Understanding the recruitment process is important when beginning the private equity job search. Most of the jobs offered in private equity typically come from a headhunter.
Current bulge-bracket analysts in investment banking and consulting are the main targets for headhunters as these respective candidates’ background fit the mold of a typical pre-MBA and post-MBA private equity associates. These analysts can expect to hear from a headhunter about potential private equity opportunities in the December – February timeframe during their first year of the analyst program or July – August timeframe of the second year of the program. Recent trend has pushed the start of the recruiting process earlier to just six months of the analyst program completed.
If you come from a mid-tier bank or consulting firm, it will be more difficult to hear about top private equity opportunities. Many mid-tier candidates will have to work harder to land a job in private equity. They will need to cold call, reach out directly to headhunters and private equity firms and prove that their skill sets are comparable to bulge-bracket analysts’. Once a headhunter is convinced that you are worth meeting with his/her private equity clients, your resume will be passed to the person in charge of the recruiting process at the respective private equity firm. The private equity interview process may take a few weeks or within a week from start to receiving an offer. There will most likely be a few rounds of interviews where you will meet with many members of the investment team and senior management. Most of the hiring by private equity firms is completed by May for summer start in July/August timeframe.
Most private equity firms understand that bulge-bracket analysts receive their end-of-year compensation bonus in July/August, and are understanding about waiting for the end-of-compensation season to set a start date for their associate programs. Smaller private equity firms typically recruit outside the traditional cycles. Here is a chart that summarizes the associate hiring process: