What Are Good Interests to Include on a Private Equity Resume?

Given how competitive recruiting can be, it’s important understand what good interests are to include on your private equity resume. It’s a small, often overlooked part of the resume, but absolutely has the potential to get you over the edge for interview selection, or hand yourself an early ding.

Let’s break it down and get your interests dripped out so you can snag an offer. Read on…

Why Include Good Interests on Your Private Equity Resume?

When thinking about your interests, it’s crucial to strike a balance between being distinctive yet relatable. Including unique hobbies can pique the interviewer’s curiosity, while also showing that you’re more than just your professional accomplishments. At the same time, don’t pick something so unique that you raise question marks about your profile.

The absolute best interests will transition a portion of the interview to a conversation because your interviewer wants to talk about whatever you’ve listed.

This creates an unfair advantage that other candidates won’t have — you’ve created a more personal interaction with your interviewer and will be a much more memorable candidate.

Part of this is luck-based, depending on what your interviewer themselves is interested in. But, you can still maximize your chances.

Things like skiing, golf, cooking, aviation, startup experience, football, basketball, cycling, Formula 1, sailing, film, music, or artistic endeavors are great, more common options.

They have broad appeal and familiarity – you’re likely to encounter someone who has experience in the activity themselves or who at least has a passing interest or knowledge of it.

They’re also activities that some people are incredibly passionate about. If you’re lucky enough to line up an interest with someone like that, you might find yourself completely abandoning the interview to just talk about whatever you wrote down.

It’s also a great way to get your foot in the door in the first place, helping you stand out from a stack of faceless resumes. If the only thing someone knows about you are words on a page, best to make those words super interesting.

Use Interests to Reposition Your Profile

You should also use the interests section as a way to balance out the rest of your resume. Give critical thought to what the strengths and weaknesses are in your candidate profile.

The (unfortunate) reality is that every single interviewer will have unconscious biases and fall victim to some level of stereotyping. This is especially true on an initial resume screen prior to meeting the candidate – there’s no information with which to form an opinion other than what’s on the piece of paper in front of them.

Because of this, you need to avoid certain labels that could prevent your resume being picked.

Maybe you are an analytical genius, but your resume risks coming across as nerdy and unsocial. In this case, drop in some interests that can get frat bro interviewers on board with your candidacy: something sports-related would be a great choice.

Or, maybe you’re a D1 lax bro business major with question marks on your intellectual horsepower. In this scenario, think about some interests like chess, classical music, theatre, hackathons, or some other more stereotypically nerdy activities.

In either scenario, be sure that you don’t pick interests that reinforce a potentially negative perception of your profile. Even if it’s not true, there’s no need to take the risk of being placed in a certain bucket. I’ve seen this sink more than a few potential candidates, even though it has no bearing on their probability of succeeding in the role. 

The reality is you want to be as well-rounded as possible. Your success in the interview process is all about avoiding ‘dings.’ Don’t give someone an excuse to write you off because you don’t fit the ideal profile that they have in mind for a successful candidate.

The trick, though, is that each interviewer will have a different ideal in mind, so you need to come up with something for everyone.

Don’t lie and pick something you don’t have experience in, but take liberties to massage your selection and delivery of interests as needed.  

What Interests Not to Say

Don’t say anything that is clearly not an interest outside of work or school. For example, don’t write that your primary interests are financial modeling and memorizing Excel formulas. Great skills to have for the job, but will be an immediate red flag if included as interests.

You’re either lying or an incredible hardo, neither of which are traits that most firms optimize for in their hiring processes.

In the same vein, definitely don’t feel that you have to emphasize an interest in M&A or The Economist just because you’re interviewing for private equity. Your PE interests shouldn’t really be any different than what you might include for any other job.

Other items to avoid are anything remotely controversial or overly political. You should probably not include any mention of your work with Proud Boys or Antifa, for example. 

Some of these examples are a little far-fetched to prove the point, but it’s really not uncommon for people to trip themselves up by not thinking things through. 

What if You Don’t Have Any Good Interests to Include on Your Resume?

Maybe you’re just worried about not having any good interests to include on your private equity resume. 

The good thing with interests is that they don’t always have to be serious. Sometimes the less-serious responses are even better. 

Don’t be afraid to list a favorite genre of movies or books, maybe your favorite author/director/musician, or even your preferred travel destination. It could even be travel generally or somewhere you’ve never even been – maybe you love eating Spanish paella and are planning a future trip to Spain to trek around and try your favorite dish all over the country. 

Whatever you go with, make it relatively interesting and use it to spark a conversation. 

You just want to get across the message that you’re a fun, interesting, and enjoyable person to be around. Though if you’re able to, tossing in something in which you’re a high-achiever is always a nice bonus.

Sam Hillier

Sam Hillier is a reporter at Transacted, covering private equity and investment banking. He previously spent time as an investment professional focused on direct buyouts, as well as an earlier strategic advisory stint.