Private Equity Recruitment

An Overview of the Private Equity Recruitment Process, Including Networking, Resumes, Internships, and Interviews

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How Does Private Equity Recruitment Work?

Private Equity recruitment is the process that PE firms use to source, interview and hire candidates.

Since Private Equity is a highly paid, prestigious, and competitive field, banks do not have to do much to “attract” candidates.

What’s more, there are relatively very few private equity roles, and PE firms tend to follow very narrow hiring criteria.  

Traditionally, firms have hired investment banking analysts from bulge-bracket and elite banks at the Associate level.   Increasingly, some firms are hiring undergraduates for junior roles such as Private Equity Analysts. And there is also some cross-hiring between PE firms. 

If you are not in any of these categories, then it’s very unlikely you’ll be hired in a Private Equity role. 

With that brutal honesty out of the way, let’s look at how to maximize your chances of winning the Private Equity recruitment game…

Recruitment Pathways Into Private Equity

The pathways into Private Equity are narrow indeed, with few professionals entering the industry via other methods:

Pathway #1: As An Undergraduate (Analyst)

Banks hire undergraduates for junior-level roles, such as Private Equity Analysts (common in some markets, such as Brazil and Portugal, and increasingly common at mega-funds and upper-middle-market funds in developed markets). 

Pathway #2: As An Investment Banking Analyst

Large PE firms target Investment Banking Analysts at bulge-bracket and elite-boutique banks, as well as a few In-Between-a-Banks.   Smaller firms may hire IB Analysts at middle-market and boutique banks. 

Pathway #3: Being Hired From Another PE Firm 

If you already work at a PE firm, then there is a chance you’ll be headhunted or can otherwise switch to another firm. 

If you sit outside these 3 pathways, then it’s very unlikely you’ll be hired by a US or UK firm.  In other markets such as Russia, India, Central & Eastern Europe, and Portugal, it’s more feasible for non-bankers to get in.

See our step-by-step guide on How To Get Into Private Equity for more detail.

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Private Equity Recruiting Timeline: On-Cycle vs Off-Cycle Processes

First, note that there both on-cycle and off-cycle recruitment processes; they differ in timing, steps, interviews, and hiring criteria.

The On-Cycle Recruiting Process

The on-cycle process is the one that begins for Analysts at bulge-bracket and elite-boutique banks in New York within a few months of their start date. The process is short and intense.

If you finish the on-cycle process and win a job offer, the position will start in 1.5 – 2.0 years.

So, you may interview in December of 20X1, keep working in banking, and then begin the PE role in July or August of 20X3.

The Off-Cycle Recruiting Process

The off-cycle recruitment process applies to everyone else:

  • roles outside of New York
  • roles in other countries
  • roles at smaller firms
  • roles available to anyone not working at an investment bank

Off-cycle processes tend to take more time – months rather than weeks or days – and interviewers evaluate your “fit” and critical thinking abilities in more depth.

Once the decision is made, you’ll tend to start working within a few weeks of winning an offer, rather than waiting for 1.5 – 2 years. 

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Private Equity Recruitment Resources

Assuming you have the right background, there are a number of strategies and resources you can leverage to help secure a private equity job. 

Private Equity Resumes

Just like any other professional role, your resume is your main “first impression” document.  PE hiring managers are insanely busy and if they don’t see what they’re looking for within 30 seconds, your resume will be overlooked.  The ideal PE resume should:

  • Primarily focus on relevant investment banking and deal experience.
  • Mention previous internships and jobs briefly and only if relevant
  • Briefly include educational credentials (University, GPA, SAT scores)
  • Very briefly mention Skills / Activities / Interests – don’t overdo it. 

Refer to our full article on Private Equity Resumes (with Downloadable Templates and Examples) for more information. 

Private Equity Interviews and What To Expect 

In most cases, getting into the interview is actually harder than the interview itself.  And the process will be somewhat different depending if it’s an on-cycle or off-cycle process.

That being said, almost all PE interviews have the following characteristics in common:

  • Multiple Rounds: 2-3 rounds minimum (and sometimes many more!) where you speak with professionals at different levels of the firm.
  • Topics Tested:
    • Fit/background questions
    • Technical questions
    • Deal/client experience questions
    • Questions about the firm’s strategies and portfolio
    • Market/industry questions
    • Plus undergo case study and modeling tests

Interviews will naturally include common questions such as, Why Private Equity? Can you walk me through your resume? Plus the trusty old Strengths and Weaknesses interview question

For a deeper coverage of this topic, see our article on Private Equity Interviews 101: How To Win Offers

Starting As A Private Equity Analyst

Up until relatively recently, Private Equity Analyst positions did not exist.

Banks hired the top students out of undergrad for Investment Banking Analyst roles, then the big PE firms swooped in to hire away trained bankers after a couple of years. 

But then someone in private equity wondered why PE firms don’t just hire their own analysts and groom them themselves. 

And just like that, Private Equity Analyst positions were born.

So, should you start as an Investment Banking Analyst and transition over to PE, or should you go straight into Private Equity?  This article on Investment Banking vs Private Equity will help answer that question.

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Private Equity Recruitment Resources

Private equity firms want people who are technically proficient and who demonstrate strong “fit” because firms and teams are far smaller than those in investment banking.

Banks might have tens of thousands of employees to perform grunt work, but private equity firms have no such armies; they want to hire small teams of the top professionals who can hit the ground running and add value from day one.

That’s why many aspiring private equity professionals invest in specialized courses and training to help them get noticed, get hired, and get promoted.

Some of the relevant courses offered by Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street include:

  • Investment Banking Interview Guide – Including a 120-page guide to LBO modeling and 4 practice LBO case studies/modeling tests
  • Excel & Financial Modeling Fundamentals – Learn Excel and financial modeling with 10+ global case studies, including private equity, LBO, and growth equity case studies
  • BIWS Premium – The Excel and financial modeling lessons, plus Advanced Modeling to accelerate your on-the-job performance
  • BIWS Platinum – Our entire collection of courses, all for a deep discount off the regular price

Completing these courses will help you win interviews and job offers for roles that pay $150K+, and position you for careers in private equity.

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