This is once again more of a public service announcement to help out those trying to "break" into a VC firm. I am not addressing principal, junior partner or partner level positions with this post. There is a completely different path to those positions. What I am addressing here are internships, analyst and maybe even investment manager positions.
First and foremost, find this post. Seriously, I mean it. You've already done half your homework by having done a google search to land here. It's not rocket science but there are little tips and tricks to help you land a job. Here's a list in no particular order:
1. Research the fund you are applying to: read their website, review their portfolio, find some press clippings on recent deals and research the partners via LinkedIn, Xing or whatever other social network gives you access to their backgrounds.
2. Know about two or three of their portfolio companies! You may get a question like "which of our portfolio companies do you find most interesting and why?"
3. Have some information on the industry. Read a bit of TechCrunch, Techmeme, VentureBeat and other blogs and news sources from the industry. Along these lines, you may be asked "what interesting deals have you seen recently and why do you find them interesting." Or someone might ask you specifically "what do you think of Groupon buying Citydeal. Was it a smart move to purchase a copycat to enter a geographic region?" Even if you don't know specifically about the companies, know a little bit about the industry.
4. Be prepared to talk about any experience you have that is relevant to the position. Hopefully you have experience which is relevant to working at a VC. You know how to use computers and have an affinity for the internet. You tend to be a "geek" and are into the newest trends, be it in regards to software, the mobile sector or finance. You actually have a Facebook or LinkedIn account. Better yet, you have a Twitter and Quora account.
5. Tell us WHY you decided to pursue an MBA if you are doing so. We don't really care THAT you are getting an MBA....it really isn't that impressive anyway. If you're in any way an arrogant prick simply because you think this gives you clout, you're sorely mistaken. We see rockstar entrepreneurs all the time. They are the ones who give us hard-ons because they represent "exits", "returns", and ultimately "carry". (Research these terms too!)
6. Be able to explain why you chose the schools where you received your undergraduate and/or graduate degrees. Just the pedigree of your school doesn't really impress us.
7. Don't tell us who your dad/uncle/grandpa is/were. The fact that you may be a trust-fund baby doesn't necessarily help you land a job with a VC firm. You are expected to work and not be an accessory to the fund. *
8. Find out who has worked for the firm in the past and call them. Get a reference from them on the firm and how the people there tick. This could be gold in terms of preparing for an interview.
9. Try to find pictures of the people you'll be interviewing with. This may seem like a minor point but if you show up in a three-piece suit and tie and the partner(s) interviewing are there in jeans and polo shirts you may stick out like a sore thumb......translation: no job.
10. Don't be super nervous. We do understand that it may be one of your first interviews but if you are clearly completely rattled by the process of interviewing, you probably won't fit in anyway. We expect you to do cold calls to companies, sit in on pitches and generally be a good communicator. You're most likely to be surrounded by alpha-males throughout the job, hence roll with the tide.
11. Know what you want to learn while working for the firm. You'll probably be asked "what do you want to learn while working here and how do you plan on using this knowledge in your future career?"
12. Do let the person interviewing you know if you have a network to other start-ups via your previous roles, school network or circle of friends. It's always great to be able to bring your own network into your position to help you get access to information. These can be bonus points if you're lacking elsewhere.
13. Remember that an internship at a VC can at times lead to another gig at one of their portfolio companies. If this is your thing, let the person interviewing know that you would want to pursue that path.
14. If you are just trying to work for a VC to "dabble" and see if you like it, don't overstress the fact. It tends to make your interviewer think you'll work less hard than if you wanted to make a long-term career of it.
15. Do realize that it's highly unlikely if not impossible after your internship or two to three years as an analyst that you'll be promoted up the career ladder. VC firms don't have the typical "up or out" policy. They have the "continue doing what you're doing or go elsewhere to be promoted" policy.
16. Be on time! Seriously, don't fuck the easiest part up!
17. Don't be a slob. Sport coat, nice slacks or unripped jeans and a button down shirt. Doesn't have to be a suit and tie. Look professional. Looking like Mark Zuckerberg only works for the entrepreneurs.
18. Be nice to the receptioniest. If she tells me you were a dick, you're screwed.
19. Relax! Trust me, the VC sitting across from you is working his ass off to make his portfolio work, try to raise another fund, spend quality time with his kids, keep his wife happy, trying to keep the investment manager about to quit on board and so forth. He's probably more of a wreck than you are. Remember this.....it'll help you stay calm.
20. Finally, if turned down for a position, remain gracious and thank them for taking the time to interview you. Act like a sore loser and you will be remembered. You meet everyone twice (and those you screwed multiple times thereafter) in life.
*OK, I'll be honest here. If your dad/uncle/grandpa put up a couple million for our next fund or buy one of our portfolio companies for a ton of cash, we'll most likely hire you. :-)