Post-MBA PE Recruiting - Insights Appreciated

Hey WSO,

Looking for some guidance from PE professionals on how to frame my background for PE recruiting Post-MBA, where I stack up against others and other general insights.

My background is a bit unique, worked at a well-known boutique bank for two years earning a third year offer then went over to corp dev, fortune 1000, acquiring over 15 small-midsize companies and getting promoted to VP over my three years there. State school undergrad and now I'm heading to Wharton for my MBA.
I'm trying to answer the following questions:

I. How should I think about framing my deal experience for PE?
II. Would I get looks at larger PE funds? How about middle market guys?
III. What role out of business school would I be recruiting for? Senior Associate?
IV. How should I approach my summer internship? Would I be required, in your view, to get a PE role given my lack of experience specifically doing PE? Does doing banking for a summer make sense?
V. Does it make sense to use a headhunter for PE recruiting out of Wharton?
VI. Would a PE firm respect the fact that I've worked in a company and learned its operations for a number of year or are they strictly focused on deals?

Thanks for the advice!

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Comments (27)

Best Response
Mar 22, 2017 - 8:59am

First, congrats on going to Wharton. Given your background, I think getting your story right around "why XYZ" fund and why exactly you want to do regular-way PE is going to be important. The technical stuff will be table stakes, but your story and "fit" with the recruiting funds will differentiate you. To your questions:

  1. You should frame your experience as getting lots of reps, and giving you lots of practice developing an investment thesis, and identifying and validating operational improvements (I'm assuming you did this in corp. dev.). Ideally, this will tie to whatever sector focus or fund size you're targeting, too, to be a more natural story.
  2. Yes, you can get looks from all of them so long as you present your story well and your size/focus preferences "fit" with the fund.
  3. It will be Senior Associate or VP roles, depending on the firm. Many have structures where you'll start as a Senior Associate for a short period (6-18 mos) to learn their strategy/process before bumping to VP quickly.
  4. You should get a PE role. PE investing is different than corp. dev., so a PE internship will be important. I've seen more firms doing MBA internships over the past year, so there should be opportunities. I wouldn't do banking, especially since you've done it before. It won't be additive to your experience.
  5. Yes, you should contact all the HH. They will have some opportunities in the fall but will ramp up as graduation approaches.
  6. This will depend on their firm. I would guess they will assign more value if they're focused on a similar sector.

Hope that helps.

Mar 22, 2017 - 9:56am
Negative Basis:

First, congrats on going to Wharton. Given your background, I think getting your story right around "why XYZ" fund and why exactly you want to do regular-way PE is going to be important. The technical stuff will be table stakes, but your story and "fit" with the recruiting funds will differentiate you. To your questions:

  1. You should frame your experience as getting lots of reps, and giving you lots of practice developing an investment thesis, and identifying and validating operational improvements (I'm assuming you did this in corp. dev.). Ideally, this will tie to whatever sector focus or fund size you're targeting, too, to be a more natural story.
  2. Yes, you can get looks from all of them so long as you present your story well and your size/focus preferences "fit" with the fund.
  3. It will be Senior Associate or VP roles, depending on the firm. Many have structures where you'll start as a Senior Associate for a short period (6-18 mos) to learn their strategy/process before bumping to VP quickly.
  4. You should get a PE role. PE investing is different than corp. dev., so a PE internship will be important. I've seen more firms doing MBA internships over the past year, so there should be opportunities. I wouldn't do banking, especially since you've done it before. It won't be additive to your experience.
  5. Yes, you should contact all the HH. They will have some opportunities in the fall but will ramp up as graduation approaches.
  6. This will depend on their firm. I would guess they will assign more value if they're focused on a similar sector.

Hope that helps.

This is solid.

Don't do banking for the summer, that could add complexity to your story. I would do your best to try and secure a PE internship with a megafund or well-respected middle-market fund.

Mar 22, 2017 - 11:28am

Negative Basis,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. This is extremely helpful.

As a follow up to item 4, based on what you've seen, would those PE funds recruit on campus for summer roles? For what size funds have you been seeing these internship opportunities?

And finally, how would you best advise to frame deals on the resume outside the "built financial model, created presentations, managed diligence process?" Or is this formula fine?

Mar 22, 2017 - 12:23pm

From what I've seen, MBA summer internships in PE are a mix of on-campus recruiting and individually sourced through networking. They span from megafunds down to lower middle market shops. For you, you should apply to all of them, but really focus on the ones that match your eventual fund size preferences. That said, it's easier to move downmarket (in terms of size) than up, and brand matters for getting past the initial resume screen for FT recruiting. My experience has been that MM roles are more plentiful than megafund/large cap roles for full time (just due to the number of firms), but you should target what fits with your story and preferences --- and whatever internship you have should align and fit with that story and your preferences.

In terms of framing your experience, you should make it clear that you've done the modeling/presentations/diligence as part of the general experience, but I'd pick a few deals to highlight and point out your "value-add" to those deals. That could mean an analysis you did that identified a new market opportunity, validated the growth strategy, or whatever --- but you should focus on the things that were more "value-add" and impactful to how value was created through the transaction and post-ownership. I don't think you should just list the "standard" modeling/diligence/presentations experience since that won't differentiate you from your competition, and isn't really indicative of your ability to add value as a post-MBA hire.

Good luck!

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Mar 22, 2017 - 2:20pm

Thanks Ledger123,

What are the key things you would look for in an "airtight" PE story? I imagine this would include a solid summary of past experiences including why certain decisions were made, emphasis on PE relevant experience and a strong why for PE and the firm at hand. Am I missing anything else in your view? Thanks again for the advice.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:12pm

Better for Post-MBA PE (Originally Posted: 07/28/2010)

Lets say you only do IB at GS/MS/JPM or MC at M/B/B pre-MBA, but no pre-MBA PE. What work experience, IB or MC, would be more applicable for post-MBA recruiting?

Lets say for instance you are military and you have the option to work at Mck/Bain/BCG for 2 years or Goldman/Morgan/JPM for 2 years before going to HBS (in a perfect world). What would be better to have on your resume if you want to work in PE after business school?

  • 3
Mar 22, 2017 - 3:13pm

Depends....the consulting firms you just listed are quite solid but one could make the argument that you would get better mathematical and analytical experience doing IB.

Would you be in an industry-specific group at your BB IB firm (in a perfect world)? In that case, something like GS's TMT group as a FT Analyst for 2 years could be a huge boost.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:15pm

What if the M/B/B job is within the PE group?

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:20pm
jc100021:
What if the M/B/B job is within the PE group?

You aren't going to get staffed into the PE group full time. A 6 month rotation? Maybe if you are in SF/BOS/NY office. As a new hire they want you to get broad experience in a variety of engagements.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:16pm

planning way ahead of yourself. get the job before saying GSMSJPMMBB.

based on when this thread was posted, chances are you dont even have those jobs yet.

also post mba, in case you dont know already bankers and consultants are dime a dozen.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:17pm

Planning ahead has been the key to my success my entire life. I wouldnt be asking this question if I didnt have the possibility.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:18pm

I am debating if I should chase one industry or the other, because the time I have to deciate to it is limited. I have multiple contacts in both industries that I am considering leveraging for interviews. I am completely aware I could end up with nothing--but even then I have a solid, garanteed fall back plan that I won't mention.

  • 1
Mar 22, 2017 - 3:19pm

Career changers with none of the above experience are also a dime a dozen--and are even at a bigger disadvantage.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:21pm
jc100021:
Lets say you only do IB at GS/MS/JPM or MC at M/B/B pre-MBA, but no pre-MBA PE. What work experience, IB or MC, would be more applicable for post-MBA recruiting?

IB would better position you for PE. Only a few PE shops (e.g. Bain Cap, Golden Gate, Parthenon) hire many consultants.

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:22pm

I would say IB would be the best/safest route. Either career path would, in theory, qualify you for HBS but I think IB would provide you with the skill set that would be expected at a PE shop after bschool.

Either would be good, but in my mind, IB just strikes me as more of a "sure thing." Best of luck.

Regards

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant, it's just that they know so much that isn't so." - Ronald Reagan
  • 1
Mar 22, 2017 - 3:24pm

There are more funds that would value the modeling skills you gain from IB than the operational skills you get in MC. It depends on the contacts you make and the kind of funds you're targeting (in terms of size and specialty) compared to what you've worked on, but ceteris paribus, if you're set on PE, I'd take GS/MS over MBB.

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  • 1
Mar 22, 2017 - 3:25pm

More difficult getting a PE job pre or post-MBA? (Originally Posted: 09/02/2011)

What's more competitive? Getting a job at a top PE shop from BB investment banking pre-MBA, or going back into a top PE shop from business school (with a top PE shop on your resume already)? What about MM PE --> MBA --> top PE?

Mar 22, 2017 - 3:29pm
goldman in da house:
What's more competitive? Getting a job at a top PE shop from BB investment banking pre-MBA, or going back into a top PE shop from business school (with a top PE shop on your resume already)? What about MM PE --> MBA --> top PE?

I dont know about everyone else but I get agitated when people somehow differentiate MM PE as somehow below "Top PE"....Middle market is an investment strategy not a measure of success or "top tier".

Also, MM groups can manage many billions too, these things are not mutually exclusive. and MM doesnt mean small, bottom tier, ect.

We've got half a million shares in the bag!
  • 2
Mar 22, 2017 - 3:30pm

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