By Siwan Jones

Within the Private Equity sector, change is not merely constant but swift. Staying at the forefront, with ability to respond to market shifts has never been more crucial. This applies directly to executive talent strategy.

Embedded within Boyden's commitment to excellence is a fundamental recognition of the imperative to attentively listen to our clients—a commitment recently underscored in a multi-regional panel we hosted featuring private equity operating partners in Hong Kong, France, and UK: Alex Ying of CDIB Capital International Corporation, Clément Marty of Ardian, and Jürgen Heilmann, formerly associated with Investcorp.

From the critical importance of timing in the hiring process to the qualities private equity firms seek in executive talent, challenges faced in talent acquisition, the emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the underutilization of assessment tools—their insights, distilled in this summary, contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary landscape of executive talent recruitment in the private equity domain. As we navigate the intricacies of this sector, the synthesis of client input and market intelligence remains central to our ability to deliver impactful solutions.

Timing is critical

In the fast-paced world of private equity, timing emerged as a paramount factor. Given the tight timelines characteristic of PE investments, the goal is to expedite hiring decisions swiftly. Our panel stressed the importance of agility without compromising on quality, as delays in the hiring process can prove costly, impacting both time and the overall performance of portfolio companies.

What PE looks for in talent

Private equity firms prioritize specific qualities when seeking executive talent. First and foremost, a proven track record of successfully navigating challenges in a similar capacity is highly valued. Cultural fit with the organization and its stakeholders is equally crucial, recognizing the significance of harmony within the unique PE environment. Additionally, the ideal candidate is described as a strong leader with a hands-on, operationally focused approach, coupled with high EQ to guide and inspire others on the transformation journey.

Challenges in talent acquisition

Despite the wealth of talent with relevant private equity experience in the United States, private equity firms face challenges, including a scarcity of suitable candidates in certain markets. In Europe, this is often compounded by specific language and geographic requirements: the panel highlighted the difficulty of attracting high-caliber candidates to relocate to less metropolitan locations, pointing to an ongoing hurdle in talent acquisition efforts.

Importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

Diversity, equity, and inclusion remain crucial considerations for PE funds and their portfolio companies. The panel emphasized the critical role of a diverse slate of candidates, encompassing gender and background. Notably, the U.S. market was highlighted for placing particular emphasis on DEI initiatives, whereas in the APAC region, cultural fit was underscored as a key criterion. While acknowledging that the industry is on an ongoing journey, the panel recognized that certain markets boast deeper pools of talent with relevant PE experience. Throughout this exploration, the resounding priority remains the identification of the "strongest candidate" — an individual possessing the most relevant experience and alignment with the portfolio company and investors. This commitment to excellence in talent acquisition underscores the multifaceted nature of achieving diversity and inclusion within the PE sector.

View of assessment tools

While private equity firms invest a significant amount of time in candidate interviews and extensive referencing, the panel acknowledged that assessment tools are often underutilized in the recruitment process. Despite their availability, there is potential for improvement and efficiency in talent assessment within PE, providing additional data points to support better hiring decisions and avoiding costly mistakes.


Thank you to Boyden Chair, Kathleen Dunton, for moderating this important dialogue, and to our esteemed panelists for their generosity in sharing their expertise and the opportunity for open discussions with Boyden's Private Equity & Venture Capital Practice on these important topics across the industry. 

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