So, you have finally got the interview for your dream buyside offer. All of those late-night comments, the lost hair, weight gain, and dark circles under your eyes—are those finally going to pay dividends? Well, the answer to that all depends on those crucial interview performances. Just like IB, the competition for PE recruiting, especially at the larger funds, is fierce, unforgiving, and there is very, very little room for error. However, just like with landing that first “elite” job offer, you can similarly set yourself apart from the competition by putting in some extra preparation and working SMARTER (not HARDER) than your competition. Below, I will outline some of the key steps that you can take to better prepare yourself for private equity interviews both on and off the job:
- Prioritize M&A Deals Like Your Future Depends on It (Which It Kind of Does) – I get it, I was at a BB group that had MUCH more capital markets deal flow than M&A deal flow – it can be tough depending on your group and firm, but there are of course ways to bypass this. In the unfortunate event that you are at a firm with lesser M&A deal flow, you’ll need to play a “yes” man game for the first few months at the role. Listen, most seniors know that basically all of their junior bankers are only there to make the jump to the illustrious buyside, but being upfront about this never ends well. Instead, become the go-to analyst in your group for both your associates and VPs, even on those silly pitches that never go anywhere. For a bank with limited M&A deal flow, they want to handle these opportunities with care and never put their weaker analysts within ten yards of these deals, so your rank in your class is going to be more important than it would be at an EB or top BB product analyst with endless M&A opportunities.
- Consider Adding a Third Year to Your Analyst Program if You Have Limited M&A Experience – I know, this is not what you wanted to hear – but it’s the harsh reality of working at a lower-tier BB or MM shop. The reality is that, especially amongst headhunters, it’s a system of “one strike, and you’re out”. Going into a conversation with a headhunter without that precious M&A experience can be like an awkward first date. With recruiting becoming more accelerated by the day, it might be in your best interest to add an extra year of investment banking, whether that’s through becoming a third-year analyst or lateraling to a more prestigious platform, can make these conversations go a lot more smoothly once that time to recruit comes. However, be cautious about taking that associate promotion, although it doesn’t completely lock you out of being able to recruit for buyside opportunities, it does potentially throw you into the bucket of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, and your opportunities to recruit will become narrower in scope.
Best of luck, and remember, work SMARTER not HARDER!
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