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The fintech boss who received 20,000 applications for five jobs: "It's sad"

Christina Qi is at pains to point out that her company is nothing special. Databento, of which she's CEO, provides an API that plugs low latency market data into hedge funds. It's hiring, but it's not hiring a lot. "We don't have thousands of job openings; we might have five," says Qi.

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And yet in the first week of 2024, with people returning from Christmas and determined to find new jobs, Databento received 20,000 CVs from people wanting to work there. This was 18,000-19,000 more than it was receiving in late December, when people were not thinking about the year ahead. 

One implication might be that if you want to apply for a job, don't do it in January. But Qi says the problem is more than merely seasonal. "To me it's sad," she says. "We're not a household name and unless you work in our industry, you won't have heard of us. If we're getting this volume of applications, it's a sign that big companies are going to get 100 or 1,000 times more. It's become harder to get a job, even at a small firm, than to get into Harvard." 

Qi says many of the applications she's received are from early career professionals, and in particular from newly graduated computer science students who signed up to the subject in the belief that coding would keep them employed. It might have 10 years ago, says Qi, but not anymore. "The rhetoric has been that you have to study computer science, but now there's an overcrowding of software developers."

If you've done computer science and college and you're applying for software developer roles with no experience, you have a very small chance of succeeding, Qi adds. There are too many other people with your profile. Now the shortages are in other areas, like marketing, but even marketing roles require experience and specialist knowledge. 

As she struggles through the mountain of applications, Qi is asking everyone to be patient. She doesn't use AI to filter people and she does try to give feedback, which isn't really possible when there are 20,000 people to give feedback to. When she does give feedback, Qi says people like to challenge her perspective: "People like to have a conversation. I try to be honest, but people will say they disagree and get back to me with paragraphs and paragraphs on why I am wrong." 

Qi herself famously built a high frequency trading hedge fund as a student at MIT, which is now the subject of a Harvard case study. She founded Databento in 2020. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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