Private Equity (PE) jobs get filled much later in the recruiting process than most other roles; in fact, by the time your classmates have finished their on-campus job hunts, you may find that PE firms haven’t even begun their recruiting. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be preparing for that process right now; to start with, make sure you are actively tracking leads: though they often come late in the process, you will find that some PE roles are being filled throughout all stages of the cycle.
Determine if it’s a good fit for you:
There are a number of reasons why Private Equity is one of the most sought-after fields post-MBA, however, it’s critical to determine early on if the field is a good fit for you. You can talk to a number of folks in your class who have venture experience to learn more, but you can also check out advice from a number of top PE Funds. Make sure you read a few articles on why you might NOT want to pursue PE to understand the downsides, including this one or a perspective from Mergers & Inquisitions (you need to scan a long way down this article for the downsides). Once you have learned enough about the path to do a fair assessment, do (or update) the ProValues exercise to honestly assess your interest.
Develop list of target firms
Have a list of firms ready. Make the most of LinkedIn to mine any connections you can to your companies of interest. Conduct informational interviews with classmates and prepare to have informational interviews with firms who are willing to talk with you.
Follow firms on Twitter to make sure that you are in the news flow and to make sure that you see postings as they happen.
Keep differentiating your resume
Try to find one distinct thing that you will point to as something that makes you really stand out from other candidates. You might consider stepping up to become the rock star in your PE/VC club (which will also provide great networking opportunities); positioning yourself as the academic superstar (but that means straight A’s, nothing less); or playing up your expertise in your pre-school industry, especially if you had deal exposure in that job.
Reality check your chances
This isn’t meant to imply that you shouldn’t go for PE if it’s truly your dream; but neither should you be unprepared for the very real possibility that you will not be successful. To really get a handle on what the chances are of you getting a position, find anyone and everyone you know with industry experience; ask them for a brutally honest take on the odds of success, as well as what you can do to strengthen your candidacy.
Be prepared for your interviews
In addition to preparing your thesis (see above), you want to be ready to answer a LOT of fit and finance-oriented questions. Remember, while there is a fair amount of overlap in the two, they are NOT the same thing – know the differences, as well as why each appeals to you!
Identify your BATNA
PE recruiting means waiting! – not only do the positions get filled later in the cycle, but the interview process itself can often be dragged out for several weeks. Do you know what your BATNA is? Are you ready to hold out?