US Markets Loading... H M S In the news

How to land a job at KKR, according to one of the private-equity giant's top HR execs

Grace Koo is KKR's head of talent acquisition.
Grace Koo is KKR's head of talent acquisition.
KKR

This story is available exclusively to Insider subscribers. Become an Insider and start reading now.

  • A top KKR HR exec, Grace Koo, walked Insider through the hiring process for a junior investing role.
  • Candidates can expect 8 or more interviews, including one dedicated to gauging cultural fit.
  • The firm hired less than 2% of 1,678 college applicants for analyst roles in the past year.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Joe Bae and Scott Nuttall, the copresidents and co-chief operating officers at the private-equity firm KKR, started at the firm in the same analyst class.

Grace Koo, KKR's head of talent acquisition, told Insider that when she's speaking with prospective hires, she always keeps in mind that she could be talking to "the future Scott or Joe" of KKR, an ethos that informs the firm's approach to hiring.

KKR, the second-largest private-equity firm by assets, values camaraderie. It's also made moves to lock down the best young talent.

In 2020, it launched an analyst program to recruit talent directly from college campuses, a departure from its historical approach of hiring analysts laterally from investment banks and other financial institutions.  It accepted less than 2% of 1,678 collegiate applicants to its analyst program last year, according to Koo. 

When it looks at candidates for its investment teams, Koo said KKR looked for two main attributes: exceptional intellect and strong cultural alignment.

The firm values curiosity and inquisitiveness, as well as strong technical skills, she said.

"What we're trying to do is take into account their ability to grasp technical concepts quickly," Koo said, "and really assimilate facts and data to evaluate opportunities and eventually construct thematic investment ideas."

Koo told Insider what KKR's hiring process looked like for a typical junior investing role. 

Make sure to 'do your homework' before a KKR job interview

KKR receives thousands of résumés a year from college students, and the firm's first priority is to screen for technical skills with assessment tools to reduce the applicant pool, Koo said. The firm does not use software like HireVue to conduct video interviews or résumé reviews, but it is assessing a number of tools to streamline next year's process. 

The firm runs a "fairly structured process with a well-defined rubric," Koo said. Typically, a candidate will have a first-round interview with an investment-team member via phone call or Zoom .

After the first-round interview, a candidate can expect up to eight more individual interviews, including one dedicated to gauging cultural fit, she said. KKR also administers one or two timed case studies for candidates to complete at home to assess their technical prowess. 

A candidate will likely meet the entire team with which they hope to work, Koo said. While the technical assessments and case studies are usually conducted by senior-level employees, junior employees will often meet prospective hires in later stages of the process to answer questions about the daily demands of the role.

KKR expects candidates to have "done a fair bit of homework" on the firm, Koo said. Standout candidates are those who ask relevant questions that show they understand the firm's deal flow and trends in the industry, she added.

Importance of diversity and cultural fit

KKR looks to hire candidates who "come from all walks of life, can bring varied perspectives to the conversation, and are lifelong learners," Koo said.

Hiring a diverse group of employees is integral to KKR's stance that "monolithic views are the death knell of any sustainable investing model," she added.

According to KKR's website, 12% of its workforce is made up of employees from historically underrepresented ethnic groups and 44% consists of women.

While lateral hires still represent the majority of KKR's junior talent, the firm is expanding its formal campus-recruiting program, Koo said. Recruiting from colleges has also opened its talent pool to more candidates from nontarget schools.

As for cultural alignment, Koo said that those who are used to working alone were unlikely to succeed at the collaborative firm.

KKR also values candidates who have demonstrated their ability to learn from mistakes, she said.

A picture of a switch and lightbulb
Sign up for notifications from Insider! Stay up to date with what you want to know.
Subscribe to push notifications
Was this article valuable for you?
Yes
No
Additional comments
Email (optional)