PE Interview Tricky Behavioral Questions - Need Advice

Hey guys - long time reader but first time poster here - thanks to everyone for all that you do. I am currently an analyst in a MM M&A group. I have had a couple PE interviews with different MM firms and I have repeatedly got some questions that I didn't really know how to answer in a good way. I was hoping you guys could give some thoughts. The questions are:

1. If i talked to your Associate, VP, MD, etc. what are some things they would say you do well and some things that you don't do well? (The "what do you do well" is easy enough to answer, but I'm not really sure what they are looking for / what would be a good answer for something I don't do well. It reminds of the "tell me one of your weaknesses" interview questions, and I always thought that was a pointless question and waste of time in an interview setting)

2. What other firms are you interviewing with? (I have a problem with this question because my logic is that if I mention other firms that are smaller/less prominent than the one I am currently interviewing with, they may think that I am not of high enough caliber to receive an offer from them. Conversely, if I mention larger firms, they may think that I wouldn't accept their offer if I received it and may feel compelled to offer someone that they think is more likely to accept. In the end, I think the best answer for me would be something like "I'd be happy to share that at a later date" or "I would prefer not to disclose that right now" to ensure that their decision is based on my merit/interviewing skills rather than any other outside factors)

Interested to hear all of your thoughts.


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Comments (5)

Jan 12, 2018 - 10:05am

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Best Response
Jan 16, 2018 - 5:40am

I had questions like this a number of times, I think they are pretty nice questions as they allow you to demonstrate you have done your homework and also that you know what they are looking for.

For example, question 1, you can list your strengths that you have and that have been praised in your reviews, whilst your weaknesses (whatever they may be), you can raise and frame them as an area which you are working on improving (e.g. Develop confidence to speak up enough in external meetings, have actively addressed this and not actively participate in all external meetings which has resulted in positive feedback from senior colleagues) etc. I would make sure this is based on truth however, as it will be vetted at the stage of gathering referrals.

For question 2, you can be honest and tell them the names of the other places you are interviewing with (DO NOT LIE OR EXAGGERATE), and then you can give a couple of reasons why you think the fund you are interviewing is your favourite and why you would pick them ahead of the others if you were to have offers from all. This is a powerful way of showing you understand how they do deals (e.g. x of y deals done have been proprietarily sourced which shows a great network and platform and avoids overpaying for assets and eroding returns through participating in auctions). Obviously if you are interviewing at one place which is head and shoulders above this firm, it is fine to leave that off. Try and use comparable names who they would see as competitors, and then demonstrate why you think they are superior.

Jan 16, 2018 - 9:05am

1.) things I don't do well. "The pace at which I work at sometimes causes a gap, and I find myself waiting on deliverables from others often in group work. I work continuously and efficiently and expect others to work at that pace which is apparently not the case with everyone."

2.) "I'm early in the process and waiting to confirm other interviews. I only interview at places I would accept an offer at coming out of the interview."
I feel like every place says they are early in the process, so I would shoot that back at them. The line gives an answer without a real answer - like a politician!

26 Broadway where's your sense of humor?
  • 2
Jan 16, 2018 - 10:10pm

On this side of the table, I could see myself asking those questions purely for informational gathering purposes just to see what you'd respond with and then evaluate from there without any real trickery behind the questions.

1) From an investor perspective, you're always giving a balanced answer of investment highlights and risks, and then mitigants to those risks. So clearly providing a weakness with no remedy is not a great answer.

2) I wouldn't name specific firms unless they specifically ask. I'd answer generically saying that I'm interviewing with other mm PE shops. Showing that there's competition for you puts the pressure on them to consider you seriously. I personally think offering up the names of those firms puts you at risk if they know people at those firms. Think about it from an investment process perspective. You'd always ask the banker or target company what other buyers are in the process. The sophisticated banker would say other similarly sized strategic and financial buyers. The unsophisticated corporation would tell you straight up who the other buyers are, and that's unnecessarily volunteering information.

And when they ask where you are in the process, I'm usually honest about if I'm early, middle or late. If I'm in the middle and get an offer in the near term, they'd expect me to let them know so they can move me forward. If I lie about being in middle or late stage, then when they don't hear from me for a while, clearly that didn't pan out. Saying that I'm early, when true, let's me bide my time with the other processes so that every firm is in sync in timeline.

Jan 20, 2018 - 4:20am

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