While private equity firms continue to attract both new grads and seasoned financial veteran, these firms are extremely selective about their hires. More challenging still, these firms are almost universally small in size, and most will hire only a few new people in a typical year.
The good news for those looking for jobs in private equity is, that because the needs of firms vary, the firms hire according to their individual need, and that means there is really no default profile for the perfect candidate. Besides investment banking, professions such as management consulting, law, accounting and operations all provide a pathway to a job in private equity.
Still, seeking a job in the private equity industry is neither easy nor simple. Here’s what you need to know to help you pursue one of these very limited opportunities.
Beyond scrutinizing your personality, and evaluating your business judgment, you could find yourself challenged on everything from financial modeling, to verbal reasoning and mental arithmetic. You cannot be over-prepared for a private equity interview. And your real experience will count far more than the brand you worked for. That said, beware inflating your credentials. Don’t mention deals on your work history that didn't truly have your fingerprints on them.
Parlez vous? Sprechen sie? Habla? Anda bias? Many recruiters state that speaking a second, or third, language—particularly European-- is a likely requirement. Brush up, or get studying.
It is paramount that you understand the art of the deal and can demonstrate deal experience with both large companies and small entrepreneurial firms. And have you combined your deal-making ability with specific industry or operational experience? That makes for a more rare—and desirable—animal.
Make your case
Give them a case study, and keep it simple. That will always be more impressive than struggling though a complicated analysis. Candidates are expected to have strong analytic and research abilities. Even if you are relatively young, you’ll be expected to contribute broadly as part of a team.
If you have banking/PE experience, you should able and ready to discuss your transactions easily and freely. With a more non-traditional background, be prepared to offer a convincing case for how you would fit into PE.
PE firms are lean and efficient, and regularly outsource their recruiting efforts to headhunters. Part of your search must be finding and contacting these headhunters. Cold-calls and emails will work; just be sure to highlight the big brand names. The larger firms act quickly, but with smaller firms, you could see many rounds of interviews as well as lunches and dinners with key representatives of the firm.
Connections and experience is what separates the top dogs from the rest of the pack, especially in tight job markets. While private equity has always been a challenging and rewarding career path, you’ll need a stellar resume, world-calls skills and a shining personality—and more—to land yourself a PE position.
Robert Namar is CEO of NAMARketing News, and a Wall Street veteran consulting for a number of financial services firms