Tailoring Your Resume: How to Break into Private Equity, Hedge Funds, and Venture Capital

As an investment banking analyst or lateral hire preparing for the buy-side recruiting process, it is very important to be thoughtful about your resume.  As you know, this is an incredibly competitive process with many similarly positioned candidates vying for limited spots at private equity, hedge funds and venture capital firms.  In this post, I would like to give you some tips to help your resume stand out.

Your resume tells your story. View it as your opportunity to highlight why you should be in the slate of candidates selected for an initial interview. Recruiters are looking for candidates that have demonstrated consistently strong performance, interpersonal skills, intellectual agility, and a steady increase in responsibilities.  I would suggest the following ways to highlight these attributes:

If you received a full time offer after your summer internship or were given the option to stay on as a third-year analyst, highlight this achievement.  Even if you received the offer and then chose to move forward with a different company, make note of the offer because it shows that you were an integral part of your team as an intern.  Also highlight if you were ranked as a top-tier analyst on your team.  List all deals that you closed; the private equity firm to which you applied could have been part of the deal.  If you were the sole analyst on a deal, list all responsibilities that you held throughout the transaction: modeling, client interface, etc.

Candidates should also highlight activities, internships or entrepreneurial endeavors that are relevant to their industry or position of interest.  For example, if you are seeking to join an industry-focused private equity team, definitely include any related industry internships you held or companies you founded. This shows that you have a genuine passion for your sector and would bring a unique skill set to the team. I once worked with a candidate who was applying for a TMT pre-MBA Associate role. He had interned at a start-up media company prior to investment banking and initially decided to remove it from his resume, thinking non-banking experience was irrelevant.  We encouraged him to include the internship as a way to demonstrate his long-standing industry interest and operating experience. The candidate scored the interview and our client said it was because his media experience stood out.

I would also include information about any related investing experience, whether it is a personal portfolio or involvement with a student investment club.  If you are applying for a principal investing role, buy-side firms want to see demonstrated interest in investing. Be prepared to discuss picks you made and companies you have invested in; firms will want to understand the thought process and rationale behind your choices.

Candidates should also include relevant collegiate experience.  If you were a part of any sports or Greek life, these activities will distinguish you as competitive, social, and a team player.  These are qualities that are especially relevant at private equity firms, where relationship building and communication skills are important.  Additionally, include one community service activity, but only if it is a genuine interest and something in which you are very involved.  Limit irrelevant interests, such as poker.  Also indicate if you graduated with honors.  I would suggest including your GPA if it was 3.5 or above.  While this may seem somewhat arbitrary, keep in mind that recruiters are looking for reasons to remove candidates from the process quickly, and a relatively low GPA is one expedient way for them to whittle down the pool. If your GPA is below 3.5, consider whether you are prepared to address any questions it might raise.   Also include your SAT scores if they are competitive numbers.  Language skills should be indicated if you are at a professional or conversational level, as they inform firms that you will be able to handle business dealings in another language.

Lastly, it is common practice for analysts to include only their work emails in their resumes. I would also recommend including your personal email address or cell phone so that you can stay in touch with the firm or recruiter over the long-term.

It goes without saying that anything on your resume is fair game in an interview, so be prepared to speak to every bullet in detail. Private equity firms, hedge funds, and VC’s, like many other companies, want to know how you differentiate yourself from hundreds of other candidates.  Achievements, specializations, relevant interests, and competitive metrics help to make your resume stand out among the many others and maximize your chances of scoring an interview.

Best of luck!

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