How to Break into Private Equity: My Background
My name is Andrew Chen and I want to share with you how I successfully interviewed for private equity associate jobs with elite leveraged buyout firms – even though I had no formal finance training or work experience.
What do I mean when I say I had no formal finance training or work experience? At the time I applied, I was an associate working in management consulting. I did not have an MBA. I had studied history as an undergraduate – from a state college. I had never worked in investment banking, private equity, or any other buy-side or finance job. I had never taken a finance or business accounting class in my life. I had never built a 3-statement financial model in Excel. And I had no personal or professional connections to the private equity industry.
Despite these overwhelming odds, on my first attempt at applying, I interviewed and received an offer for an elite private equity associate position. The firm I worked for, Huntsman Gay, was founded by a team of Bain Capital executives. It counted among its ranks industry titans like the industrialist Jon Huntsman, former Bain Capital Chairman of the Management Committee Bob Gay, former San Francisco 49ers Superbowl quarterback Steve Young, and former CFO of Citigroup, American Express, and Sears, Roebuck Gary Crittenden. My associate offer was also for the competitive San Francisco Bay Area office, which is where I worked. Even though I ended my interview processes with other PE firms after receiving an offer from Huntsman Gay, what I learned about the structure, format, and questions of private equity interviews applies to the recruiting processes for all brand-name, blue-chip PE firms – including Bain Capital, TPG, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Huntsman Gay, Golden Gate, Silver Lake, Blackstone, Carlyle, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, KKR, Warburg Pincus, and Apollo.
So I want to show you the techniques I learned about how to distinctively interview for associate and senior associate positions at elite PE firms, and tips for how to set yourself compellingly apart from other applicants. With this coaching, I want to help you get a private equity offer that can help advance you toward your highest financial and professional goals.
What this Private Equity Interview Guide contains
The guide that follows provides step-by-step guidance on how to tackle the interviews for brand-name, blue-chip private equity firms. I will explain both the general principles and mindset behind each aspect of the interview process, illustrating where possible with examples. I will cover in detail:
- How the private equity recruiting process chronologically unfolds
- How the interviews are structured at each step
- The mindset of your interviewer and what he cares about in assessing applicants
- Key questions you will be asked in your interview
- How to prepare for the case portion of the interview and any time-pressured LBO modeling test you may be asked to do in Excel
- How to communicate your answers crisply, concisely, and compellingly
- And how to do all this gracefully while under fire
I’ll also provide step-by-step, tactical advice on each stage of the interview process, showing you how to present yourself as the most compelling possible candidate. Throughout the guide, I’ll also synthesize learnings from dozens of conversations with other people from non-finance backgrounds who successfully interviewed for private equity positions. Finally, I’ll describe what to expect as you prepare for your transition into private equity, what the day-to-day experience is like as a PE associate, and potential career paths after working in PE.
Feedback is always welcome and you can reach me at [email protected].
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