Posts Tagged ‘students’

Expect the Unexpected: How to Handle Interview Brainteasers

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Some questions you can prepare for. You can rehearse. Maybe even memorize an answer. But all the studying in the world won’t help you when the hiring manager asks you something out of left field, like,  “How many potholes are on Manhattan Island?”

That element of surprise is the whole purpose of the interview brainteaser. And hiring managers in the finance world love to toss these out to see how you approach, analyze, and solve problems (especially those that are wildly unfamiliar). Of course, they also want to see how you react to the unexpected — in other words, how you handle stress.

Because brainteasers are generally unstructured, it’s difficult to lay-out a proven methodology to answer them. But here are a couple ways to prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Tip #1:  Take notes

Make sure to take notes when the hiring manager is giving you the brainteaser, especially if it’s heavy on the numbers. This will help you think through your response — and ensure that you don’t get flustered trying to keep it all straight! You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget the simplest numbers when you’re under pressure.

Taking notes also shows the interviewer that you’re detail-oriented and an active listener — great qualities in any potential employee.

Tip #2: Treat the brainteaser as a conversation/intellectual exploration

The good news is: the right answer is not necessarily the most important part of the brainteaser. How you arrive at your answer is every bit as telling.

It’s important to have a clear framework with which to tackle the problem. One way to do it: think of this situation as a conversation over coffee with a friend. Pretend the hiring manager asking the brain teaser doesn’t know the answer (he might not!), so it will feel like you’re trying to solve the problem together. In a conversation, it’s perfectly fine to ask for more data or information.

(This conversation approach may also paint you as more of an “intellectual team player” than a “competitive know-it-all.”)

Tip #3:  Try answering the problem out loud

When it comes to brainteasers, the questions you ask speak volumes about your thought process. So once you outline the framework, explore possible answers and alternatives out loud. With this strategy, you’re taking the conversation approach one step further.

This method also gives the interviewer a chance to help you out. If you do get off track, he or she will know it right away and can redirect you. That gives you a second chance to try again — and at least save face. And who knows — that redirection just might help you come up with the right answer!

While you can’t know what to expect from a brainteaser, you can at least have a strategy for handling them. Next time you’re at a bookstore, why not pick up a book of brainteasers and practice with your friends.

Above all: remember to relax. Be open-minded and creative, but rational.

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Graduate Primer for Hedge Fund Job

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Congratulations to all the soon to be College Graduates of 2008. You might be wondering how recent college grads obtain a job in the Alternative Investment space. The first thing to know is if you are graduating this month and are now reading this post with no job lined up – you are unfortunately well behind the rest of your peers in the job search and likely too late – but help is just below.

If you want a position with a Hedge Fund or Private Equity firm upon graduating from undergrad you typically need to start your process two to three years before your graduation date. The summer after your freshman year you need to find an internship ideally with a fund. For the next two summers you will want to have an internship as well. Also working with a fund during the school year is an excellent addition. If you have not had internships your chances just got a lot smaller.

Few College Career Centers inform their students of this but in the alternative investment space, internships are extremely important particularly if you do not want to head to New York City and spend 100+ hours a week working in an analyst program for the next 18-36 months.

To land a job without any internship experience means you must be persistent with the funds and dedicated to working your network and your school’s alumni network; many jobs in the hedge fund space are found through networking. You might also look at working with qualified recruiters who understand the business and can introduce you to strong firms. Look into to acquiring any of the designations which are valued in the Private Equity and Hedge Fund space. Unfortunately some of the designations take years to complete but starting the testing process can make your resume look stronger and show your passion for the industry.

In any case you will need to possess a well written resume and concisely express to those who are interviewing you that you are a driven, intelligent and mature recent grad looking to give your employer 110%. Make sure to discuss any leadership or team building roles you have had during college

If all else fails and you can afford it we recommend offering to work for free or a minimal fee for a month or two. One last thought - As the number of hedge funds grows so will their employment needs. With few hedge funds having a recruiting infrastructure in place a persistent and dedicated recent grad has an opportunity to enter this exciting and rewarding industry. If you want to work in the field and do not already have a position lined up you might want to consider doing some serious research these last few days before your don your cap and gown as opposed to spending it doing the normal senior slacking…