From Wall Street Bigshot to Unpaid Intern

Wall Street looks nothing like it did a year ago, of course, but here's a sign that things may be even more desperate than previously imagined: Some hedge funders are offering to work for free. Why would people accustomed to earning seven-figure annual incomes in the past stoop to this? For one thing, lying to your wife and telling her you have "meetings" to go to and then spending the afternoon playing online poker at a Starbucks in Midtown gets old after awhile. And working for free might just lead to a real job in the future. That's the thinking, at least:

People have been sending their CVs to our New York office saying, "hire me for free for six months," says Christophe Chouard, head of sales at French fund of hedge funds manager HDF Finance. "The CVs we are receiving are pretty good. These people are saying, 'just let me show you what I can do.'"

Taking a salary-less job and hoping it will eventually lead to a real position is a risky approach, of course. (And if a person picks the wrong firm—like Cliff Asness' AQR Capital, who admitted to the Journal today that he smashed up a bunch of computer monitors in a fit of rage not too long ago—a "free job" could land him or her in the hospital.)

But if nothing else, they can take some satisfaction in the knowledge they're boosting spirits: "The chief executive of one asset-management company said it was sad to see rows of empty desks—fully equipped but vacated—as a result of cost cutting."

Scenes From the Hiring Front: 'I'll Work for Free' [WSJ/Deal Journal]