There are many facets that comprise the perfect resume for breaking into private equity, but here’s the rub of the green – keep it short, keep it relevant, and make all your achievements tangible.
You will be up against hundreds of other applicants from the top investment banks and Big Four professional services firms and have a 10% chance of making it through to the first interview. Your CV is the first selling point – this is what you need to know.
Think you have enough skills and experience to run over two pages after two years working in the financial sector? You don’t. Private equity recruiters will give your resume around 30 seconds to impress, so it all needs to be immediately visible and easily readable.
“If you want to impress with more detail, do that in the interview – your CV should be one page and raise a lot of talking points with private equity firms,” says Hephzi Nicol, co-founder and partner at Kea Consultants, a recruiter which specialises in entry-level roles into hedge funds and private equity.
Building on the demonstrating tangible achievements on your CV, a paragraph explaining your skills and career ambitions is way too fluffy to impress PE recruiters. “Never use narrative,” says Charlie Hunt, principal consultant at Private Equity Recruitment. “If you must write a personal statement keep it at four or five relevant bullet points.”
These could be:
It’s something of a self-fulfilling prophesy, but private equity recruiters tend to hire people a lot like themselves. This means academically bright individuals who probably went to either Oxbridge, LSE or an Ivy League university and secured at least a 2.1, if not a first class degree or a 3.0 GPA. A Masters degree is also becoming increasingly important. If you don’t have these credentials, you’re on the back foot, but can claw back some ground by having impeccable grades – don’t go beyond A-levels or high-school achievements though, advises Nicol.
Having Big Four corporate finance experience or a top investment bank as your previous employer is more of a hygiene factor than a significant achievement. Your resume won’t even make it into a recruiter's inbox without this. The next step is showing what you have achieved and this means relevant deals where your personal achievements are easily detailed.
“This can be tricky when you have limited experience, particularly if deals haven’t closed,” says Nicol. “Give as much detail as you can without breaching client confidentiality. And show exactly what you did on the deal, demonstrate your modelling skills or they’ll assume you made the tea.”
“Just think of every relevant transaction or deal you’ve worked on and demonstrate what you’ve achieved,” says Hunt. “That can be due diligence, M&A, consulting or turnaround projects.”
Because a lot of the private equity recruitment process is about finding the right fit as well as the relevant technical skills, showing that you’re a person worth talking to through your personal interests is important.
“If all you’ve got is gym, movies and reading, don’t put anything,” says Hunt. “Anything that shows you’re interesting – say, volunteering or charity work – is good, as are sporting achievements, but show that you’re a winner. One candidate put that they came second in a face painting contest to appear quirky, but the PE firm didn’t invite him to interview because he didn’t win.”
Any evidence that you are a high achiever must be scattered within your CV without appearing overly boastful. Show that you are a top ranked analyst, or that you passed your accounting exams at the first time of asking, says Hunt. Talk about the unusual speed of your promotion, suggests Nicol.
Then there are the ‘cultural’ CV factors that need to be filtered out. “Don’t sign your resume and certainly don’t include a photo – we get this a lot from German and Austrian applicants,” says Nicol. “Take a very ‘American’ approach to CV presentation, which means being as minimalistic as possible.”