Career Advice Jun 26 2012

The Perfect Private Equity Resume

By Alina Dizik

Private equity has long been known for its high salaries and elite roles. Bottom line: Competition is fierce and if you're eager to break-in, a less-than-perfect resume can easily eliminate you from the running.

Whether you're applying to a middle-market firm or one of the largest PE firms -- it's worth taking the time to pore over the details. For a PE job, even minor misspellings, grammatical errors, or formatting mistakes on your resume can hurt your candidacy.

Making matters more complicated, "a private equity resume has to go into a lot more detail because [candidates] have to back up everything," says Deborah Jones, a certified resume writer who sometimes creates three- or four-page resumes for job seekers. Once you've gathered all of the details, keep in mind that your resume can be longer than the traditional one-page resume -- provided the information is necessary.

Here are some more tips on getting all of those details right:

Tailor to Each Industry

With many private equity firms focusing on specific industries, it's important to highlight your involvement by tailoring your resume to each company and position, says Spencer Hoffman, a managing director at Philadelphia-based Lovell Minnick Partners LLC, a mid-market buyout firm that focuses on the financial services industry. With so many applicants, Hoffman has the luxury of making sure the people he hires have specific industry experience. "Having a couple of different versions of a resume isn't a bad thing," Hoffman says. For example, if you're applying to a private equity firm that focuses on health care, it's important to have a resume that culls the details from any previous experience covering the space.

List Hobbies or Activities

Listing personality-defining hobbies or activities can increase your chances of landing a job at many PE firms. The performance-driven culture can create a stressful work environment so hiring managers look for candidates that are a perfect fit all around, says Jessica Henry, senior associate director of career services at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "Don't ever underestimate the 'additional info' section of your resume," says Henry. "Include something that's not necessarily academic, a lot of the times people want to talk about that." Favorite sports teams or unusual hobbies listed on a resume can often spark a conversation and help your resume stand out.

Set Apart Deal Experience

Whether you've worked on deal origination or oversaw a portfolio, demonstrating deal experience during your previous employment is key. Attract attention by setting apart the types of deals you worked on in a separate section at the top of your resume. More than ever hiring managers are also looking for candidates with global experience, so be sure your resume conveys any deals with heavy international exposure. When recruiters or hiring managers pick up your resume, deal experience will be the first thing they notice. "We don't have the ability to bring in somebody who doesn't know how to do a deal," says Hoffman. You can also add additional competencies to the top portion of your resume then follow with a reverse-chronological format to make the resume semi-functional and loaded with keywords for electronic screening, says Deborah James, a certified resume writer in Toledo, Ohio.

Stress Financial Modeling Experience

To pinpoint your financial modeling experience, mention the results of the analysis performed and the area where it was applied when writing bullet points for your job descriptions. Adding any advanced-level Excel work can be another helpful way to quickly demonstrate your expertise. If you're just starting out and making a switch from investment banking, Henry recommends that applicants "show any kind of deep diving into the numbers to make decisions -- [firms] don't want to train [new hires] on that piece."

Don't Exaggerate

"When a junior-level applicant [writes] that they single-handedly led a multibillion dollar transaction, that throws a big cloud of uncertainty around their application," says Hoffman. Instead, it's better to be realistic about how you helped your previous company. Additionally, many recruiters compare your resume to your LinkedIn profile to further track discrepancies, which may unknowingly take you out of the running.

Show Off Your Education

Even if you didn't get an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, having the name of a top-tier business school on your resume can help. Consider attending an executive education program or a certificate program at a top business school that focuses on furthering your private equity career like investment management. Or if you don't have an M.B.A., taking a few years to complete the degree in a part-time or executive format (which allows you to work) can be an option. "Private equity is ultracompetitive," says John Landers, a regional vice president of the financial services group at Robert Half International, a staffing firm based in New York. "The pedigree of your education is going to be extremely important."

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With even the largest PE firms being small in size, it's important to come across as a potential fit to each particular firm by truly understanding the demands of the open position. Take time to tailor each resume you send out. "Every firm has a different culture and what they view as requirements for candidates -- [it's up to] the candidate to do some background research," says Hoffman.

Write to Alina Dizik at editor@fins.com



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