Have you just completed a PhD, or are nearly there? This article is for people who are looking for junior quant jobs, i.e. you are fresh out of graduate school or other postgraduate education and wish to enter the exciting world of financial engineering. If you wish to land that dream job as an entry level quant, then read on!
Gaining an entry level quant job is not to be underestimated. There are plenty of candidates who wish to become a quantitative analyst or financial engineer and the majority of them will possess a good technical skillset. So how does one compete in such a market? Naturally, you will need the technical skills - a PhD in Mathematics, Physics or Engineering will help here. A good knowledge of object-oriented programming, particularly C++, is also now a prerequesite. Finally, external study of stochastic calculus, derivatives, risk-neutral pricing and probability theory is a necessity. However, these are just the basic skills. In this climate of economic uncertainty, one must really stand out from the pack to be noticed.
The first question to ask is what type of role is suitable. The term "quant" is very broad and now encompasses many areas of mathematically-based finance. Are you interested in junior trading jobs? Perhaps you seek a graduate trading job in a hedge fund as a quant trader. Alternatively you may wish to venture into a quant structurer role. Many associate the phrase "quant" with the practice of financial engineering or mathematical finance. These quants spend time pricing derivatives and implementing models numerically to obtain these prices. Then there are quant developer jobs, which involve implementing pricing libraries and infrastructure for traders or modelling quants. Make sure to spend time researching the different roles on offer and how each firm, be it hedge fund or investment bank, utilises these roles to achieve their business goals.
The next task is to be honest with yourself about your skills and level of knowledge. It is not useful to recruiters or employers if you aren't being fully transparent with your skillset. A CV or resume should fully elucidate your abilities and prior experience working on technical projects - be they academic or professional. Specifically, remember to go into a reasonable level of detail about the PhD thesis - headhunters will find it a hard sell to describe you to the bank/fund if you haven't provided any evidence of your technical mastery. One thing that commonly crops up is the large variance in C++ skills. If you feel that you a real wizard in this area, then say so - make sure that you provide examples of how you utilised particular parts of the codebase to solve modelling problems - this will impress both headhunters an more senior quants who will be hiring you.
The standard way into a quant job begins by asking your friend a few years above you in your PhD group who is now lucky enough to possess a quant job. See if there are any open positions going, or if they can help you get onto the next grad scheme. The next step is try contacting recruiters. There are specific headhunters for junior quantitative analyst positions as well as junior quant trader jobs - try one or two initially and see how you get on. Be careful though - the variance in quality of headhunters is extremely large, so try more if you aren't happy with your current set.
This is a broad overview of how to hunt for a junior quant job. In later articles we will expand on how to handle recruiters effectively so that both parties end up happy as well as how to achieve and act in interview.