Jon Moulton has told us what he likes to ask candidates in interviews. If you are ever in an interview with Jon and you have read this article, you will therefore be at a substantial advantage.
This is his photograph:
Gail McManus, founder of recruitment firm PE Recruit has kindly offered advice on how to answer Jon’s questions. This is Gail:
Jon’s first question: What do you do badly?
Gail’s advice: This is a good question, and better than the typical question people ask about what your weaknesses are. It’s also harder to answer well.
If you’re responding to the weaknesses question, there’s an obvious solution: simply focus on things you haven’t learnt yet or that aren’t relevant to your role.
With this question, however, you need to think carefully. Avoid glib answers such as, “I don’t suffer fools badly,” and think of the things you won’t need to do in a private equity role.
For example, private equity is about evaluating and making informed decisions. It’s also about working together in a team. You might therefore say, “I make hasty decisions badly – I’d rather have time to reach the right conclusion,” or, “I’m capable of spending a lot of time working on my own, but I work much better when I’m working with people towards a common goal.”
Jon’s second question: What do you think you need to be paid?
Gail’s advice: There are two elements to this: what you need to be paid and what you believe you should be paid. You might answer it by pointing out the difference between the two. On one hand, you need X to live. On the other hand, you’d like to be paid something which reflects the value you’re able to add to the investment process and the value you bring to the organisation. If that value is nil, you’d expect to be paid nil. However, it won’t be zero as you expect to add a lot of value if you’re hired.
Jon’s third question: What is your normal working week?
Gail’s advice: If I were asking this question, I wouldn’t be looking for someone who says, “I work 9-7 each day and produce a lot of spreadsheets and analysis of potential investments.”
I’d want someone who could give me a much more qualitative answer about their work and who could focus on the value added elements of what they do.
For example, a good answer might be: “I usually spend more than half of my week assessing investment decisions and trying to identify the critical elements of businesses which will make them a good investment. I devote a lot of time to this: in my opinion assessing an investment isn’t simply a matter of reading the business plan, it’s also about following up with my own due diligence, talking to management, clients and customers, and visiting premises.”
Answering this question well is about showing the qualitative value you’re able to add during your working week.