Advice to quants about to be interviewed
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As a senior derivatives trader in several proprietary trading firms, I interviewed dozens of candidates for different roles. Here are some tips I think might be useful. Note this is just my personal opinion and others may have a different view. But here you are anyway…
1. Consider the person who is interviewing you. If you are being interviewed by someone obviously highly quantitative, then they might be looking for a ‘geek-off’, of the ‘I know the most numbers – No, I do’ variety. Defuse this where possible. Answer questions as accurately as you can, but do not look to ‘score points’ against the interviewer. You need to leave them thinking that you know your stuff and have solid potential; under no circumstance should the quant-type interviewer think that you know more numbers than them.
If on the other hand, you are being interviewed by someone who is not a quant, they are looking for whether you are purely silicon or indeed have some organic components. You should attempt to appear as human as possible, without ever down-playing your mathematical ability.
2. Demonstrate some business sense. Being ‘very good at numbers’ is great. But there is no shortage of supply of such people, especially who are looking to get into the financial markets. The quants who stand out are those who have some commercial acumen. You don’t have to have been a CEO or run a business even. Just have a genuine example to hand of where you have considered something from a commercial perspective. If you’ve just studied some pricing model or written a dissertation on some theory or other, talk about how it might actually be used in business to make money. It is astonishing how few mathematical finance students turn up at an interview for a job in trading never having considered what ‘trading’ actually means.
3. Demonstrate some practical sense of finance. Have you read any popular books on finance? If not, why not? Go and read at least one immediately. Check out this list. Have you done any paper trading? If not, why not?! Go and find a trading simulator and execute some trades. Learn the basic mechanics of the market. Why not use Volcube and become a certified Volcube Options Trader? However you do it, get a handle on some of the basics of the financial markets.
4. Be polite, confident and enthusiastic. Do not be prickly, arrogant or appear expectant. Smile a bit. But not continuously.
Simon traded derivatives in London for over a decade. He is the co-founder and CEO of Volcube.