Having a strong private equity resume is absolutely critical if you want a job in the industry. As we often tell candidates, you only need to do two things right to get a job in PE. First, get the interview. Second, convert the interview into an offer. This is the private equity recruiting process in its simplest form.
Having a well-structured and thoughtfully-written private equity resume is essential to getting the interview. No interview = no offer. But the effectiveness of the resume doesn’t end here. It also plays a role in your ability to convert the interview into an offer. That’s because the content on the resume will often set the conversation topics of the interview. And of course, we want to strategically steer them in the direction of topics that will inherently benefit you. Therefore, a truly effective resume will not only win interviews but also boost your interview-to-offer conversion rate.
With that in mind, we decided to create our own resume format. It incorporates industry best practices and strategically optimizes the format to present your candidacy in the best possible light. You can download it here:
Who Should / Shouldn’t Use This Resume Template
This resume template is designed for investment bankers, management consultants, and other current professionals recruiting for private equity roles. The template in its as-is form is tailored specifically to entry-level professionals, whose current position is their first and only full-time job. If you’ve held multiple jobs since graduation, you’ll need to reconfigure the resume a bit. You can also use this resume if you’re recruiting for hedge funds or lateral investment banking opportunities.
This resume template is NOT designed for current students (undergrad & graduate). You should use our student-oriented resume template instead. Also, you shouldn’t use this resume template for business school admissions. You should consultant MBA admissions advisor for that.
With that out of the way, let’s jump in and talk about our private equity resume template.
What Private Equity Firms Look For in the Resume
Generally speaking, private equity firms look for three things on your resume.
- Do you have the right credentials? (i.e. Current employer, group, school)
- Do you have the right skillset? (i.e. Transaction experience, leadership roles)
- Do you excel at what you do? (i.e. Work performance, GPA / test scores, awards & honors)
Naturally, you need to structure your resume that highlight these information. These are the key elements that determine whether you get an interview. Most importantly, private equity professionals and headhunters will likely spend only 30 seconds glancing your resume for these information. That’s right. A 30 second glance. If they like what they see, they might read the bullets in greater detail. If not, they probably won’t spend the 31st second reading the bullets.
Private equity recruiters often make interview or no-interview decisions from that 30 second glance. Yes, they might not even read your bullets at the time of interview selection. This means that it’s not enough to just have these information on your resume. You must deliver these information from merely a 30 second glance.
This is what we call optimizing your resume for the 30 second glance, or “30 Second Optimization”.
Optimizing Private Equity Resume Template for “30 Second Glance”
A major reason we created our own template is that most existing templates are designed for a 3 minute read. We see candidates spend most of their time on wording the bullets and not enough time on the format & structure. They either leave valuable information off the resume or bury it somewhere that isn’t easily identifiable. Don’t get us wrong. Writing the bullets is important. However, you also need to optimize your resume for a 30 second glance. When it comes to the glance, the format & structure is much more efficient at transmitting key information than long sentences. That’s why we spent a significant amount of time thinking through the resume template design. How do we design it to convey the most positive information on the 3 things that matter the most within a 30 second glance?
Some Ground Rules
First and foremost, keep your private equity resume to one page. Unless you’re in a region where it’s standard for resume to be multiple pages, you have to keep it to a single page.
Second, use a safe font. Choose among Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Most finance professionals are accustomed to these three fonts. We use Calibri in our template.
Third, keep things consistent. This applies to font styles, font sizes, punctuation, unit measures (i.e. Millions, millions, MM, mm), capitalization, alignment, and spacing. If you have Size 12 for “Work Experience”, don’t have Size 14 for “Education” and Size 15 for “Additional”. Similarly, if you don’t have period at the end of some bullets, don’t have it for the rest. This is part of attention to details. You have to keep the formatting consistent.
Fourth, make sure the resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors. These mistakes erode your credibility.
Fifth, current working professionals should structure resume in the order of Work Experience -> Education -> Additional. Within each section, order the experiences in reverse chronological order. That means most recent experience at the top. Oldest experience at the bottom.
Sixth, do NOT include an Objective section or a Summary section on your resume. They are a waste of space and will fast track you to the ding pile.
Fill-Up the White Space to Create Powerful Perception
Notice that we fill up most of the white space. We do this by keeping margins to a minimum and writing most bullets that take up the entire line. Some lines finish in the middle but most don’t conclude until the far right.
This allows the text to take up most of the page while leaving just enough white space to balance it out. It creates a powerful perception that you have meaningful experience at your current job upon immediate glance. This is what you want. The most injustice you can do to your resume if you have a lot of experience is to write very brief descriptions and leave lots of white space. Consider the below comparison of two descriptions of the exact same position. Which one gives you an immediate perception of greater experience from just a glance?
Some people might say that this is “too crowded” or “too much text”. We don’t argue that it’s not a lot of text. But that’s also not a big point of concern for resume reviewers. Again, the resume reviewers aren’t going to read your resume unless it captivates them within 30 seconds. You won’t captivate them with a resume full of white space that undersell your experience. There are many highly qualified candidates for each PE job.
Unfortunately, you won’t have a chance to verbalize how much you’ve contributed to your firm during the resume review stage. So do yourself a favor and convey it through texts that fill up the page. Otherwise, how would the resume reviewers know? The priority here is perception. What is their perception of you from the 30 seconds? You want them to perceive that you have meaningful experience at your current job. In the game of resume review, perception is reality.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you should fill up all the white space. You have to leave some white space on the side to make it look good. US candidates should use Letter-size paper (8.5” x 11”) in Word doc. In our template, we keep margins to 0.55” for top, bottom, left and right. You shouldn’t go smaller than 0.4” for top & bottom and 0.5 for left & right.
Have your name and contact information at the top, front and center. Size your name larger than the rest and bold it so it’s easily identifiable and recognizable. For the contact information, we recommend keeping it to one line so everything is in one place. Within that line, we recommend placing either your phone number or email first because that’s the most audience-friendly. I haven’t seen any firm regularly communicating with candidates by mailing letters. By the way, although rarely used, you should still include your physical address on the resume. Some private equity firms might courier interview materials to your physical address. Looking at you, KPS Capital Partners.
Work Experience Section
Alright, now let’s talk about the bread and butter of your resume: the Work Experience section. Notice from our resume template that the full-time employment takes up the majority of the resume. This is again purposeful. It conveys the message that you have meaningful experience from your time on the job. Sounds like you’re a much more likely interview candidate than someone who only has 3 bullets under their current role. Again, remember resume reviewers can’t fully appreciate your work firsthand. They only have a piece of paper that you give them to judge whether you have the right skillset. This advice was actually given to us when we were recruiting by a headhunter. Forgot whether it was CPI or Amity. But credit is due!
For analysts with >3 months of experience on the desk, this advice applies to you. Unfortunately, internship experiences won’t carry much weight anymore. So only include last 1-2 internships. Don’t include more than 2 internships. And for each internship, have 1-2 summary lines max. Remember, your full-time work experience carry the most weight. The one thing about past internships you should include in the bullet is if you received a return offer. That’s a positive validation of your performance so write it!
For first year analysts who might have to submit resume to headhunters with <3 months on the desk, it’s understandable and acceptable to have a more blown-out junior year internship experience. However, to the extent you can write more about your full-time experience, you’ll earn extra points.
How to Write Your Work Experience
Let’s talk about how to write your work experience. We recommend 1-2 summary sentences followed by deal experience.
So how do you write effective summary sentences?
For the first sentence, you should give an overview of your role and responsibilities. Specify whether you’re a summer analyst, first year, second year or third year analyst. You don’t necessarily need to write about modeling or valuation work. You’ll elaborate on that in the deal experience, so it’s redundant.
For the second sentence, we recommend including as many positive performance indicators as possible. Did you get top-bucket ranking? Receive fast promotion? Write it on your resume and let the reviewers know! These are indicators of high performance and performance is the ultimate currency for mobility. Other great things to include here include things like serving on campus recruiting teams, social chair, analyst councils / committees, authoring official firm-wide or division-wide materials, serving as Summer Analyst Captain, leading analyst training, etc. Basically, try to include things here that indicate you’re well-regarded in your group.
Once that’s done, you should write your “Selected Transaction Experience” or “Selected Deal Experience”. Consultants and other professionals can write “Selected Engagement Experience” or “Selected Project Experience”.
Selected Transaction Experience
The key priority of this sub-section is to show that you have the right experience. Similar to the rest of the resume, you should optimize it for the 30 second glance.
As a general guideline, list 1-3 deals here. Ideally 2-3. Don’t list beyond three deals. Beyond 3 deals and it’s declining marginal returns. Remember when we said in the beginning that what you write on the resume will steer the conversation? Deal discussions are a critical component of private equity interviews. The interviewer can pick randomly from the list or they might just go through all the deals. There are A LOT of things you need to know about each deal to talk about them intelligently. Having 3 deals will take long enough time to prepare. List 4-5 deals and you’re just making things unnecessarily hard for yourself.
Choosing Which Deals to Write
Alright, now let’s talk about how to choose which deals to list on your resume. There are four things to consider:
Transaction Type: Sellside M&A selling a company to a private equity sponsor is probably the best deal experience. Modeling-wise, you’ll build LBO and have exposure to complicated debt packages. You’ll also actively assist with buyer due diligence requests so you can see what the PE firms are investigating. Other M&A transactions like, strategic M&A / spin-offs / divestiture / activism defense / restructuring are also very good to write. Absent of any M&A transactions, you can write about leveraged financing / acquisition financing. Absent of that, write about investment grade debt financing & equity financing.
Transaction Status: All else equal, “Announced” and “Closed” transactions are better to list than “Pending” transactions. The key difference is really between Announced / Closed and Pending. Once client announces the transaction, you can talk about it without secrecy clouding over the conversation.
Transaction Size: All else equal, large deals are better than small deals. Billion dollar deals are more impressive than million dollar deals. You don’t need to alter your list of transactions based on the size of PE firms you’re interviewing with. You can have billion-dollar plus transaction experience even if you’re interviewing with a middle market PE firm. It’ll still look impressive.
Your Involvement: You can also choose deals to list based on your involvement in the deal process. Did you actually do real analysis or did you just order the deal toy? Talking about you first year analysts with an announced deal on your resume 2-weeks into the job.
We recommend prioritizing transaction type, followed by status, and then size and involvement. Transaction type determines what interviewers talk about. Transaction status will influence how you respond.
How to Write About Deals – Summary Sentence
Start each deal with a summary bullet that specifies transaction type, parties involved, size, your bank’s role and transaction status.
We recommend the structure: [Transaction Type] – [Companies Involved] – [Size]: [Bank’s Role] – [Transaction Status].
Example: “Sale of Whole Foods to Amazon for $14 billion: Exclusive sellside advisor to Whole Foods (Closed August 2017).”
We recommend putting transaction type as the first word for strategic purposes. It identifies the most important piece of the bullet without requiring audience to read the entire sentence. Putting “Sale” or “Acquisition” or “Merger” in the first word efficiently signals your transaction experience. Formatting-wise, we bold and underline the first part so it’s visually apparent to the audience. Your transaction experience stand out from just a glance!
By the way, your transaction list need to have a rational order (first, second, third). Some PE professionals will be very picky about this. As you learn in banking & consulting, you need to be thoughtful about how you order things. How do you determine which deal goes first, second and last? We recommend ordering them by favorability, from most favorable to talk about in interviews to least favorable. Which raises the question, how do you measure favorability? A trick is to do it by number of bullets under each deal. Write the most number of bullets for your best deal and the least number of bullets for the last deal.
How to Write About Deals – Bullets
Under each deal, you should have 2-4 bullets. One bullet just looks awkward. Each bullet should have maximum of three lines.
The best bullets to write about are work related to (1) financial modeling, (2) due diligence, and (3) presentations. Why? Two reasons.
First, these are things that indicate technical skills relevant for PE. It’s what you’ll need to do your job as a private equity associate. As a private equity associate, you’ll build models, conduct due diligence and put all your findings and analysis into PPT presentations. Sounds similar to your investment banking analyst role? That’s why we call PE banking 2.0!
Second, writing about these three types of bullets give you ample opportunities to use buzzwords. Buzzwords are key words that give audience an idea of your experience without having to read the entire sentence. Coincidentally, most buzzwords are abbreviations, like M&A, LBO, DCF, IRR, and EBITDA. They’re in large-caps which makes them visually stand out. Ideally, you should embed a couple of buzzwords throughout your bullets.
For each bullet, start with an action word in past tense. This makes your resume sound action-oriented. Some examples of technical-oriented action words to use are: Built, Created, Expanded, Initiated, Developed, Prepared, Devised, etc. You should also mix in some teamwork-oriented action words, such as Spearheaded, Led, Collaborated, Coordinated, Organized, Planned, Arranged, etc.
Trick of the Trade
Round your transaction size on your resume to the nearest whole number. $233.7 million? Round it to $230 million. This will make things a lot easier when you walk the interviewer through financials. You might need to do mental calculations at times and you don’t want to do it off of $233.7.
Sample Transaction Bullets
Here are some examples of bullets to write for deal experience:
- Worked extensively with company CFO to build a full-blown 3-statement standalone operating model with detailed revenue & COGS drivers for over 37 product lines across Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
- Collaborated with client’s lawyers and tax advisors to design tax-efficient repatriation of the company’s $200 million offshore cash balance, which was essential to secure max LBO financing and increased ultimate selling price by 0.5x EBITDA.
- Built dynamic LBO model with multiple operating and pro forma capital structure scenarios to determine private equity sponsor affordability based on projected IRR and LFCF Yield.
Work Experience Section Recap
Let’s recap the key pointers that optimize the resume.
- Your full time experience should take up bulk of the page.
- Include a bullet on performance indicators, such as ranking, promotion, chairs, captain, etc.
- Include 2-3 deals. Bold and underline the transaction description bullet.
- Put transaction type as the first word so it’s clear without having to read the entire sentence.
- Use buzz words like CapEx, COGS, DCF, EBIT, EBITDA, IRR, LBO, LFCF, MOIC, M&A, SG&A, in your bullets.
How About an Extracurricular Activities Section?
Notice we don’t have an Extracurricular Activities section. For those of you who spent a lot of time during school on extracurricular and campus involvements, we know it’s tempting to write about them on the resume. This is especially the case for first year analysts submitting resume 1-2 months on to the job. As tempting as it might be to do justice for all your contribution, we’d advise against it. We leave this section off on purpose. That’s because it’s impossible for the reviewers to appreciate how engaging you were in these activities from the resume. They’ll review it from a third-person perspective without the first hand context that you have. As a result, it’s impossible for them to fully appreciate the extent of your involvement. What the reviewers will see is just a section with a few sentences on extracurricular activities.
Practically, private equity firms and headhunters just don’t give as much points for school organizations as they do for professional experience. Meaning that an extra bullet on professional experience will give you much more points than an extra bullet on student organization. Yes, we know raising $20,000 for a student organization is very impressive. It takes a lot of planning and team effort. We can see how it’s more meaningful than putting together a few charts on revenue and EV / EBITDA. But leave that for verbal walkthrough. On the resume, that bullet on “benchmarking operating performance and valuation multiples” is going to add more points than “raised $20,000 for student club”.
Instead, you should mention the most important extracurricular activities in a condensed format in the Education section.
This is a KEY section and widely underutilized by many candidates and other finance resume templates. Beyond the obvious, like school name and degree, let’s talk about what else you should include to optimize your private equity resume for a 30 second glance.
Graduation Honors: Next to your degree, include any graduation honors. Honors / High Honors / Highest Honors. Distinction / High Distinction / Highest Distinction. Cum Laude / Magna Cum Laude / Summa Cum Laude. We recommend including it next to your degree.
GPA & Test Scores: Include your GPA if it’s not disastrously low. Also include your test scores, like SAT, ACT, GRE or GMAT. You should play around with wording (i.e. Cumulative GPA vs. Major GPA) to present your academic credentials in the best possible light.
Awards & Honors: This is important. If you’ve won academic awards (i.e. Dean’s List), scholarships, competitions, or other recognitions, write them down here. The big ones are Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Gamma Sigma (business), and Tau Beta Pi (engineering). If you won any competitions, make sure to write them down! We see candidates neglect this section too often. This will add so much points to your candidacy.
Quick tip on how to write competition winnings. Don’t write “First Place”. Write “1st Place”. The numeric unit in a line of text makes it visually stand out from a mere glance.
Leadership Role: This is where you should include your leadership roles in school. President of any club? Captain of any sports teams? Include them on your resume. Unlike investment banking analysts, you kind of need to demonstrate leadership skills as a private equity associate. You’ll be working with teams of consultants, bankers, accountants and lawyers who will look to you for direction. So leadership roles are good to exhibit here.
After an entire page of your credentials and experiences, we come to the Additional section. This is actually a really important section because it’s often the last thing resume reviewers see. It often comes up in interviews where you can use it to build a personal connection with the interviewer.
So let’s talk about what to include in this section. You can include languages, technical skills & certifications, volunteering, favorite books and interests in this section.
Unlike other sections, notice that we don’t have a bold label. We don’t have a bold “Languages” or “Interests”. That’s because these are ancillary information. They help round out the most critical pieces of information in the rest of resume. You don’t want to bold too many things. That’ll steal the spotlight away from the information that matter.
If you’re applying to an office that require a second language, you should definitely include it. For example, candidates of the Paris office should list fluency in French. Candidates of the Hong Kong office should list fluency in Mandarin or Korean. Candidates of English-speaking countries should definitely NOT list “English” as their sole language. You’re better off not referencing languages in that case.
Also, you should not write Word, PowerPoint and Excel as your technical skills. That’s a given.
This section should be noticeably shorter than the work experience and education sections. We recommend 2 bullets in this section with one line each. Three bullets at a maximum. Don’t go overboard. The idea is to end the resume with a memorable note, not build out a full-blown section.
We recommend you write about interests in the last bullet to add a flavor of personality to the piece of paper. Here, you want to think strategically about fun things (not too casual) that you can talk about in interviews. Sports and traveling are good. But don’t just write “Basketball” or “Traveling”. A bullet like “Enthusiastic traveler across 97 countries in all 7 continents” is much better. TV shows are another good one.
Putting interests as the last bullet is also for strategic purposes. Putting it at the end tends to make it more memorable during the 30 second glance. Interviewers also tend to look at the bottom of resume towards the end of the interview. As a result, this positioning can steer them to talk about interests towards the end of interview. Consequently, you might end the interview having established a personal connection with the interviewer.
Obviously, we can’t guarantee that you’ll get interviews from every PE firm by using this resume template. We’d probably charge you a lot for that. Also don’t copy these bullets word for word.
About 10X EBITDA
We are a small team composed of former investment banking professionals from Goldman Sachs and investment professionals from the world’s top private equity firms and hedge funds, such as KKR, TPG, Carlyle, Warburg, D.E. Shaw, Citadel, etc. Our mission is to cultivate the next generation of top talent for Wall Street and to help candidates bring their careers to new heights. We’re based in the United States, but we have expertise across Europe and Asia as well.