It’s private equity recruitment season in Europe and America. This time last year, major private equity firms in America were camped out in hotels in New York City, interviewing candidates through the night. One year on, a chill wind is blowing, but private equity firms are pressuring candidates all the same.
“The private equity recruiting cycle is continuing and firms are giving out exploding offers in the usual way,” says Anthony Keizner, a partner at Odyssey Search Partners in New York. At top firms like KKR and Blackstone, this typically means candidates have just 24-hours to decide whether to accept, or not. “Candidates aren’t allowed to sit on offers because there’s a big opportunity cost to losing out on other candidates if the candidate with an offer decides not to accept,” Keizner explains.
This year, more than ever, bankers fortunate enough to receive private equity offers might want to make a hasty decision in the affirmative. The private equity market is awash with candidates, but jobs are hitting a drought.
“Private equity firms never really stop recruiting, but hiring this year has slowed up a bit,” says Charlie Hunt, director of the UK at recruitment firm PER. “In the past two years, there weren’t enough quality candidates for jobs, but now we’re starting to see fewer jobs than a few months ago.”
Private equity firms typically hire junior bankers at analyst and associate level, and the bulk of their hiring happens twice a year after analyst bonuses are paid in August and January. In the US, Keizner says junior bankers are far more interested in private equity jobs now than they were even in the post-August hiring season. “There are so many more bankers now who are willing to interview and who weren’t prepared to do so in the fall.”
With private equity jobs harder to come by, firms are becoming fussier about the analysts they’ll take. In Europe, Hunt says they’re increasingly interested in sector-focused bankers instead of generalists and that their preferred sectors are the usual suspects: “There’s more demand for bankers from areas like healthcare and technology.”
Angsty bankers beyond analyst and associate who want to move to the buy-side have probably missed their chance, unless – like Harvey M. Schwartz – they’re sufficiently storied to slot themselves in at the top. “We don’t see many hiring people post-associate onto their deal teams,” says Keizner. “However, senior bankers can sometimes find roles on fundraising and capital markets teams.”
Senior ECM bankers trying to slot themselves into PE jobs might be unlucky to get any offer, though, let alone an exploding one. While fundraisers are (unsurprisingly) in hot demand this year, Hunt says most funds want people who’ve worked in fundraising roles before, and who come with a book of contacts.