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November 29th, 2017

Cone of Uncertainty

Cone of Uncertainty entered the common lexicon in recent months when multiple hurricanes pounded various parts of the United States as forecasters tried to predict the possible path of the storms. Cone of Uncertainty vividly describes the process of recruiting junior talent into private equity firms. Ten to fifteen years ago, during the last six months of the second or third year of their work at an investment bank, the young banking analysts would circulate their resumes to private equity firms seeking interviews. Resumes would be reviewed and candidates were selected to visit firms at different times. References and “deal records” would be evaluated; offers would be made, several days were given to a candidate to decide to accept. A few months following acceptance, the new analyst would begin their work at the private equity firm. The next step in the evolution of the recruiting process was to turn it into something familiar to Roman spectators in the Coliseum. Instead of interviewing the experienced candidates at separate times, auction loving private equity mavens created Super Saturdays and Maudlin Mondays where all candidates arrived simultaneously and were able to assess each other and to manage their personal panic as the interview day progressed. The next Darwinian step was the introduction of exploding offers where the job offers were made at 6:00pm and exploded at midnight. Several years ago, FOMO or paranoia over being late to the dance trumped the notion of interviewing experienced candidates as common sense sank beneath the waves. Young bankers with barely three months of experience were now being solicited to interview for jobs that would begin two years hence. The candidate’s deal record at interview time now consisted of mentioning cool names they saw during training and favorite scenes from The Big Short. Two years later when the hired candidate began work, memos with photos are circulated at the private equity firms lest employees forget who they hired. Rumor has it that the largest private equity firms are now interviewing students at the better college preparatory schools and administering saliva tests from 23andMe to determine their fitness for the private equity business.

I’m Rob Morris and I approved this blog.

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