Private Equity, I would argue, is the best place to be within Financial Services. This applies to HR as much as it does to other areas. It is the industry that Investment Bankers want to get into but there’s only room for the select few.
There are thousands of HR Generalists working in the City and many hundreds working in Investment Banking, Retail Banking and other areas. In Private Equity though, there are probably less than 100, making it an exclusive club to be in and highly competitive. Within Reward, there are even less people with experience in the most sought after skill which goes by the name of Carry. Carried interest is why Investment Bankers gaze at the Private Equity industry with envy. But more about that another time.
HR within Private Equity is very different from most other places as it has only been around for a very short period of time. The Large Cap firms may have some things in place but even now it’s not unheard of for mid-cap firms and most of the smaller ones to have very little in the way of policies and procedures.
This means that no matter how senior you are, you may find yourself being hands on with writing contracts, organising interviews and generally doing administrative tasks which need doing and no one else to delegate it to.
On the plus side, the most junior HR person has instant exposure all the way to the very highest levels. The variety of situations and tasks you will get involved with is so great that only a true HR Generalist, and a capable one, will be able to thrive. And as you get more senior your responsibility, and your salary, grows ever so much faster than anywhere else in the City. You may even be exposed to carry! It is known!
So what makes a good CV trying to get into PE? There are certain common themes which are always asked when recruiting into Private Equity and certain things which never go down well. Here are some of them:
People who come from a Buy Side firm, either another PE firm or from Asset Management always have an advantage. This is because these people will know how to work in a small team with little backup.
Good A Levels and a 2.1 or above Bachelor’s degree. This gives the hiring manager confidence that the candidate is intelligent and has always had a work ethic.
A two page CV. An inability to put your career down in 2 pages or less is interpreted as an inability to put important points across succinctly. PE people don’t have time to wade through non-revenue generating documents and many of them still really don’t know what HR can contribute so won’t be prepared to read a great deal.
A consistent career. Time and time again, I’ve had CV’s turned down because they are too jumpy. If you are going for an HR Manager position for someone with about 10 years’ experience, it will look better if you have had only 1 or 2 roles previously.
Once you have secured an interview with a PE firm, do your research, dress smartly (crisp shirt and suit/skirt etc.) and go for it. And if you don’t make it, go for the next one.