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One of our specialisms is in hiring teams for private equity-backed businesses. Along with retail and hospitality, it’s an area we love to work in. But more so than those two sectors, private equity businesses can throw a lot of risk at new senior leaders. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out.

Then again, every role has a risk – it’s just that key investors can be extremely discerning with who they trust and rely on.

Know what you’re getting in for; private equity stakes are a high bar to clear. But if you do so, the rewards can be tremendous. Let’s bust some myths about this role.

You don’t need previous direct PE experience

As executive headhunters, we’re used to seeing people from all walks of life picking up various skills on their career path. Great thinkers can come from anywhere. Furthermore, we search for candidates who don’t just think innovatively, but strive towards innovation. Usually an exit is in mind, so the ability to relentlessly deliver and innovate – creating value – are the clearest measures for anyone who fits the private equity bill.

It also means we don’t particularly look for those who have managed investor expectations before. Taking a broad view of the brand – spotting trends in profits, expenditure and a competitive market – gives more credence. It is likely you will be closer to the investors and the structure of the organisation will be flatter. This makes stakeholder management and gravitas hugely important.

Such qualities come from the will to lead and learn – not merely a CV. Being involved with private equity in the past doesn’t necessarily give you a head start. Anyone can be the ideal fit, they just may not have considered themselves as such yet…

You do need creativity and a different perspective

Executive headhunters in the UK are used to big personalities. We filter the best, most interesting candidates from our networks and word-of-mouth references, and they often have a lot to say for themselves. Which is brilliant, because a group of investors may be desperate for a fresh point of view. Brands can begin to stagnate without a new voice.

So don’t assume that private equity-backed ventures will squeeze the life out of your leadership credentials. The best PE businesses really understand the value of autonomous boards and strong, effective leadership and cultures. Yes, it helps if you have an understanding of how PE works, but it takes intelligence to understand what the key drivers are.

When recruiting into PE firms, we spend a lot of time getting to know the investors because their leadership is vitally important – not all PE firms are alike. A sense of calm, confidence and approachability is what we search for, amongst other traits.

Private equity might not be right for everyone. The expectations are huge, and the change might not play out how you think it will… But with due diligence and plenty of research, you can determine if you’re a good fit. Of course, a senior recruiter can lend their perspective too. Together we can drill down to the chief concerns of a PE role. If we spot potential, we may be contacting you. The rewards are worth your time.