If you are writing a resume for a private equity position, chances are good that you are transitioning from investment banking. That means that your resume is less “all about me” and more “here’s what I’ve done lately.” All of that impressive stuff you used to count on—like your ivy league school and your stellar GPA—now sinks to the bottom of the page as “oh, by the way” information. Even your pre-banking experience doesn’t hold much weight here.
It’s all about the deal. Or deals. Your deals.
Begin with the most important information—the deals you have worked on: buyside and sellside M&A, IPOs, debt, convertibles. Actually, you’ll hear conflicting advice on this. Some will tell you to stick with M&A and avoid IPOs, etc. while others say to include everything. There are pros and cons. The benefits of being all inclusive are that you show you are well rounded in different types of securities, that you’ve had more exposure. With your seniority, you have been able to work on more types of deals. On the other hand, including IPOs may get some people lost in the details, drawing their focus from your big deals.
My advice is this. Present yourself as you are, but think strategically. It’s not the number of deals that matters. It’s not even the size or the type. It’s the give and take, and by that I mean, what did you contribute to the deal, and what did you take away from it? Did you walk away adding something to your skill set? Is there something you know now that you didn’t know before?
Keep in mind, too, that what you take away from the deal can be just as important as what you contributed. Don’t exaggerate your part. No one is going to believe that a junior analyst spearheaded a deal worth billions of dollars. If you overstate your role, you will cast doubt on everything else in your resume. You know the old joke—I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate!
And if you don’t have something nice to say . . .
Well, not nice really—but special. If there is nothing unique to say about a particular deal, don’t talk about that one. Choose a different one. The idea here isn’t to fill up space. It’s to make yourself stand out. It’s far better to focus or one or two deals that truly highlight what you can bring to the table than to create a long list that fades from memory as soon as your resume leaves the reader’s hands.
Be a model applicant
Many private equity firms are specialty shops. If your background is such that it fits nicely into one of these specialties—perhaps you have had some experience with Apple or Cisco and are applying to a PE firm that specializes in technology—be sure to highlight that. And speaking of being a model applicant, one would hope you have developed some modeling skills in your banking career. Be sure to point those out as well.
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