Working with a Private Equity Recruiter

Private equity executive recruiters have firmly established themselves as a visible and highly valued fixture in today’s venture capital and private equity job market. Through their matchmaking, recruiters affect the careers of individuals, the lives of their families and friends, and the profitability of firms.

Sometime in your career, you either received a call from a headhunter, or initiated contact yourself. In either case, you should learn how to work with them effectively, and take full advantage of the many benefits their service provides.

Your success is in the recruiter’s best interest. The search fee the hiring firm pays represents a sizable investment in your success. The recruiter is interested in making sure the hire and transition period go very smoothly.

Benefits from establishing a solid relationship with a private equity recruiter:

Align Your Interests

There is a lot to be gained from working with an executive recruiter. The trick is getting the attention of the right recruiter. You represent perishable inventory, that is, until you find your next private equity job, you are available to work with recruiters. After you are placed, the recruiter takes you out of the active pile of resumes.

While it is true that recruiters are aligned with their client firms (who pay the bill), without private equity and venture capital candidates to fuel the fire, there is no deal. Recruiters may pre-screen hundreds of candidates for a job opening. The vast majority of their time is spent with a short list of finalists. The rest are relegated to their files marked “reject” or “future.” Those who make the future pile, are often highly skilled private equity, hedge fund or investment banking professionals who simply did not fit the current role being filled. It is a matter of timing.

You should always ask for an appraisal of your fit with the current position and the recruiter’s level of interest in you for future positions. Invest your time with private equity recruiters who demonstrate their desire to work with you.

What’s Your Sign?

No doubt you have heard the terms “retained” and “contingency” in discussions about private equity recruiters. These terms primarily describe how a recruiter is compensated for finding a candidate that gets hired by the firm. Retained recruiters get paid in advance by the firm and tend to work exclusively on higher level positions. Contingency executive recruiters get paid once a candidate they referred gets hired. The lines have blurred in recent years as client firms have asked for flexibility in billing methods in return for loyalty to the recruiter.

You will avoid confusion if you understand the difference between retained and contingent searches. Typically, the recruiter who is retained by the firm will have a higher likelihood of placing you if they feel you are a good fit. Think of it this way, if multiple contingent recruiters work on a single opening, then you are simply one of many candidates that will be parading in front of the hiring firm because each of the firms working on the placement will be putting as many candidate resumes forward as possible, therefore increasing their odds of winning the placement race.

Both types of recruiters stand to earn large fees. The placement fees typically range from twenty to as high as thirty-five percent of the first year compensation of the placed person. So, you can see why recruiters may be a bit impatient with the candidate who is not very responsive – their paycheck (and typically months worth of work) is on the line. So, be sure to respect the recruiter’s time or don’t be surprised if you no longer get a call back.

Follow Some Common Sense Rules

As you develop a relationship with a private equity recruiter, be sure to check that there is a good fit before committing to anything. Discuss these before you move forward:

Private equity recruiters do not work miracles. What they can do is match your background with an opening at the right firm at the right time, and effectively guide you through the job search process. You will find a complete database of private equity recruiters in the Premium Member section of Job Search Digest’s Private Equity Jobs Digest.


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