Another key aspect for us is leadership. We need someone who is not only smart and analytically competent, but also a natural leader who can navigate difficult situations; people who have vision and can take a step back and see the bigger picture; and leaders who have the ability to really inspire people, particularly an MBA who will come in and manage people and [need to] gain the confidence of the senior people. Whether it’s demonstrated in their work experience or extracurriculars on campus, it’s an important skill set that we look for.
A lot of this comes out in interviews, but we like experience that shows bold thinkers, creative thinkers, innovative minds, and people who are entrepreneurial in their thinking – but can also manage risk well. They have ideas, but also understand the risks and implications of those ideas. Again, people who can master job and step back and see the bigger picture [are attractive to us]. We want people who are collaborative and collegial, who are respectful of everyone around them.
What kinds of skills does Blackstone anticipate needing in the coming years that you may not possess enough of now (Languages, Technical Skills, etc.)?
As the business continues to grow, we’re going to need top talent across a variety of businesses. We need smart, intellectually curious, global leaders, people who think critically. We really need great leaders and great managers of people.
We want to build a diverse talent bench of people who’ve got relevant work experience – and it’s a diversified work experience. I don’t think our model changes, but we’ve got to be out there to hire best people who are truly going to come in and be the future leaders of the organization. Our goal is to here well-rounded people – people who are resilient, quickly learn from mistakes, and strive for excellence.
When I think of a leader, and this relates to the differences between a leader and a manager (and both are very important), a great leader is someone who has vision and can see the future and look forward and understand the macro issues that present themselves. It is the ability to anticipate and be forward thinking and strategic, not entirely reactive. A good leader also inspires others. They feel confident in the people around them and can clearly articulate their vision and get people on board with that vision – and lead them through it.
You need to be a good manager too, particularly for an associate coming in who’ll be managing a junior team who’ve been here for two-to-three years. So a good MBA will come in and give clear direction, communicate well, and help the team drive results.
A perfect candidate who comes in at the associate level is a great blend of being able to come in, roll up your sleeves, get in the weeds, do the work, understand the analytics behind it, [and] manage the team. And then being able to take the information and not just be able to see the technical analytical aspects, but also be able to the see the bigger strategy and articulate the vision going forward. It’s the perfect blend of associate candidates understanding the analytical mechanics (and doing it really, really well) and then being able to take it to the next level.
What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?
That’s a great question. And I have various answers. One: If we are on campus, get to know us. And there will be multiple Blackstone events, so look to develop relationships with the alumni and recruiters. But that doesn’t mean we solely recruit off our defined set of schools; there are certainly other pipelines of MBA candidates coming through. I think it’s critically important for candidates to build relationships and develop a really solid professional network and use it. At the end of the day, this business is about relationships and relationship management. We’re a fairly small firm. Our classes aren’t huge and it’s a fairly lean associate class. But that doesn’t mean you don’t develop a relationship with someone in this organization. Maybe you come here in two or three-to-five years. There is opportunity at this organization. It just may not be immediate for some people. It may be down the road. So I think being flexible and being a good relationship-builder and keeping those relationships current is critical.
The other thing that I would say is that sometimes people come in and say I want to do X and I want to work with this person or on this group. And I think one of the misconceptions is that we are only a private equity firm, when in fact we are truly a global asset management firm. We have leading franchises in a number of businesses. So people who can step back and really understand the breadth of firm – and think of opportunities more broadly – find really exciting opportunities in areas that they may not have thought of. They might have really been focused on X, but didn’t realize we do Y. And the latter might be a perfect fit for their interests and skills.
Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has Blackstone done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates? (i.e. new initiatives being rolled out)
There are a number of answers to that question. When I think about it, quite simply it is the opportunities and exposure to some of the best minds in finance. [Blackstone] is a relatively flat organization so people who are smart and can develop opportunities for themselves quite easily do well. For example, people are given terrific opportunities for real work experience straight out of the gate. MBAs will have time to learn, but they’re also given experience, exposure, and opportunities [right away]. It’s a culture that is focused on teamwork and excellence. People will be rewarded and recognized, obviously, for their individual contributions. Their star will rise over time, but not to the detriment or expense of the team or the reputation of the firm.
For associates coming in as MBAs, the firm, in its totality, is really very focused on people, our assets. So for recruiting, developing and retaining the best associates, we have orientation, where we focus on developing leadership skills. We have a dedicated talent management team that is focused on training and development and career coaching, throughout one’s tenure with the firm.
Another example is for incoming women on the analyst or associate side is our BX WIN (Women’s Interactive Network) organization, an innovative program which connects new associates to more senior members of the firm as sponsors. They have regular meetings, which are a great way for people to share ideas and network.
The way that Steve Schwarzman puts it is that, ‘we are constantly innovating new businesses.’ Well about half of our revenue now comes from businesses that did not exist in 2007. 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. [That means] new leadership positions or new geographies that didn’t [previously] exist. For example, we have one young professional who left London and by himself opened up our real estate business in Australia. We now have $3 billion dollars worth of Australian real estate.
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