Life in 2020 was not an easy time for most of us, but one of the few advantages of the pandemic was remote work and the increased flexibility that it offered. While the 80+ hour work weeks may not have gone away, it suddenly became much easier to schedule personal appointments, slot in a quick workout, or simply cook a meal whilst waiting for comments from your MD. Even more importantly, less time in the office meant less pressure to navigate the logistical challenges associated with buyside recruiting. First-round interviews were typically conducted on Zoom; it became easier to schedule interviews in the middle of the workday without needing to come up with an excuse to get out of the office, and downtime could be used to get in a quick practice modeling test or mock interview. Whatever the greatest benefit to you, remote work certainly makes it much easier to apply for, prepare for, and interview for new opportunities.
Fast forward three years after the peak of the pandemic, and most of us are finding ourselves spending more and more time back in the office. Whether you’re partially in-person or you’re back every day, flexibility around remote work has very much dwindled. You’ve likely already experienced the challenges associated with balancing your current job and concurrently preparing for the next step in your career. Fitting in time to prep when spending long days in the office is already difficult enough, and the added stress of interviewing without raising the suspicions of others doesn’t do much to help!
In-person work may have made things harder, but there are still ways for those of us back in the office to strategically manage the buyside recruiting process. After all, in the pre-COVID days, the concept of “remote” was nearly nonexistent. Yet, hundreds of first- and second-year analysts (myself included!) navigated their way through recruiting and successfully received buyside offers. This guide is here to show you how.
Do your research, identify your top choices, and be ready to have to turn down some interviews.
One of the hardest things about recruiting, especially during the on-cycle or shortly thereafter, is that you may find yourself in the position of having to turn down interviews. It often becomes impossible, either logistically or mentally, to go forward with every interview you receive. If your job requires you to be in the office or if your group is not as openly friendly toward buyside recruiting, you’re even more likely to have to be strategic about turning down some interviews in order to move forward with others. This is where identifying your top choices – whether that be a specific list of firms or a more high-level idea of the type of firm (size, geography, strategy, industry, etc.) – comes into play. You can get a much better sense of where your priorities lie by conducting informational interviews with buyside associates or by simply speaking to friends or ex-colleagues you may know who have previously gone through the recruiting process. Another great way to identify your top choices is by utilizing a coach – someone who has a few more years of career experience and can walk you through the differences between the firms you may be considering.
Be as prepared as possible!
More time in the office will undoubtedly mean there will be opportunities you will have to reschedule, pass up on, or miss out on completely. This makes it more important now than ever to be as ready as possible for opportunities with the firms you want the most. It’s hard to prepare for buyside interviews when you’re working nonstop as an analyst, but it’s still very doable. Identify your weak spots and set goals for yourself on what you want to work on improving each week. Make sure to make the most of any time you do have outside the office to focus on perfecting the skills necessary to find success in private equity interviews – whether this means getting up earlier to slot in a practice model, using free evenings, or dedicating entire weekends to recruiting prep. If your group is more accommodating to buyside recruiting, use your downtime in the office to go through prep guides or practice for modeling tests and case studies. Even if your group is less receptive to buyside recruiting, you can still get prep done later in the evenings, once senior bankers are gone, especially if you’re just sitting around and waiting for comments. Remember that every free minute is an opportunity to improve your skillset, and utilize all of that time to your advantage! Again, a career coach is helpful here; coaching and mentoring are one of the best ways to gain a better understanding of what you need to work on whilst concurrently getting in more reps through mock interviews.
Leverage any opportunities for remote work or other out-of-office flexibility.
While the majority of investment banks are primarily in the office by now, many are still much more flexible around remote work than was the case a few years ago. Some groups have policies allowing for one or two days of remote work per week. If this is the case for you, do your absolute best to use any remote working days to your advantage by scheduling interviews for them whenever possible. This is especially true for coffee chats and first rounds when interviewers are more likely to offer multiple slots of some flexibility around scheduling. The key is to save any excuses you may have to use to get out of the office for later rounds, where your chances of getting the offer are the highest. Keep in mind that once you’re in the late-stage interview phase, you’re much more likely to be working against the clock, meaning that last-minute rescheduling can be disadvantageous. Buyside firms want to lock down the best candidates, and they are aware that the strongest applicants are similarly recruiting with their competitors. Offers will go out fast, and firms will not be willing to reschedule or wait to interview you once they’ve made up their mind on someone.
Are you preparing for the buyside? Schedule a call now with our top coaches or submit your application directly here and we’ll be in touch! Our experienced coaches will work with you to set and achieve your goals and provide support and guidance along the way.