New England Hedge Funds Pick, Choose

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Getting hired by a hedge fund has never been easy. Now, it's getting even more difficult as laid off Wall Streeters flock to the sector because of its reputation as a more stable place to work.

In Boston, hiring continues at a brisk pace for jobs ranging from portfolio managers to entry-level positions. Salaries remain strong, and quant roles remain difficult to fill.

"Every investment banker on Wall Street and in major markets wants to go to the buy-side because that's where the major opportunities are," says one hedge fund recruiter who declined to be named. "There is a ton of qualified candidates. There are a lot of rock stars out there and they are competing against other rock stars ... It astonishes me."

Hedge funds don't necessarily pay that well to start, particularly at lower-level jobs. Candidates must be willing to put in long hours, working six, sometimes seven, days a week. Their motivation: payouts in the tens or even hundreds of million dollars that top-level people receive.

That's why firms can be extremely picky. For instance, Howard Ross of BOC Staffing Solutions, which is based in New York but recruits throughout the Northeast, is looking to fill a position at a fund of funds. "They will not accept someone who comes from a hedge fund," he says. "They want someone from a fund a funds."

Sameer Vishwanathan, of Mark Lewis Inc. of New York agrees. "Now, it's gotten even more selective than it has in the past," he says. "The odds are working in favor of hedge funds." His firm, which has seen a spike in resumes recently, works with clients throughout the region.

The mysticism of hedge funds continues to be a powerful draw. Another position Ross has to fill is from a company that expects the employee to work an average of 10 to 12 hours a day, at least six days a week. "This person is going too be taking a significant cutback in salary, but the appeal is working for a hedge fund," Ross says.

Seeking Quants With...

Companies are particularly eager to hire candidates with relevant experience and a Ph.D. in the hard sciences, says Vishwanathan. "There are no more pure quant positions," he states. "What companies are looking for especially is people with the quant skills and the programming skills."

Companies also want candidates with strong communications skills. According to Vishwanathan, "If you have the people skills, you are definitely poised" to be successful.

Companies often hold informal meetings the quant candidates to see if they'd be a good fit with their potential colleagues. They are also given tests on advanced mathematics and computer languages, such as C++. If they pass muster, these candidates become "a very strong, valuable asset," Ross says. "That person could take $100,000 and double and triple it."

Ross notes the job market has changed over the past few months. "Given the market, people are concerned about certain areas. Research, due diligence, compliance - those are the areas that are getting a lot of demand. A year ago it was operations and trade support. (Now), people are making sure the assets they bought are properly valued."