Thursday, April 10, 2008

VC Pre-MBA Hiring...

A couple of months ago, I posted on my blog that Bessemer was looking to hire a new pre-MBA Analyst. More than 650 resumes later, we are thrilled to announce that Brian Feinstein has accepted our offer to join us as a full time Analyst. Welcome, Brian!

Having finished what feels like an epic recruiting process, it is interesting to look back at the process. Notably, of the more than 650 resumes we received, we conducted 42 first-round interviews (~6%), seven second-round interviews (17% of the 42), and eventually extended one offer (14% of the seven, but 0.15% of resumes submitted!).

To anybody reading this post who is applying for a pre-MBA role at a VC firm, this funnel may seem intimidating. So how can you get an edge? In particular, how does one get a first-round interview? So here is my "one-woman's take" on some tips I can think of post-recruiting to give you a slight edge:

  1. Your interest in entrepreneurship and technology shouldn’t start at the interview

This one may be a bit of a personal bias; some VC/PE firms looking to hire a pre-MBA likely wouldn’t prioritize this. But I can’t help but notice that Bessemer has had six full time Analysts, and five have been involved in entrepreneurship in one way or another. I'm not saying you need to start an internet company, but I do think involving yourself in the entrepreneurial or tech community will give you an edge. People who do tend to rise to the top during the application process, and I think it is because of their passion not just for venture capital, but for the entire ecosystem.

  1. Before you apply: Understand the role (and know yourself)

Pre-MBA VC jobs are heavy on the sourcing and researching, light on the tie-breaking votes and corporate jets. Expect to spend a majority of your time reaching out to CEOs of private companies in order to source deals for your firm. If this is not something that you think you can get excited about, that’s okay. Don’t let the allure of VC blind you into taking a pre-MBA role. Instead, pursue another job that makes you more passionate (or your MBA)… venture capital will always be there. If sourcing is something that you can get excited about, emphasize this in you cover letter or work in relevant experience in your resume. We are more likely to interview someone who we think is applying eyes-wide open.

  1. Be persistent

Sourcing requires a great deal of persistence. If sourcing is something you think you could be passionate about, show your persistence during the interview process (and however you can in your resume). For example, if you read a job posting for a VC firm, Google all the Partners in the firm and find which ones have blogs. Then email one or two of them. Make a smart comment about one of their blog posts, mention you saw the job posting and are extremely interested in the role, and oh heck… a little well-placed flattery never hurt anyone.

  1. Do your homework

It always impressed me to speak to a candidate who had clearly done their homework. I don’t mean they had a long list of exciting private companies they are familiar with. Instead, they knew some Bessemer portfolio companies, they read some of the Partners’ blogs, and they had a basic understanding of what the VC process is like. So do your homework – it shows initiative, curiosity, and your interest in the role. (And it doesn’t hurt to show that you did your homework in your cover letter.)

  1. Be Googleable

Charlie makes a similar point when he says “make a digital home for yourself.” Blogging is a great way to show who you are and demonstrate that startups and technology are something you are passionate about (tip #1). For some firms, this tip is the application process.

Last but not least: Know what we’re looking for and customize your resume to that

Tips #1-5 all feed into this tip which is: Don’t use the same resume for every job you apply to. For example, applying to a pre-MBA VC role is very different than applying to a pre-MBA buyout firm role. While the LBO recruiter might drool over a candidate’s investment banking background, we tend to get more excited by leadership experience such as starting a new successful club at your school or being the captain of your sports team. Customize your resume to highlight certain strengths specific to the job to which you are applying. Keeping this is mind should give you an edge in snagging that first round interview.


Anonymous said...

Wow, great post, Adventurista! Just curious, how much do referrals matter in the clubby world of vc?

Unknown said...

haha. You are right. Not sure how I missed that one.

So addendum:

Tip #6: If you can, a referral almost always helps you get a first round interview. If you don't know anyone in the VC community yet, start reading VC's blogs and commenting on their posts. I've developed many relationships with future applicants this way. Another suggestion is going to VC and start up events in your community; if you're lucky, you'll meet some VCs there and can start developing a relationship with them.

Anonymous said...

Sarah - great post!! I'm happy you wrote about understanding the job. This job definitely is not flying around the world doing deals. A lot more research and writing. Better be good at asking questions and finding answers.

Always good to get experience somewhere else before jumping in. Guy Kawasaki once told me that best way to get into VC is not to look for it, do something else and it will find you. (I came to my current firm from marketing in government IT and running a industry association).

Anonymous said...

Great post! Very helpful. Just had a few follow-up questions:
- What kind of finance / technical questions are usually asked during a pre-MBA VC interview?
- Are they full of brainteasers / case study questions?

Thanks for the advice!

Unknown said...

Anonymous #2:

I'm not sure what most VC firms do in their interviews, but we don't ask brain teasers / finance / technical questions. Usually the process is more about getting to know you and how you evaluate companies.

TheLaw26 said...


Thanks for the awesome post. I'd like to refer a pretty sweet book to you that a read a couple weeks ago called "The Answer" by John Assaraf and Murray Smith... it talks the the entrepreneurial blue print that breeds successful entrepreneurs. It's great insight into how the most successful entrepreneurs work. Thanks again for the informative post.

Scott Scheper said...

Wow, good post.

Your blog is exciting. Nice to see some personality.

- Scott
Newport Venture Group, LLC

Unknown said...

Thanks, Scott!

Jonathan said...

I realize I'm kind of late in reading this post, but it's a great post neverthelss. You have an interesting blog in general. I'll stop by periodically.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, awesome post! I do have question though. I've looked into the backgrounds of Bessemers & other VC firms that hire analysts. It seems 90% of the time they come from schools like yours or similar (H/P/Y/Duke etc). I definitely did not. How is this going to hurt me in applying for these pre MBA positions (ceteris paribus)?