Unless you’re out soliciting money from high-net worth clients, the dress code at most hedge funds is rather ambiguous. Most people don’t wear suits, though some do. Others dress business casual or will even wear jeans. A trader at a Connecticut hedge fund said one portfolio manager has showed up to work in shorts and flip flops during the summer, though he said the timing tends to coincide with a string of highly profitable days. In short, the dress code at hedge funds is highly variable and rather firm-dependent.
But what about interviews? Quant fund Two Sigma said it doesn’t expect anything different from candidates than employees. “We don’t have a dress code,” the fund notes on its career page. “Folks come to work in anything from a suit to jeans and a t-shirt – the same goes for you. We recommend wearing what you feel is appropriate and comfortable.”
Has this become an industry trend? Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to an interview? Hedge fund recruiters won’t go that far, but they do note that the advice underscores the general message that buttoning down during interviews has become commonplace. In fact, dressing overly formal for interviews could lead to your demise as a candidate. “If you show up in a suit and tie, you’re likely out. You won’t fit,” said Drew Froelich, founder of Strategic Growth, a New York headhunter that specializes in front-office asset management placements. "In the world of hedge funds, the worse you dress, the more successful you are," said one buy-side analyst.
Froelich, who worked as a trader and PM before moving into recruiting, advises candidates to dress one notch up from what current employees wear to the office. “If they are in jeans, dress business casual,” he said. “If they are business casual, wear something like a jacket with no tie.” He said that none of his current hedge fund clients have a suit-only dress code. While jeans may be a bit over-the-top at some firms, so is overly formal dress. “You’re always safe wearing business casual,” added another New York headhunter, who said the only people who tend to wear jeans during first interviews are engineers with PhDs, typically at quant funds. Second-round interviews are usually even more casual, Froelich said.
The key, therefore, is to find out what employees wear at the office before your interview. The New York headhunter suggests using your network to message a current employee. If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to just ask HR or your point of contact, she said. “While [dressing appropriately] isn’t something you should overthink, you want to make sure that you’re fitting the culture of the fund,” she said. If what you’re wearing fits with a fleece vest, you’re likely golden…
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