What Wall Street Execs Look for When They’re Hiring

In OneWire’s Open Door interview series, OneWire CEO, Skiddy von Stade, interviews the business leaders of today. Brian Walsh, Chairman and CIO at Saguenay Strathmore Capital, Jimmy Dunne, Co-Founder of Sandler O’Neill, Jeffrey Leeds, President of Leeds Equity Partners

In OneWire’s Open Door interview series, OneWire CEO, Skiddy von Stade, interviews the business leaders of today about their past, and about what they project for the future. He also asks the questions that every viewer wants answered, like “what do you look for when you’re hiring employees?”

Since the interviews take place with some of the sharpest minds in the finance world, the answers are always—obviously—personalized and idiosyncratic. But there are a few common threads that pop up again and again when listening to responses. And if you can internalize these insights, you’ll be sure to ace your next interview—and beat your competition to the job.

Learn from your mistakes
Brian Walsh, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at Saguenay Strathmore Capital, offered up a comprehensive rundown of the traits that executives and hiring managers are looking for when recruiting at his firm.

“Number one [trait]: integrity,” Walsh said during his interview. “The second thing is work ethic. That covers up a multitude of sins. The third thing is writing skills.”

Those first three traits are standard-issue, but the fourth and final trait he looks for is important to keep in mind if you want to get hired at a new firm. It’s something that’s been repeated in numerous other Open Door interviews, over and over again: hiring managers aren’t looking for mythical perfect employees; they’re looking for people who can learn from their mistakes. The most important trait you should display as an applicant is humility.

“The last thing to me, honestly, is humility,” Walsh said. “You need to learn from your mistakes, and not make excuses for your mistakes. At the end of the day, if you can put that mix together, you have the chance to be a Renaissance Man!”

Show some real drive
Jimmy Dunne, Co-Founder of Sandler O’Neill, was another person who cites humility as one of the most important traits you can display during a job interview. He points to another trait, though, and one that Walsh didn’t mention: If you want to ace an interview, you’ve got to be a quick thinker. Hiring managers don’t just want someone who’s talented—they want someone who is truly wise.

“I’m looking for someone who acts a little beyond their years,” he noted during his Open Door interview. “If they can react with an air of hunger, humility, and real tenacity, then I find that irresistible. If you’re smart enough, humble enough, and hungry enough, then there is still a place where you can make something happen [for yourself] on Wall Street.”

Love what you do
Wisdom and humility are of the highest importance, but there’s one more trait, as yet unmentioned, that trumps them all. In fact, it’s mentioned in almost every single Open Door interview to date: passion. Jeffrey Leeds, President of Leeds Equity Partners, may have put it best:

“Whenever you’re hiring for a job or firm, you have to make sure the fit is right,” he explained. "[The applicant] has to love what we do.”

That’s something that often goes under-discussed when people offer guidance for job interviews. You can make up the ground lost by any flaw you might have by truly being inspired to work at the company you’re interviewing with. That’s passion—and that’s what sets one candidate above the rest.

“Are you really going to love three o’clock in the morning looking at a spreadsheet on a flickering computer screen?” he asked. "[If] the answer is yes, that’s what’s going to make your work extraordinary.”

Of course, these traits are just a starting point. There’s much more to master if you want to present yourself as the ideal hire, so make sure to watch the full interviews for some more great tips on succeeding in the industry.