Impressive PE Interview Questions

Marcoo's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 11

There is always that time of the interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Imagine you were at a PE interview, what questions do you think would not sound too unnatural to ask but would still be impressive? I mean...we all know that asking about the interviewer and his her career progression will not do any harm but is not super helpful when trying to streghten ones candidacy.

Do you ask about the deals? Some intricacies about the firm? Do you discuss market trends? Ask for advise? Any advise / insights would be greatly appreciated!


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Comments (14)

Apr 20, 2017

Any question that can demonstrate you've done some homework on the firm/industry is helpful. I hate the "how did you get here" question. I would be careful about deals, unless you're sure that person worked on the specific deal.

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Apr 20, 2017

Some great questions include:
- What kind of car do you drive? (you can tell him that you're going to buy a better car 6 months into the job)
- What is your all in base and bonus? (follow up by telling interviewer that you require a guaranteed bonus at X dollars for at least 5 years)
- Ask him a difficult brain teaser (then tell him that's weird, because you got it immediately, not even really trying)

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Apr 21, 2017

"How far can you punt a football?"
"When did you stop beating your wife?"
"Underwear or nah?"

Apr 21, 2017

In the event the candidate has little employment options/prospects, the question-asking phase is really more about managing downside risk in avoiding asking something that they should have already known before stepping into the interview, or asking something that rubs the interviewer the wrong way. This isn't the time to try and "blow it out of the water." If you have other options, then it becomes more about determining if the firm is a good fit on your end (or a better fit than your standing offer).

No one is going to hire you solely because you asked a particularly astounding generic question, and that phase of the discussion never really lends itself well to try and demonstrate your depth of knowledge within a particular area without sounding like you're trying too hard or a straight douche with little social skills.

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Apr 21, 2017

As the OP mentioned, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot.

I think it's a pretty opportune time to make yourself memorable with some easy questions. So maybe you can ask the pretty safe generic work related questions and then maybe delve into some personal interests (what do you like to do outside of work?) - maybe you can make a connection that will make you a memorable candidate.

Apr 24, 2017

Especially smaller firms put emphasis on juniors being able to think as they go along and spot potential issues and red flags in investment opportunities early on to prevent wasting time and money. Instead of bragging about how great your commercial aptitude is and what an astute investor you are, turn it around and indirectly ask whether there really is flat hierarchy in which you are encouraged to contribute or whether it's just a load of millennial-pleasing nonsense.
For a relatively junior interviewer: "Have you (recently) disagreed with the pursuit of an investment opportunity and did you / were you able to voice your opinion?" Alternatively: "Were you able to bring up investment ideas with Partners / Seniors and can you describe how you went about doing so?"
Obviously, don't ask a Partner whether he was able to to voice anything...

Best Response
Apr 24, 2017

I don't work in PE, but generally speaking, the following serves true in pretty much any industry. If you're using your allotted time to ask questions to ask safe questions, I think you're really blowing an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Questions like "how did you get here", "what does your typical day look like", "why did you attend HBS instead of Wharton", etc. are not meaningful and do not benefit you at all.

Good questions to ask would be:

  • What is your relationship like with X? - this is a better question for IB, but asking what a senior banker's relationship is like with his/her analysts or what an analyst's relationship is like with his/her senior bankers can really give you some insight into the firm's culture.
  • As I was preparing for this interview, I took a look at your LinkedIn and noticed we both... - this isn't really a question, but it tells the interviewer that you two have something in common. People like hiring those who they have something in common. Once you're past the interviews for jobs right out of college, fit becomes more and more important.
  • I have previously networked with X and Y, and they told me that your firm's culture is similar to Z. Have you found that to be the case as well? - this question will give you some insight the firm's culture, but what it really accomplishes is letting the interviewer know that you took the time to network and care enough about this position to have done some homework before the interview.
  • Who are you looking for? What type of candidate would be your ideal one? - I like this question because it gives you some insight into the firm's hiring practices and their preparedness. If you get a canned answer or a reworded job description as a response, it should make you question how diligent this firm is in hiring employees. If, on the other hand, you get a real response, you might learn something that increases (or decreases) your interest in this firm. Plus, you can always reword the answer to this question and use it as part of your answer to "why do you want to work here".

Just my two cents. I think the time given to an interviewee to ask questions is one of the most important few minutes of the interview and one of the best times to stand out.

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Apr 24, 2017

You can always ask soft/qualitative questions about their background, why they chose the firm, what they like about it, etc.

But it's better for you to get info on the job and company that didn't come up in the interview. For PE you should ask about:
Time split between new investment due diligence and portfolio company management
% of time sourcing deals
Track (2-3 year program then b-school? will they sponsor? any chance for direct promotion?)
Ask about the existing fund (size, vintage (start date), how invested it is, how much dry powder is left)
Ask about plans for future funds if existing is almost fully invested (target size)
If you're interviewing for senior positions, ask about past funds' return metrics

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Apr 24, 2017

Wanna be proactive ? Study the questions they might ask you.

Research their portfolio companies, find out about their exists, both the great ones and the not so great. Provide structure and direction as to what could be done/could have been done better, You need to be versed on the mechanisms of improving IRR and ROIC.

Apr 24, 2017

"when do i start?"
"what's my admin's name?"
"does everyone here fly business class?"

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Apr 24, 2017

lol ha

Apr 24, 2017

"When was the last time you hit the nail on its head ?"

Apr 24, 2017