Alternative Assets Internship
Applying for an Internship at an Alternative Assets FirmBelow is a guest post by Theo O'Brien of Private Equity Blogger.com on landing an internship or job in private equity and hedge funds. Also see our collection of hedge fund career resources here.
I published a post here asking for interns to help with the private equity blog, the Private Equity Investment Group networking association, writing the free private equity e-book, and similar projects. Many people, mainly MBA students and recent graduates, responded with strong interest in landing a private equity internship.
Most respondents were seeking an internship with a private equity or venture capital firm and I noticed that almost every e-mailed answer was different, varying from a two sentence note with a rough resume attached to a very lengthy memo with a cover letter and resume. As the majority of respondents were mistakenly under the impression they were applying for an internship with a private equity firm, this gives me a good opportunity to provide some advice on applying for an internship or paid position at a buyout shop.
I have reviewed a lot of internship applications and here are some common problems or things to avoid:
- Check grammar and spelling: Here is a common mistake that I'm always surprised to see because it is so easy to fix. If you really want a position, why not spend an extra fifteen minutes reviewing the application to fix obvious grammar and spelling errors? I know that managers often interpret this as either the applicant has a poor attention to detail (a critical and valued skill in private equity) or the applicant is simply lazy and does not want the job as much as someone who put in the extra effort to have a well-edited application. In such a competitive job market, this kind of mistake could mean the difference between you getting the job and the other person who went the extra mile.
- Don't Mass E-mail: I can tell when I receive a mass e-mail and when it is an e-mail for a specific job opening. Private equity employers can tell the difference too. If it doesn't sound forced, it may be good to include a comment that shows you have been following the firm and know something about it. If the firm invests primarily in a specific industry you can say something like, "I believe that my previous work experience in the energy sector would be very valuable to Example Buyout Firm because your firm has a long history of investing in this industry.
- Be Professional Not Funny: I believe that humor rarely works in the introduction to a potential boss. It's not that the manager or recruiter lacks a sense of humor, it's just too risky that a little joke with not translate well over e-mail or you will simply look unprofessional. I have received e-mails about the internship that were intended to be humorous but came off weird or annoying, such as one memorable e-mail that began, “READ THIS MOST IMPORTANT EMAIL FROM YOUR FAVORITE PERSON.” Having never met the person, it was misleading and overall off-putting. This is not to say that you should be uptight when interviewing or communicating with a potential employer, but always maintain a professional attitude. Once you get the job and get to know your coworkers better you can relax more; there is a time and place for humor.
- Missing Attachment or Information: This is a common problem that I see, applicants will e-mail an incomplete e-mail missing vital information or documents. For example, I have received an e-mail with no name and I have been sent an application where the person referred to a resume that was not included. These are simple understandable mistakes (I often forget attachments) but in such an important e-mail it's worth reviewing to make sure everything is included and then having a friend or colleague double-check.
- Not Too Long, Not Too Short: Private equity partners and recruiters are extremely busy so they prefer a concise and direct e-mail. When applying for a job, I would suggest a cover letter explaining what position you are applying for, why you would like the job, and what qualifications you have. Then a easy-to-read resume attachment. Too often applicants will write excessively long e-mails or a one sentence note.
- Double check: As I have noted, it is worth the extra effort to review and revise your writing. A well-written and carefully checked communication will often put you above other candidates.
- Get Feedback: If you are applying for an internship or job in private equity, it's a safe bet you have a few great resources you've overlooked. Most applicants for a full-time position have already worked in finance or a related field and hopefully you have kept a good relationship with your former boss and colleagues. If you left on good terms why not run your resume and cover letter past your old coworkers to see if they would add or omit anything. If you're applying for an internship you can ask a former employer, family member, friend, or professor to review your application.
- Highlight Your Strengths: Often I see applicants note their weaknesses rather than strengths. An e-mail will typically go something like, "I know that I do not have the same academic qualifications as other candidates but..." While it's important to be aware of the weaknesses in your resume, leave it there. The employer will see these shortfalls, if he cares, and there is no reason to remind him of what you lack. Usually the example sentence will continue "...but I do have the following qualities..." I would remove the first part of the sentence and focus on your strengths exclusively.
- Be Persistent: I always have to add a reminder that success in business and life comes with persistence. If you don't land your dream job move on to other opportunities or review your efforts and make improvements. Private equity is a tough market, you have to be tough too.
Also see five career mistakes to avoid, our variety of helpful hedge fund career resources and how to write an alternative assets resume
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