Anyone who has been hired, or attempted to get hired, for a job on Wall Street knows the financial industry likes to be extremely thorough when selecting applicants to come aboard. Goldman Sachs, for example, is known to put would-be employees through anywhere from twenty to thirty interviews before granting or denying admittance to the House o' Blankfein. Smaller boutique firms make you go on dates with the CEO before making a decision. Then you have Tourbillion Capital Partners and Citadel, which need a bit more assurance re: who they're getting involved with than 25 interviews or dinner and a movie can provide.
When asked about the characteristics that classify great employees, [Tourbillion founder] Jason Karp revealed that he has hired a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogator to dig deeper into the personality traits of new hires. “There were a lot of things that I learned [in previous positions] that were counterintuitive about people in this business,” Karp said. “One of the things we’ve done to get around that counterintuitive notion is that at our firm— and I actually learned this two firms ago1— we administer a 3-step personality exam that’s conducted by a former CIA interrogator.
And while you’d hope you could count on people who have been trained to do this sort of thing to eliminate any potential weakness or threats on staff, Citadel founder Ken Griffin has learned that such is not always the case.
Griffin admitted that an employee who had received nuclear weapons clearance from the U.S. government attempted to “take some source code once” from the $25 billion hedge fund firm. “No matter how good the CIA is or the U.S. government is at screening for who should have nuclear weapons clearance, you can’t always trust that person. That was quite a surprise.
What it sounds like Griffin is saying here is that while it’s a great start to get your leads on new hires from a pool of people who’ve already been granted the highest levels of clearance by the government, and then have an ex-CIA interrogator put them through the paces, it’s not enough. Moving forward, if Citadel, or any other firm, wants to get a complete picture of who they’re dealing with, interviews should include:
• A bout of water boarding to see how long an applicant can last before giving up proprietary information
• An exercise in which one must trade during a simulated flash crash while Nickelback blasts through the loudspeaker.
• A Q&A administered in a sparse room with only a single overhead light that involves questions like, “Who was your 9th grade girlfriend and what do you think she’d have to say about you if she were here right now?"
1. That would be SAC, naturally.↩