On Cycle 2022 Debrief - My Experience

As other threads have mentioned, it was an absolute shitshow and super chaotic, but it seems like that's pretty much the case every year. Thought it may be helpful to walk through my process from start to finish. For background, I'm a 2nd year who recruited for MM/UMM/MF buyout. 

1. Headhunter Meetings

The week of 8/30 all major headhunters reached out to arrange introductory Zoom meetings for the week of 9/6. The meetings were way simpler/easier than I thought they would be. I had previously heard some headhunters made you do paper LBOs, but nothing like that even remotely happened. The meetings were pretty formulaic and all followed the same format for questions: Tell me about yourself, walk me through a deal on your resume, why are you interested in PE / what strategy / what geography, followed by discussing their client list. Nothing groundbreaking in any of these meetings, were very simple and the HHs were very easy to talk to. 

2. The Process

Monday evening my phone started ringing and basically didn't stop ringing for the next 24 hours. Started getting blasted with headhunter emails as the night went on, with immediate interview timelines. Headhunters were calling my cell as late as 3am to schedule interviews starting at 7am. Other funds wanted me to interview at 2am that first night. I didn't take any interviews the first night because it seemed insane to me, but the headhunters can be very persistent so definitely need to push back on them. I had back to back interviews scheduled throughout the entire next day. There is 0 communication even between headhunters at the same firm.

You will have different people at the same headhunting firm trying to schedule interviews with different funds at the same exact time. You'll be put in a position where you need to decide which fund you want to interview at knowing you may never get a chance at the fund you didn't pick. Once you pick a fund to interview at, you can be stuck there for 5+ hours. This sucks because you can be there for 5 hours, miss out on a bunch of other opportunities, and still not get an offer from them. The process truly is terrible. I bounced around all day between zoom and in person interviews trying to prioritize my top choices. Pretty demoralizing getting cut from multiple processes, but that's the way it goes. I eventually got my offer that night after a full day of rejections. 

3. The Debrief

3a. Interviews

First round interviews themselves were typically between 1 - 1.5 hours where you would meet with 2/3 investment professionals ranging in seniority from associate to principal. Had to do several paper LBO type questions so definitely be comfortable with that. Was surprised the number of banking type technical questions about LBOs, financial statements, etc. Going in, I thought the interviews would be more deal walkthrough / behavioral and the model test would cover the technical portion but that wasn't the case. The model tests are covered pretty well on this site, but expect a 1.5 hour - 3 hour model test / case study portion of the interview process. I felt pretty prepared for this using both 3rd party prep resources + materials saved on my bank's sharedrive from previous analysts.

I bombed my first interview and got more comfortable / better throughout the day. May make sense to try to schedule a fund that's not your #1 choice to be your first interview, but at the same time there is a game theory aspect to choosing your interviews because many funds are trying to fill their slots ASAP. If a fund you're interviewing at lets you leave at any point (this year it was leaving a Zoom breakout room...), it's extremely likely you've been cut from the process. They will keep you there interviewing for hours straight if they want you and give you the offer there and then. I've heard of offers which immediately exploded (accept right now or the offer is gone), so do not expect to have much time to think about it. 

3b. Headhunter Reviews

This may vary given your preferred strategy / location / fund size, but attempted to rank the headhunters below for my experience in the on cycle process.

Tier 1

CPI - Incredible client list across MM/UMM buyout. Got me several interviews.

Henkel - A bit heavier on the MFs than CPI if that's something you're interested in. Got me several interviews. 

Tier 2

SG Partners - Seemingly disorganized / spammy with their outreach, but they have some solid opportunities. Gave me several interview opportunities at brand name funds. 

Amity - Centerbridge and Bain highlight client list, but strong MM funds as well

Ratio - Apollo + solid list of MMs

Tier 3

All others (Oxbridge, DSP, Bellcast, Gold Coast, etc) didn't appear to be as active during on cycle. Not to say these firms don't have good client lists or anything like that, I just didn't interact with them much outside of the intro meeting. 

Hope this was helpful!

Private Equity Interview Course

  • 2,447 questions - 203 PE funds. Crowdsourced from 750k+ members
  • 9 Detailed LBO Modeling Tests and 15+ hours of video solutions.
  • Trusted by over 1,000 aspiring private equity professionals just like you.

Comments (45)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 19, 2021 - 7:16pm

What resources did you use to prepare for each part of the process? any recommendation as to a study plan - like which to go over first before practicing model tests

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 19, 2021 - 10:03pm

The big advantage of on cycle recruiting being pushed back a full year for my class was being able to get good technical experience on the job. I had the chance to build LBOs for clients in a work setting, so the technical prep portion was pretty limited for me. I did timed modeling tests from my firm's drive to work on the timing part of it. Anecdotally, I've heard good things about WSO's PE prep model tests but didn't use it myself. Regarding a broader plan, step 1 should be getting to a point where you can fly through paper LBOs. This will set up a good basis for actual LBO modeling. LBO modeling isn't hard, you just need to get reps in to feel comfortable doing it in a timed setting. There's only so many twists you can get in a model test, especially during the on cycle process where speed is paramount to the firms. I'd say in off-cycle you should expect a more technical process given the longer timeline. They can give you a week long take home case study for example.  

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 19, 2021 - 10:20pm

Thanks! I'm an incoming analyst (starting 2022) so if anyone has any advice on a solid study plan without getting real deal reps, would definitely highly appreciate.

For IB recruiting it seemed pretty straight forward, I just utilised Rosenbaum and M&I400 but not sure what the best process is for learning everything for PE.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 19, 2021 - 8:26pm

Were the processes all relatively similar format? Any of them have any unusual types of cases or tests?

In general, around how many funds do you think one can/should go for? Obviously depends on the overlap and such, but given on-cycle is like 1-2 days and processes are a couple of hours each, seems like one is very limited 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 19, 2021 - 10:09pm

I'd say all pretty similar format. I was only recruiting for sizeable buyout as I mentioned, so I think that's a limiting factor in getting a "creative" test. Feel like credit/distressed/growth all lend themselves to potentially more difficult case studies.  

I think you should go for as many funds as you possibly can. You end up scheduling interviews with different funds and cancelling them / pushing them back because you're deep in a process at another fund. I was scheduling interviews back to back in tight windows because I knew it was possible I wouldn't make it past the first round in my first one. This may not be the right strategy if you have a few "dream funds", but I was pretty open to different opportunities so I knew cancelling wasn't the biggest deal for me as I was better off staying if I advanced in a process. Luck plays a major factor in on cycle given the condensed timeline. It's possible you choose to interview at a place where you don't get along with the interviewer over a place where you would've gotten an offer. Truly a crazy process. 

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 19, 2021 - 10:34pm

Where did you end up / are you happy with the outcome? Or did you consider waiting for off-cycle at any point?

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 12:52am

UMM firm, extremely happy with the outcome. Obviously won't really know until I start, but seems like a good fit with both investment focus and culture.

I did not consider waiting for off-cycle at any point. I knew I wanted to do on-cycle and just get it over with to be honest. Did not want to wait days / weeks between interviews and finding out the decision. I'm happy the process is over with and now I can relax and do fun things like turning comments at 1am on a Sunday night :)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 12:25am

How do you possibly balance this with your banking job, especially at a group that isn't as friendly to PE recruiting? I'm only a first year analyst but I feel like there's already barely enough hours in the day for me to just do this job, i can't imagine being stuck in interviews all day and not being able to do my banking job

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 12:54am

My group was very friendly to PE recruiting. I told them straight up that I had interviews lined up all day and they did not bother me. If you can't tell them straight up, you should take a personal day. I did not have time to do an ounce of work for the entire day because I was bouncing from interview to interview. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 12:28am

Do you think getting interviews was based on the formulaic target school/high GPA/good group or did you and others in your analyst class get the same interviews across the board and success was a matter of how much people had prepared and wanted it? 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 12:57am

I'm not from a target school, but did come from a strong banking group and had a high GPA. Don't think coming from a non-target held me back as I had interviews with mega funds, UMM funds, etc. I did have very strong deal experience as well, which probably helped. Most analysts in my group probably got similar opportunities as long as they came across well prepared / informed in HH meetings. Ultimately, a fund can only flag your resume for interview if the HH includes it.   

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Sep 20, 2021 - 4:54am

Are paper lbo's mental math heavy with waterfall debt or do they use simplified numbers?

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 20, 2021 - 9:55am

Great debrief. I would maybe disagree with choosing a fund you are not interested in as the first interview. Personally I think it could be a waste of time if you spend hours at a place you know you don't want to be at. Not to mention that this is an extremely fast process, I know people who chose to interview with a firm they liked on day 2 afternoon and were told that the class was filled already when it was his turn to interview. Always prioritize.

Also had a pretty bad experience with CPI - the interviewer blew me off bc my deal experience was with international sponsors (which does not make sense to me) and i didn't have any actual LBO experiences as I didn't work on any sponsor deals. Didn't give me any opportunities until day 3 on a couple MM firms but by then I already had an offer. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 22, 2021 - 3:32am

Second this about CPI. Would be very wary of them. Got great looks at MF, UMM and MM shops from every other main HH firm. HSP, Ratio, Amity, Gold Coast, Oxbridge, Bellcast, etc. helped secure so many interviews that I had to skip a bunch due to conflicts with other interviews. Ended up at a MF that was my #1 target going in. Meanwhile, CPI was totally useless and unresponsive throughout the entire process. Was literally as if they decided I wasn't worth their time at all. Didn't even get notified about a single opportunity. Don't think I will consider working with them ever again. Was that bad.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 22, 2021 - 11:10am

Just to play devil's advocate here and to offer a different perspective…

For me I would say CPI was easily the most helpful and blew me up with interviews with very solid MM/UMM funds, including the firm I accepted the offer from . Probably didn't get as many hits from the rest of the HHs combined. Amity and Ratio both either cancelled or just never bothered to schedule time with me. Maybe their criteria for screening people is significantly different leading to opposite experiences. In particular this year given that the HHs seemed pretty ill-prepared for the process, it seems they had to prioritize certain people and it's showing.

I certainly don't care to stump for the business or integrity of the people by any means. I trust HHs no more than I trust my MDs lol. But for future candidates, I don't want people to write them off based on a couple comments they saw on WSO (which of course, no one should ever do this). As a non-target state school kid at a mid-tier bank, CPI was a lot more useful to me than I expected. And in general, while I have equal frustration with Amity or Ratio, it's so easy to stay in touch and catch up with them and stay on their radar. Don't see any reason to write off any HH before or even after going through the process.

Sep 21, 2021 - 5:40pm

I Mann

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 21, 2021 - 10:46pm

Fully agree with this. Realistically who's not on a live deal right now?

Helps this year that there were first years to push the work off to. But either way, associates have seen this happen before and will see it again. They may not love it but ultimately it's their job to make sure the work gets done, with or without you.

They can't really do anything about it. Yell at you? Write you a shitty review? Complain to someone else who couldn't care less what analysts are up to? If you're set on leaving anyways, there's not much to be worried about.

Sep 22, 2021 - 2:39am

Congrats buddy that's the best possible outcome for you and good advice to impart on other given I went through this myself (MF off-cycle though). I gotta ask are you taking your banking job any differently now that you have your PE offer in hand? Since I had mine off-cycle I only had about a month between banking and switching to my PE gig but I had always heard that most folks who got a PE role a year or two out from PE were a little more chilled out relative to those who were set to stay. And by chilled out I mean they were able to manage upwards better given the relative lack of long-term consequences, not that they were just slacking off.

  • 2
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 22, 2021 - 1:26pm

Are managing upwards and slacking off all that different haha? Feels like in the banking culture, anyone who's not doing 110% is labeled as slacking anyways.

Personally I don't know if it has to be an offer as much as realizing you just don't want to be in banking (even if your future is uncertain). I know many people who were checked out of this job way before recruiting even started, nevermind actually having a job. Reality seems to be that this job has so many fake threats / intimidation, but so few real ramifications. Once you realize that and realize that you don't care… it becomes easy.

Sep 24, 2021 - 2:33am

Yes but there's a difference in managing upwards actively and caring. Those who don't care many think they are managing upwards by staving off staffings etc but that's vastly different from the guy who's into the job but trying to ward off staffings which are just not manageable given the workload.

Agree that the ramifications tend to be soft relative to reality but if you think about it, relative to what? Like if you're a bad analyst the ramifications are that you'll get scored poorly and become a bottom bucket guy with the lowest bonus which imo sucks. And that bonus, at least for someone in my financial situation coming out of college, really mattered despite whatever buyside offer was on the table.

  • 4
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 24, 2021 - 4:05am

I guess in the context of your original question, do you actually feel that there were people who still actively cared and managed upwards post-offer? I don't disagree at all with your distinction in a broader context when it includes people who want to stay, but more so in my experience those that have PE offers just don't care so it feels pretty binary. Seems those who stay never really push back, and those who definitively plan to leave just avoid as much work as possible. Obviously not good on either end, but it feels to me like banking culture creates that divide, especially at an analyst level.

With regards to bonus and such, I obviously can't speak for your financial situation. But personally (not from a loaded family; didn't have major college debt as I went to a state school; fully support myself financially but no unique expenses), I generically disagree with working hard just for the bonus. Difference between top and bottom bucket in my group this year was ~15k. Relative to my salary and bonus size, retrospectively it wasn't worth caring on a daily basis for like 8k post-tax earnings IMO. Definitely could be bank and group-specific depending on the sizes of the gaps in bonuses and hours worked (for us the range might've been easily +/-30 hours a week given the crazy deal flow this year). But at least for me and my group, the ratio just means highly diminishing returns.

Again, just speaking from personal experience as a very jaded second-year that just lived through unreasonable WFH culture, ridiculous turnover leading to new / incompetent mid-level people, and insanely busy times. Think this is pretty consensus across my group, but am sure it varies a lot and may be dependent on culture and personalities.

Most Helpful
Sep 24, 2021 - 4:14am

I mean you kinda hit home here so I'm on the same page as you. Technically not getting a bigger bonus wouldn't have affected my life that much but while I came from a really similar background, I always wanted the most money I could get and would've killed me inside to not earn within the top bucket despite the arguably negligible difference in the long run as you mentioned with the delta between top and bottom bucket. So even though I had a relatively solid upbringing and no college debt due to my state college tuition, I was still raised in a household where I was given the minimal allowance my parents thought was acceptable (15-20 bucks a month) and as a result really came to appreciate every dollar I earned.

That being said, going back to my original post, when I got my PE offer I only really slacked off for my two weeks notice given I was an immediate hire through off-cycle hiring so I was just curious as to how others reacted when they got their offers 2 yrs in advance as opposed to me, which was basically a month in advance.

  • 5
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 23, 2021 - 1:03am

Thanks! I'd say not taking my banking job much differently as I always knew I was leaving the firm after my analyst stint. Throughout even my first year I was pushing back and slow rolling deliverables for my own sanity. I think managing upwards is really important and I've had pretty decent WLB as a result. I wasn't beholden to impressing anybody because I didn't want the associate promotion, was basically just trying to get a solid bonus. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 22, 2021 - 10:14am

DSP, Oxbridge, Ratio, Henkel were all great to work with. 

Amity never even reached out (at an EB), and CPI just ghosted. 

  • Analyst 1 in PE - Growth
Sep 24, 2021 - 7:06am

Current first year here, how does on cycle work for those not at large banks / EBs? Particularly being at a leaner growth equity firm (not GA, Insight, Summit etc.) would HHs know to reach out or would this require me to be proactive in reaching out to them? Is growth equity even on cycle? Thanks!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 25, 2021 - 9:32am

Nam eveniet qui ut. Nisi doloribus tempore minus. Impedit illum qui rerum ut. Deserunt quae ad non sed voluptatum sunt. Reiciendis nobis et exercitationem eum ratione qui labore.

Eius consequatur voluptas deleniti ipsam non. Minus sunt dolor similique veritatis. Non numquam accusantium doloremque voluptatem maxime commodi facilis ut.

Atque dolorem eius dolorem dolor et dignissimos voluptatem. Enim omnis et consequatur nobis est qui mollitia. Voluptates perferendis veniam doloremque unde iure. Iure officia suscipit optio quaerat velit rerum. Optio numquam est deleniti ut qui molestiae soluta.

Ipsa molestiae similique minima animi eius quis qui. Minus ducimus dolores modi cum eum porro est. Soluta eos ea mollitia accusamus est.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

October 2021 Private Equity

  • Principal (7) $694
  • Director/MD (18) $575
  • Vice President (68) $367
  • 3rd+ Year Associate (69) $270
  • 2nd Year Associate (141) $254
  • 1st Year Associate (287) $220
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (26) $159
  • 2nd Year Analyst (61) $135
  • 1st Year Analyst (185) $118
  • Intern/Summer Associate (20) $67
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (221) $59