Schwarzman's Advice for Blackstone Recruits: Forget ‘Mad Men’

  • Co-founder and CEO said rookies shouldn’t take on too much
  • Firm gets more than 15,000 applications for 100 openings

Stephen "Steve" Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP, speaks during an interview at an Economic Club of Washington luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. 

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Blackstone Group LP didn’t want to keep Steve Schwarzman’s advice to its newly hired analysts secret -- so it put the annual ritual on YouTube.

The co-founder and chief executive officer of the asset-management giant begins an eight-minute homily by re-setting expectations for the ambitious recruits.

“Unlike what you would think from watching television a business environment is like -- where somehow you got winners, you got losers, you got to do bad stuff to squash other people so you can get ahead in some kind of a ‘Mad Men’ type of environment -- it’s actually just the opposite,” Schwarzman says, referring to the TV series exalting the excesses of the 1960s advertising industry in New York City.

“Everybody here can be successful,” a standing Schwarzman tells dozens gathered in a conference room at the firm’s New York headquarters, with more participating on video screens from other offices. “We want everybody here to be successful.”

Landing an analyst position at Blackstone isn’t easy. In 2015, Schwarzman said the firm got more than 15,000 applications for 100 spots, or an acceptance rate of less than 0.7 percent. “It’s six times harder to get a job as an analyst at Blackstone than getting into Harvard, Yale or Stanford,” the billionaire said at the time.

One of the biggest adjustments for the incoming analysts is that, unlike in school, every number must be right, Schwarzman tells the group in the video.

“The way you become successful in finance is you start off at the bottom and you don’t make mistakes,” he says.

And he warned the zealous newcomers against a rookie mistake: taking on more work than they can handle, and then failing to let supervisors know.

“What they ultimately care about is that you fess up early enough so you don’t blow up the project, or blow them up.”

Blackstone made Schwarzman’s remarks public because they give prospective analysts a look inside the firm and can be valuable for others starting out in finance, Paige Ross, global head of human resources, said in an email.

“As Steve said, the foundation of any great business is great people,” Ross said. “We’re always on a mission to find the best talent.”

For the Blackstone novices, who just graduated from college, there’s hope for a bright future. Twenty-five years ago, a fresh college graduate named Jon Gray sat where they are. Now the firm’s global head of real estate, Gray is considered a potential successor to Schwarzman.

Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a non-executive director at Blackstone.

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