Interview prep

Venture Capital Jobs: How to Get Your Foot in the Door

What you need to know about landing a job in VC

What is Venture Capital?

Venture Capital firms seek to raise capital from Limited Partners and invest in early-stage, high growth potential companies in exchange for equity (some share of ownership over the company). They then seek returns on their investment either through an IPO (initial public offering) or an acquisition. Because risk is high, most venture capital investments fail. However, if they gain a large amount of equity in the next Google, the payout can be worth all the losses from the rest of the company's portfolio.

Venture capitalists usually invest in start-ups, many of which emerge from Silicon Valley. They explore any number of industries, but most firms tend to specialize their portfolio within one or two industries, such as real estate or life sciences. According to Mergers & Acquisition's website, the VC job can be divided into these six categories:

  1. Sourcing – Reaching out to and building relationships with startups.
  2. Deal Execution – Completing due diligence projects related to potential investments and negotiating the terms of a deal. 
  3. Portfolio Company Support – Helping current portfolio companies throughout their journey. This could include recruiting, marketing, making introductions, and much more. 
  4. Networking and Brand-Building – Building relationships with people adjacent to the industry, who could help with future clients. Also includes creating an online presence, and even attending relevant conferences or events.
  5. Fundraising and LP Relations – This one is pretty self explanatory: fundraising for the firm, finding new investors, and maintaining current investor relations.
  6. Internal Operations and Other Tasks – This covers administrative tasks. It could mean recruiting for jobs at the firm, or optimizing internal processes like reporting and deal tracking.

Compared to other finance-heavy roles, like private equity or investment banking, venture capital is much slower at accumulating wealth. Technical work is much simpler, but there is a severe discount in compensation and junior level positions rarely lead to Partner roles. You should seek a junior-level role at a VC firm if you are very passionate about startups and want to build a professional network, which you can leverage for future positions. 

Speaking of roles, let's talk about what it takes to get your foot in the door and land a role at a VC firm and the career progression that follows. 

Venture Capital Entry-Points

There are three levels of experience when entering a VC firm: pre-MBA, post-MBA, and senior level positions. These are some examples of backgrounds you might have before entering one of these levels, but they are not exclusive and career paths look different at each firm and with each hiring team.

  1. Pre-MBA: Recent graduates from top undergraduate programs. Some may go straight into the world of VC while other gain experience in a field like investment banking, management consulting, business development, or any number of positions in a startup. If you want to enter this role straight out of undergrad, you will likely need internship experience in one of those fields.
  2. Post-MBA: Recent graduates from top MBA programs, most of whom have a few years of professional experience. They could have pursued a career outlined above, spent time in a related industry (think tech or finance), or worked for a successful startup.
  3. Senior Level / Partner: Most folks in these roles have been in the professional world for over a decade. They may have been an executive at a Fortune 500 company (think vice president or higher), a successful entrepreneur, or someone otherwise familiar with investing, growth, risk, and associated concepts. 

Similar to modes of entry, hierarchies at VC firms vary quite a lot, with some, a lot, or few fixed titles and career paths. Generally, according to Mergers and Acquisitions website, this is the typical hierarchy:

  • Analyst – Crunch numbers (lots of Excel!) and conduct research. They offer support to Associates, when necessary.
  • Pre-MBA Associate – Do a lot of digging to find new startups and build the portfolio. 
  • Post-MBA Senior Associate– The role is essentially an Associate, with a larger part in firm representation + a better chance at being on the Partner track
  • Principal/VP – Training to be a Partner. They're in charge of deals and spend a lot of time working with existing investments. 
  • Partner/Junior Partner – Training to be a Senior Partner. Their role is essentially half VP, half Senior Partner, taking on some responsibilities of each. 
  • Senior Partner/General Partner – Make the final decisions and act as a face of the firm. They are also the primary fundraisers. 

How to Secure a Position

If venture capital jobs interest you, here are a few suggestions to securing your dream position at a VC firm in Dallas, San Francisco, New York, or other popular spots...

Conduct Research

Do your due diligence and research job descriptions and job types. You can find these through a Google search, by subscribing to job alerts, or browsing sites like LinkedIn or Handshake for college students. Every VC firm will have a detailed job description along with the link to the application under their Careers page on their website.

Once you've identified the postings that match up with your skills and experiences, it's time to do even more research. Talk with a recruiter and begin to network with current employees to earn career advice and more information about the company. Here are a few informational interview questions to get you started...

  • What kind of business models does the firm usually invest in, and do these models have a track record of success? 
  • What kind of corporate development practices are in place to help you in your career development? 
  • What kinds of new ventures is the firm pursuing and who are the venture capital investors the firm will answer to? 
  • What kind of work-life balance can you expect as a full-time employee? 

Keep in mind that you should be well informed about the company and expectations before applying. This will also help you tailor your resume and cover letter accordingly.

Network, Network, Network!

Networking is arguably the most important skill in a VC career. You can be incredibly skilled at financial modeling and financial analysis, but without the ability to create business relationships with new ventures, you'll never succeed. Make sure to network with as many individuals on the investment team as possible during your job search. In addition to the usual perks of networking, this will show your future coworkers that you know how to build trusting relationships.

Prepare to Apply

Finally, it's time to apply. Gather your cover letter, resume, references, websites, and any other relevant material in order and submit your application. Here are a few tips to prepare for the interview:

  • Research the interview process. This could include your standard internet research, using Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or VC-specific resources. It could also include informational interviews with folks in the field.
  • Gather a list of questions you want to practice answering. As a starting point: think about the research you've done on interview questions/process, plus the skills and traits VC firms look for. Understand which qualities and experiences make you the right fit. 
  • Practice your delivery. Confidence, charisma, and conversational skills are key in this industry, so practice answering questions with these qualities in mind. Brushing up on your small talk also doesn't hurt!

Best of luck in your job search!

The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide tax, legal, or investment advice and should not be construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation of any security by Candor, its employees and affiliates, or any third-party. Any expressions of opinion or assumptions are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change without notice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results and the opinions presented herein should not be viewed as an indicator of future performance. Investing in securities involves risk. Loss of principal is possible.

Third-party data has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Candor does not receive compensation to promote or discuss any particular Company; however, Candor, its employees and affiliates, and/or its clients may hold positions in securities of the Companies discussed.