The most common mistakes made in private equity interviews

1 June 2016

Within a highly competitive job market, it is important for candidates to put their best
foot forward during the interview process. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes
made by candidates. Some are more common than you may think and are easily preventable.

Failing to research the company

  • It’s important that you learn as much as possible about the company otherwise it looks like you aren’t enthusiastic about the role
  • The company website is the first place to look but it may also be useful to find news articles or recent publications which talk about the companies’ investments
  • You need to make sure that you understand the company strategy, market position, sector focus and know who its competitors are
  • Search for your interviewers on LinkedIn so you have a clear idea of their backgrounds

Saying too little or too much

  • If your responses are too brief then the interviewer may feel like you are hiding something from them
  • If your responses are too long then the interviewer may lose concentration and switch off so try not to ramble
  • Make sure you plan the summary of your experience as it will be one of the first questions asked
  • We would recommend keeping to a maximum of five minutes and to practice talking it through with your friends / family / dog


Ignoring cues from the interviewer

  • Throughout the discussion, interviewers may provide useful clues as to what they are looking for which will allow you to tailor your answers
  • It’s important that you engage with the interviewer; maintain good eye contact and listen to what they say so that you can answer accordingly

Asking the wrong questions or forgetting to ask questions at all

  • You should ask questions that will help you make up your mind about whether to join this firm or not
  • So make sure your question are relevant to your decision to join and not just random questions for the sake of something to say
  • The quality of your questioning tells the interviewer quite a lot about you
  • Don’t ask about salary and benefits of the role – this will be discussed at the end of the interview process
  • And don’t ask about career progression – this makes it sound like you are more concerned about promotion than doing a good job in the role they are hiring you for

Making a poor first impression

  • First impressions are generally a result of non-verbal cues
  • It is thought that a person will have made their judgement about you within the first ten seconds of meeting you
  • And then they will spend the next hour proving their first impressions were right
  • This is called confirmation bias – a really good interviewer will recognise this and try to disprove their own first impressions – not many people are good interviewers!
  • Therefore you need to make a strong first impression
  • Make sure you look the part by dressing appropriately and looking well-groomed
  • Great eye contact and a firm handshake is imperative – practice on your friends
  • Be aware of your body language throughout the interview – straighten your posture, put your hands on the desk in front of you, smile, speak clearly and maintain good eye contact

Making a poor final impression

  • It is quite common for the interviewer to ask at the end if you are interested in the role and how it compares to other things you are looking at
  • They can tell if you are not that enthusiastic: make sure you leave on a positive note
  • Thank them as you leave the room, and reiterate your level of interest and enthusiasm over a firm handshake as you say goodbye

Good interview technique can be learned and most people get better with practice. After the interview, write down all the questions you were asked and work through how you could have answered them better. This will enable you to refine your approach, learn from your experience and leave you much better prepared for the next time. Happy practicing!

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