A well-crafted resume is crucial if you want to break into private equity.
In this guide, we’ll go over private equity resume format, deals, common errors, and a sample template to help you stand out to potential employers.
Follow along and let’s make sure you have an outstanding private equity resume!
Private Equity Resume Format
First of all, let’s cover the basics: formatting.
I know, I know. It’s not the most fun topic in the world. But it really does matter a lot for your private equity resume.
Fonts, length, and margins
- Length: Your resume should only be one page long. Unless you’ve got somewhere near 20+ years of experience, then going over is acceptable.
- Font: Choose something basic and easy to read like Arial, Calibra, or Times New Roman.
- Font size: Should be between 10-12.
- Margins: You should set these at around 0.75” all around.
These guidelines are standard. They make your resume easy on the eye and allow for a quick scan of information.
Think of how many resumes a firm goes through. If it’s tough to read, it’s going to the bottom of the pile.
Main sections: work experience, education, and personal
Ideally, this should make up about 50% of your resume. It will list all the work experience you have.
For each job listed, you should provide:
- The name of the employer.
- Your job title.
- A few bullets describing your role and what the firm does.
- Add projects or deals you’ve worked on for every job. More on this shortly.
The education section should make up around 40% of your resume. You should include:
- List undergrad and MBA schools (include your GPA and relevant test scores, and major achievements.
- List impressive leadership experiences (e.g. sports and/or extracurriculars)
The personal section isn’t a time to get into your whole life story, it should only make up 10% of your resume. Be sure to list:
- Any awards you’ve won
Private Equity Resume Deals
Your most relevant job should have a few key deals, transactions, and projects that you worked on while there. You can list these under the heading “Selected Transactions” for each job.
It’s best to aim for 2 or 3 transactions. For those coming from an investment banking background this will be easier, the job entails a lot of deal execution.
But, if you’re not coming from investment banking, don’t worry. You can use the selected transaction section to talk about any transactions you’ve naturally had in your previous role. For example, consultants can list client engagements they’ve worked on.
The key here is to be ready to discuss each transaction in your interviews as if it were a merger and acquisition. This means that even if the deal was made in a consulting role you need to show that you thought about it in the same way an investor would.
Where possible, use bullet points and deal descriptions that mention due diligence, financial advisory presentations, and financial modeling.
During private equity interviews, they are looking for this way of thinking. So, they may ask you “would you have invested in this company if it was being acquired?” This is an answer you should prepare beforehand so you’re not fumbling for answers.
Now, if you’ve worked on a private deal (not publicly announced) you can still talk about it, just not in a straightforward way. Rather than mentioning names and the exact transaction details, you would use high-level terms that preserve anonymity like “Market-leading industry firm explored potential sale to strategic”.
If the transaction is not complete, don’t panic. Whether it’s still underway or it died out, the deal can still be worth mentioning. In fact, using a transaction that didn’t go through might be the perfect opportunity to give examples of what you would have done differently in the interview process.
How to Spin Deals for Your PE Resume
If you don’t have “real” or relevant deals to add to your resume, there are ways to describe your projects so that they sound as relevant as possible (while never lying – which you should never do!).
This can be relevant for your descriptions on your resume, but also (perhaps more importantly) for your interview discussion talking points.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- Client service engagement: Once you’ve liaised with clients you have the opportunity to research different acquisitions and spin-offs that might work. For example, looking into potential buy-side merger and acquisition deals.
- Deals made while in internships: The whole point is to show that you’re capable of modeling and thinking like an investor. So, whatever your role in the deal, you can show how you’ve researched the deal and how you would approach it. Generally, this is a last resort for the resume, but if it’s all you have, use it!
- Pitched for potential deals: Whether a deal is still in the making or has died out you would have pitched the deal. There is nothing wrong with using your pitching experience in your PE resume, it’s something firms look for. It can show you have modeling and valuation experience.
If, by some chance, you’re stuck in the opposite situation of having too many investment banking deals then, all else equal, prioritize them based on size and based on those that are closest to an M&A deal.
Let’s be honest, a $10 billion deal looks a lot better than a $10 million deal. Also, M&A or sponsor acquisitions look better than refinancings or IPOs.
However, be sure to weigh up how involved you were in the process, they will ask in-depth questions.
Private Equity Resume Mistakes
Getting your private equity resume ready takes time, but here are a few common mistakes that could cost you in the long run:
- More than one page: Your resume should be to the point and allow interviewers to do a quick scan in about 30 seconds.
- Disregard the white space: I get it, you want to put as much information on that one page as you can. But don’t forget to have white space in between to make your resume readable.
- Margins too small: You’ll need to print your resume and tiny margins can make the hard copy look squished and untidy.
- Use passive language: Use active language with active verbs!
- Big intro section: A lot of candidates put an initial “intro” section at the top of a resume that explains who they are in a couple sentences. Don’t do it! This is outdated and you should never do that!
What Private Equity Firms Look For in a Resume
Private equity professionals aren’t going to sit down with your resume and look through it for half an hour. The quick 30-second glance needs to tell them everything they need to know.
Here’s what they’re looking for:
- The right skillset: Do you have experience in a leadership role and transactions?
- The correct credentials: Do you have the right level of education and experience in the industry?
- Where you excel: They’ll look at GPA, work performance, and achievements in the industry.
Private Equity Resume Template
Here is a basic breakdown of what your resume should look like from top to bottom.
This is for your personal information. Your name should be at the top in the center. You can make this a larger font to stand out. Underneath you should have your contact information, but keep the font small.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 123 Main Street, San Francisco, CA 12345 • +1 (555) 555-1234
Next up is work experience, it’s tempting, but don’t have a personal section under the header. You need to get right into what you’ve done and why it makes you the best candidate.
Start with the name of the employer, your job title, three bullets describing your role, and lastly projects or deals you’ve worked on.
Private Equity Associate
- Performed financial valuation analysis through the use of discounted cash flow. Analyzed market trends with senior investment bankers to recommend optimal financing alternatives.
- Worked with the lead investment banking analyst, performing strategic financial alternatives analyses.
- Performed in-depth financial and operational due diligence for client companies and assembled extensive due diligence materials.
A list of 1-3 key projects and deals worked on at the company. Here is a breakdown of what to include:
Transaction type, companies involved, and size: bank’s role (transaction status).
Worked example: Sale of LinkedIn to Microsoft for $26.2 billion: Sell-side advisor to LinkedIn (Closed: June 2016).
Include a list of your undergrad and MBA schools along with your GPA and major achievements.
- Honors and awards:
- Leadership roles:
Bachelors in Finance
- GPA: 3.9
- Winner of the 2022 Best Paper Award on Finance in Management Science from the Finance Section of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.
- President of the Finance Future Club, President of Capa Gama Finance.
Keep this as brief as possible, only mentioning a few interests, languages, and awards. Here’s an example:
- Fluent in Mandarin, French, and German.
- Avid climber: Reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2021.
Well done, you’re all set to go. But remember, this is only part of the puzzle. You need to work on your interview skills to get the offer.
Is it hard to get a job in private equity?
It’s not easy. That’s why it’s important to work on your resume, making it as impressive as possible to get you to the top of the resume pile. Financial analysis is a mix of theory and practice, so you’ll need both. If you need more resources, check my Top 10 Private Equity books.
Can’t I just make it sound like I was involved in a deal?
No! Never lie. You’re playing with fire, and experienced private equity recruiters know when you’re lying. Instead, what I recommend is to put your best foot forward by describing your accomplishments and experiences in a truthful and relevant way. But be ready to discuss each project as if it was an investment deal you were working on!
Having a well-crafted resume is critical for landing a job and starting your career in private equity.
You can avoid common mistakes, highlight your relevant deals and experience, and use our sample template to create a polished and effective private equity resume by following our guide.
With these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to impressing potential employers and landing your dream job in private equity.