We hear story after story about how some people hold all the power, and this can come in many different forms – it might be a bartender that just won’t take your order on a busy Saturday night, that ruthless MD that has a stranglehold on all the top client accounts, but trust me when I say, it can be absurd how much power the buyside headhunter holds on your post-banking recruiting journey. Similar to a first boss in a video game, that first gatekeeper might seem unassuming, but without crossing this inevitable hurdle, you will not even be able to sniff your future aspirations. Below, I will outline some of the necessary steps you must take before challenging that first boss and working with a headhunter to kick off your recruiting journey:
- Have CLEARLY Defined Goals (And This Means Knowing Both the “What” and the “Why”) – A headhunter’s job is to help their buyside clients secure the best candidates possible; they are NOT there to help you figure out what you want to do, or what steps you need to take to reach your goals – they do not have time for such trivial endeavors. Furthermore, the best candidates (i.e., the candidates that headhunters are looking for) know EXACTLY what they want out of their next role, and they know WHY they are the best fit for that next role.
- Do NOT Accept Any Headhunter Calls if You Are Underprepared – The reality is that, especially amongst the top headhunters, it is a system of “one strike, and you are out”. These headhunters hold the key to your access across multiple top-tier job opportunities. Failing an interview/intro discussion doesn’t eliminate you from one buyside process, but rather, several processes in mere seconds. It is perfectly acceptable to deny an intro call (while respectfully asking to keep the door open for possible discussions in the future) while you work to figure out those “what’s” and “why’s” that I mentioned earlier in this article.
- You should Focus on Behavioral Questions, but Do NOT Completely Ignore Your Technical Preparation – In my experience, the most commonly asked questions from headhunters are as follows:
- “Tell me About Yourself” – Your answer to this question should include a summary of your professional and academic experiences up until this point, WHAT you are looking for in your next role, and WHY you are the best candidate for the role (and ideally, you can tie the WHY to your wealth of past professional and academic experiences that have prepared you for your next role).
- Compensation Expectations – This mostly comes up with corporate recruiters rather than PE recruiters. The key with this question is that you don’t want to disqualify yourself by suggesting a ridiculous salary, but you also don’t want to set yourself up for defeat by asking for a low salary. I suggest giving a range, with the low being industry standard, and the high being 25% above the industry standard.
- Technical Questions – You will likely not be asked case studies or any math, but you should know the key KPIs and levers of your target industry, recent deals from your target firm, the deals on your resume, and/or the buyout/investment strategy of your target buyside firm.
Best of luck!
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