- Finance firms are starting to shift what they want in new tech hires.
- At Citadel, hiring managers are prioritizing engineers with business aptitude and interest.
- Here’s what senior tech leaders and managers say they want to see in the interview process.
Being a good coder is no longer enough at Citadel Securities.
“Your ability to solve problems will define your career path.” “The days of ‘I’m a good programmer’ are numbered,” Ken Griffin, the market-making titan’s founder, told interns this summer. The rise of generative AI is revolutionizing software development by generating code and streamlining processes.
Citadel Securities, which made approximately $7.5 billion in revenue last year, is now focusing on hiring thoughtful technologists who will drive commercial outcomes for the firm.
The trading house connects sellers and buyers of stocks, bonds, and currencies all over the world. Everything from trading platforms to the plumbing that ingests market data feeds and tools that help analyze petabytes of data to model the market is built by the tech teams.
“We’re not looking for people who are obsessed with technology or the latest trend.” “We’re looking for people who can make a significant commercial impact for the firm,” said Aaron Moss, Citadel Securities’ head of technology recruiting. That could imply developing a cloud-based solution with limited compute power and memory — as well as costs.
Citadel Securities’ tech leadership has made commercial thinking a key pillar of the engineering organization, which employs hundreds and is one of the firm’s largest teams. As the firm’s chief technology officer, Josh Woods, plans for the future, he wants engineers who can solve difficult, ambiguous problems while also driving the business forward.
It’s not just Griffin’s shop where business acumen and an interest in finance can help. Olga Naumovich, who oversees Millennium Management’s tech build-out in Miami, previously told Insider that she prefers engineers with “a passion for learning about financial markets” over those with “a deep understanding of technology.”
“No longer are technical skills enough to land a job, but candidates must be able to connect the dots and make an impact on the bottom line for the firm,” said Jayson Bevacqua, a technology recruiter at Solaris Search Partners. He also stated that he has seen an increase in fresh graduates seeking to join elite trading firms rather than big tech names.
A tech job at Citadel Securities is competitive — the firm receives thousands of applications for dozens of positions each year — but it can result in a base salary of up to $350,000, according to a recent job posting for a software engineer.
The company, which has about ten open positions on its website, has an insatiable appetite for top tech talent. It hires opportunistically, which means that its willingness to hire the right candidates is not affected by market ups and downs, which can be useful when the market for tech talent is a mixed bag. In one recent instance, Citadel Securities extended an offer to a promising young intern despite the hiring manager’s preference for a more experienced candidate.
According to four senior technology leaders and hiring managers at Citadel Securities, here are five dos and don’ts for applicants:
1. Demonstrate your low-level abilities.
For Citadel Securities’ head of systematic trading technology, Damien Neff, finding low-level systems engineers who work close to the hardware and understand how computers work has become increasingly difficult. Such engineers, however, are required at a high-frequency trading firm like Citadel Securities, where ingesting and processing market data and sending an order out nanoseconds later requires extreme speed and ultra-low processing times.
“The industry is getting very high level with things like AI, which push people even further away from that understanding,” Neff told Insider in an interview.
Indeed, tools like artificial intelligence, automation, and even simple coding languages like Python can make technologists’ jobs easier. However, that efficiency can rob you of some of your understanding and experience with the hardware.
- Take responsibility for your work — and the money you spend on technology.
Senior executives expect new hires to own their work and keep costs low.
Consider the public cloud, which has become an important part of Wall Street’s infrastructure but can also be costly. And because the public cloud is billed based on the amount of computing and memory used, those costs can be heavily influenced by the people who use the technology.
“Cloud computing can be inexpensive in general, but it can quickly add up.” “If you’re not careful, you can spend all of your money there,” said Costas Bekas, a veteran technologist who oversees CitSec’s research platform. “That’s just one example of when it’s important to have a commercial mindset — of why we need people to become owners of what they do.”
- Emphasize your soft skills, particularly effective communication.
When considering his team’s bench strength, Neff seeks a well-balanced lineup, which is easier said than done. Neff leads three teams of approximately 80 people who develop, operate, and implement software.
“Many people in our field are highly analytical. They are content to be focused on the problem, which I require, but I also require people who can communicate within and across teams,” Neff explained.
His team includes software engineers, system-reliability engineers, high-level architects, and mechanical engineers who work closely with the hardware — but most importantly, he requires extroverts who are at ease communicating with a wide range of people, from quantitative researchers to the CTO.
Another soft skill to demonstrate is teamwork and your willingness to roll up your sleeves to assist others, according to Bekas. He recently interviewed a “incredibly talented” engineer from a tech company who did not receive an offer because Bekas believed the person would not jump in to help the team with difficult edge cases and assignments.
- Demonstrate your enthusiasm for something.
Putting your passion on display during an interview is one of the best things you can do, according to Neff. A candidate may be enthusiastic about new coding language capabilities or enthralled by equities trading — whatever the case may be, make sure it shines through the interview. Passion translates to motivation for Neff, who joined the firm in 2022 from the video game industry.
“I just need to shape it in the direction that the firm needs to get business value out of it,” Neff told me.
- Do not arrive unprepared.
According to Moss, Citadel Securities’ head of tech recruiting, the biggest red flag is not doing your due diligence prior to the interview process, which typically consists of five meetings.
The candidate should conduct research on the business area for which they are interviewing and learn about the people they will be meeting with — even look the person up on LinkedIn.