From the category archives:

Job Interview Questions

One of the most effective ways of landing a hedge fund job is to interview for a job that doesn’t exist. If that sounds counter-intuitive, then check out a recent article in Forbes about mastering the “informational” interview.

More people land jobs through these informal interviews than formal job-openings, according to Sarah Stamboulie, a New York career coach who’s worked at Morgan Stanley and Cantor Fitzgerald, and has been a career coach at Columbia University.

The trick is to get a chance to speak with someone in your target company, either through a personal or business contact. Then to approach the informational interview as if you were a consultant on a fact-finding mission.

Stamboulie tells her clients to do extensive research on the company, the person and the market beforehand. Then to use that research in an email requesting a meeting. She encourages people to write at length about why they are interested in the company, what they admire about its strategy, how the company or department handled a particular challenge, and to write a bit about the person whom they hope to meet.

“Your email isn’t about how great you are,” says Stamboulie. “The bulk of the email is about why you want to meet with the friend or colleague. You need to make it clear you’ve done some grown-up research.”

Once in the interview, ask lots of questions about the company, its needs, and most importantly, what opportunities are being lost. Act as if you are a consultant trying to figure out how to help the company improve its business. Your goal, says Stamboulie, is to determine how your skills may somehow overlap with the company’s needs or areas of opportunity.

As an example, if you speak a foreign language or have worked overseas, ask about the company’s business in that region and see if your skills could expand opportunities for them.

Of course, there is also the chance that making a personal connection will lead to a job. One client of Stamboulie’s went for an informational interview at a hedge fund that he considered out of reach. Yet the manager was a Frenchman living in London who loved French food and wine. So did the candidate. The two hit it off on a personal level and a job eventually materialized.

Which is the whole point of informational interviews. Companies are always thinking about hiring. They may not have a formal job opening at that precise time, and many jobs are never actually posted. But these informational interviews get you on the radar screen and can lead to opportunities.

What about you? Do you have a careful strategy for developing informational interviews at your target hedge fund firms? Add your comments below.

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Journalist Ann All at ITBusinessedge has uncovered a few challenging job interview questions that go beyond the standard, “Where do you see yourself in five years”. The first comes from a recent New York Times interview with VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, who commented that he likes to grill candidates on something they’ve done in the past, and then ask: “Thinking about it now, what would you have done differently? What did you learn from that?”

The question requires a bit more self-analysis than admitting some lame “weakness” that isn’t a weakness at all. And it can help employers determine whether the person would be a good fit. According to Maritz, who’s quoted in the Times article:

“… If they blame everything that happened during that period on somebody else, that tells you that the person is probably not thoughtful or self-aware. If they can talk in length about what was really going on, why they made the decisions they did and how they would perhaps make the decision differently now, that tells you that this person thinks deeply and is honest enough to really be objective, or as objective as they can be about themselves.”

This dovetails with what we learned from Meridee Moore, founder of hedge fund Watershed Asset Management, who was also interviewed earlier in the year by the Times. Moore also likes to talk to candidates about a setback in their lives, and what they did about it. In fact, during the interview process for Moore’s firm, they give candidates a two-hour test and purposely try to throw them off balance. As Moore explains it:

“We try to simulate a real office experience by giving them an investment idea and the raw material, the annual report, some documents, and then we tell them where the securities prices are. We say: “Here’s a calculator, a pencil and a sandwich. We’ll be back in two hours.” If an analyst comes in there and just attacks the project with relish, that’s a good sign.”

After the test, Moore likes to ask basic questions about the possible investment, seeking information about the company’s revenue model, its customers and its products. If interviewees avoid these questions and prefer to discuss their calculations, they may be “too rigid” for Watershed Asset Management’s culture.

Another question that Moore likes to ask is whether this person has ever been in a wedding party.

“If someone has asked them to stand next to him on the most important day of his life, at least one person thinks they are responsible. It means they’ve been able to establish and continue a relationship. These are good qualities in a person and a partner,” Moore says.

What’s the toughest question you’ve ever had to field in a hedge fund job interview? Do you have a pet question you like to use when grilling a candidate? Add your comments below.

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Hedge Fund Jobs Interview Question: Lighting the Fuses

January 11, 2010

Question: You have two string-like fuses.  Each burns in exactly one minute.  The fuses are inhomogeneous, and may burn slowly at first, then quickly, then slowly, and so on.  You have a match, and no watch.  How do you measure exactly 45 seconds? Answer:

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Hedge Fund Jobs Interview Question: The Gold Bar

December 7, 2009

Question: You hire a man to work for you for seven days.  You wish to pay him in gold.  You have one gold bar with seven parts — like a chocolate bar. You wish to pay him one gold part per day, but you may snap the bar in only two places.  Where do you […]

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Experts Weigh in on Hedge Fund Job Hunting Advice

November 12, 2008

New York Magazine sent three candidates to recruitment experts for advice on landing a new job. One of them, Piyush Bhargava, was recently let go from Bear Stearns where he was on the firm’s credit-trading desk. He has a four-year engineering degree from India and a master’s degree in computational finance from Carnegie Mellon. His […]

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Hedge Fund Jobs Interview Question: How Old Are Three Kids?

October 31, 2008

Here’s another puzzle that’s popular in interviews for hedge fund jobs.  See our archive of hedge fund job interview questions here. Question: One analyst (John) is talking to another (Mary) while working on a deal book at 2AM.  Mary learns that John’s sister has three children.  “How old are the children?” asks Mary.  “Well,” replies John, […]

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Hedge Fund Jobs Interview Question: Common Sense and Archimedes’ Principle

October 14, 2008

A simple question of deduction that you might get asked in a hedge fund job interview. Question: A small boat is floating in a swimming pool. The boat contains a very small but very heavy rock. If the rock is tossed out of the boat into the pool, what happens to the water level in […]

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