by Andrea Heisinger
February 19, 2016

David Rubenstein: Five Things I Want in a New Hire

Genius and money-making ability aren’t all that matter in private equity, according to the mega-firm co-founder.

The co-founder of one of the world’s largest private equity firms has some advice for those thinking of entering the private equity field: don’t do it for the private jets and diamonds.

At the Columbia Business School Private Equity & Venture Capital conference Friday, The Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein told the audience that while it may be harder to get a job and rise to the top now than when he started the business in 1987,  the many benefits of a PE career remain.

“It’s not something you have to be in a big city to be able to do, and once you learn the skill of how to buy something, how to oversee something, how to add value to it, it’s a skill you can employ by setting up your own firm. It’s a skill you can employ by living in many different cities or many different countries.”

He wrapped things up by explaining the traits he looks for in a new Carlyle employee. Here are the highlights:

  1.  Don’t be Too Smart (or Too Dumb)

“I don’t want geniuses. I’ve hired geniuses, they’re too hard to manage. I want reasonably intelligent people. So if you’re a genius, don’t apply. If you’re pretty intelligent, I want you.”

2. Be Willing to Burn the Midnight Oil

“I want people that actually like to work hard. I don’t think you can make fortunes working 9-5 five days a week. Working 9-5 five days a week is a nice thing, but I think if you want to succeed in private equity you have to work reasonably hard.”

3. Be in Control, Not Controlling

“I want people who know how to work together. Because there are very few deals that are done that are run by one genius, and they do it all by himself or herself. I want people who know how to work together collaboratively.”

4. Write a Letter to Your Mom, and Set an Example

“I want people who have some leadership skills. You can lead by example by doing the things that others who follow you will all look up to. Also, lead by learning how to communicate. You have to persuade other people to do what you want. You have to learn how to communicate orally. Learn how to talk. Learn how to write a letter, [write] a memo.”

5. Sharing is Caring

“I want people who want money because they think it’s a good indicator of their success, but don’t want money so they can just have jets and have jewels and houses. They want to be able to do something useful with the money. An MBA is a license to make money, but you should also give back to society. Make it a part of your DNA that as you’re making money, you make the world a slightly better place.”

Genius and money-making ability aren’t all that matter in private equity, according to The Carlyle Group co-founder.

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