Did CFA help you land interview/job?

I come across a fair number of discussions where people abstractly conjecture whether the CFA is actually useful, or whether an MBA/CPA/other acronym would be better. Empirically, we can see that a majority of people who give up their 2 years for an MBA end up with a job (at least in the past) and I don’t think many would argue that the MBA has no job-securing value (whether it’s a positive NPV investment is different). I have not heard too much about the actual results of the CFA, though. For those of you who have taken it, did you notice any difference in your job search? Did it really open doors or land you an interview you might not otherwise have gotten? Did you find any value with only a level 1 in tow, only a level 2, or did you have to have the actual designation? Obviously it is hard to distinguish between whether you would have gotten that interview even without the designation, but I’d appreciate hearing a bit about results (whether good or nonexistent). I so often hear that the CFA is a worthwhile commitment of time, and then I hear that I should not expect the designation to land me any interview, as it provides only an incremental benefit that might distinguish me from someone whose background is just like mine, sans CFA. Thanks for reading through that. Apologies if this exact question has been brought up (or beaten to death) but I haven’t seen it and my search for “CFA job success” did not yield anything useful.

It definitely turned around and won (or helped me win) an interview for me. Unfortunately, the company went under before “intention to hire me” turned into “offer to hire me.” I did at least get the satisfaction of knowing I beat the competition.

Progress in the CFA program never got my foot in the door (currently a Level 3 candidate), but, once I was interviewing, it has always been useful in one way or another. I have been told a couple times that the CFA program is one of the things that the HR rep/interviewer initially found interesting about my background. Also, it has been useful to cite sometimes when asked about my technical knowledge about various topics/products. My view is that it is obviously a positive designation the long run and that, while nothing dramatic in the short run, speaking about the program does become useful during the interview process. It’s hit or miss - some people are blown away that you’ve knocked out a couple CFA exams because they’ve heard of how much time is involved and some people could care less that you’re working on getting a few letters.

A year ago yes. In this market no.

I passed level 3 last June. Hasn’t helped so far.

We only hire people with relevant experience and a CFA is a big plus to that. A CFA level 3 on a resume without experience… doesn’t really get you in. Not with this company anyway.

mcpass, have one followup for you (or for anyone who has thought about this): Would you hire someone with relevant experience and without CFA? I would assume so, right? Between two people with the same experience and qualities, it sounds like the CFA is an easy distinction and makes the choice of whom to hire an easy one. But let’s say you are recruiting for a global macro fund. You would hire someone someone with relevant experience, maybe a junior guy who spent a year on the fixed income desk. But compare that to an equally impressive guy with less relevant experience, maybe who worked in investment banking, but who has the CFA designation. Would the CFA bridge that gap between relevant and less relevant experience? Apologies to those who think I’m being needlessly nitpicky, but I am very curious about the extent to which the CFA designation offers a marginal/incremental benefit.

I’m more curious about what constitutes “relevant experience” these days. With the rules of the market changing under our feet, a lot of people with deep but overly specialized experience may find that it has taught them the wrong lessons.

Interesting bchad… What areas do you think people will cringe at when they see you have experience there and learned the “wrong lesson”… Leveraged Finance? Mortgage trading?

Well, I think the bulk of people who might be hiring probably aren’t changing their criteria, and that’s the problem. We’re in an environment where it’s much more critical for generalists to work with specialists, because the overall rules are changing (what generalists are good at thinking about), and yet you still need to know some of the key points of whatever you’re trading/investing in (which is what specialists are good at). This argument is of course a bit self-serving, because I am more of a generalist, but I also think it’s true. There is something to be said about how even people with experience losing money in this crisis may have learned lessons not to repeat, but the real question is whether those are going to be the most crucial lessons for the environment going forward.

^^ These backgrounds may be more important than ever. Undoubtedly, there are opportunities in these areas and people who know how to “value” and deal with their complexities can likely add some serious value.

Even signing up for the program helped a lot for since I have a strategy and international management background. It was a hint from my headhunter to sign up for CFA. It helped to land a great job. And now I’m in the game and mugging for L2.

How does signing up help? Your headhunter communicated that fact to potential employers?

You can wonder if you can blame any specialist for the investment results of the last year. If we decide to a $x portfolio of asset X I want the best investment people for the strategy. They can do a great job in managing it even when the entire market crashes. That’s something you must account for on a different level. There are few people you can blame for the results. And yes, we still paid out bonuses this year simply because of that fact. If you did a good job in managing your portfolio, we do not punish them for the horrible market. And darkxfriend, I would hire the junior guy without CFA exams behind his belt with the requirement to sign up for the exams. CFA doesn’t really bridge any gap, it’s just an edge for people with the same experience. Broadly speaking of course…

It helped me a bit, but under the line not yet. I never worked in an investment bank and looking for an entry-level trading position. So I certainly have a disadvantage over other graduates. Until now I passed Level II. Since then, I at least I had the chance of some interviews. Although my performance in this interviews was good (CFA knowledge definitely helped me), I had a lot of bad luck: Bear Stearns (London): Shortly after my interview Bear collapsed JP Morgan (London): 1st round with good feedback, shortly after they put all trading recruiting on hold and by now cancel it Minor company (London): attended final round, shortly after they got hit by the crisis, application on hold til today RBS (Hong Kong): 1st round telephone interview passed, as they told. Didn’t got back anything until now, since shortly after RBS was struggeling as you all know Hehe, kind of funny though, whenever I landed an interview at an IB, they short after got huge problems. I just waiting for the CNN Breaking News: “Tobias applied to Goldman Sachs; Shares immeditely crashed and closed 95% down.” Well, now time passes and I start realising, my chances ever landing a good trading job come close to zero…

I didn’t necessarily mean “blame the specialists.” That should be thought about on a case-by-case basis. The issue is that someone comes in and says “I know how to trade MBS,” and the response is, “great, you have experience” we’ll take you. It’s not clear that the rules for profitable MBS trading going forward are going to be the same as the rules in the past. Does your experienced person have a good sense of what those changes are? Or would it be better to have someone who is generally talented and trained from the ground up on the specifics starting now? It depends on a lot of things, of course, but that’s the question that hiring managers should be asking (along with others).

I think the risk of a fresh well-educated guy doing well in trading are bigger to one who has done it before. It’s difficult to test ‘talent’ in interviews. I’m always surprised at guys coming in with 0 experience but all three CFA exams behind their belt, being paid well in IT and still expect me to pay them that salary. Point is, CFA is theory only so I know that guy may have the potential. But potential is a junior position so nobody will ever pay them anything remotely close what they’re already making. Going back to $40k (ex bonuses) from 80+k is something nobody.

mcpass Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > I think the risk of a fresh well-educated guy > doing well in trading are bigger to one who has > done it before. > > It’s difficult to test ‘talent’ in interviews. I’m > always surprised at guys coming in with 0 > experience but all three CFA exams behind their > belt, being paid well in IT and still expect me to > pay them that salary. > > Point is, CFA is theory only so I know that guy > may have the potential. But potential is a junior > position so nobody will ever pay them anything > remotely close what they’re already making. Going > back to $40k (ex bonuses) from 80+k is something > nobody. Some people just excel at anything they touch: whether it’s getting a 4.0 GPA, passing all 3 levels of CFA in one shot, picking up a sport or an instrument, or being a top performer at their (new) profession. The risk of going with a known commodity is just that: you know what to expect but is there any upside? Can you groom him into the company’s philosophy or will he stick with the way he worked previously? Will he be as hungry as someone who wants to prove he has a place in the business?

Just preparing for the CFA has helped me land an internship in a treasury department. My manager is not a charter holder but she works with a lot of pension funds so she has heard of the CFA. It may not have been the deciding factor but it did get me an interview because I remember us talking about it specifically in the interview.

I see your point mcpass, and I think that someone without a track record should perhaps come at a discount compared to someone with a track record. But if there is talent, then the opportunity to benefit from displaying talent should still be there (like a higher bonus potential). From an organizational standpoint, what you want is both experience and smart fresh ideas, and have a process that allows the two to mix. That was my point about mixing specialists and generalists. The generalist doesn’t necessarily know all the trigger points on a specific investment tool, but they are likely to be able to see how the landscape is changing in ways that the specialist isn’t. What’s key is to get those ideas to blend, which can come from the generalist getting the specialist to think differently, or for the specialist to teach the generalist how to use their specific investment tool. I’ve never been suggesting that experience ISN’T extremely valuable; I’m just saying that this is a time where the value of that experience isn’t as clear as it has been in the past, and making sure your organization is equipped to handle the new environment is key.