ibank interviewers: naive,arrogant..

In 2017 I interviewed with

  • * Pimco
  • Blomberg
  • * BGC partners
  • * ICE
  • * TradeWeb
  • Thesys (A trading software vendor)
  • Citadel
  • —-investment banks:
  • * BAML
  • * MS
  • Wells Fargo
  • GS
  • UBS

I now have a bias against investment banks. Wells is the most recent and most typical ibank interview:

  1. wishful thinking that if they are lucky to find a candidate who has used (for example) non-blocking-IO or shared-memory, he will be able to create such a system and make it WORK. I think in reality, many senior developers who have used such a technology professionally for a few years won’t be able to overcome the many technical challenges. I know from experience that we all struggle with a technology before we understand its limitations and pitfalls and figure out how to navigate around them. If you use an existing codebase that was fine-tuned years ago, then you have missed the “struggle” phase. You have to find opportunities to struggle with it (am trying now) to learn it. No pain no gain.
  2. They demand relevant domain knowledge and domain experience as a prerequisite.
  3. They have a long list of topics and they hope to find someone who scores well in most of them.
  4. Focus on in-depth, precise understanding of a few “cornerstone” topics such as threading memory model, and data structures. Such knowledge is very seldom needed in projects. We gain that knowledge by reading and interviewing and use it for interview only.
  5. For all other topics, they have a focus on textbook knowledge, slightly beyond skin-deep. These investment banks seem to believe if a candidate has such a knowledge, then he has experienced using it (or can learn it fast). Naïve thinking.

The non-banks (particularly Pimco, Bloomberg, BGC) are not “smarter interviewers”, but their focus is slightly different. They don’t need domain knowledge or a super long list of topics to rate a candidate. They don’t look for skin-deep “insight”. Many use coding tests, more often on a compiler than on paper.

Many non-banks (BGC, TradeWeb) also have the same high requirement on the same cornerstone topics above. Others focus on C++/java language details including low-level and tricky topics, more than the ibank interviews. My GS interview is like this.

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