If you want a job in private equity, you need to know how to succeed in interviews.

The first interview is all about showcasing the unique approach and expertise you can bring to the role. 

You’ll likely be working in a team of 5-20 people, depending on the size of the firm, so the interviewers want to know that you’re going to integrate well but also bring a new element.
Tell us about yourself 

Start at the beginning, with where you grew up and which high school you attended, before explaining how and why you chose your university. Articulate how you first became interested in finance, and how your interest developed over the years via the specific internships/jobs/other experiences you had. Explain how this work experience has provided you with the building blocks to take on the role for which you’re interviewing. Conclude with a strong statement about why you’re interviewing today, drawing on your knowledge of the company values to show that you know exactly what the role would involve.

Through insightful comments about what you learnt in previous jobs, bring the conversation into the realm of business, as opposed to just ‘you’. This will engage the interviewer, who is more interested in dialogues about private equity than your personal life.

Talk like a buyer, not an advisor. You don’t want to sound like you’re unrealistic about the potential of certain businesses and transactions; you want to sound like you have a down-to-earth, commercial understanding of a given scenario. The rule of thumb is every time you say something good about a business or transaction, follow this with a caveat statement.

  • Show how each experience led you in the direction of private equity
  • Show that you understand the company’s mission and values through the details you choose to share
  • Illustrate your relevance to the role through insightful comments about private equity
  • Modify positive opinions with a caveat or conditional statement, to show sensible commercial awareness
  • Making vague statements, like “I’ve had a lot of great experiences”
  • Glancing at your notes when going through your personal history
  • Waffling and jumping around through your timeline
  • Sounding uncertain about your commitment to private equity
  • Simply listing your experiences without talking about the impact of each one

Why private equity, and why us?

Do your homework. Look at the firm’s portfolio, the people within it, the sectors they invest in, parallels you have with them. Draw your experience and the firm’s focus together.

When an interviewer asks why you want to work in private equity, the hidden question inherent in this is how will the firm benefit by hiring you? So don’t just state what you want. Instead, give a summary of what unique value you bring to this industry – and particularly this firm – on the basis of your knowledge and experience.

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