Hedge Funds And Hiring: A Recruiter’s View

Oct 13 2008 | 11:30am ET

By Robert Olman -- I’ve been an executive recruiter for nearly 25 years, so you probably think I’m going to give you some candy-coated advice about how there’s a job out there for everyone, and sunny skies are just a day away. Wrong.

This is the worst environment I’ve ever seen. It’s tough to be an executive recruiter or much of anything these days if you’re tied to the alternative investment industry. But even so, I want hedge fund professionals to know there are jobs to be had, and while not everyone will get them, select individuals will find they’re in for exciting career opportunities. New funds will be formed. Others will grow. Consolidation will take place.

Top Talent Is Always In Demand

Alan “Ace” Greenberg said it best back in 1990: If Michael Jordan knocks at your door, what are you going to say, “Sorry, we’re on a hiring freeze?”

For example, let’s look at Paulson & Company, which according to one estimate, was up 589% last year. Even now, the fund is still up just shy of 20% this year. A firm like that still needs to hire.

Solid portfolio managers are in demand. A person who brings alpha to the table and has spent most of his life doing well in the industry will likely find a career opportunity. It may take time, but it will happen.

Flexibility Is Key

With the current economic crisis in full force and unlikely to disappear anytime soon, some of the most talented people will find that their expertise is no longer marketable and they’ll have to reinvent themselves. There will be smart, savvy investment professionals who will no longer be part of the financial markets. OTC derivatives and structured products specialists may be hard pressed to stay in the industry.

My advice would be that if you are employed, keep your options open. Stellar opportunities—although infrequent—will surface. Therefore, continue networking, stay visible at work and with friends and business associations, and be aware of changes internally and opportunities externally. Also consider new locales. Maybe you love New York or Greenwich, Conn., but think about different markets, and maybe even of working abroad. 

Don’t Put Your Head In The Sand

If you’re unemployed, don’t reduce your networking efforts. Contacts will eventually return your calls. Whether you’re working or not, talk to a recruiter, polish your resume and review your options.

A word about recruiters. Many of the less-tenured ones are merely cold-calling people off lists. Make sure a recruiter approaches you in a targeted manner, and that the professional you choose (or who chooses you) operates and is plugged into your space. Beware of the neophytes who have never seen a down market. Indeed, this is a down market period that could last well into your next career opportunity. 

Robert Olman is the founder and president of Alpha Search Advisory Partners, an alternative investment recruitment firm.


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