Five Interview Questions for Derivatives Associates

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Okay, you're a math genius. But can you show a passion for investing and the initiative it takes to cook up models to make or save your company millions? That's what you'll need to prove when you sit down for an interview. Here's some questions you'll be asked, according to recruiter Paul Sorbera of Alliance Consulting.

Why are you interested in this position?

People come to Wall Street to make money, that's clear. And managers want people who are motivated by money by some degree. They also want to see that you get fired up about the markets and finding new ways to create products that increase profitability. "Especially when interviewing an entry-level person, we want to see that they are passionate," Sorbera says. "Otherwise they'll get bored in six months and leave."

Tell me about your education.

Especially if you have a short work history, employers want to know that you have the classroom experience to equip you for the job. Advanced degrees from top schools in mathematics, physics or electronic engineering are golden. Other backgrounds will need explaining. "If you have an electric engineering degree from MIT, that will address the issue," Sorbera says. "But if you have a BS in economics, you're going to have to quantify it with extra coursework in calculus or options theory and how it relates to derivatives."

What kind of personality do you have?

While your actions will speak for themselves, those going into derivatives sales will need to exhibit a stronger, more outgoing charisma than those in trading or research. "By and large those people tend to be more left brain, more analytical and intellectual in their conversations," Sorbera says.

How have you contributed to your firm's profits?

Be ready to illustrate how your projects grew your company's bottom line. "It's a significant issue for people with quantitative skill sets that they have product knowledge, but haven't demonstrated they can translate that into making or saving money for their firm," says Sorbera.

Have you ever developed a new system?

Even better than working on an existing product, explain how you created a new model or program that mitigated loss, enhanced revenue, managed risk better or garnered more business. "That's really important if you can show that you saw a problem and fixed it," Sorbera explains. "On the derivatives desk there's always an opportunity to make changes that can save or make the company tens of millions of dollars."

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