What are pre-MBA private equity associate interviews like?

I often respond to questions from readers on the private equity interview process. Here is a question I recently responded to: 

 

Q: What are pre-MBA private equity associate interviews like?

A: The pre-MBA PE recruiting process typically unfolds over a full year. In the spring and early summer, more than one full year before actual PE start dates, various private equity firms and headhunters will host info sessions about the PE profession and their specific firms in your city. In New York City, for instance, these info sessions are quite common, and notice of them is distributed to all first-year analysts at prestigious investment banks and consulting firms. They will typically host these events at a hotel or their offices with catered food and drinks while they walk through an overview of their firms, specific deals they have done, and guidance on how to engage headhunters to apply and “be presented” for interviews. They will also take questions from the audience about any of these topics.

When the recruiting season actually begins a couple months later, analysts and other candidates will begin dropping resumes to headhunters and setting up preliminary screening interviews with them so they can determine the best fit for which candidates to put in front of which firms.

Private equity interviews themselves are generally structured over multiple rounds—sometimes 3, 4, or even more rounds—and the type of people you meet at each step of the way and the kinds of questions you are asked will vary between rounds (and firms).

They generally consist of a heavy combination of case interviews, technical finance questions, modeling tests, and personal fit interviews to test 6 things:

1. Financial modeling
2. Operational modeling
3. Macro / market due diligence
4. Strategic analysis (as tested through case interviews)
5. Creating slide presentations
6. Personality fit

Some firms also evaluate your potential to source new deals if they require associates to contribute to deal origination, although for leveraged buyout firms this tends to be less common.

Be sure to check out our PDF guide “How to Nail Your Private Equity Interview (whether you have finance training or not)” for in-depth tips and strategies on how to successfully interview for jobs at top private equity firms!

Also be sure to check out our step-by-step Private Equity LBO Modeling Training Videos for walk-through tutorials on how to build an LBO model, navigate Excel with ruthless efficiency, and rapidly create an LBO PowerPoint deck to present to your PE interviewers.

Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen received an associate offer, without any formal LBO experience, on his first attempt at applying for private equity investing positions in the competitive San Francisco Bay Area. He worked for Huntsman Gay Global Capital, the Bain Capital spin-out founded by the industrialist Jon Huntsman, former Bain Capital Chairman Bob Gay, former San Francisco 49ers Superbowl quarterback Steve Young, and including former CFO of Citigroup and American Express Gary Crittenden. Andrew was previously a member of the Corporate Finance & Strategy Practice at McKinsey & Company and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. You can follow him on Twitter and .

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