A Hedge Fund Applicant Got This Tricky Interview Question Right, But He Still Didn't Get The Job


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The hedge fund interview process is a mystery to many.But should you be lucky enough to score one, here’s something that should help you prepare for the big day. 

An applicant tells us that when he interviewed at a large, prominent hedge fund, the head guy asked him one tricky question. After he answered, the main guy said, “That’s correct.”

But the applicant could tell that something about the way he answered it was wrong. He wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get the job. 

The question: “How much money do I have in my pocket?” 

The question came out of left field, says the applicant, who called it an “impossible situation.”

“I was told and had heard of this firm’s selectivity when interviewing candidates, and it seemed like the thorough process was meant to make sure that no matter what, the candidate would be a good cultural fit. Part of the cultural fit was the ability to handle oneself smoothly in an impossible situation.”

He thinks that’s the part of the interview process he got wrong. 

“The question meant to assess how a person would react in a high-pressure situation; even though the actual position was quite junior, here the candidate was: being interviewed by the CEO.”

It sounds like under pressure from the CEO, tons of things were going through his mind.

“Think about how you would have responded to that question at a moment’s notice… how impossible it was to tell what this person might have been thinking. Maybe a few dollars, because he was modest, despite his position. Maybe a few thousand, because of his position. Maybe nothing… because carrying money is beneath one. Maybe the money was a metaphor… maybe money was irrelevant and he was just judging your facial expressions… process that in 5 seconds and make a decision how to respond.”

Then he answered.

His answer: $500 +/- $500 ($0 – $1000)

Turns out the question wasn’t impossible. He got it right. 

And we think that might be why he didn’t nail the interview. He got the answer right, but had little confidence in it. 

The applicant came to the same conclusion:

“[The CEO] was very neutral and deadpan. He said my answer was correct, but I don’t believe I performed that well on the pressure bit. I was very taken aback by this line of questioning after having gone through several long sessions of straightforward, technical interviews with other people there.”

“In other interviews, the focus is usually on skills and fit… this interview tried to assess some kind of ethos and, in my view, was only of limited utility to the interviewer. He completely missed everything I could have brought to the table by focusing on some specific aspect of character — and perhaps as an interviewee I was guilty of letting him do so.”

Our advice: if a left-field question takes you by surprise, get over it and answer the question. Then explain how you came to it. It’s your reasoning that’s being tested, so focus on coming up with a good reason and then be confident. If you’re thinking about the interviewer’s title or why he’s asking the question, you’re not giving your full attention to providing a logical answer to the question. 

See more Wall Street interview questions >

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