My Private Equity Recruiting Process

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I am about 3 weeks removed from receiving three PE offers (from MFs and top MM firms), both elated and relieved to be done with such a crazy process. I saw that another user commented saying he'd do a write-up about his experience going through the recruiting process and figured I'd wait to write up mine until after, but I haven't seen his so figured I'll just go ahead with my post. This community was absolutely instrumental in helping secure the offers, so I think it'd be incredibly selfish to not give back and write about my experience.

To give you a little bit of background about me: 1st year analyst working at a mid-level BB in a mid-level coverage group. Top-25 (non-Ivy) school, solid GPA, didn't summer in banking and recruited full-time.

I think this post is best served in 4 distinct parts:

1) initial headhunter meetings
2) preparation for the process,
3) coffee chats, dinners and the actual interview process, and
4) miscellaneous.

1) Initial Headhunter Meetings

Plain and simple, everything starts with the headhunters. They are the gatekeepers to basically every interview process and are incredibly important. If you work at a BB or an elite boutique, the headhunters will begin reaching out to you in October / November. You do not need to email them before you start working or anything like that – it'll serve you no benefit and will only hurt you in the process. They'll reach out to you. With that said, I have a funky email address that includes my middle initial, so when all of my peers received the messages from Dynamics/CPI/Amity/Glocap/etc., I did not. This sucks, but just have one of your coworkers forward you the email they received. It is perfectly fine if they haven't emailed you, and I'm sure they'll be more than happy to speak with you if you email them introducing yourself and asking to meet in person.

There are a few important points to note with these headhunter interviews. First and foremost, you only get one shot at meeting/impressing them and proving that you'll be capable of going through PE/HF recruiting and being in front of their clients. Treat these initial interviews as you would any other important interview. I see people on here saying "ah yeah the headhunter meetings don't matter much" – this is the wrong attitude. Unless you're at BX/other top groups, you absolutely have to come off polished when you meet with them. I prepped for these meetings like I was prepping for a 1st round interview. They'll ask you to walk them through your resume, what you're looking for, why PE or why HF, where do you want to work, what kind of funds are you targeting, what are some names you're targeting, things like that. One of the ways I think you can differentiate yourself here is knowing EXACTLY what you're looking for. If you can name specific funds and why (e.g. is it their specific strategy? Is it because you worked on a deal with them? Do you know somebody there? Did somebody from your group go there? Is their head of C&R/Healthcare/Tech investing really well known? etc.), it'll help you immensely. I think I got interviews at a few places because I specifically listed those firms as firms offering what I could consider a dream opportunity.

If you have a deal on your resume, expect for some of the headhunters that are former bankers (e.g. CPI, Glocap, HSP) to ask you to walk through the deal. I had kids in my group not prepare for these meetings and get sort of grilled (CPI did this) and not receive any interviews from that respective headhunter, while I received multiple interviews because I came prepared. You can't come off wishy-washy here – you need to know that you're either doing HF or PE, what size fund (i.e. middle market/large cap/MF/lower middle market/growth equity), where, and why. You can tell different recruiters different things (i.e. tell one you want PE, another you want HF), but unless you're at a top group that consistently sends people to MFs/top HFs, then you need to know what you want.

Another thing I'd like to note is that, while the headhunters are the middle men in the process, you also play an important role and it is in their best interest to meet as many candidates as possible to try to place as many people as possible. That's how they get paid. They understand that you're a banker and there are a lot of demands on your time/life, so it is perfectly reasonable to wait to respond to their introductory emails several weeks (or months) later to make sure you're ready. I waited until December to meet with the headhunters and I was fine. If you need to cancel and reschedule, that's fine too so long as you do it professionally. If you know one week you're going to be getting crushed and you have a headhunter meeting scheduled for 8:00am that Wednesday, email them and ask to reschedule; they understand. Just don't do this several times.

Lastly, not all headhunters are created equally. Some of them, for whatever reason, just won't click with you, which sucks but it is what it is. Some of them are just dicks and aren't worth your time. I had a particularly awful meeting with one of the recruiters at SearchOne where the person essentially told me I was an idiot and I didn't understand the size distinctions between PE firms. Jokes on them, I got 3 offers in PE despite "not knowing what it is".

2) Preparation for the Process

It's true that the interviewing process is grueling and seems to pop up out of nowhere every year. It catches people off-guard and I know quite a few people in my group felt underprepared for everything. Each year the process gets earlier and earlier, so it's absolutely crucial that you're ready for the process. This means prepping in your down time at work at any chance you get. That said, you have to be discreet about it. You don't want to give off the impression that you're only there to work for 6 months, get a PE/HF offer, then cruise for the next 18 months. Make a pitchbook with a generic cover and put a guide in it so it "looks" like you're working, when in reality you're studying. Read websites/articles about your deal and take notes. Read initiating coverage reports on the two companies involved in one of your deals, read comprehensive research reports on the sub industry that the companies are from, understand everything there is to know about the business models. Do practice lbo models in your free time. Even if you have a Saturday off, if you're just gonna be lying in bed hungover, go into work and practice.

The Wall Street Oasis Private Equity Interview Course I think was probably the most important part of my prep process, but on its own, I'd say it's incomplete. I think it's the best one out there and 150% worth the investment (seriously, $300 price tag for a $200k+ job? Sign me up), but you need to supplement your preparation with other things as well. People on this site love to stress the importance of modeling, and I always see kids on here saying "oh that group doesn't model, it's not a good group" but that couldn't be more misguided. I come from one of the groups that, according to people here, apparently "doesn't model" (news to me lol). Every group models, and every group will have practice LBOs for you to get your feet wet with (…I hope). Sure, maybe some of the product groups get a more "technical" modeling experience but it's not that important. In reality, the models in my PE interviews were not very difficult. One of the megafunds I interviewed with had a template-based cash sweep model and it was a joke. Another firm just had us do a debt paydown from scratch and it wasn't very hard either.

This next paragraph will go against the conventional wisdom of this site a bit, and it's my own personal opinion so take it with a grain of salt. I don't claim that it's the right view, but it's my belief and it's what I would do if I went through the recruiting process again:

The single most important part of your interviewing experience with PE firms will be your deal experience. I would say a solid 30% of every single interview I had was spent talking about my deal in depth. If you don't have an announced M&A deal on your resume, or you don't have an unannounced deal you feel comfortable talking about on a very granular level, I don't see what you would talk about in your interviews. I was incredibly fortunate to have a $1-2bn sell-side on my resume that got announced two months before everything started (conveniently, right when I met with the headhunters). I think it was the single most important factor in me landing the interviews (and ultimately the jobs) that I received. If I hadn't had an announced M&A deal on my resume, I likely would have waited until next year to go through the process. People here say it's a detriment to your chances, but I met quite a few people throughout the process from BAML/JPM/GS that were second years going through the interview process for the first time. Perhaps there is a stigma against them, I'm not sure and I don't know where they ended up, but there were a few second years at my interviews with 3 megafunds and 2 of the top MM firms. I understand the desire to get out of banking, and if your bank doesn't have a 3-year model like the aforementioned banks, then maybe that won't work for you, but my bank generally lets people stay on for a third year if you're on good terms, so I probably would've waited an extra year had I not felt prepared. After all, you only have one shot interviewing with each firm so you can't really screw it up.

In terms of preparation though, I don't want to get to in depth because I think you should have to figure that out on your own, but I will say that the three biggest areas to focus on are first and foremost, the deals on your resume, secondly understanding everything there is to know about an LBO (on a theoretical and conceptual level), and third, being able to walk through paper lbos/case studies. In some of my interviews, we got REALLY granular into my deal experience, and it was good that I had prepped so thoroughly, so you have to know everything about them. The case study part caught me off guard and I think it might be the one area that the WSO guide didn't exactly prepare me for, but a lot of my interviews had a case study where they wanted me to talk through how I would approach a potential PE investment so it was something I picked up throughout the process which was nice.

3) The Actual Interview Process

This is where things get really hectic. Everybody sort of knew interviews were coming towards the end of January. I had been contacted for coffee chats/dinners at several different firms in early January. These, I think, are mostly used to drum up interest and allow you to get a feel for some of the firms and the people that work there. While I think they're a good indication of whether you'll get an interview, I agree with the other poster who said that they're not the end-all, be-all of the process. There were a few firms that I got coffee with an associate/VP and I thought it went great, and I didn't hear back/get an interview. There were some firms where I thought the drinks went poorly and I received an interview. There were even more firms still that had dinners and coffee chats that I wasn't invited to, and I received interviews (and an offer!) from them.

Anyway, the process kicked off on a Friday or something this year. I got the gobuyside email saying "The following firms have started their interview process" and I hadn't heard a thing and I got nervous. But then, over the course of that weekend, I received probably 3 or 4 emails asking me if I would be available to interview with XYZ firm at 10am/1pm/5pm/etc. the following day. For some interviews, I would literally find out at 1 a.m. that they wanted to interview me at 9 a.m. the following morning. The good thing is that you can push back a little bit to see if there is any other availability (i.e. 12pm instead of 9a.m.), but know that things move REALLY quickly and it probably is in your best interest to accept the time they give you, if you're available.

On one day, I had interviews with 3 or 4 firms, and got called back to two of them for things in the afternoon. I am lucky in that my group is receptive to recruiting, so I was able to ask my associates to cover for me, but some people might not be as fortunate. I met a few kids who said that their group doesn't allow recruiting, and that they hadn't been in the office all day and were dreading the lecture they'd get when they show up 5 hours late to work.

While it does suck that things move quickly, the good news is that you know where you stand pretty quickly as well. For the three interviews that I eventually converted to offers, I found out I got a second round interview right before I was leaving their. In terms of offers, I received them probably within 3-4 hours of leaving their offices.

This section is pretty short, but for some reason I'm blanking on what to write here, but feel free to ask me any questions about the actual interviews and I'm happy to answer them.

4) Miscellaneous

There were a few ideas I held about the whole PE recruiting process that I had read here that ended up not being 100% true, so hopefully I can shine some light on those. One thing that stuck out to me, and that I continued to believe all the way up until I received the offers, is that I'd be handicapped by my group. I feel stupid saying this now, but I was sort of led to believe that unless I was at GS/BX/MS I wouldn't be getting looks from any of the top funds. This was wrong. All told, I interviewed with 3 megafunds and 4 top upper MM funds. I received three offers from those before I ended my process. Throughout that first week, I also received offers to interview at ~5 or so other really quality funds (think Welsh Carson, GTCR, Genstar, Vestar type firms) that I had to decline as I'd already accepted offers. Not to mention the 10+ interviews I got for some lower-MM funds. This is coming from a decent BB in a decent coverage group, not a top group.

People also try to make it out that it's impossible to recruit for west coast opportunities from NYC. While I will be staying in NYC for my PE gig. I received interviews at several top funds on the West Coast and had all of my interviews in NYC. A lot of the top west coast funds will fly out to New York City to do their process. I had two final rounds in NYC for west coast shops. I think the important thing is that you have ties to the west coast. I am from just outside of San Francisco, so it was easy for me to say why I want to move to SF or LA. If you don't have ties to the west coast, I wouldn't expect to have as easy a time getting interviews there.

This post is long enough as it is so I will end it here, but feel free to ask any questions here and I will do my best to answer them.

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted March 2015. Also make sure to see Northsider's response to this post in the comments or by clicking here

Comments (131)

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 4:42pm

That's a little bit tougher for me to say because I think I did about as well as I could've hoped, but there were a few things where I felt I was more 'reactive' than 'proactive' I guess in preparation. Thankfully I was able to build off of those from my first two interviews (coincidentally, two of the three interviews where I didn't move past the first round).

As you mentioned, the case study parts caught me a bit off-guard just because I'd only really practiced one or two, and even then, the reason why I practiced them was for the sake of building the model. In my experience, you need to be able to work through a case study and come up with a compelling investment recommendation using the information available in the packet they give you. One of the MFs gave me a ~10 page packet with a bunch of graphs and a couple blurbs about a specific company, the industry it operated in, competitive dynamics, and industry outlook. You should be able to look at that and say, "A is a great business, it has B, C, D, E & F going for it and given my preliminary read through it seems like it'd make for a compelling investment. That said, X, Y and Z are things I'd want to diligence further before I'd actually make a bid for the company." Obviously with much more fleshed out reasons than that. For example, one of the case studies, I said "This telecommunications business looks great, it has a really strong growth profile, its revenues are growing at 6% a year, their EBITDA margins are incrementally improving, their business requires very little fixed costs, their FCF profile is very attractive, and these assumptions seem reasonable/conservative." And that was one of the points I raised among 5 or 6 other.

I guess the best way I'd recommend prepping for this is going through sell-side and buy-side CIMs that you've gotten from private equity firms looking to exit/buy into a business, and go through it thinking how a PE associate would. i.e. Does this business check all of the boxes of what makes a compelling PE investment? And work through it that way.

Which I guess leads me to my next point, where I felt I was weak on but was able to steadily improve as I moved throughout the process. And that's the whole "thinking like an investor" idea. Understanding what creates value in an LBO on more than a simple cursory level. You can't get by just saying that paying down debt increases equity returns. There are several levers you can pull - revenue growth, margin expansion, cash generation/deleveraging, and multiple expansion. Ok great, you listed those, now lets walk through why each one is important, which is most/least valuable, why that's the case, which you'd look for and why, etc. etc. They give you a company to review, so talk about it in terms of those ideas.

Lastly, I think coming off "rambly" is a huge mistake (if that makes sense). Don't talk for the sake of talking. Don't let your answers be long-winded. Answer things concisely, explain thing clearly, get your point across, and allow the interviewer to lead the conversation. Obviously don't be too brief, but if you're shooting blanks, answer what you know, and then say something like "I don't know if this is correct, but this is how I'm thinking about XYZ" and hopefully they can lead you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to say when you don't know something, but also don't BS your way through things where you have no idea what you're talking about, because it's plain to see. You can obviously make things up (e.g., on the deal I worked on, I had questions like "where does this company trade in its peer group, what was its multiple, what was the revenue CAGR of this division, etc." and you can make those answers up so long as it's not an insane number like 150% revenue CAGR and 200x multiple. The PE professionals likely don't know where the company was trading relative to its peers, so if it's 17.5x forward EPS, but you say it's 15 or 16x, that's fine).

 
Best Response
Mar 14, 2015 - 5:10pm

Great post, the preponderance of which rings true from my experience. Having been through this process on both sides of the table now, I have a few reactions:

1. I heartily disagree with the idea that having a closed deal at all differentiates you as a candidate - especially the suggestion that you're better off postponing recruiting if you haven't announced a deal by recruiting season. If you feel unprepared for the process, that's one thing; and, insofar as navigating a deal from start-to-finish buttresses your understanding, I wouldn't contest that the experience is valuable. That said, being able to list the names of the parties involved because it's announced offers you no edge, ipso facto.

After interviewing dozens of candidates and debriefing with others on still more dozens, I can report that I've never once heard an interviewer credit a candidate for having completed a transaction. You're 7 months on the job: the lion's share of candidates (even from top groups) haven't had the opportunity to close a deal, and for many I interviewed, the deals they had announced weren't the ones in which they were most involved (due to double-staffing) or that were best to discuss in an interview setting. Literally the only time I heard deal experience mentioned by an interviewer was an occurrence in which a candidate had been staffed on a transaction involving one of our portfolio companies.

2. Not being long-winded can't be stressed enough. Most candidates for PE are near-professional status with respect to buzz word memorization. Nothing will derail your interview more than a palaverous answer. Keep it short, mention the most essential details and let the interviewer determine whether more investigation is necessary. If you don't understand the question, ask for clarification rather than pontificating and hoping to cover your bases.

3. I think the OP would be floored by the proportion of interviewees with significant mistakes on the model test. Even candidates who reported confidence at the beginning of the interview (I always ask how they felt about the model) often had calculation errors, errata on signs (please, please, please use negative presentation - it will save you from countless embarrassing gaffes), miscues on returns waterfalls and omissions or double-counts on their S&Us. Generally, if it was clear the candidate understood the concepts and was slipped up by time pressure, it wasn't a 'ding', but those who submitted a perfect model undoubtedly differentiated themselves.

Separately:

Candor:
You should be able to look at that and say, "A is a great business, it has B, C, D, E & F going for it and given my preliminary read through it seems like it'd make for a compelling investment. That said, X, Y and Z are things I'd want to diligence further before I'd actually make a bid for the company." Obviously with much more fleshed out reasons than that. For example, one of the case studies, I said "This telecommunications business looks great, it has a really strong growth profile, its revenues are growing at 6% a year, their EBITDA margins are incrementally improving, their business requires very little fixed costs, their FCF profile is very attractive, and these assumptions seem reasonable/conservative." And that was one of the points I raised among 5 or 6 other.

Although I agree with your outline and sentiment, your illustrative answer blunders into a category I would describe as "I can read numbers". If I give a candidate a case study that includes historical growth information, reporting that information back to me will score them no points. Quite the contrary, that kind of answer suggests to me that you aren't "thinking as an investor", as it were.

The most frequently attributed reason for snubbing a candidate is "P&L cathexis", if you will. For instance, when I ask candidates, "If you could only have one statistic to assess investment attractiveness, what would it be?" A plurality of banking analysts mention growth rate. Alternatively, if I present a simple comparison, "Company A with 15% EBITDA margins and Company B with 10% EBITDA margins, in which would you rather invest?" A frustrating portion of interviewees have a knee-jerk preference for Company A. In short, I would submit that the example answer you provided is negatively correlated with receiving an offer.

Now, obviously some candidates demonstrate their judgment when pushed further in the interview; clearly you gave plenty of satisfying answers, given your results. That said, I think the "top candidates" generally offer more thoughtful answers out-of-the-gate. For example (granting that I know nothing of the specifics in your telecom case study), "A telecom company growing at 6% organically with expanding EBITDA margins in a GDP-growth industry is clearly taking share and will likely trade at a steep multiple. However, its defensive end market exposure should mitigate cyclicality and provide juice on leverage. Given its strong cash flow conversion, even at market-clearing multiple the company should offer a solid pro forma FCF yield. And, if I think about what kind of businesses I would want to buy in this environment, I'd rather pay up for and hence over-equitize a business with defensive demand drivers that will have air-tight coverage if we hit a down-cycle during the hold. Couple that with an out-executing management team, we can probably accelerate share gains in a recession, use our high FCF yield to push out the exit a year or two without compromising IRR and grow into an exit multiple that still results in attractive returns."

That answer is a bit longer, but it sticks to the essential details, avoids rambling and demonstrates second-order investment judgment without requiring your interviewer to pressure test your thesis. The problem with your answer is that it makes no headway re: whether the business is an attractive investment. Strong growth, expanding margins, strong FCF conversion and reasonable projections are all nice in a vacuum, but some of the least attractive LBO candidates out there exhibit all four. If you're going to point to expanding margins, I'd prefer you frame it as a diligence point: "One thing that gives me pause is the rate of margin expansion on what should be a fairly variablized cost structure. Perhaps management is pushing through price increases with limited volume growth and is at risk of ceding share to lower-cost providers in the future or being unable to maintain its growth trajectory. Alternatively, perhaps this company has fat corporate overhead expenses and there's an opportunity for cost take-out to bump margins up to industry standard. Either way, it's a key point of diligence."

Lest I seem like I'm being unnecessarily critical, I want to reiterate that I found your post very informative and I agree with the majority of the advice you propose.

+1

"For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible."
 
Mar 29, 2015 - 4:42pm

NorthSider:

3. I think the OP would be floored by the proportion of interviewees with significant mistakes on the model test. Even candidates who reported confidence at the beginning of the interview (I always ask how they felt about the model) often had calculation errors, errata on signs (please, please, please use negative presentation - it will save you from countless embarrassing gaffes)

I am sure this is a pretty trivial question. Can someone please explain how to "use negative presentation"? Does it mean showing COGS, SG&A, interest expense etc as negative numbers and then use additions throughout the model?

 
Funniest
Jun 24, 2016 - 2:44am

Wtf is a "GDP-growth" industry? And who the fuck writes shits like this " However, its defensive end market exposure should mitigate cyclicality and provide juice on leverage."...

The question about 2 companies with different EBITDA margins is such a dick one... What's the poor kid on the receiving end supposed to say to satisfy you? Ask for more info? Act on it right away?

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 4:26pm

Thank you for detailing this process. One of the best posts I have read on this website.

My question comes in terms of location (as you mentioned how having ties to the West Coast enabled you to show why you would want to move out there). When speaking with Headhunters, would it be looked upon negatively to say that you are willing to go to multiple cities depending on the best opportunity? Say you are open to living in NYC/SF/Bos/Chi, would they look at you as someone who doesn't truly know what they want?

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 5:06pm

Great question. You can definitely express that you want to be in multiple cities, and it can completely be because you're looking for the best opportunity, I just don't think you should express it in exactly that manner.

For example, I said I was looking for large-cap opportunities in Los Angeles because I love the area, my sister went to school down there, I have family there, I'm hoping to end up on the west coast long-term etc., but the reality is that I just wanted to interview with Ares/Oaktree/Leonard Green. So I don't think you should say "I'm looking for the best opportunity, regardless of location", even though that's the reason why (it was mine too!) because that'll just show that you're not really as focused/might not have ties to these specific cities.

Instead, phrase it similarly to how I did. Your ties don't even have to be 100% legitimate or real. For example, when I was interviewing for my FT gig at my bank, I constantly got asked why I wanted to work in NYC over SF, where I'm from. My answer was that my dad is always out here for business (semi-true, he comes out once every two months and I get dinner with him), I have a lot of family out here (not true, I only have a great uncle/aunt who I haven't seen in a decade, but not false), and NYC is a great city for finance (true). I'm actually not the biggest NYC fan, but it has the best opportunities so you have to give reasons to people that seem legitimate.

In all of my headhunter meetings, I said I was location-agnostic, but would prefer to be in NYC/SF/LA/Chicago (in other words, all of the best cities for PE haha) because I had ties to each location. I wanted to interview in Chicago because of MDP/GTCR, but I didn't say that.

I don't know if I'm explaining this well or not, but I hope you get the point.

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 5:00pm

Can't seem to give a credit. It always pops up an error.

But I was one of the guys looking forward to the other posting about his process. (SBed too). Wanted to say I really appreciate the time you put into writing this out. Hope I end up doing as well as you.

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 5:33pm

FANTASTIC POST and congratulations on the offers; talk about knocking it out of the park!

If I could ask a question: Once you got connected with headhunters, how much did you feel (to the extent you could tell) your background outside of work experience came into play (school, gpa, test scores)? Were there other guys in your group that you felt were comparable talent/preparation-wise who weren't as successful in PE recruiting whose only differentiation you could see was there background in the aforementioned areas?

Thanks!

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:05pm

Redacted:

If I could ask a question: Once you got connected with headhunters, how much did you feel (to the extent you could tell) your background outside of work experience came into play (school, gpa, test scores)? Were there other guys in your group that you felt were comparable talent/preparation-wise who weren't as successful in PE recruiting whose only differentiation you could see was there background in the aforementioned areas?

Thanks!

Don't think it came into play that much. Yes, GPA/SAT score/School will be used as a differentiating factor, but once you reach a certain threshold it doesn't matter much. Unless you're trying to get to a fund that seems to only hire HYPS kids (Berkshire comes to mind), I don't think it is that important provided you have a solid GPA (3.6+), solid test scores (2200+), or both.

With that said, there are kids in my group who had lower GPAs/SATs and got interviews at tippity-top funds. There are others who had great scores/GPAs and just didn't click with their headhunters or have the requisite experience, and they didn't get interviews. I know kids who went to UIUC or UCSB, had 3.5s, low SAT scores, average groups, and they interviewed with megafunds.

 
Mar 12, 2015 - 12:34pm

I recently spoke with an alumni who is a partner at one of the "other really quality funds" and he mentioned how for them GPA and SATs were very important. My GPA is very good (summa if graduated today) but my test scores are not as good. I did not even take the SAT and I took the ACT only once with no preparation. I got a 32, which I was told was good enough to get me into the school that I wanted, so I didn't bother retaking. I was just wondering how I could go about deferring this. I would imagine the quant is the most important part for recruiters, so should I just say that I got 35 on math?

Also I should say that I go to a southern school that places decently in IB (I do not know about PE), but mostly in Charlotte. I do not know how much weight it carries in the NE or WC; I imagine not much.

 
Mar 7, 2015 - 9:11pm

Excellent post, very informative and enjoyed the read. Exactly what I was looking for, although I'm based in Europe and not exactly interested in traditional buyout funds. Still incredibly helpful as I'm involved in recruiting right now as well. As of now, there seems to be a fuck up at WSO which is why I can't give you a SB, but I will get back to that and give you some. Cheers again!

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 4:29am

thanks for posting!

in terms of fund size, did you have to tell different headhunters you were looking for different things (ie. MF vs upper MM vs growth equity) or did you just mention all your interests to each headhunter?

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:10pm

thoughtleader:

thanks for posting!

in terms of fund size, did you have to tell different headhunters you were looking for different things (ie. MF vs upper MM vs growth equity) or did you just mention all your interests to each headhunter?

Nope, I actually told every headhunter that I was looking for MM and upper MM funds, didn't indicate any interest in MFs, but ended up getting interviews with megafunds. I'm not really sure why to be honest, but I wasn't complaining. That said, some headhunters just don't do large-cap or MF recruiting. For instance, I don't think Bellcast does any MF recruiting, so it'd be a mistake to tell them you're megafund-or-bust because then you probably won't get any interviews from them.

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:19pm

Nope, a 3.6 GPA as far as I can tell won't hold you back unless it's from a less-than-decent school and you have low SAT scores. Group reputation (which it seems like won't be an issue for you) and deal experience will be much more important provided you can check the boxes, but a 3.6 gpa won't really limit your opportunities. However, yes, a 3.9 from Wharton or Princeton will be looked upon more favorably than a 3.6 from IU or something.

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 1:33pm

Excellent post. I (and I presume many other) really appreciate you taking the time to write this up.

I was wondering whether you could provide any insight into what differences your process had coming from a BB vs. peers that you spoke with at top MM investment banks (RBC, Baird, Stifel, Piper Jaffray)? I assume that for starters they were not getting looks from the largest funds, but aside from that, do you know if they had any headhunters reach out to them or if they had to reach out themselves and hope for a bite? Do you know if the process happens at the same time for them or if it happens a bit later after the BB/EB candidates have their shots? Do you know what kinds of funds they get looks from?

I understand that you might not have knowledge regarding this, but any insight you could provide would be great.

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:23pm

I'll have to get back to you on this one as the process is very much still on-going, albeit at a much slower pace, and I would guess that not a lot of people have placed aside from those at top banks. I also don't know many people at the banks you mentioned as most of my close friends are at BBs, and the ones at MM banks I'm not that close with.

Purely from looking at the websites of a bunch of funds that I'd want to work for though (GTCR, Odyssey, to name a few), there are plenty of kids from William Blair, Lincoln, Harris Williams, etc.). But you're right in that you won't see them at megafunds. They can definitely end up at really quality MM funds

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 2:43pm

When you said it's OK to leave the headhunters' initial introductions unanswered for a few weeks/months, do you literally mean leave it unresponded to in your inbox and give email them a month later acting like you didn't just ignore them for a month? Or do you mean responded to the initial introduction with "Hi, sorry really busy in the middle of a bunch of massive deals, can we do this in a month when I've gotten through this?".

Did you ever turn any headhunters down (they represented new/small firms probably unlikely to place you anywhere you wanted to go)?

Do headhunter interviews ever involve them asking you technical questions or is it all just fit/placement related?

Thanks for the post

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:16pm

PIKBIM:

When you said it's OK to leave the headhunters' initial introductions unanswered for a few weeks/months, do you literally mean leave it unresponded to in your inbox and give email them a month later acting like you didn't just ignore them for a month? Or do you mean responded to the initial introduction with "Hi, sorry really busy in the middle of a bunch of massive deals, can we do this in a month when I've gotten through this?".

Did you ever turn any headhunters down (they represented new/small firms probably unlikely to place you anywhere you wanted to go)?

Do headhunter interviews ever involve them asking you technical questions or is it all just fit/placement related?

Thanks for the post

I only received 3 or 4 headhunter emails due to my email address being strange, but for those 3 or 4, yes I literally waited a month before responding. Just said something like "Hi xxx, I wanted to follow-up to your previous email and see if you'd be available for a quick meeting to discuss summer 2016 buyside opportunities," attached my resume, and then set up meetings with them.

I'm sure you can respond saying "can we do this in a month" and honestly it's probably a better move than what I did (which, admittedly, isn't the best way to go about it).

I didn't turn down any headhunter meetings, it's in your best interest to cast a wide net and meet with all of them. Some you will click with, others you won't. SG Partners emailed me asking to set up a meeting, I followed up with them three times (!!) and they still never got back to me, until a week after I got my offers. Still can't figure that one out...

Headhunter interviews never asked technical questions, but a few firms asked me to walk them through the deals on my resume so I just did a 2-3 minute high-level overview of it and tried to keep things relatively straightforward. I think Dynamics asked me what the 3 ways to drive value in an LBO are, but that was about it.

 
Mar 8, 2015 - 3:24pm

Awesome post thanks!

Could you talk a little more about what specifically they were interested about the deal you listed on your resume? I saw you mentioned stuff like revenue CAGRs for a division but interested to hear more about this. Was it more valuation based (what were your DCF/LBO assumptions, what did peers trade at, etc.) or more process based (who were the buyers, why did they fit, your role in drafting any CIM/MP, etc)?

 
Mar 9, 2015 - 12:28am

What happens if you are not at a firm/group that normally gets looks from headhunters?Do PE firms have any issues including candidates that are known to the firm from elsewhere(networking etc)?

Also wondering if anyone here has insight into lateraling to a EB or BB from a top MM and how the impacts the process(recruiting as a 2nd year would be a given in this case).

 
Mar 9, 2015 - 1:55am

Do you have friends at regional offices in your firm? Would analysts from BB SF be at a disadvantage for PE recruiting outside of SF, since most of the headhunters are in NYC and top PE firms fly out to NYC to conduct interviews? Did you run into any BB regional analysts during your final rounds?

 
Mar 9, 2015 - 10:03am

Candor, what's the policy regarding use of your company email to communicate with headhunters? I know a lot of times emails going outside the firm will be screened and if you're in a group that isn't open to recruiting that could be an issue.

 
Mar 9, 2015 - 3:54pm

Solid insights.

I would add a few things.

On the headhunter point, OPs advice should only be taken on a case by case basis. When I was recruiting for PE, I got zero love from headhunters and my only in was going over their heads by networking my way into the interview process. I never heard from any of the headhunters and so I had to call/email headhunters to get on their radars. In some cases they just outright ignored my calls/emails, sometimes they took the calls/emails but didn't invite me in to meet, and a few times they invited me to come meet them but never put me into any processes. Any interview I got was by networking, so it was essentially someone at the PE firm emailing HSP/Amity/CPI etc, and saying "hey, put this guy on the interview roster"

So the "let them come to you" depends heavily on your background/firm/group.

Next, assuming you have a traditional background, OP is absolutely right about the headhunters making or breaking you. Be nice to them and take the interview with them seriously. I've met more than a few people coming from top groups on Wall Street that didn't get interviews at the usual suspects because they bungled their HH interview. Even if a PE guy sees a really impressive looking resume and asks the HH about him/her, if they bungled the HH interview the HH will shit on them and they won't get an interview. HHs are not incentivized to take a risk on a candidate.

Strongly agree that you should overkill interview prep. The entire process goes by in a instant flurry of activity and you only have one chance to lock-up an offer. You need to be bullet proof 1 or 2 months before you think you'll have to interview... because the only thing thats predictable about the PE recruiting timeline is that it will be unpredictable, often at your expense. I did ALOT of self-prep and then when I thought I was ready I did a 1-2 dozen mock interviews with friends and friends of friends who work in PE, and then calibrated my answers and delivery based on their feedback.

On modeling, I would say it is a stressful situation. So even if you're extremely comfortable modeling, do a bunch of timed, from scratch lbo models of random companies you don't know. If nothing else, you atleast get the muscle memory and layout of the model down to where you go into auto-pilot and don't have to think about the mechanics.

Array
 
Mar 9, 2015 - 6:36pm

Great thread, thanks for contributing OP. On a side note regarding lbo models, I had a different experience in that I received a pretty intense modeling test / case study so you truly do have to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. I completely agree with Marcus' post above where he says to practice modeling until it's pretty much muscle memory. If I had to think about any of the mechanics of building the model, I would have never finished (which from what I heard, happened to the majority of other candidates).

 
Mar 13, 2015 - 7:12pm

Thanks for the informative post.

Do you know how exactly these headhunters get access to your email? I heard that they are actually given a list of all the analysts (ranked by bucket) by group.

If this is the case, do they also know which office you're located in? For instance, I'm at a top BB firm, but not in the NY office and am looking to recruit for NY PE and curious if they tend to reach out NY analysts first (My concern is that I'm not located in a big hub regional office like SF where there might be process that is just as streamlined, but something more like Boston/Chi/Houston).

 
Mar 15, 2015 - 11:26pm

Great post sir +1

Bitch please, I love bananas! If you found my advice useful, hit me up with one.
 
Mar 19, 2015 - 6:48pm

DaBBzMan:

@NorthSider @Candor @Marcus_Halberstram what about a VERY low gpa?

I got to the buyside with a GPA of 3.2 and from a 3rd/4th tier bank so a low GPA is definitely not impossible to overcome but it will be a large hurdle. Do you have a legitimate reason for the low GPA? Athlete, family death, etc... recruiters will 100% ask about it and i'm sure some it will come up in some interviews so you're going to want to have your story ready to go. Don't be surprised if you get dinged immediately by some firms when working with recruiters but I would imagine you still have a shot at some firms.

 
Mar 19, 2015 - 11:39pm

Truck:

DaBBzMan:

@NorthSider @Candor @Marcus_Halberstram what about a VERY low gpa?

I got to the buyside with a GPA of 3.2 and from a 3rd/4th tier bank so a low GPA is definitely not impossible to overcome but it will be a large hurdle. Do you have a legitimate reason for the low GPA? Athlete, family death, etc... recruiters will 100% ask about it and i'm sure some it will come up in some interviews so you're going to want to have your story ready to go. Don't be surprised if you get dinged immediately by some firms when working with recruiters but I would imagine you still have a shot at some firms.


Triple major, 2 sport D1 athlete (football/track), and fraternity president. Im hoping the fact that im in a target group gets me some points back
 
Apr 4, 2015 - 10:37am

great post, congrats on the offers!
I'm currently working in a multi billion fund in Europe, and would like to get interviews for associate positions in large cap funds or growth equity in the US (West coast). I know that I missed the big week in February and thus need to hope that some off-cycle opps open up. I am in contact with headhunters (Amity, Henkel, oxbridge, glocap) and am trying to network my way in but it proves to be very difficult. The Visa is not a problem and I come from a target university in Europe.

Any advice on how else to attack the job market?
Thanks!

 
Apr 20, 2016 - 2:59pm

Great post, incredibly helpful! Just a few questions, and anyone feel free to answer them.
1) Can you shed more light on how gobuyside.com works? When does one create an account on it, I am assuming its quite risky since its a public profile. I have also seen some profiles where the analysts have stars next to their positions, does that mean someone from their group went and endorsed them?
2) I'm going into a top tier MM bank (Jefferies, WF) could anyone speak to the reputation of these firms and their placement? Any insight into specific groups?

Thanks!

 
Apr 20, 2016 - 3:00pm

private equity recruiting Q&A (Originally Posted: 02/12/2012)

Have been getting more than a few inbound PE recruiting questions VIA PM, happy to field them here for everyone's benefit. The recruiting process has really shaken up this year and is a pretty significant source of anxiety given how opaque and unexpected it is.... So figured this may be a better forum than PM so everyone can benefit from it.

For those of you hyper-competitive monkeys out there's that have firm-specific question and don't want to divulge info, you can still PM me and I'll try my best to answer it when I can.

Let's try to limit questions to those pertaining to the new recruiting process... I.e. MM recruiting now, megafunds doing "fireside chats" in an attempt to keep the best candidates on ice until they kick off their recruiting much later.... most of the other questions can be answered somewhere else on this forum or the internet..

Array
 
Apr 20, 2016 - 3:32pm

private equity recruiting - 2012 and beyond (Originally Posted: 04/08/2012)

 After what happened last year with Bain jumping the gun to start the recruiting process for associates in April, I can't help but wonder what the recruiting process is looking like this year. 

 More generally, how has the process changed (if at all) since last year and is it realistic to assume that Private Equity recruiting is going to be strong in the next 2-3 years.

 All opinions and comments are appreciated.
 
Apr 20, 2016 - 3:34pm

private equity recruiting: how to managing work and interviews? (Originally Posted: 02/18/2014)

For those of you who went through the private equity recruiting process, or are planning to go through the process, how did you manage to balance the work and the recruiting aspect?

Were you in a good group where the staffer showed mercy and the associates carried the burden during recruiting weeks? Were you jammed and had to skip interviews or missed the process all together? Did you just run on very little sleep? Any advice on how to manage it all?

 
Jun 7, 2016 - 1:14am

Dual Question:

Can you elaborate on your thoughts on the potential stigma of 2nd years recruiting? Is there possibly an attitude that this fellow wasn't 'good' enough to go through recruiting his 1st year?

 
Aug 23, 2016 - 1:55am

Thanks for the great post!

I have a quick question. I have a 3.1 GPA from a top 5 school and am working in a good group at a mid-tier bulge bracket. I only have a 2180 SAT score. Do you have any advice on how I can mitigate the effect of my gpa? Should I take the GMAT or another exam? Thank you so much.

 
Sep 11, 2016 - 11:26pm

Grylls:

"I was sort of led to believe that unless I was at GS/BX/MS I wouldn't be getting looks from any of the top funds."

By BX are you referring to PJT Partners? Because isn't Blackstone a leading PE MF?

Are we already there? Am I know so old that Blackstone is not recognized as an IB. Eff this. Deuces.

Play the long game - give back, help out, mentor - just don't ever forget where you came from. #Bootstrapped
 
Nov 10, 2017 - 10:04am

This is a shameless plug to sell that recruiting package. What a load of BS. Use macabacus.com or MultipleExpansion.com for free to prepare.

 
Feb 11, 2018 - 10:14am

Goes to show, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Back in the day, before marriage and kids and college, lived on coffee, Marlboro reds, cheap vodka, cheap buds, cheap foods and the occasional blow-out weekend.

30 years later, it's pre/pro-biotics in the morning along with an hour-long walk, a couple cups of coffee w/a bowl of oatmeal in the morning; lots of beans and rice, salads, some chicken, fruits and veggies, and a few supplements. Had I known 30 years ago that I was going to live this long, I'd have taken much better care of myself!

 
May 8, 2018 - 1:38pm

Private Equity Analyst Recruiting - Best Prep (Originally Posted: 03/12/2018)

Hey everyone,

If I am completely knew to the world of ibanking/PE and an economics major (not finance) from undergrad, what would be your best suggestion on private equity analyst prep? I know the WSO i heard is solid, but what else?

 
Sep 19, 2018 - 6:13pm

I've made it to the final rounds for a few firms in the off-cycle process but didn't ultimately get the offer. Upon examining my performance, didn't also see anything that went wrong - but maybe I'm missing something

What are your thoughts on things you did well in your final rounds? Things that you felt helped you "seal the deal"?

 
Nov 8, 2018 - 11:01pm

This is one of those instances where pushing an old post to the front page and updating the date is really confusing. If someone reads this post and thinks it was actually made today they would 100% think the PE recruitment cycle is already over. Based on the comments it actually looks like this post was actually made March 2015.

Edit: So my original comment regarding the date of the post still stands but I've received word that most MF's ended on-cycle recruiting towards the end of October this year. That being said, I've also heard that since on-cycle was even earlier than usual this year, they will be making about 50% of hires off-cycle.

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