Key characteristic that private equity firms look for is that the candidate is able to think like an investor rather than an execution or junior investment banker. Remember, private equity involves making successful “investments” rather than successful transaction closings that are not affected by post-transaction performance.
Recruiters, or “headhunters,” play a large role in private equity searches. These recruiting firms source top candidates for private equity interviews. Traditionally headhunting recruiters work with top-rank first-year analysts at an investment bank or consulting firm. You will have to decide if the headhunters are calling you with the jobs you want. Not receiving phone calls from headhunters doesn’t mean you are not desirable; it means you may have to reach out to the recruiters yourself. A few well-known private equity headhunters include Oxbridge Group, Search One and SG Partners.
You will be put through a “mini-interview” which is just as important as the actual interview process with a private equity firm as the headhunters are the gatekeepers to the PE firms. Most of these headhunter interviews consist of behavioral questions such as
– Walk me through your resume and past deal experience.
– Why do you want to work at a private equity firm?
– What type of private equity investing are you interested in?
– Any particular firms you are interested in? Size of fund?
– Do you have excellent financial modeling skills?
– What type of investment banking transactions or consulting projects have you worked on?
– In terms of geography, what are your three top locations (cities) in the US you would be willing to relocate?
Make sure not to give any attitude. You are one of many candidates that headhunting firms work with. You need to feel confident about being a strong candidate, but displaying an attitude that shows “you will make money off of me” is not a good way to get the attention you want.