What do PE associates like to hear in an interview?

Waymon3x6's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,174

Hi all,

I have been scheduling calls with a few firms over the past few months. I am an IB analyst at a decent-sized firm with very good deal experience looking to get into the MM / LMM buyout space.

In addition to going through recruiters, I have been having side conversations with (mainly associates) at PE shops that invest in the verticals in which I have deal experience.

How do I "sell" myself to them in these conversations? What do these guys like to hear? Most often I discuss my background, walk through a few of my deals and then have the opportunity to ask them a few questions. But for whatever reason, things go "luke warm" after and I don't think I am impressing them as much as other candidates.

Is there anything I can do about this?

Thanks

Comments (8)

Feb 8, 2019

Hi Waymon3x6, the silence is deafening, sorry about that.... Any of the threads below helpful?

  • From Private Equity Associate to VP in Private Equity know is right here. Private Equity Job- What Do PE Associates Do? PE associates' days are ... Banking Associate Why go through the hassle of private equity recruiting opposed to trying to become an ... like
  • Answering Why Private Equity- 9 Key Answers to shed some light on private equity as a career. For information on answering the interview question ... some will require people to do both. Another difference is responsibility. In private equity (again, ... who you are). Interview Question- Why
  • Why Consulting- Answering the Interview Question came here looking for an answer to the interview question, "Why consulting?". First, what not ... Interview Question Before we get into consulting as a career choice, we need to indulge those of you who ... to say in response: A desire to travel Goo
  • AMA- Analyst at $1.5B Endowment Fund week and see what I can do to answer your questions. What is your current job title and a one sentence ... role where you need to think like an investor, I found the WSO Hedge Fund Interview Prep Pack extremely ... able to put in a good word for me. I also had relate able exp
  • Investment Banking Interview Questions- 15 Answers to Land the Job get, and what follow-up questions you want the interviewer to ask. No matter what, the answer here ... you guys do for fun. Some questions to avoid: 1) What are the hours like here? (Get that info later ... a Moelis/Houlihan/Evercore type firm in restructuring, got an offer f
  • Ex-McKinsey Consultant Here Answering Questions never got around to it; no time like the present! I'm doing an AMA at r/consulting on reddit as ... school, just to get the faux-modest "in Boston" response. What are the Common Exits from ... leaving was de-McKinsey-ifying myself. Consultants tend to wrap themselves in what looks like<
  • Investment Banking to Private Equity- 6 Things You Should Know about approaching these things in an intelligent manner. This is what a PE associate does all from the ... shops to hire IB analysts after their 2-3 year program. This question is almost like asking "Why do ... undergrad is getting hired to function in the same capacity
  • Private Equity vs Venture Capital- Differences and Similarities a point, an associate in private equity typically makes around $245k all-in while an associate in venture ... you. Interested in Private Equity- Here's What You Need to Break In Private equity is recruiti
  • More suggestions...

You're welcome.

Feb 10, 2019

The issue probably is that firms in the LMM typically only hire on an "as-needed" basis and don't follow a formal recruitment cycle like the UMM / MFs or like banking, so while the conversations you might have had went well, there probably wasn't anything actionable. Were those funds all on the smaller side? It may be a reflection of their needs at this time as opposed to anything "wrong" with your background or chat.

Feb 10, 2019

I'd agree with the above poster. They are most likely just trying to build their Rolodex and taking calls, but LMM firms run tight and only hire ad hoc.

You can ask them if they are hiring or to keep you in consideration next time they are looking.

Most Helpful
Feb 10, 2019

I've lead hiring for our associates in the past, meant lots of screens with IB analysts, here are my high level thoughts.

  1. Have a tight well rehearsed story. Nothing longer than 3-4 min, you'd be surprised at how many people ramble. A bad answer to "tell me about yourself" can almost kill the whole interview for me.
  2. Be able to walk through your deals well, but also try and think of them from the lens of a PE or strategic. Why were they buying the asset, why was it a good deal, etc. I've had people tell me about how they owned the model etc, but I don't really care about that, I'm screening for general investment sense/knowledge
  3. Have a good why xxx firm answer. I can tell if you're giving me a generic pitch on why PE. I want to see that you've done at least a few min of HW to figure out why you're specifically interested in our firm.
  4. Most importantly, you need to come across as mature, confident, and charismatic. For a LMM/MM firm you're going to be taking on a broader set of responsibilities than associates at bigger shops. That might mean significant travel, board meetings, working with portco management, sourcing, etc. The test I always run in my head is "could this person travel to our portco at xxx location, run a project with the CFO/CEO, convince them that they know what they're doing(and can actually execute on what they have to do) and then after a day of work be able to go out to a dinner with said CFO/CEO and entertain them, hold a conversation etc.

This is truthfully where 90% of people fall out for me. A lot of the analysts seem too young and if I can't seem them confidently stepping into this type of role, I could care less about how many deals they've worked, pedigree, etc.

Anyways this isn't the be all end all advice, but this if what my firm screens for.

    • 8
    • 1
Feb 10, 2019

Thank you all, this was very helpful.

mrharveyspecter:

I've lead hiring for our associates in the past, meant lots of screens with IB analysts, here are my high level thoughts.

  1. Have a tight well rehearsed story. Nothing longer than 3-4 min, you'd be surprised at how many people ramble. A bad answer to "tell me about yourself" can almost kill the whole interview for me.
  2. Be able to walk through your deals well, but also try and think of them from the lens of a PE or strategic. Why were they buying the asset, why was it a good deal, etc. I've had people tell me about how they owned the model etc, but I don't really care about that, I'm screening for general investment sense/knowledge
  3. Have a good why xxx firm answer. I can tell if you're giving me a generic pitch on why PE. I want to see that you've done at least a few min of HW to figure out why you're specifically interested in our firm.
  4. Most importantly, you need to come across as mature, confident, and charismatic. For a LMM/MM firm you're going to be taking on a broader set of responsibilities than associates at bigger shops. That might mean significant travel, board meetings, working with portco management, sourcing, etc. The test I always run in my head is "could this person travel to our portco at xxx location, run a project with the CFO/CEO, convince them that they know what they're doing(and can actually execute on what they have to do) and then after a day of work be able to go out to a dinner with said CFO/CEO and entertain them, hold a conversation etc.

This is truthfully where 90% of people fall out for me. A lot of the analysts seem too young and if I can't seem them confidently stepping into this type of role, I could care less about how many deals they've worked, pedigree, etc.

Anyways this isn't the be all end all advice, but this if what my firm screens for.

I think those are all very well-said points - thanks. I've been through my story quite a few times now and can articulate why I want to do PE and why their firm is interesting to me.

However, where I think I can impress them is by walking through my deals (and touching on the points you mentioned - the rationale, why it was a good deal strategically etc).

The issue is that many times, given that these are "informational-type" interviews, the associate on the other end won't ask me about the deals on my resume.

How do I walk them through a deal, if they do not ask? Should I loop this into my story? Or offer to walk them through one of my deals after I discuss my background?

Going off of the above, sometimes they won't ask me "why are you interested in our firm". Should I loop this into my story as well? I feel like these are selling points I can really nail, but they sometimes don't give me the opportunity to discuss these so the calls seem more generic.

My second question is, what are good questions to ask them? I usually ask them about their background, why they chose x firm and then maybe try to get a sense of associate work (how "hands-on" they are with their portcos, how much time is spent between working on new deals / portco work etc.) - am I missing anything major here? I try not to ask about fund performance or anything that might be a bit "aggressive" for an informational-interview.

Thanks

    • 3
Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Feb 11, 2019

Adding to what was said above, know your audience. I'll let your imagination run wild here, but try to learn as much about the interviewer pre-interview as an HR person would want to know about you. Blend common aspects of your backgrounds into the discussion by implying certain things, such as having studied field X before doing finance, having traveled to country X, etc. Connecting with the interviewer is by far the most important piece of an interview. Without it, I'll forget about you. Besides, if you're to conduct due diligence for me and you don't know that I went to Italy last summer based on my barely active yet public instagram account registered under my full name, I know you didn't do your homework. Anyone can learn technicals, but not everyone can actually pull a solid, easy-flowing conversation with an interviewer. Turning an inherently cold process into a slightly warmer chat will helps tremendously.

    • 2
Feb 11, 2019

Ah, yes, MS for writing about a key aspect of interviews, one that helped me go from non-target to MM M&A analyst to a 5+ billion AUM MM PE associate within two years, beating people with MBAs to the punch.

Feb 13, 2019
Comment