Buy-side recruiting can sometimes feel like finding your way around an extremely complicated and confusing maze. To best position yourself for the right opportunity, it is important to be intentional about future career aspiration both while on the job and when beginning your search and interview process. Even after receiving offers, candidates often struggle to assess how to weigh different opportunities and how to make the best decision for their future career. Below, you will see a number of tips to help you position yourself competitively while navigating the recruiting process.
Current Job Performance Matters!
Performance is important for two reasons. First, performance determines your ranking – which both recruiters and interviewers will ask you about when you are interviewing. It will also be asked about during the referencing process. Second, performance will generally determine what deals you are staffed on – and deal experience is often the biggest point of focus during the buyside interview process. Top performers analysts and associates are often specifically requested by MDs for incoming staffing’s and are also usually allocated to a greater proportion of high-profile deals.
It’s a Numbers Game
Buy-side recruiting is extremely competitive, and the interview process can sometimes feel incredibly frustrating. It’s important to remember that most candidates interview for a long time before receiving an offer, which means it’s important to initially cast your net wide. Often times, you can do everything right in an interview but not get an offer because the fund was simply looking for slightly different experience (sector, product, etc.). Apply for numerous positions to learn more about the industry and different types of firms; do not only apply for positions you think you would 100% take. Getting lots of interview practice is extremely beneficial, as you will be much more equipped when the right role does comes up.
Don’t Jump into the Wrong Opportunity
Adding to the above, a big mistake is often giving into fear and accepting the wrong job just for the sake of it. The more experience you have and the more times you jump from job to job, the harder it becomes to craft a compelling and cohesive story you can leverage toward getting your dream role. It’s much better to be patient, and only accept opportunities which will position you as one step closer to where you ultimately want to be. This isn’t to say that a non-traditional path is not possible (it is, and more so now than ever before!) – but rather that it is better to take a role that will offer you experience that will set you up better toward where you want to eventually be, rather than accepting just any job.
Brand Name Can be Important…
I often see people obsessing about “prestige” – and focusing all of their efforts on firms that seemingly have the best brand name. While there is definitely some value around working at a more well-known fund, this is more significant if it is your first or second job. Recruiters and firms will generally quickly skim a resume when deciding whether or not to pass someone on for an interview – so having a few brand names can do a lot of good in terms of passing the initial screen. With that said, there is much less incremental value in the second or third “big name” on your resume. At some point, it becomes more important to focus on finding a firm or group that will give you strong deal experience and will offer a culture in which you can envision yourself succeeding in.
… Though Culture, Strategy, and Performance are Generally More Important!
While reputation can matter – a career decision should be evaluated using much deeper reasoning than just assessing prestige. Culture is likely the most important element behind determining whether or not you will be successful and will enjoy your next role. It is also often the hardest one to assess. When interviewing for jobs, remember that you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Take some time after receiving an offer to ensure you have had the opportunity to meet most of the team, and make sure that you get all of your questions answered. You will likely spend extremely long hours working with your future colleagues, and work is a much more pleasant experience if you enjoy the company of those around you.
Fund strategy is also an important and often underappreciated consideration when deciding which offer to take. Some funds are much more operational and strategic in nature, while others tend to be more technical and focus on elements of financial engineering to drive their returns. Additionally, growth buyout and minority investing can be a much different experience than late-stage buyout investing. Make sure you understand different investment strategies, and target opportunities that best fit your background and interests. The same is true about sector – if you are joining a sector-specific team but are not passionate about the industry, it will be difficult to get excited about the deals you are working on.
Lastly, fund performance should be a consideration, particularly when assessing a career-track role. Fund returns will generally determine future fundraising ability, as well as will be directly linked to your compensation. Bonuses will generally be more attractive at better performing funds, and of course if your compensation package includes a non-cash element – fund profit will determine how much you will get paid. Make sure you ask for historical returns as well as evolution of fund size so you can best compare across different opportunities.