From the category archives:

Interview Questions

We recorded a call with Brian DeChesare, founder of Breaking into Wall Street, about the possible takeover and turnaround of Best Buy.

In this call we discuss deal background, the current sticky issues, how the industry has shifted, and the feasibility of the founder being able to raise the capital necessary to make the deal happen.

We think you will enjoy it. You can go to this page and listen to the call

If you want to learn more about how to model a deal like this, we have scheduled an online training session (register with that link) for October 16 that focuses on the details of the Best Buy deal. This session will be a case study on one of the largest potential LBO deals in recent history.

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They’re among the questions you’re most likely going to face in your private equity job interview, especially in the early rounds. What are your greatest strengths? What is your biggest weakness?

Avoiding pat answers and putting some meaningful thought behind these two predictable questions can go a long way toward separating yourself from other candidates, according to the folks over at Bradley’s CVs, the UK-based resume-writing consultancy.

For example, there is an art to answering the “what are your greatest strengths” question without seeming conceited. The key is to identify the strengths from your resume that are most directly related to the job at hand. Think broadly about your strengths. It could be a professional skill, a personal quality that resulted in a positive benefit, a glowing reference from a supervisor or co-worker, or a unique skill gained outside the industry that can contribute to this organization.

One of the best ways to answer this question, of course, is to let others do the talking. In other words, to mention what others have said about a particular quality you have.

In addition, use a strength-example-result formula in relating your strengths. Mention what you or someone else perceives as a strength, then tell of an example where you used this strength to accomplish a specific result. This paints a picture and leaves a lasting impression in the interviewer’s mind.

Bradley’s suggests that you should also have at least three “strength scenarios” well prepared for any interview. This gives you a chance to substitute or leave out an example if you suddenly realize it isn’t relevant.

As for dealing with the question, “What is your biggest weakness?”, try to avoid the pat answer of turning some positive quality into a weakness, such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” You need to be especially prepared for this question, so as to not give a trite answer or blurt out something that could actually damage your chances of landing the job.

The interviewer is simply trying to get to know you better. In particular, how self-aware you are, and how well you understand your own shortcomings and are open to improvement.

Never, ever say “I don’t have any weaknesses that will affect my ability to do the job,” says Bradley’s. It’s not true for anyone and seems evasive. Instead, find a weakness that is minor and will not impede your chances of getting the job. Something that shows self-awareness. And then describe how you are working to improve in this area.

The fact that you’ve prepared an intelligent answer to this “weakness” question will also speak volumes to the interviewer about your approach to your work.

Have you faced “strength and weakness” questions in a recent interview? What advice would you offer? Add your comments below.

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Private equity firms look for analysts who have M&A and LBO deal experience. They are, after all, in the business of buying companies. So your capital markets or IPO experience isn’t as important to them.

To prepare both your resume and for the interview, you’ll need to make a list of all the deals you’ve worked on and carefully decide which ones to feature, and why they mattered. Go back and review the details of these deals so they’re fresh in your mind.

It’s best to pick unusual deals or ones in which you contributed something significant, or learned something significant. LBO deals are a good choice because you can describe why the deal worked and demonstrate your knowledge of the process.

When talking about a deal, give a brief overview of the company, industry and major deal points, and then describe what was significant about that deal.

In addition, do your homework and be prepared to talk about portfolio of the firm you’re interviewing with. Spend time researching the firm’s major competitors. Ask a few pointed questions. Asking about things such as their business model, revenue model or other strategic questions about a portfolio company is also good way to show you understand their business.

If you don’t have any M&A or LBO deal experience, then you need to find  projects that demonstrate similar skills, such as work that improves the
operation of a company, due diligence or in-depth equity research.

You can get more details about finding private equity jobs and nailing the interview by reading Job Search Digest’s Private Equity & Venture Capital Careers Guide.

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Interviewing for a Private Equity Job

December 7, 2009

If you think getting a job at Google is tough, try surviving the interview process at a top private equity firm. One banking analyst who went through the process at megafirms KKR (Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts) and TPG (Texas Pacific Group), says compared to those interviews, a Google job interview is a walk in the […]

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Top 10 Venture Capital Job Interview Questions – Part 3

June 25, 2008

If your Venture capital resume was good enough to land you an interview, these questions should be helpful in landing the offer. Q: How would you evaluate a possible portfolio company and their business plan? You have to emphasize your ability to look beyond the numbers and read between the lines. Evaluating financial facts is […]

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Top 10 Venture Capital Job Interview Questions – Part 2

June 18, 2008

Continuation of our series of posts on preparing yourself for common questions during a venture capital job interview. Q: What’s been the most interesting IPO or acquisition in our industry in the past year? Passion for particular industries and achieving a highly profitable exit are common threads that tie venture capitalists together. This question provides […]

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Top 10 Venture Capital Job Interview Questions – Part 1

June 16, 2008

Venture capital careers are competitive, with many more interested candidates than open positions. Subsequently, a venture capital job should be considered only after you have many years of successful, hands-on company experience. Noted Silicon Valley speaker, author, and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki put it best when he said if you were the entrepreneur across the […]

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Venture Capital Job Interview Question – The Rocket

March 25, 2008

Sometimes Venture Capital Job interview questions are meant to test the logic of the candidate. Here is one that has been used successfully in the past and getting it right could take you to new heights! A test rocket is released when it is 96 feet from the ground. The rocket rises 3 feet, then […]

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