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I totally trolled a high-frequency trading headhunter!

Like many Google engineers, I regularly get recruiting e-mails from high-frequency traders.  After one I got back in October, +Jade Wang suggested an alternative pitch which these guys should be using which I thought was just so good, I had to actually suggest it to the guy.  So I replied as follows:

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This morning my girlfriend suggested an alternative pitch that you guys should use that I think would be a lot more effective:

"You know those highly-paid douchebags on wall street who make all their money gaming the stock market?  We want you to make robots that replace them and put them out of work.  Robot douchebags."

Seriously, geeks love that kind of language.  Making robots is awesome!  Taking down arrogant rich guys, also awesome!  And this pitch completely turns the tables on people who would never do HFT because they see it as just skimming money off the stock market -- now you're offering them a chance to destroy the people who skim money off the stock market (by doing it better).

As for me, I have my own plans to pursue, and they don't involve algorithmic trading.  Sorry.
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Now, I didn't expect him to actually use it.  I mean, it's ridiculous, right?  Amazingly, though, shortly thereafter, some of my coworkers started getting this:

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Hi [name],
 
I wanted to reach out to you regarding a number of searches I am working on for my client(leading quantitative trading company in US that manage several billion of dollars).
 
Cutting to the chase you know those highly-paid douche bags on wall street who make all their money gaming the stock market? I would be interested in speaking to you about making robots that replace them and put them out of work; I guess these would be called robot douche bags.
 
I would be keen to discuss more about the compensation and types of roles(programming tools used) within the company at a convenient time, to give you a quick idea they are able to cover outstanding stock and offer extremely attractive packages including base, sign-on and guaranteed bonus all delivered in cash rather than stock options.
 
Let me know what number I can reach you on at a convenient time?
 
Many thanks,
 
[name]
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YHBT
YHL
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25 comments
 
Maybe your GF should be a head-hunter.
 
Isn't all HFT done by machines now anyway? Or are you referring to the people who sit behind the desk accumulating the spoils generated by HFT programs? Like are you visualizing literally a humanoid robot with a popped collar and $1200 leather brief?
 
Hahaha I love how your bit doesn't fit in at all with the tone of the rest of the letter.
 
Stat arb has been around a while. I think this headhunter really doesn't know what he's talking about.
 
Hahaha, that's just too funny. Next time suggest robot douche bag recruiters instead and see what response you get :-)
 
This is utterly hilarious.  Excellent work.
 
Well they're obviously data driven people.

He's testing your suggested pitch and will let the numbers tell if it's a good one :)
 
+Tzafrir Rehan - Probably true, but it's still hilarious how poorly he integrated it into the rest of his message.  He obviously doesn't fully grasp what he's saying.
 
I have received the "robot douchebags" pitch (basically identical to the one you pasted).  I wonder if it works.  It probably gets people's attention?

(The pitch is kind of a weird intersection of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.  The normal Wall Street pitch is "Hey, would you like to make a shit ton of money?  Of course you would.  Let's talk."  There's no need to make it complicated...)

It is true that there is a "revenge of the nerds" sort of attitude among some quants -- that they're smarter than all those slick trader guys, and they're going to prove it.  But at this point the quants are the douchebags.  Or at least they're part of a big douchebag machine?  If you live in San Francisco, is the "douchebag investment banker" a stereotype you would see in bars, the way you might in NYC?
 
+Noel Yap somewhere out there there must be a job opening for someone to write bots that recruit engineers that will write bots that recruit engineers
 
+Kenton Varda you are either on a stroke of genius of you just began the final destruction of our economy.
 
+Kenton Varda Maybe the real answer is to make a robot that is SO douchey it gets the whole lot made illegal. Maybe make a robot that both does HFT and launders money to drug cartels and rogue states.

Oh wait, looks like HSBC already did, and they only got a slap on the wrist. Looks like the bots have to be even more douchey. Can it GET more douchey?
 
I must admit I like Kenton's pitch and so I think the headhunter was onto something.
 
The meme is evolving.  Today, I got a headhunter pitch that included the following (emphasis mine):

"They are looking to build out a highly collaborative quantitative trading research laboratory; this isn’t your normal Wall Street hedge fund or investment bank.  Ultimately there [sic] not looking to compete in latency arbitrage or create robot douche bags to find inefficiencies in the stock market– they are looking to build an incredibly unique mathematical, data intensive, machine learning research centre."

So I guess we're now in the post-robot-douche-bag era of hedge fund (sorry, "highly collaborative quantitative trading research laboratory") recruiting.
 
+Daniel Egnor - I received the same e-mail.  It's from the same recruiter.

Amazingly, he's managed to make the job sound even more worthless.  Apparently this company is going to "research" HFT, but not actually use that knowledge to facilitate HFT?
 
Bummer, I was hoping some other recruiter was all "I'm not like those
guys...".

Let us take a moment to appreciate the first world problem: "Sigh, my inbox
is cluttered with people offering me high-paying jobs that bore me!"
 
Huh.  I got the pitch from a recruiter named "Graeme" this morning, while I thought your original pitch was from some recruiter named "Ben"?  (Leaving out last names on purpose...)  I concluded that the meme was spreading...
 
The one I just got was from "Ben", though for all I know he A/B tests his names along with his pitches.  What did your pitch say, Chris?
 
My email said exactly what yours did, word for word -- except he corrected "there" to say "they're".
 
Oops, apparently the guy finally saw this post:

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Kenton,

I actually find it funny you have so much free time to share all this information on the net – surely you can find better things to do?

What even better is the fact you earn less money than all of leave “douche bags” but yet happy to work for a company that tries to dodge paying tax and at the same time “your helping the world”.

Your opinion isn’t correct nor accurate, so I suggest you stick to writing software that helps the world and hopefully your start up will make some money like all the other tech starts up that chase after Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazons market share....

Have a nice weekend!
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