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Mar 7 2008 | 10:49am ET
Breaking into the hedge fund industry is not easy. If you are fresh out of school or have not worked in the industry before, it usually takes some explicit networking, focused internships or past investment experience before a hedge fund employment opportunity will present itself to you.
You need to get up to speed on the norms of hedge funds, complete several internships and conduct dozens of informational interviews until you land a real interview for an open position. If you have never worked within the industry before, here are my six tips on how to break in:
Get up to speed on the norms of the hedge fund industry. Subscribe to FINalternatives, Albourne Village, HedgeWorld, HedgeWeek, HedgeCo and HedgeFundBlogger.com. To become familiar with industry norms and trends, I suggest reading a few books such as All About Hedge Funds, Hedge Funds For Dummies, The Alternative Asset Hand Book, Hedge Fund Blog Book or HedgeMe. HedgeMe is a great book on the hedge fund industry, explaining the career path options you have, compensation trends and major hedge funds in the industry. This is what I used before I got my first job within the hedge fund industry.
2: Pick Your Role
There are three common routes to getting your first job in the hedge fund industry: trader, analyst or sales professional. An analyst is the most common starting point, but everything is based on your background, skill set and passions. Network and interview with a good idea of what you want to do. Can’t decide? Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, suggests making decisions using three criteria: Every project or job you undertake should draw off of your core strengths, excite you and be relatively lucrative in the long-run.
Network with professionals through the job and message boards within the Web sites listed to the left. Contact professionals at your local Chartered Financial Analyst chapters or other quantitative finance groups in your area. If you have done your homework on the hedge fund industry and have defined where you might fit in, many people will meet with you or at least exchange emails providing advice on the next steps you could take to get your first hedge fund job.
Never stop networking within the hedge fund industry. If you get an internship opportunity, always over-deliver on the tasks that are assigned to you without taking up much of the hedge fund managers time. You never want to bring a problem to your boss that you don’t already have a couple of potential solutions for. If you monopolize a hedge fund manager’s time you will be not be an intern for very long. While you want to make a great impression on those around you, on some level, what you do at the internship is not as important as who you are working with or just getting exposure to how he/she operates and what responsibilities you are expected to carry out.
What is the perfect resume for hedge fund jobs? There isn’t one. While it is true that a few hedge fund professionals never graduated from college, most are well-educated. One highly successful manager told me that his firm does not have any hard and fast experience requirements; his team looks for people who are hungry, humble and smart. Some factors that hedge funds look at include:
• CFA or CAIA Designations
• Equity analyst, trading or sales experience
• Loyalty, passion, humility and hunger
• Quantitative and/or modeling experience
• Education – Ivy League, MBA, Quantitative-focused PhDs
• Something extra – Investor Relations experience, PR experience, asset gathering abilities, information advantages
• High-quality name experience
• The stomach and desire for a high commission/bonus structure payout system
After you have completed between one and three internships and have two solid references from hedge fund managers, you should start trying to interview directly. In my experience, you cannot work with recruiters this early on in your career, and most university career centers aren’t worth working with if you want to get into the hedge fund industry. You need to connect with leaders in the industry, and they might give you an e-mail address or phone number of someone to meet with. Take every meeting you can get, even if it is not the type of hedge fund you would like to work for. Much of this game is networking and learning how to effectively interview for a competitive position. Hedge funds hire for brains, experience, commitment, passion and character.
by Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson is a hedge fund consultant and an avid hedge fund writer. He runs the Hedge Fund Group, HedgeFundBookStore.com and the Hedge Fund Consultants Blog.