Getting into private equity is hard. Even if you're a junior banker with an top investment bank on your resume, there's no guarantee you'll make the shortlist. Just 10% of applicants do, and the key is to tailor your resume to what private equity firms want, rather than assuming they'll be dazzled by your banking experience.
The key thing is to think beyond the deal. Private equity companies don't just make investments and leave, they try to improve the value of that investment over time, so you need to ditch your 'banker' mentality. “So it’s definitely quantitative capability, but if the investment banker can talk about the longer-term value of the deal to their customer, maybe identified through research, deal news or info gleaned through his network, that would show the hiring team at the PE firm that the sell-side guy was thinking more broadly than simply about the single deal,” says Amy Adler, a recruiter, career coach, resume writer and the founder of Five Strengths Career Transition Experts.
“Along those lines, any way the sell-side player can talk about being an adviser to dealmakers on both sides of the table will help – again, it’s strategy and long-term gain over inked contract,” she says.
If you're a junior banker with limited deal experience, it's tempting to throw in every transaction regardless of whether it closed. This can come back to bite you, says says Edmund Thomson Jones, a director at buy-side recruiters Kea Consultants.
“If junior bankers have worked on nine transactions in one or two years, and some closed, while some did not, they’ll get the interview but they may flunk it,” Jones said. “They’re playing roulette, because the hiring manager could pick any of them, and there are probably seven where you wouldn’t be showing yourself to the best advantage, as opposed to the two that you worked on in great detail.
“If you list those two, you’ll give yourself a better chance because the interviewer will ask about the ones you’re most keen to talk about and that will put you in the best light, which is key, because you only 45 minutes or an hour,” he said.
Financial modeling and the ability to navigate the complexities of the financials of any particular deal are critical skills for someone making the move to PE. Being able to deconstruct the numbers you provide on the sell-side deals you’ve worked on to compare various options for a particular PE deal is going to be important.
“Interestingly, a good way for a private equity analyst or for an investment banker to deliver this kind of information in a resume is to write mini-case studies about the projects they worked on,” Adler says.
“By talking about the customer’s need, the role the professional played in the deal, the analysis that went into it and the IRR [internal rate of return] or other relevant metrics over the longer term, that will clearly demonstrate both the individual’s ability to do meaningful analysis and their ability to work through the numbers,” she says.
Illustrating your analytical and quantitative skills are really important to land a PE job. Provide examples where you have taken large amounts of data from different sources to do deep market analysis.
“It’s assumed that you have experience modeling, but anytime you’ve done detailed operational models, identified problems and come up with an approach to solve them, it’s worth including,” says Alyssa Gelbard, the founder and CEO of Resume Strategists. “In PE, people don’t just want to know if you’re good at evaluating a company and structuring a deal – can you explain your rationale for something?
“They want to hire people with communication skills,” she says. “If you have examples you can show where you’ve written detailed reports or given presentations, including things you’ve done outside of your day job like participating in a professional association or serving on the board of something, then that can demonstrate your professionalism and presentation skills.”
You’re going to get asked by the hiring manager, “Talk me through the deals that you’ve worked on.” When deciding which deals to list on your resume, size is a big part of it, yes – precise information about the number and range of deal size you’ve worked on matters, and it’s important to show the type of deals, whether they be M&A, debt or equity capital markets. However, while it’s very important to demonstrate the industry and sector experience that you have by including a selection of the transactions, do not include a laundry list of every deal you’ve ever worked on.
“It’s preferable to include a deal where you played a larger role rather than one where you did a bit of research – it’s not all about deal size, it’s about your contribution, so don’t just pick the one with the biggest number,” Gelbard says. “Don’t stretch the truth.
“If the PE firm is focused on particular industries or sectors, you’re not going to be able to fake it in an interview if you don’t have the experience, so be ready to talk about those deals in detail,” she says. “If you’ve worked on valuation and evaluation and with CFOs, treasurers and those teams, then that can be helpful.
“Anytime you can show client interaction, what have you done, for example, with a management team or executive leadership, understanding what client needs are, identifying and solving client problems, that’s impressive to PE hiring managers.”
Recruiters and hiring managers are becoming pickier than ever. When they skim your resume initially, they often do a six-second scan; they typically look at the job titles you’ve held, the companies you’ve worked for, how long you’ve been at each job, and whether or not you’re local. That means the first word after each bullet point that encapsulates your professional accomplishments has to jump off the page.
“Be results-oriented, focusing on the amount of revenue you’ve driven, how you’ve created deal and sales pipelines, anytime you’ve surpassed goals or targets, be specific,” Gelbard says. “Team work is also important in the private equity world, as is experience doing due diligence.
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