3 buckets of consultant friendliness (I'm in consulting, so naturally I talk in threes):
- Rarely touch consultants (BX, Carlyle, KKR)
- Good mix of bankers and consultants (H&F, Bain Cap)
- Very consultant friendly (Sycamore, Golden Gate)

Without disclosing too much, I will be joining a firm in the 2nd/3rd bucket. In my opinion, consultants are set up for failure if they join a firm in the 1st bucket since they will mostly be doing modeling and can't leverage their operational / softer skill set from consulting. As such, I focused my recruitment efforts on firms that were open to hiring consultants and networked with alumni from MBB with a fairly high hit rate.

2) Your interview process will almost always be dependent on where the firm fits in the aforementioned buckets. The banker-heavy MFs will give you a full 3 hour model, the 2nd bucket will either give a shorter modeling test (Ex: This year, Bain Cap gave a ~1 hour model test that was more operationally focused) or give paper LBOs, and the 3rd bucket will only give you paper LBOs. Outside of modeling, I was asked some technicals but they were fairly light (how do you calculate LFCF, walk me through the 3 statements if D&A goes up by 10, etc.)

In terms of initial headhunter interviews - I received no paper LBOs, but many of my friends in IB were given a paper LBO by some of the HHs like CPI.

Hope this is enough detail, happy to elaborate if needed!

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Dec 13, 2018

Curious how having a consulting background actually applies on the job at more consultant friendly firms vs. those that don't usually hire consultants. What are you doing as a former consultant at the Associate level that wouldn't be outsourced to consulting firms to begin with? By no means am I implying you can't do the PE job or that consulting background isn't useful. The underlying question is really how are the responsibilities of a junior transactor any different between BX vs. Golden Gate, when all these firms have networks of operating partners, consultants, etc. that are responsible for operational initiatives. Aren't jr transactors ultimately deal guys?

Dec 13, 2018

Thanks for doing this and congrats on your success! Two questions:

  1. How did coming from a non-target impact your process? Specifically with regards to getting contacted by HHs and getting interviews at top firms.
  2. What was your preparation process for interviews?
Most Helpful
Dec 13, 2018

1 - In my opinion, coming from a non-target university isn't too big of a factor for PE recruitment - your current employer plays a much bigger role. Of course, if you're from HYPS etc. and have a 4.0 GPA, it's going to help. But being at MBB help mitigate my non-target background. I would say that almost all of the major HHs contacted me (CPI, Amity, HSP, Ratio, etc.)

2 - This answer can be an entire post, and I will share a detailed walkthrough with WSO in the coming weeks when I have more free time. In short, my preparation was as follows:

Background/Firm search: This might be the most important part of the entire process. It seems trivial/silly, but knowing what firm you want will help you tremendously as you navigate the process. Choosing a city and type of firm is very important for your professional and personal life, so I spent ~1 month doing the following:
- Looking through WSO and company websites to narrow down a list of ~30 PE firms that I could potentially be interested in (city, size, prestige, and consultant friendliness were my biggest drivers)
- Look through LinkedIn/company websites to see the breakdown of the current class (X% consultant, how many from non ivy-league schools, B-School mandatory, etc.)
- Make tiers that will help you to prioritize your top firms --> this will allow you to make snap decisions during the process itself when organizing interviews.

Prep for HH meetings:
- There's some debate on the importance of these meetings, but I treated the HH meetings as first round interviews.
- I made sure I know my story, why PE, why UMM/MF, city, specific firms, etc. and also knew my resume cold because they asked me to walk through some cases I've been on.

Networking: It's difficult to know exactly how much networking helps for PE, but it certainly doesn't hurt. I spoke with 1-2 associates at ~10 firms, and 3 of my scheduled interviews were at these firms. Do I know whether the networking helped? No. But I think it increased my odds of landing an interview.

Interview process itself: This was by far the most time consuming part of the process. I gathered information from all of my mentors/friends who had gone through the process, and had 4 main areas to focus on:
- Behaviorals --> This is important at many PE shops, and I spent a lot of time on this. I made a word doc with ~50 potential questions they may ask, and a few bullets on what my answer would be.
- Deal/Case experience --> Also on the word doc, I wrote 3-4 pages per case/deal on porter's 5 forces, any relevant metrics, my role, etc.
- Technicals --> Used the vault guide, WSO prep pack, and materials that friends from IB sent over to me.
- Modeling --> Similar to the above, used WSO prep back and got ~12 practice model exams from my friends for prep

Note: All of the above was compiled in an excel/word document, which helped me stay organized throughout the process.

Hope this helps!

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Dec 13, 2018

Thank you. Looking forward to the detailed walkthrough. +1

Dec 19, 2018

Thanks for the super helpful AMA!

Quick follow up on technical questions: How complex did yours get?

I would expect to get the standard "walk me through an LBO"/"how does a $10 depreciation expense impact the 3 financial statements"/etc. But did you see any that were significantly more difficult (for someone with a consulting background)?

I also realize that you may have a fairly small sample size given the expediency of your offer, but thought I'd ask regardless.

Dec 13, 2018
  • What types of projects did you work on at MBB?
  • MBB lifestyle?
  • Why the switch?
Dec 13, 2018

For clarification - I'm ~1.5 years into my career at MBB, and leaving for PE in ~1.5 years.

Types of projects: I have exclusively done strategy cases since I joined. I've worked across a few different industries - have mostly done work on 5-10 year strategic plans for companies, growth strategies, etc. Day-to-day is very similar to banking (slide creation and excel work), but we do get a tad more client exposure than IB.

Lifestyle: MBB lifestyle is worse than I thought, BUT it is still a good lifestyle. I usually work ~60-65 hours per week. Compared to banking, this is substantially less. However, I believe that consultants work more intensely during the work week. My friends in IB sit at their desks for hours going on Reddit, go to the gym, and then finish at 11pm after getting some comments from their associate/VP. In consulting, you have a set of deliverable every morning that you have to complete by EOD, and you rarely have time to go to the gym mid-day. On (huge) pro is that your weekends are protected 95% of the time. Monday-Friday hours are relatively similar to banking, but the discrepancy in hours is largely due to the absence of weekend work in consulting.

Why the switch: A few reasons ultimately led me to recruit:
- I love investing/finance --> consulting is a lot of strategy work, building frameworks to help shape decision making, building roadmaps for a company-wide transformation etc. There's also some modeling involved, but it's not financial/valuation modeling. I wanted to spend more of my time looking at a company through a financial lens and consulting doesn't offer that.

  • Responsibility: In IB and consulting, you have very little responsibility until ~6-7 years into your careers when you make VP or equivalent. In PE, you're expected to meet with the CEO/CFO of portfolio companies or target companies on a fairly regular basis. You're expected to perform amazing quality work, but you're given more autonomy to map out your day and see where you can add the most value to your firm.
  • Comp --> Just like any job, compensation plays a large factor. Post B-School roles in consulting pays ~200K all-in, whereas UMM/MF pay 275-400K.
  • Personal --> I don't like the city where i'm currently living, and wanted to move to a bigger city where there's more opportunity for finance roles going forward.
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Dec 13, 2018

How did you managed recruiting as a consultant assuming that you had to travel and you weren't based in NYC?

How many cases/types of cases did you work on so far at your MBB - especially given how early the recruiting cycle was this year?

Dec 13, 2018

This year was a huge blessing for consultants since the process kicked off first thing on Sunday morning for most firms. Fortunately, I was able to catch a flight early on Sunday morning, and didn't miss any of the process. Since it was on Halloween weekend, I heard hilarious stories of people who were blacked out at parties in their costumes and were scheduling interviews with head hunters. Personally, I was very lucky to find out at ~8-9pm that recruiting was potentially kicking off and left my night plans to go pack, and eventually stay up for another 4-5 hours scheduling interviews with HHs.

Regarding your second question - I have done ~4-5 cases over my first 1.5 years in consulting. As mentioned above, I'm a 2nd year BA/A/AC, and didn't recruit in my first year.

Dec 13, 2018

When did recruiting end for you? Did you take leave on monday/tuesday etc?

Dec 13, 2018

Assuming you interviewed at a few of those firms you mentioned can you describe what their processes are like and what type of candidate they each look for? Looks like all their junior teams are fairly small, so they must be pretty selective if they have their pick of bankers and consultants.

Also, why did you skip out on recruiting your first year? Would you have had the option to get promoted and stay in your team if buy side recruiting didn't work out?

Thanks for doing this!

Dec 13, 2018

Your first question is fairly broad - it's hard to describe how every firm runs their process, but i'll try my best to give you an overview of my process. Also, on-cycle and off-cycle are fairly different in terms of interview scheduling, so I'll restrict myself to the-cycle process.

My process went something like this (skipping right to process itself):

Phase 1: sh*t it might be starting: Your buddies start hearing chatter. You check WSO and see a mix of comments ("I'm a VP and you're an idiot if you think it'll start before December" and "hearing it'll kick off within next few days")

Phase 2: F*CK IT ACTUALLY KICKED OFF: Heard from multiple sources that some firms started interviews late on Saturday night. Dropped everything I was doing with friends and went straight home.

Phase 3: Calmed down. Spoke to head hunters: Was on the phone from ~9pm to 1am on the phone with a number of head hunters. I scheduled 4-5 interviews from Sunday-Tuesday (Advice: don't schedule more than 2 interviews per day, try staying in the same/target city - most things happen in NY even if the fund runs out of SF/BOS)

Phase 4: Pack. Sleep for 4 hours. Wake up. Go to airport: Fly to NY and start interviewing.

Phase 5: OFFER: Celebrate. I can finally breathe. Sleep for ~18 hours.

Will provide more detail when I give a walkthrough of my experience in a few weeks.

In terms of the interviews, it really depends on what firm you're interviewing with. All interviews will start and finish within a day (or potentially the following morning if you go into their offices late). The day will likely be a few rounds, where the first round is usually a modeling test, technicals, case studies, etc. Most people get cut in this round. Second round is a mix of resume questions, case/deal experience, and behaviorals. If you get told "we'll call you" or "we'll keep you posted" you're likely cut. Basically, leaving their office = cut from process.

In terms of what candidates they're looking for - once again depends on the type of firm. If you're a MF like Apollo, you're looking exclusively at top groups at PJT/EVR/GS/JP/etc. If you're at a fund like Berkshire Partners, you're looking at a mix of bankers and consultants. No matter the firm, you're looking for high achieving, well polished candidates. You're right in saying that firms can be selective on who they hire: even if you are a machine and have been crushing excel since Kindergarten, you have to be a good cultural fit for them to hire you.

Personally, I didn't feel ready to recruit in my first year. I would have to be ready ~3-6 months into my first job out of undergrad, and I barely knew what an LBO was. If you're not in a rush to leave your job (which I'm not), then having 1+ year of experience will help you a lot during recruitment.


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Dec 14, 2018

This was pretty helpful thank you. You said above you networked with the associates at the funds you targeted, is this done the same way you do in undergrad for internships? Would be helpful to hear your approach, especially when networking with non-alum since you didn't attend a target

Dec 13, 2018

Thanks for doing this, and congrats on your offer!

What industries did you work on in MBB, and did the type of projects/industries you worked on play any role in your recruiting process?

Dec 13, 2018

I've had case/project experience across three sectors: consumers, financials, and healthcare. I think the projects and industries play a partial, albeit slight role. However, I don't think it'll be the reason you get a job in PE. Of course, if you interview at Sycamore which specializes in retail, you should have some retail experience in your last job.

What's more important is being able to speak intelligently about the cases/projects you've been on, your role on the team, if the company you worked on would make a good PE investment, etc.

Dec 14, 2018

Appreciate the answer! I'm currently an undergrad senior headed to MBB after graduation. Is there any specific advice you'd give to better position myself for a PE job down the line?

Dec 14, 2018

Congrats! Thanks for your time in doing the AMA!

Dec 16, 2018

Why did you decide not to do banking out of school (considering you already had a strong interest in finance/PE)?

Dec 17, 2018

Honestly, I didn't really have a preference between banking and consulting... I recruited for both out of college. For my first job, I was optimizing for brand name to open the most doors possible (not necessarily within finance), so I recruited for some EB/BBs and also MBB.

I am fairly lucky that everything worked out, because I probably only factored in ~50% of what I would consider now. I didn't know that there are huge discrepancies between banking groups (Ex: I now know that GS FIG, PJT/EVR RX get the top PE/HF jobs on the street), or that you can't really exit to a HF from MBB.

If I were to do it all over again, I'm not sure whether I would do the banking or consulting route - they both have their pros and cons. I'd be naive if I said MBB is the only way to do it and you're stupid if you choose banking because I landed a great job. I recognize that others from MBB were not successful in getting a PE job and that the stars had to align for me to land mine. Will be sure to talk more about this in my upcoming PE walkthrough.

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Dec 17, 2018

From your experience, if optimizing purely for PE exits, would you rather go to a decent but not top group at a strong BB (think e.g. Industrials at GS) or MBB (Bain/McK to be specific)?

As context, I have experience from both IB (at a decent EB) and consulting (2 different MBBs) and found consulting work to be more interesting / fitting my "inherent skillset" better, but don't mind grinding it out in IB for few years either if it improves the exits.

Most interested top funds within the "category 2" (Bain Cap, H&F, Advent etc.) but apart from these would probably still prefer the mega funds over some of the smaller more operationally/commercially focused funds.

Also thanks for taking the time to reply, super helpful!

Dec 19, 2018

Regarding HH, did they reach out to you or did you have to reach out to them?

Dec 19, 2018

For MBB, majority of HHs will reach out to you regardless of your office. I believe I was reached out to by almost all HHs. If they didn't reach out to you, it is acceptable to be proactive and reach out to them (don't reach out before your peers have heard from them). However, HHs will only go to a handful of cities to meet with candidates. If they don't come to your city, I definitely recommend you fly to NY and meet with them, rather than speaking over the phone. It is much easier to convey your interests and personality in person!

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Dec 19, 2018

How to choose office wisely, Boston? new york? houston?

a monkey brain

Dec 19, 2018

Are you referring to choosing an MBB office or a target city for PE?

For MBB - this depends on what your personal situation is. City doesn't matter too much since you'll be travelling a lot for projects. There's a small prestige bump for being in NY/BOS/SF/CHI over smaller cities, but it isn't too big of a concern for PE recruitment.

For PE - it depends on what type of PE you want. Houston for O&G of course. Choice between Boston/New York really depends on what firm you want, and your personal situation.

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Dec 19, 2018

A bit off-topic, but how much does office location matter in general for MBB outside of PE recruitment? Esp given that you were at a mid-sized office as opposed to a NY/BOS/etc, how did this impact your experience?

Jan 28, 2019

thanks, embeebee. Does it mean: choosing the office in NJ or TX (or other small cities) will increase my chance to get an offer (even a fraction) from MBB?

a monkey brain

May 21, 2019