Path to Private Equity Post-MBA Without Pre-MBA Banking Experience


Private equity is a prosperous segment of a country’s economy. It also offers the most lucrative career in finance. Apart from their basic salary, the PE professionals receive a bonus and carried interest too.

The job calls for long hours of working but the hours are worth it. The professionals at private equity interact with bankers, legal representatives, CEOs, top management teams, and consultant teams. In brief, professionals understand businesses at high levels.

Getting into private equity is interesting but challenging.

Private equity (PE) is often described as an exclusive field that accepts only top b-school graduates, strategy consultants, or professionals having experience in investment banking. It is notoriously difficult to get into the confined private equity world without pre-MBA experience.

For post-MBA grads, who don’t have prior private equity experience, it is difficult to break into the private equity career. The conventional way to choose a career in private equity is to work in investment banking for two years, work as an associate at a private equity firm, then complete an MBA (i.e., IB→ PE→ MBA→ PE).

The PE firms screen resumes for professionals who has experience as a PE Associate. The resume gets rejected unless they have someone in the firm to recommend them. They do not want to hire undergraduates and train them but want professionals to have essential basic skills.

However, it might not be true always. An MBA graduate, undergrads, engineers, accountants or finance professionals may have a bright career in private equity. They are less in number or exceptional cases. They are the ones who have worked in corporation divisions before b-school and can spin their experience to be semi IB or PE. Also, a few of the smaller PE firms hire professionals straight out of MBA programs without pre-MBA PE experience.

An MBA from a second- or third-tier business schools will not disqualify you, but having an MBA from Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, or Columbia is recommended. The large-cap firms like The Blackstone Group or the TPG Capital have stringent requirements.

But, if you have experience in a specific sector like infrastructure, healthcare, etc., you can always have a chance to become a professional at private equity. Valuation experience is also a worth try. Strong networking is recommended. Undergrads who get into PE directly, win so because they have the credit of not taking the tried-and-tested route to PE.

For instance, here is an example where a consultant got hired into private equity.

A consultant who majored in finance joined a PE firm successfully. The professional leveraged networking, made continuous cold-calling and cold-emailing from the alumni database, attended informational interviews and sessions. Further, he focused on sub-industries and narrowed down the target group of recruiters. During the interview process, he mentioned about M&A experience, narrated the experiences gained at an expansion project.

Let us see how to get through an interview process in a PE firm.

Acing an interview in private equity firms

Apart from technical knowledge, a high GPA, satisfactory experience, a strong network or cod calling, the private equity managers look for more in their prospective candidates.

A few of the pointers to ace in the PE firm interviews are as follows:

  • Have an appreciable technical acumen
  • Have a strong view of the industry
  • Work fast with LBO modelling tests and cases
  • Gain an elaborate knowledge about the PE firm where you are attending an interview
  • Think on your feet and be prepared to work under pressure
  • Remember your body language, voice tone, or character also gets assessed
  • Develop the ability to sell an investment and improve on presentation skills

Keep your motivation high always. A winning attitude, sincerity, and hard work ease your path to fetch the most lucrative yet challenging career in PE.

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