Show that you can do things

By this point in your life you've soaked up a lot of information, and acquired skills, which is, of course, good. But a big question in the inquisitor's mind is whether you can translate this into real actions that are finished, complete and correct. One can pass most exams by getting answers wrong, but by showing good working, and an understanding of the principles. However, banks aren't really all that happy if you lose a pile of money by getting 'nearly' the right answer, where you put a minus when it should have been a plus. They like to see projects where you've started, worked to a goal and completed without having to have your hand held. This is a big reason why they like PhDs since it's a powerful argument that you can complete things. However, if you're going for a PhD-level job, you still have to beat others who have reached that level.

Projects completed are good, and you should be prepared to answer questions on them. The people who interview you will often have your sort of academic background, so these questions may be deep.

You may have changed direction in your career, and you should be prepared to answer why you made any given choice. It is important to be able to show that you didn't just 'give up' on an area when it got tough.

Interests and hobbies

Several of the people you meet will want to understand what sort of personality you have, or indeed whether you actually have one.

In finance you spend more of your waking hours with your colleagues than the person you marry, so it is good to present yourself as interesting as well as smart. They all want to feel you can work with others, so the cliche of 'reading, walking and listening to music,' doesn't really cut it. Certainly you shouldn't fake an interest in something, but do try to find something with which you can speak with a little passion. One candidate had somehow acquired a formal qualification in stage combat. Although it's relatively rare for quants to need to fight each other with swords, it's the sort of thing that catches people's eyes, and can make a crucial difference. It also gives the non-specialist people who you will meet something they can talk to you about.

Last job first

In your CV your most recent/current employment should stand out and be relevant to the job for which you are applying. Someone reading your CV may never get beyond this one piece of information. Make sure your dates are correct. As part of the pre-employment screen at most banks, they check your past employment, and people have had offers withdrawn because of mistakes on this.

Paul & Dominic

When applying to P&D, we also like to see a simple list of the various skills you have acquired, together with some estimate of how good you are. If you're new to QF then it won't be obvious which are most important, that's our job, so include as many as possible.

Multiple CVs

Finally, there is no reason why you should have only one CV. Presumably your entire life doesn't fit on two pages, so you can turn out a variety that each emphasize different aspects of your experience and education. You may take this as an exercise to work out the optimal number of variants, and you will quickly find out that it is not one. This is made more acute by the fact that failed CVs get little if any feedback. Think of it as shooting in the dark. If you don't hear a scream when you fire in one direction, you aim somewhere else.

Finding banks

In this document, we use the term 'bank' for the firm you want to work for. It is of course the case that quants work for many types of outfit, including brokers, the government, hedge funds, insurers, thrifts, consultancies, building societies, and in the case of P&D, for a headhunting firm. The website mentions any number of firms, and before you approach anyone it's good to do a few searches so that you know the nature of the target.

If you're still linked with your college then it has many resources to help you. Most have a careers office with directories of banks, and they will have some contacts with banks in that country. The library will have directories, and of course there is Google and Yahoo! for getting a list of targets. All large firms have entry-level programmes of some form, and you can relatively easily find a good number to apply for. At this stage numbers are important, since the ratio of new entrants to the market to jobs is quite high.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >