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physlift314
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Joined: May 15th, 2015, 7:47 pm

Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 11th, 2015, 7:03 pm

I have combed through the Careers forum and seen much advice given to PhD physicists who want to become quants (of which, I am one of). I have been told by numerous people that my skill set is well suited for a quant-style role (and I tend to agree with them). I will be first to admit that I have practically zero finance background. I have been reading through J.C. Hull?s ?Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives? and I have read Wilmott?s ?Frequently Asked Questions in Quantitative Finance.? That is the extent of my finance training, if you will. A possible point against me, but I am a quick learner.I have a lot of algorithm development in C++, python, etc. I have done countless statistical analyses using MC methods, statistical tests, hypothesis tests, etc. for my PhD and I?ve worked with UNIX, LINUX, and Windows environments. All sounds good, right?I have interviewed at 6 different places (4 asset management, 2 financial services). One of which I was personally referred to by a former employee. All interviews, at least to me, went exceptionally well and I found myself to be an even better fit for the position after the interview.However, time and time again I get the ?Thank you for your interest, but we will not be furthering your application in the hiring process? email. The interviews generally consist of my giving my elevator speech, them giving their elevator speech, they ask me some standard questions (Why finance and not academia, what interests you about quantitative finance, describe a project you worked on, etc.), I ask them some questions (What characteristics are you looking for in the person you will hire? If I were offered this position and joined your company, how would you measure my success and what could I do to exceed your expectations? How does this position fit in with the short- and long-term goals of the company? What excites you about coming into work every day?), and we end the interview on a good note.Part of me thinks that I am messing up somewhere, but I?m not sure where. I?m not quite sure what else I can do beyond reading quant books until my eyes fall out (which I have no objection doing). I also assume that writing ?I have read practically every quant book available? on my resume is not enough either (I hope you caught the sarcasm), so perhaps reading is not enough.So, are there things I can do better? Differently? Are there things that I can do to make myself stand out more? How can a person whose skill set is a remarkable match to what is described in the job description continually be turned away after numerous interviews? How does one get useful experience when they have none?Thanks in advance.
 
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Stradle
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 11th, 2015, 8:42 pm

Which school did you go to? Also your interviews seem to have no technical questions which is somehow strange.
 
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physlift314
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 11th, 2015, 8:54 pm

Colorado State University. Two of the interviews did have some technical questions. Apologies for not mentioning that.
 
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bearish
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 11th, 2015, 10:22 pm

It sounds like you talked to a bunch of HR people, or possibly real people following HR scripts. In your case you are probably too much of an outsider to have much of a chance in that game and need to get to real decision makers, or more precisely, those who are authorized to say "yes" as well as "no". How to do that is the $64,000 question, but the answer is probably some combination of networking and digging deeper into the finance stuff, possibly to the extent of doing some actual research to show for yourself.
 
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physlift314
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 12th, 2015, 12:19 am

QuoteOriginally posted by: bearishIt sounds like you talked to a bunch of HR people, or possibly real people following HR scripts. In your case you are probably too much of an outsider to have much of a chance in that game and need to get to real decision makers, or more precisely, those who are authorized to say "yes" as well as "no". How to do that is the $64,000 question, but the answer is probably some combination of networking and digging deeper into the finance stuff, possibly to the extent of doing some actual research to show for yourself.Thanks a ton for the responses, everyone.I was under the impression that at least two of them were actual team members if not hiring managers for the particular groups, but I could be wrong. I would suppose the others were following more HR roles, as you mentioned. I was afraid being too much of an outsider was the case. Do you, or anyone, have suggestions for research that I might be able to start on my own to give me a leg up? I looked into getting CQF certified but I certainly don't have the money for that being a graduate student. I was thinking instead of maybe writing a paper about the Black-Scholes model showing its successes and limitations using real data. I could write up some programs to run on available data and produce some plots or something. Just an idea I pulled out of my head while thinking on your post. Thanks again for the help!
 
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DominicConnor
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 29th, 2015, 5:40 am

You are in what I wrote in the careers part of the FAQ as the kissing frogs phase in order to find a prince.Too little data for me to make any solid recommendation, but obviously your resume is OK for HR people, so it is either the interview or the next phase of the filtration that fails you.One thing that lets people down is what I label enthusiasm, or perhaps passion. Do you sound keen on finance ? A surprising number of people don't.Or it may be some other part of your interview technique.I suspect more strongly is that your CV is a bit bland, HR tend to like bland, hiring managers less so.By bland I mean that it has nothing that makes you stand out, not bad as such, but with too little that makes a hiring manager say "get this guy in".
 
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physlift314
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 29th, 2015, 1:57 pm

Hi Dominic,Thanks for your post. Would you mind linking me to that FAQ? I'd be interested in reading it.You're the second person that has recommended to me that it could be my enthusiasm during the interview (or interaction, if you prefer) process that fails me. So I started reading some articles about being enthusiastic, or at least coming off as more enthusiastic, during interviews and just general interview tips. I wouldn't be opposed to putting up my current resume (with all personal information removed) for people to critique to see if it can be improved.
 
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bearish
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 29th, 2015, 4:57 pm

QuoteOriginally posted by: physlift314Hi Dominic,Thanks for your post. Would you mind linking me to that FAQ? I'd be interested in reading it.You're the second person that has recommended to me that it could be my enthusiasm during the interview (or interaction, if you prefer) process that fails me. So I started reading some articles about being enthusiastic, or at least coming off as more enthusiastic, during interviews and just general interview tips. I wouldn't be opposed to putting up my current resume (with all personal information removed) for people to critique to see if it can be improved.The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made. And, evidently, enthusiasm... With apologies to Marx.
 
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DominicConnor
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

August 30th, 2015, 8:04 am

I coworote the careers bit of the PW FAQ, you've already read it.In some ways CV are like program code...HR parses it for keywords and does a syntax check, you've passed that.What we have now is optimisation and you need to stand out, so it follows at this point that my advice must be generic, but your execution must be highly personal.There are certain terms that make you stand out in general, because they claim an advanced grasp of things that are generally useful. Econometrics, C++, filtering, etc...Some are specific to the domain of the area you seek to join. That may be a rarer programming language, such as Haskell, or the details a particular class of financial product.These words need to make it to your CV, if you have them. I guess as a physics PhD, you've done some numerical methods, naming a few on your CV won't hurt.You need to examine which of those you have, which are relevant, and where these two sets fail to intersect optimise with respect to what you can grasp in the time available.This is a method for showing enthusiasm without faking a smile.For instance, if you've been looking for roles in fixed income, there are any number of fixed income products, like STIR.The exchanges have freely available descriptions of the detailed aspects of the products, because of course they want you to trade them. Often they do seminars, which are part marketing, part education.I picked STIRs, partly because they and I have history, but also because the link above leads you to spreadsheets and related content that help you understand it.There's much to be learned and understood here... Market conventions, turnover, what it is used for, news, major players, ways it goes wrong, hedging, market making, regulation, risk....None is beyond the intellectual grasp of a physics PhD, but as yet this is outside your reach.By drilling down into a product, you demonstrate a degree of commitment, intellectual curiousity, self-management and general ability....and know stuff that your competitors don't, making you stand out.One of the single most common failure modes for newbies is something like "yes ,very smart, but what would we do with him ?"By demonstrating a practical knowledge, you answer that question, even if the particular products you master happen not to be the ones they work with.Of course this is upping the stakes...An axiom of CV optimisation is that every single word of your CV is a possible source of interview questions, mention that you know something, expect to get hard questions on it.Fail to answer a question on something you claim to know and it will go bad.This ain't just claims about F# or volatility modelling, some people screw up and die when the interviewer asks "so you like theatre, what examples of Brecht's alienation effect did you enjoy in Dexter ?". "What are Brechts ?" is not the right answer.So you are thus raising the expectations of the interviewer by saying "I have used the time since my PhD in building up my knowledge of STIRs, rate swaps, etc.You will get asked harder questions, be clear that I'm throwing you to the wolves here, when you say to a FIG desk head "I know STIRs" you have now challenged an alpha male to a pissing contest.Merely by surviving and not going to pieces when (not if) he asks a questions where you don't even know what the acronyms stand for, you will have distinguished yourself, possibly enough to get a job.You either join the pack, or get eaten.The fact that he may be passive aggressive, doesn't mena he ain't aggressive, indeed PA seems remarkably common in that role....but from what you say, today the pack is just howling in the mountains, ignoring you. Also of course, the claims you make will increase the chances of getting an interview further up the food chain.You of course also need to read more, there's Paul W's big book of banking, 3 volumes, 1,300 pages of stuff but no one thing is beyond you. His FAQ was specifically designed as a sort of exam prep for last minute cramming for interviews, if you have more time, you need to go deeper.
Last edited by DominicConnor on August 29th, 2015, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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secret2
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 1st, 2015, 1:01 am

"In some ways CV are like program code...HR parses it for keywords and does a syntax check, you've passed that."That's a nice analogy. Unfortunately HR is unlikely to catch runtime errors.
 
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liam
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Joined: November 16th, 2004, 11:51 am

Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 5th, 2015, 10:19 am

The obvious question is are you interviewing the right people?The fact that you used "elevator pitch" sends alarm bells ringing in my ears... I would question if you're actually applying for a quant role. There are ways to improve the situation - eg going through better recruiters and trying to focus your networking on clued in people, if you're not already doing this. Just remember when networking that a surprising amount of people in the industry won't appreciate the difference between getting a specific role like quant and getting "a job in finance".In terms of getting noticed, dcfc's advice will help. In finance specificity is the name of the game - what I would add to his advice is to really well and truly come across as looking for a specific range of pricing or modelling roles as opposed to "working in finance". It goes back to my earlier point about networking - I don't like being reminded of bozos that think all jobs in finance are the same and my experiences of dealing with such people is that for all their degrees and projects they'll turn out to be commercially unaware, dumb and irritating. Maybe I'm BSing a little but point is don't waste the opportunity to get across that you know the game. And that you know what relates to the role (which goes back to dcfc's STIR example).Points others have said about HR are good - although I would add that although most HR I've dealt with are a bit slow, when it comes to matching a role to the person with the right personality they can be very sharp. Yes, it's a minority of HR I'm talking about but they do exist. Again, something for the OP to think about - ensure you shine a light on why you're passionate about quant roles.
Last edited by liam on September 4th, 2015, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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roundandround
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 5th, 2015, 11:50 am

QuoteOriginally posted by: physlift314... they ask me some standard questions (Why finance and not academia, what interests you about quantitative finance, describe a project you worked on, etc.)...What are your answers to these questions?
 
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physlift314
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 10th, 2015, 12:39 am

Many thanks to everyone who replied. Its a tremendous help.To roundandround:1) Why finance and not academia?I do not have a desire to pursue a career in academia that requires teaching. I believe my skill set is better suited for the types of problems that arise in quantitative finance.2) What interests you about quantitative finance?My interest in quantitative research originates from its inherent mathematical nature. I am highly interested in modeling markets, analyzing and pricing portfolios, and developing statistical tests for algorithmic/high-frequency trading. The ability to put mathematical models to test against the highly random movements in various security classes truly fascinates me. 3) Describe a project you worked on.I was tasked with writing a framework in C++ that could be used by others to perform a time series analysis. The framework would read in files and perform a hypothesis analysis on the number of particles as a function of time to extract predictions about parameters in the model I was testing. Additionally, I used the data to perform a Fast Fourier Transform analysis as a model-independent way to fit the data.
 
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MattF
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 10th, 2015, 2:54 pm

I doubt you'll like my answer ... but you're not a strong candidate at all.The days are long gone when anyone who understood how to solve a PDE numerically and could knock out some code was getting hired as a quant. Chicago, Columbia, Sloan, Wharton etc etc are churning out Masters in Finance in their hundreds every year, many of whom have Ivy League PhDs. Why would you get hired ahead of them?QuoteI?ve worked with UNIX, LINUX, and Windows environments. All sounds good, right?Nope. If you're not bringing anything to the table finance-wise you should at least be an expert coder. If you could throw in a dozen languages here, some development frameworks, some database technologies then someone might take notice.
 
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physlift314
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Advice about getting into quant-style roles

September 10th, 2015, 3:11 pm

QuoteOriginally posted by: MattFI doubt you'll like my answer ... but you're not a strong candidate at all.The days are long gone when anyone who understood how to solve a PDE numerically and could knock out some code was getting hired as a quant. Chicago, Columbia, Sloan, Wharton etc etc are churning out Masters in Finance in their hundreds every year, many of whom have Ivy League PhDs. Why would you get hired ahead of them?QuoteI?ve worked with UNIX, LINUX, and Windows environments. All sounds good, right?Nope. If you're not bringing anything to the table finance-wise you should at least be an expert coder. If you could throw in a dozen languages here, some development frameworks, some database technologies then someone might take notice.Hey MattF,Thanks for your feedback and your honesty.