With summer internships drawing to a close and another round of full-time recruiting about to start, I’m getting a lot of questions on last-minute networking, how to prepare for interviews if you’ve had an internship, and what to do if you’re not getting a full-time offer.
And then there’s the usual bout of bottle service, “lifestyle” and related questions…
1. I heard that when you get into private equity, you instantly start dating models and everyone from taxi drivers to restaurant chefs begins to worship you. Does anything else cool happen?
Yes. In addition to all that, you also get to become a guest star on Entourage – if you look at some of the party scenes, all the guys in the background are in finance.
2. Can you write a post about bottle service? I’ve heard you get it all the time and it’s the best part about finance.
You go to an overpriced club and pay $400 for alcohol that would cost you $10 elsewhere, then you sit around with your burned out friends talking about how awesome the night is going to be. Then, nothing cool happens and you pass out on the floor of your apartment a few hours later.
3. You’ve said before that you get banking hours at places like KKR and Blackstone, but what about at smaller PE firms like Audax, New Mountain Capital, etc.?
In general, hours at smaller places are better – though still far from 9 to 5 – but you have to be careful because even some of the smaller places have a reputation for working you really hard. Caveat emptor.
4. Do you think buy-side work is more stimulating or more interesting?
There’s less grunt work than in banking (no fixing printers…) but it’s a stretch to say the work is remarkably different. In PE you do a lot of research, due diligence, valuing companies and modeling transactions… sound familiar?
Also similar to banking, the learning curve flattens out after you’ve done a few deals because the process is always the same.
5. Do you get pigeonholed as you advance within the buy-side? For example, if I start out in an energy group in investment bank, am I going to be stuck at energy PE firms for the rest of my career?
It doesn’t always happen, but as you move up your skills will become more and more specialized. Jumping from hedge fund to hedge fund, for example, can be difficult because some funds are focused on extremely narrow skill sets.
So if you haven’t invested in corporate bonds of European alternative energy companies, you might be out of luck if the fund is looking for people who have.
6. Do you think I can get into private equity from undergraduate without investment banking experience? I interned at a local VC firm this past summer.
There are firms that recruit straight out of undergrad, but you need either solid connections at those places, or you have to be at a target school where they come and recruit on-campus.
You also need to convince them that you did “real” work during your internship, and you need to learn basic LBO modeling, how to handle case studies, etc. because they’re bound to come up.
Preparing for Full-Time Recruiting
Here’s what to expect if you’ve had a banking or finance-related internship:
7. I did a banking internship at a boutique this summer, but it wasn’t that technical – what should I expect for full-time interviews?
Your interviews will be very technical and/or they’ll focus exclusively on what you did in your internship. They won’t ask you much in the way of “fit” questions beyond the basics (why banking, walk me through your resume…).
I suggest going over each of your deals, investments, or other projects and writing some notes on the story you want to tell, what you did specifically, and make sure you can back up everything you write on your resume.
8. How should I prepare to talk about my banking internship?
Come up with a short 30-second summary to describe what you did at the beginning (Worked at XX bank, focused on XX industries, worked on XX live M&A/IPO/Debt/other deals and helped with valuations and research).
For each deal/project/investment, structure it like a story – “introduce” it by saying what the company did, how big it was in terms of revenue/profit etc. and why it was an interesting client/investment. Then talk about what type of process they wanted to run, or what type of investment you wanted to make, and then the major things that happened along the way (rounds of bidding, what due diligence revealed, etc.).
More on discussing deal experience.
9. I’m not going to receive a full-time offer out of my internship, but a recruiter there offered to “sponsor” me and refer me to other firms – how do I use this to my advantage?
You’re over-thinking this one. Contact her, be very direct, and ask for referrals to other firms. It helps if you’re specific with your requests, so don’t just say, “Tell me about anyone who’s hiring!” – try to narrow it down by geography, industry, or firm size.
How to Network Without Being a Tool
Aside from not being aggressive enough, the single biggest mistake you can make with networking is looking like those nerdy Princeton kids in Harold & Kumar.
10. I have an informational call setup with a recruiter at a middle-market firm. Should I introduce myself by telling her about my 4.0 GPA and other accomplishments?
Sure, that’s a great idea if you want her to think you’re a socially awkward loser.
Use common sense – start by giving your name, where you went to school, and what you’re interested in hearing about – and try to talk about sports, travel, hobbies, etc. rather than asking about “the industry” or trying too hard to seem smart.
11. How should I contact alumni that I haven’t spoken with before?
See above. You definitely need to mention the school connection, in both your subject line for emails and in your first sentence introducing yourself.
Past that, make it a very casual conversation and ask about their background, try to find common interests, and focus on those. The more “off-topic” you can make the conversation, the better.
In emails, just ask to speak to them on the phone for 10 minutes or meet up for coffee and keep it short and very casual – busy people are unlikely to reply to long/complicated requests.
12. How should I handle on-campus information sessions during fall recruiting?
Read this article. Speak to as many people as you can, focusing on the more senior ones, and collect business cards from everyone. Speak for a few minutes (stay away from “business”) and then make up an excuse and say you have to run.
Then, follow-up within a few days and introduce yourself as “the guy/girl who had to run to class” (or whatever excuse you used) so it jogs their memory (hopefully you made a good impression on them as well).
99% of information session attendees fail to get business cards and follow-up, so this is where you can dominate the competition.
Note: I won’t claim credit for the idea above, a reader suggested it in the comments on the informational session article.
13. When do you think it’s appropriate to ask a networking contact to review my resume?
After you’ve spoken at least once. Personally, I don’t think this is that helpful unless you really want input on your resume. If you want to know about internships or jobs, ask about them.
14. Should I develop an “elevator pitch” to use if I run into senior bankers in the morning?
Yes, but don’t over-think it. Try to open with a joke, talk about something that happened that morning, and then briefly say where you work or what you’re doing now.
With everyone so focused on getting into finance, we often forget what happens if you fail to advance or get laid off on your way up…
15. The article you linked to on laid-off bankers in Buenos Aires made it sound pretty grim – how bad is it if you get laid off as a VP?
It’s not pretty. You’re unlikely to get back into finance at that level unless there’s a massive market rally and everyone starts hiring again.
Most mid-level to senior bankers who get laid off end up going to “industry,” usually after taking a lengthy sabbatical.
16. One of my friends in PE pushed for an investment that ended up being a disaster, and he was forced out. Since it’s such a small community, everyone heard about it and now he can’t find anything else in the industry – is this common?
It’s a risk with anything on the buy-side – if you make a mistake in banking, your semi-colon might be in the wrong spot, but if you make a mistake when investing, you might lose $500 million.
A mistake of that magnitude isn’t common, but yes, you probably couldn’t go back if it were your fault.