Jon Gray still remembers what it was like when he was hired as an entry-level analyst at a seven-year-old private-equity shop in New York City in 1992.
"It was a tiny place ... I think there were 80 or 90 people," Gray said of Blackstone, a firm that would go on to become the world's largest alternative investment manager and, during Gray's time as head of global real estate, its largest property owner.
Fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania, Gray was interviewed by the Blackstone cofounders Stephen Schwarzman and Pete Peterson themselves. He couldn't have predicted that he would eventually be named Blackstone's president and chief operating officer in 2018, becoming one of the most powerful executives on Wall Street.
"For me, a kid from suburban Chicago, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this seems really exciting.' And it was obviously terrifying being interviewed," he recalled. "And by the way, starting was terrifying. I remember being so nervous having my first job here."
Blackstone, which has more than $560 billion in assets under management, was ranked as the hardest interview among private-equity firms on Wall Street Oasis, a website that aggregates data submitted by users into reports about financial firms.
Out of some 19,000 applicants for the company's 2020 first-year analyst class, just 94 people were hired — an acceptance rate of 0.5% — according to data that Blackstone shared with Business Insider.
In October, we spoke with Gray, headhunters who recruit for the firm, and Blackstone's global head of human resources to learn what it takes to stand out. From how to ace interviews to deals you need to be familiar with, here's what they told us.