How do you know if a firm walks the walk?
These days, their employees will tell you. Thanks to sites like Glassdoor and Vault, you can get an unfiltered look into any company. There’s no place to hide. If you live your values, such feedback is actually your biggest asset.
Take Blackstone, for example. Last fall, Vault ranked Blackstone as the top investment bank to work for for the second consecutive year. Based on surveys from over 3,600 bankers, Blackstone scored highest on its hiring process, leadership, and philanthropy, along with cultural issues like supervisor relationships and the ability to challenge. Wall Street Oasis reported similar results in their rankings, with Blackstone producing the survey’s highest marks in communication, senior leadership, pay, and proudest employees among its members.
So what are Blackstone employees saying exactly? Here are two recent examples from Vault:
“Best Brand on the street. An incredible, collaborative culture that allows me to thrive and succeed to the best of my abilities. Great leadership at the top and Group Heads. Unlimited upside for career and comp.”
“If you are the best and want the best, there is no better place on the street. Number one brand, culture and opportunity. Blackstone is merit based. Comp is merit based. There are limited politics. If you can make it in and have the desire, this is the place to be.”
Such endorsements don’t happen by accident. In Blackstone’s case, it starts at the top with CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who demands his people follow one simple rule: “Be nice.” “If you’re a jerk – no matter how smart or productive you are – you’re not going to make it here,” says Kristen Williams, the Global Head of Campus Recruiting for Blackstone in an exclusive one-on-one with Poets&Quants. “And the fastest way to derail your career here is corporate politics, throwing sharp elbows, or not having respect for others at every level of the firm.”
MORE THAN JUST A PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM
These days, Blackstone is the place to be for talented and ambitious MBAs on Wall Street. Aside from its prestige and popularity, Blackstone’s average growth rate is 26 percent since going public in 2007. But just don’t label them as a private equity firm. They are also the largest hedge fund and real estate investment firm in the world – and their credit business manages over $73 billion dollars. And that means big opportunity for MBAs, Williams notes. “No matter what group they join when they arrive at the firm, they’re going to be in a world leading business.”
Here’s another surprise: Blackstone isn’t just a place for quants. In reality, the firm is seeking people with a “particular mindset” who can see globally, use their imagination, make connections, spread enthusiasm, and act as a leader. When it comes to leadership, they are seeking MBAs who can inspire the staff who reports to them. “You’re inspiring the junior members by rolling up your sleeves and you’re working alongside them and you know [your job] cold,” says WIlliams. “You inspire because you
have ideas – and you can translate the analytical and technical into the bigger picture to help them understand the strategy. You’re creative, you have innovative ideas and you’re not afraid to push back.”
And pushing back is a key differentiator at Blackstone. In an industry known for its top-down, do-as-I-say management model, Blackstone bucks tradition and encourages an open dialogue and honesty, which Williams dubs “gravitas.” “Are they able to stand up to Steve (Schwarzman, CEO) and Tony (James, COO) in an investment committee meeting when either one of them challenges them on their conclusions?” Williams asks. “You need gravitas for that. They have to stand firm and defend their case.”
ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY ARE MAJOR PERKS FOR MBAs AT BLACKSTONE GROUP
In fact, MBA hires at Blackstone should expect to operate in some rarified air. In their first months, Williams points, out, “a first year MBA will spend a considerable amount of time directly dealing with the number one and the number two here – Tony James and Steve Schwarzman – sitting in investment committee meetings. I mean, how often, right from the get-go, do you get to be on a first name basis with the CEO?”
MBAs are integrated right into deal teams early on, with Blackstone operating off an apprenticeship model where MBAs learn from more seasoned peers. And that’s key for a firm like Blackstone, which is often on the cutting edge in growing new industries. “Well over half of our revenue now comes from businesses that did not exist in 2007,” Williams says. “So there are real opportunities for new associates. This is a constantly growing and evolving business. As you stay here, there are opportunities on the horizon that will open up to you and you’re able to move into new businesses that didn’t exist when you joined the firm.”
Recently, Poets&Quants sat down with Williams to discuss Blackstone’s cultural philosophy, hiring process, and expectations. If you’re looking to enter the financial sector, here is their advice for helping to get your foot in the door – and being successful once you’re hired.
What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?
Outside of the traditional academic excellence, work experience, and a proven track record of success in one’s career, we hire really smart and really talented people. Beyond that, a couple things come to mind in what we look for in a resume. The first would be a global mindset or experience. The business that we deal with is increasingly global. And I think a successful candidate can come in and look at something, an issue or a business case, and understand it from a global perspective. So having somebody who [can recognize] cultural nuances or has lived or worked in another country or speak a foreign language can be quite helpful. That way, they’re not so narrowly focused in their views, whether it is U.S.-centric or European centric. They have this global macroview on things.
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