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Want to Land a Job at a Private Equity Firm? This is How It’s Done

With an ongoing presence in a diverse array of industries, the private equity sector in the United States is undeniably huge. In fact, the private equity sector is as large as it has ever been since the 2007 financial crisis and with each passing year, this sector accounts for a larger portion of the world’s GDP.

However, despite the private equity sector’s intimidating size, entering the industry can be incredibly difficult for those who have limited experience. There have been plenty of stories of college-educated individuals who have had to apply to hundreds—or even thousands—of different firms before actually landing a job. Doing this can be especially difficult for the majority of the population that does not live in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.

But even in the face of these very real obstacles, there are still many things that an individual can do in order to land a job at a private equity firm. By keeping these relevant pieces of advice in mind, you can move one step closer to landing the job you’ve been dreaming of.

Begin networking with as many industry professionals as you feasibly can

Though it may not necessarily be fair, the private equity industry places a distinctively high importance on who you know and how you know them. Having an essential connection in the industry can often be more valuable than having years of experience at a comparable company.

Fortunately, there are many different ways you can meet the people who are in the best position to offer you the kind of job you’ve been looking for. When going to a job fair, instead of focusing on simply handing out your resume, it is better to focus on creating authentic connections that will help people actually remember you. Targeting specific firms using LinkedIn can also be quite helpful—though it may be a significant amount of time before your connection comes to fruition, when a firm is ready to hire again, the first people they will think of are the ones that they have “known” the longest.

Find unique ways to make your resume stand out

Whenever you are applying for a job in an industry that is as perpetually competitive as finance, you should always assume that your resume is in the middle of a stack of 100 other very similar resumes. This means that if you want there to even be a chance of being remembered once the stack has been reviewed, you will need to find some way to distinguish yourself from the others.

The most remembered names in the stack will be the ones with years of industry experience or an MBA from an ivy-league school. But even if you do not have these qualifications, there are some simple things you can do to put your name in the same league. Making aesthetically appealing—though not obnoxious—visual adjustments to your resume can have a measurably lasting impact on employers. Other strategies such as writing about things you’ve learned (rather than things you’ve done), including industry references, and incorporating genuinely organic humor into your resume have also been proven to be quite effective.

Try to acquire a diverse array of life experiences

Considering that your resume is just one of probably dozens, you should not assume that your B.A. in Finance or your summer internship at Goldman Sachs will guarantee you a job at a private equity firm. Many of your competitors will have very comparable experiences. Instead, you should focus on the things that make you authentically unique.

Though traveling to exotic parts of the world, spending your summers volunteering, or even starting your own lawn-mowing business as a teenager may not some relevant to the private equity sector, these are all experiences that demonstrate an additional dimension of your personality that many other people may not have. When you can highlight these experiences in conjunction with those that employers are generally looking for, you will likely find yourself in a much better position to get the job.

Show that you actually know what you are talking about

Having a relevant degree from a well-regarded school is one thing, but it is another thing to actually know what you’re talking about. Many employers will assume that the things you mention on your resume are, to say the very least, embellishments. Though your resume and industry connections will help you land an interview, genuine knowledge of how a private equity firm operates is going to be what actually lands you the final position.

There is no substitute for sincerely understanding how things work. Taking the time to review relevant terminology, common financial abbreviations, and even your old notebooks from your time in college are all things that can save you from the humiliation of admitting you don’t know something. Though most employer would prefer you admit you don’t know something (which is completely alright!), they are still typically looking for individuals that will require the least amount of training. Being able to speak intelligently about the industry you are trying to enter will immediately help you compensate for anything that your resume may be missing.

Take every interview seriously

Many people will take the time to apply to 100 different positions when, in reality, there are really only five different positions they are actually interested in accepting. Having this mindset will make it much more likely that you end up disappointed and without a job. With every application you fill out (even if “applying” is as simple as a single click or forwarding your resume), you should seriously consider if you actually want to work there.

If a private equity firm does decide to give you an interview, this interview is something you should take seriously. It very well may not be the multi-billion dollar enterprise you envisioned yourself working for when you first became interested in finance a few years ago. But, at the very least, this company may be the getaway to where you hope to end up and the most feasible path to actually get there.

Getting your foot into the door of the private equity sector is something that is undeniably valuable. By taking the time to build valuable connections, distinguish yourself from the competition, and demonstrate value to future employers, you will be in a much better position to succeed.

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