Former financial planner Craig Stocksleger is now a recruiter with Comprehensive (www.comprehensiverecruiting.com), an Arizona firm with a strong business in quantitative analytics.
How did you get into recruiting, and what keeps you here?
When I was in college, I was involved in trading my own account, and was fortunate enough to be fairly successful to pay for some of my tuition. From there, it has just always been a hobby to follow the markets, not only the stock market, but the bond markets and structured credit markets. I went on to be a financial planner, stock broker to retail clients. You always felt like you needed to be available 24/7 to your client. I was actually contacted by a recruiter for an opportunity, and I struck up a conversation with them. He told me a little about recruiting and what he did, and it sounded like something that could be very appealing to me. I would still get to work in the financial markets area, but it would allow a little bit more freedom for me and my career, and the compensation potential was also in line with what I was looking for.
The thing that keeps me in recruiting is not only helping people but the wheeling and dealing and negotiation. Also, I have that natural sales background where I like to prospect and strike up new customer relationships.
Tell us about your practice.
Comprehensive Recruiting works the global financial markets. We currently have seven recruiters, and each has a specialty area that they work in which helps them develop an expertise in that particular niche and also helps them develop very strong relationships with both their customers, our clients, and also the candidates that we serve.
So, we work in all areas of the global markets: from foreign exchange sales and trading, fixed income sales and trading, equity sales trading, research. One of our strong franchises is in quantitative analysis; working with PhD quants that support the various trading desks. We also work in risk-management, compliance and operations. Our clients are the top investment banks as well as the buy-side firms and the large hedge firms.
What are your top three sources of candidates?
Our best candidates are the ones that we find through networking, reaching out to our contacts that are in our current database, and asking, “Who do you know? Can you give me a recommendation?” Recommendations are always the best, and a lot of the best candidates aren’t always looking for a new opportunity.
The second place that we would find them is in our existing network of candidates that we’ve built up over the years. Then the third area would be the advertising that we do, which would be out on the job boards.
From a hiring perspective, how have you seen things change in the last 12 months?
The key change that I have witnessed has basically been an increase in the competition for very strong or very key employees or candidates. We’ve been getting multiple offers for candidates, and if we are not getting multiple offers, our candidates that we are trying to place with our customers, may have competing offers. I would say it’s very high demand for the good people. When I say the good people — the top schools, not a lot of job movement on the resume, and somebody who has a very strong quantitative background.
We may have an offer for a candidate, and our candidates are telling us that they are going to consider our offer, but they also have another offer, sometimes more than one, on the table from other firms that they may have gotten through a friend or through an old boss or through another recruitment firm.
At least fifty percent of our offers the existing firm has made a counter and tried to retain those individuals.
What is the hardest position to fill right now?
The harder people to find are the senior-level quant analysts with a PhD that have more than 5 years of experience. There’s less supply of those people. Really, it is all about supply and demand. And that is what competition is all about and that is why compensation packages are increasing as well.
We’re seeing more cash compensation on the bonus side, especially with the hedge funds. That’s one area that the hedge funds are able to compete, I think, or have maybe a slight advantage. A lot of the investment banks will pay a portion of the bonus and restrict its stock, whereas a lot of our hedge fund clients are able to pay out the full bonus in cash. Typically, it is very similar to the payoff schedule at the investment banks. They have a fiscal year-end, and you typically receive your bonus in early January or early February for the prior year.
Do you see that there’s a standard career path in the industry, or would you say that there really is not?
I would say that because of the vast number of hedge funds and the different strategies, that there’s really no standard career path, because some funds will look for a certain background that other funds may not find appealing.
They are looking for the top business schools and the top educational background — Ivy League a lot of times. Some hedge funds only hire people with Ivy League educations. [Also] experience on the resume is where you are going to separate yourself from the competition. Somebody that has worked at a Goldman-Sachs maybe, for seven to ten years, and hasn’t moved around and has a record of achievement, a record of being promoted, would be very appealing. Or somebody from another hedge fund, maybe a competitor, that has been there a number of years who also shows good stability and a record of achievement in growth of their career, as far as being promoted and receiving more responsibilities over the years.
In your opinion, especially given the demand now for the talent, is it better to stay put for, say, seven to ten years or change jobs more often?
I think that depends on what’s important to you. If you’re really early on in your career, and if you have had three years at a firm, and you have done well, and you’re in an area that could be considered hot, then it’s better to go out and test the market. If you were to move every two to three years, you would probably be able to bring your compensation level up to the current market. Whereas, I think people who have been in the same firm for maybe five, six, or seven years, a lot of times their compensation may not reflect the true value of what’s being paid out currently in the marketplace. Now, the downside to that is there’s going to be less stability oftentimes.
Often, there’s limited data available on individual hedge funds. How should a candidate research a fund in order to be best prepared for an interview?
That’s a very challenging aspect because many times, there’s not a lot of public information available. I think that most of the research is going to be done by preparing a list of questions to ask during the interview based on things that you may not be able to find out — if the fund has a web site, or go into the Bloomberg terminal and pull up information, try to find out people that are working at the fund, look at their backgrounds and find out where they have worked in the past. Also, talk to your friends and colleagues and see if you know people that have worked at the fund or know people that are there, and get the rumor on the street about what the culture’s like. Also, try to find out what their performance record has been, and check on the assets under management.
What’s the best way for candidates to stay in touch with a recruiter that they’ve spoken with?
Keep us updated with their current resume or CV. And I would recommend if they have worked with us in the past, also put in a call at least once a year to touch base.
We do get candidates that call every day. That would be too often. If you’re doing an active search, typically, we debrief the candidates: tell them what our current opportunities are, that we formulate a game plan on how we’re going to proceed. We are going to present their background to a certain number of our clients and then we come back to them, typically within three to five days, and update them on the status of each opportunity.
Are there any amusing stories you can share with our members, any lessons that you can share?
There are always crazy things. A lot of times they’re confidential-type stories where we don’t want to embarrass anybody. I can tell you one thing that I thought was kind of interesting: I had a candidate that was very close to an offer that had gone through three stages of the interview process and was meeting with one of the more senior partners of the fund in what was to be the final interview. The candidate was using foul language. Just letting it fly, and had dropped a few words that were considered foul language. That particular person didn’t care for that, and they ended up basically costing themselves the position.
For whatever reason — I don’t know if they were nervous or just felt really comfortable — that part of their personality finally came out. It was kind of disappointing from a recruiter’s standpoint. We were that close and it looked like a great fit. They had the exact experience that the firm was looking for and to lose out on something like that just seemed kind of silly.
What’s the most common attribute that you see among successful candidates that you place?
Drive and commitment … ambition. It exhibits itself based on their performance and on the resume. You’re going to see somebody who has a consistent record of outstanding performance all the way from their academic record, from their very first position, and they’ll have a consistent record of being promoted or taking on increasing responsibilities in their career.
What’s the most common mistake that people make within the interview process?
The most common hiccup is not being prepared to ask questions. A lot of people focus on answering questions during the interview process. I think that’s what I consider basic. The candidates that stand out are going to ask very intelligent, insightful questions of the person they are interviewing with. And by doing that, you are going to separate yourself, and you are going to make an impression.
Now, from the other side of the table, what is the most common reason that firms fail to land the candidate of their choice?
It doesn’t happen as much with the hedge funds, but really one of the main reasons our clients don’t land the candidate that they want would be timing. They simply didn’t move quickly enough. In today’s environment, as we spoke about earlier, a candidate might receive 3 or 4 offers.
The ability to very quickly move through the interview process, your due diligence, check the references, and make a competitive offer is critical in today’s marketplace to get the right candidate. If you wait an extra two weeks, then you might have just put yourself in the position where you could’ve made an offer of X dollars and got the person on board right away, but now the person got another offer and you’re going to have to pay an extra $100,000 in total comp.
That’s one of the reasons that a lot of the hedge funds are so successful in hiring top talent away from the sell side: there is so much less bureaucracy, they can very quickly get somebody in and make a decision.
The smaller things would be to, I would say, make sure that if there’s a candidate that you find very attractive, do a little bit of wooing. Make them feel like they’re important to you. Have them meet with some of the senior partners or the founder of the firm – part of the interview process.