Every week, NETSHARE hosts Ask the Coach, a phone-in coaching session with leading career management experts. Here is an excerpt from this week’s session with Nicola James, Managing Partner of Thomas Brooke International.
Private Equity firms have always had an allure for many executives. The challenge is how to get on their radar? This week’s career coach, Nicola James, has a lot of experience working with private equity firms and was able to provide some meaningful responses to NETSHARE member questions.
The first caller noted that he had worked with private equity firms in the past at a senior level. How should he re-engage with the private equity market? Nicola replied that his previous experience would give him some standing with those who have hiring authority.
Nicola reminded the callers that there are two different levels of hiring within a private equity firm. If they are hiring at the C-level, then that is usually done by the portfolio company, by the partners. In this case they usually look to their own personal networks for hiring candidates. This gives you an advantage since you can identify those partners and build your connections through your own networks. Determine their outside interests. Find different ways to approach them and get to know them. That way, when they start looking to fill a new position, you will be there. The challenge with working with partners, however, is they often tend to be disorganized and don’t have a formal process for managing their contacts, so you have to maintain regular contact to put yourself in the right place at the right time for the right opportunity.
Below the C-level, recruiting is usually handled by the Vice President of Recruiting. These guys are professionals, with better contacts and better contact management systems than you typically find at the partner level. The way the vice president will keep track of their candidates is better organized so being “top of mind” is less important, but they also don’t maintain that same personal connection. They tend to work from resumes and information in their database and they may or may not understand the real parameters of the job.
In either case, you need to have the right market connections of the “investment backed” background to make sure you can get traction in the job search. You also will have to be more flexible about compensation. Private equity opportunities usually don’t have the same salaries and you need to be prepared to take less compensation on the front end and look for an equity payout later.
If you have background in a specific market, then it’s best to search our private equity firms that work in those areas conducting searches for professionals with your background. You will need to determine where the gaps are in their knowledge base and demonstrate how you can fill the void. Show your value. If you can’t demonstrate your market value, then demonstrate what specialization you have that matches the company’s need- working with start-ups, working with underperforming companies, etc.
You need to help the private equity company connect the dots to show them why you are a great candidate. If you don’t connect the dots for them, they won’t do it themselves or they will do it wrong.