Exploring the Hiring Climate of High-Frequency Trading (HFT)

July 27, 2022

We’d love for you to come work with us,” a hiring manager says after an applicant has finally picked up the phone.

“Thank you for the offer. I’m really sorry, I’ve already accepted a position elsewhere,” the candidate replies, before hanging up.

This is a nightmare situation for businesses across multiple finance arenas, but, for high-frequency trading, it’s becoming more of a reality than many would like to admit.

Even if you, as an employer, rush to make an offer and ensure it beats market averages, there seems to be a trick that everyone is missing… the new hiring culture that’s formed as a result of the candidate-driven market.

The hiring climate of high-frequency trading

There’s no denying that talent shortages are already devastating the scalability of many HFT organisations. It’s pushing the average time-to-fill from the country’s 30-day norm to two or three times that - we recently had this statistic backed up by one of our clients, Virtu Financial, when they estimated a three-month lead time.

A recent report revealed that UK technical vacancies are up 191%, and this seems to be a problem that’s only going to continue growing (Source: Tech Monitor). Without certain skillsets, innovation is bound to stall - and that impact has been felt across HFT.

Thankfully, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything an employer can do in response. Although the hiring culture is making talent attraction difficult, and candidate placement even harder - an understanding of what your prospective employees are after could help you make an offer worth accepting.

What high-frequency candidates want

As the gap continues to increase between supply and demand, so does the certainty that lies in candidates' hearts that they truly have a great opportunity to choose the best possible job position. They have the option to “shop around” and participate in multiple interviews, eventually selecting an employer that can provide a mix of their most desired priorities.

1. Work culture

Generally, most of your ideal candidates would have experience in the sector. It makes sense if you want to benefit from someone’s expertise, right? This outlook makes recruitment a little more challenging. Anyone who is making good progress along their career path will have encountered jobs where they’ve felt out of place and unappreciated, making them wary of which job they accept. Within the HFT sector, almost everyone offers above market rate; so it’ll be very difficult to attract candidate interest via your salary and benefit package. Prepare to be judged by your work culture.

2. Candidate experience

What’s more? The HFT community is notorious for a rigorous and intense interview process, where talent are put into the firing line and expected to answer difficult and complicated questions. Whilst this is, in part, completely necessary for deciphering whether a candidate can cope in a high-stress environment, you also need to consider the experience from their point of view; wondering whether it leaves the best impression of you as a business. We recommend being upfront with your interviewees and explaining the process they will go through before you get started, and cover your reasoning behind each step. Be careful about losing top-tier candidates due to a lack of communication and mismanagement of their overall interaction with you.

3. Employer brand

In our digital environment, and in the HFT market’s tight-knit community, it’s hard to hide a bad reputation. If you’re not caring for your current employees and they are getting overworked and burnt out, they’ll inevitably talk about their experience on review sites. This might discourage a candidate from accepting a job working for you. So, with this hiring climate in mind, you need to start growing your employer brand by going above and beyond for your team.

(Source: Question Pro).

4. Teamwork

Autonomy is an attractive offer to skilled HFT talent who don’t want to be micromanaged, but that doesn’t render teamwork entirely irrelevant in our hiring climate. We’ve all spent time over the last few years feeling isolated during lockdowns, and, even if you’re a company that’s gone entirely remote - building connections between your staff can still help you appeal to prospective candidates.

5. Career Opportunities

If you’ve created an opening that already requires someone to have one of the following, then you might find that a candidate is more inclined to accept your offer if it comes with some further career potential:

  1. Over two years of experience.
  2. A specialism (like low-latency engineering).
  3. Specific skills.
  4. Certain qualifications.

Maybe they are moving on from their current job because they feel like they’ve reached a stall point in a company, but want to keep growing.

6. Competitive offers

Today, candidates are willing to take a smaller salary for more benefits or flexible working options (Source: HR News). However, adhering to HFT’s hiring climate still requires you to conduct market research and make sure you aren’t undervaluing your applicants.

How to solve difficult HFT hiring climates

It’s a lot, isn’t it?

Over the past few years, successful recruitment has transformed from an ability to identify prospective candidates into a measure of whether you can manage their experiences and encourage them to work with you.

Going forward, your best bit for standing out in HFT’s hiring climate would be to:

  1. Encourage internal referrals from your employees.
  2. Continue to listen to candidate needs.
  3. Recruit from outside your sector and recognise transferable skills.
  4. Pinpoint your Employer Value Proposition.

What is an Employer Value Proposition (EVP)?

An Employer Value Proposition is the unique offering only you can make to a candidate. It helps someone decide whether or not to work with you.

SHRM quotes that it’s, “a strategic statement [which] defines how a company wants to be perceived by its employees. It embodies the company's values and ideals and is a fundamental step in defining an employer brand strategy for talent acquisition and retention.”

(Source: Slide Model)

To identify yours, start by:

  1. Reviewing your current talent retention processes.
  2. Interviewing employees to find out why they’ve stayed with you.

You never know what their answers might reveal.

At all times, to succeed in today’s HFT hiring climate, ensure you are delivering on your duty of care for your staff and that you are providing guidance and support wherever possible.

The last thing you want to do is work hard to fill a gap, only to have another arise because their needs weren’t being met… and another… and another.

Once you’re ready to start moving forward with an updated approach to recruitment, consider benefitting from our extensive talent network.

About Source Control

We are the global experts in the placement services of technical professionals from low-latency and distributed systems engineering backgrounds into blockchain, crypto and HFT.

We place top-tier talent at all skill levels from junior to executive hires on a permanent, contract, contingent, or retained basis.

If you’ve been looking to advance your company, read our latest guide on ‘How to Secure Niche Talent in Crypto, Blockchain and High-Frequency Trading’.


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