Do I have a chance at Citadel, Two Sigma, Jump, Tower Research etc.?

Oct 26 16 Comments

I am finishing my CS PhD from rank ~35 school in the US. I specialize in Natural Language Processing, and have done a lot of Machine Learning work. Also have good programming skills. I have no prior experience in finance.

I am looking at a career in quant research and trading, and was wondering if I stood a chance to get interviews at the top hedge funds, banks, market makers etc. I keep hearing that they recruit only from top ranked schools, so am a bit circumspect.

I am an international student, so will need H1B visa sponsorship. I am open to relocating outside the US also if needed.

Update: I am mostly done with my PhD research, and am not graduating for at least another 3 months. I would like to know what I can do during this time to make myself more appealing to these companies. I would also appreciate any interview preparation tips.


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TOP 16 Comments
  • If you have a paper on NeurIPS Citadel might drop you a message with the invitation to interview. It should also apply to some other conferences (but not sure). After that, the only important thing is your performance in interviews. Given that, my advice is to spend the remaining 3 months carefully preparing to interviews, including brainteasers, statistical questions, ML (mostly linear models and ensembles), C++, algorithms&data structures.

    Could you easily answer those questions?

    (1) Consider N data points uniformly distributed in a p-dimensional unit ball centered at the origin. What is the median distance from the origin to the closest data point? Expected?
    (2) Could you derive GBDT? Which tricks could you apply to make it scalable(read: derive xgboost/lightgbm/catboost)?
    (3) Random walk on a circle. What is the expected number of steps to visit all nodes?
    (4) Could you implement a basic version of unique_ptr/shared_ptr from scratch?
    Oct 27 8
    • New / R&D lambda_n
      > Do you work as a quant? Which places did you interview at, and how did you land those interviews? And if you feel comfortable, can you drop a hint as to your educational/professional background, the kind of place you work at, YoE, etc.?

      Fresh Math Ph.D. from not-very-famous University. Got into Citadel Securities.

      > Are there any specific books/courses/websites you recommend for interview preparation?

      Well, Glassdoor for brainteasers and general color of interviews. ESL for ML and some linear algebra.

      > Importantly, how do I prepare for "behavioral interviews"? As in "why finance?" type of questions. It appears to me that a lot of people trip up here.

      I myself gave truly honest answers to those questions. Do not think it is a good investment of time and effort to "fake" this part of the process.
      Oct 28
    • OP
      After having gone through interview experiences of many, it is seems that a lot of people trip up at the behavioral interview part (even though they do well in the initial tech screening rounds), which leads me to believe that at least some preparation is warranted here. What reasons did you give for your switch to finance? And what other behavioral questions did you get in your interviews?

      What in your opinion stood out on your Resume that interested Citadel among others?

      PS: Do I need to prepare C++ for the interviews? It could be quite the time sink, given how much else there is to study.
      Oct 28
    • New / R&D lambda_n
      There is a book by Joshi which is called "Quant Job Interview Questions and Answers"; it covers behavioral questions too. Again, better to find answers to those questions yourself.

      Well, I got several questions: classical "why finance", "why Citadel/whatever company you interview with", "what are the odds you will switch back to academia or tech after 1-2 years in the role".

      It is better to at least review the basics of C++ and some modern stuff (well, not so modern in 2019 anymore). The rest could be learned on the job.
      Oct 29
    • OP
      Sounds good. I think I will go ahead and take my chances then !

      That's all I have for now. Thanks so much to you, and all the other blinders, for patiently answering my queries. Is there a way to reach out to you in private, if you are comfortable that is, if I have more queries going forward (which I am sure I will).
      Oct 29
    • New / R&D lambda_n
      You are welcome. You can reach me here using DMs (assuming I still be using Blind in the future).
      Oct 30
  • EY / Consultant rs999
    I think you have a good shot at these companies. Very few CS PhDs would go to these companies honestly
    Oct 26 2
    • OP
      Interesting. Your source of information?
      Oct 27
    • Not true at all.
      Oct 27
  • Citadel Securities / Eng bluetiger
    Decent chance. Generally higher ranked school would be better, and for quant trading CS is not very in-demand, but depending on research could get interviews.
    Oct 26 3
    • OP
      What kind of research appeals to them? And in general, what things would they be (not) looking for in my Resume?

      I still have a few months before I finish my degree. What can I do in the interim to stand out and make myself a more desirable candidate?
      Oct 26
    • Citadel Securities / Eng bluetiger
      If you have a few months left and are serious about quant trading jobs, I would do some interview prep - I’m sure you can find a lot of sample questions online. As far as your resume, my guess is the hardest thing will be to convince them that you are a good fit for quant and not SWE despite PhD in CS. Anything that pushes quant skills is likely to be helpful.
      Oct 27
    • OP
      The last bit is very insightful, thanks. And slightly surprising TBH. I am more of a Computer Scientist that will bring in a *broad* set of CS skills (advanced algorithms/theoretical CS, system design, databases, GPU, clean coding...) plus *depth* in Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. Plus I have worked in many different areas - Graph Mining, Social Media Analysis, Data Visualization, Data Compression...

      When it comes to Machine Learning, I have strengths in certain areas and weaknesses in many others. I have enough quantitative foundations in place (Probability, Statistics, Optimization, Calculus, Linear Algebra, etc.) that allows me to do my research unhindered. Whether all this will be good enough to help me in a quant interview setting though, I am skeptical. But of course I can try and prepare - at least the foundations part.

      I can't compete with a Math/Stats PhD or even a pure ML focused PhD on raw quant skills. Plus these folks are likely to come from better ranked schools. So, unless these firms focus on breadth+depth in my areas, instead of out and out raw quant skills, I get the feeling that I may not stand much of a chance.
      Oct 27


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