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ROBERT SMITH, HOST: If you happened to be in downtown Chicago during the first week of January this year, you would have seen something incredibly strange - hundreds of young people, 20-somethings, dressed in new suits and stiff new shoes, a lot of them running. They're sprinting down the sidewalks of the city back and forth across the Chicago River.

JULIAN SHU: All right, we're going to - we're going to cross the bridge on this side.

SMITH: These are graduate students in economics heading to their very first job interviews.

The reason - the reason they're running is that the economics profession at some point decided that it was going to create a job market unlike any other.

They were going to create a system that is the most efficient job market imaginable. (SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) SMITH: When economists decided to create a job market for themselves, they thought of everything. The job market is planned for the exact same weekend as the American Economic Association conference, so they knew all the big players in economics would already be around.

Every year, universities and companies that want to hire a professional economist converge on one city. Every young economist who wants their first job shows up in the same city at the same time, ready for a make-or-break weekend of intense questioning. But doing a conference and a job market at the same time means that they need thousands and thousands of cheap hotel rooms.

Sometimes, interviewees have to run to make their next appointment. Today on the show, finding the perfect job takes a lot of time and a lot of money. So they created their own hyper-efficient, optimized job market. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's 3 degrees windchill now, 17 below zero at O'Hare. SMITH: By the time I made it to the lobby, Julian Shu was already there early first day, perky.

His father was an accomplished amateur pianist and a college professor in theater and speech.

Ching later recalled, "He played everything from Chopin to Dave Brubeck transcriptions.

Highlights of his early career include “Barbiere di Siviglia” (1972), Winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions (1973), “La Traviata” with Scotto (1974) “Il Conte Ory” (as Ory. Butterfly and Falstaff (Pittsburgh 1976-77) and Macbeth in Boston.

C.1974) “Barbiere” with Roberta Peters and Jerome Hines, Newark(1975), “Le Roi D’Ys” in Wexford Festival 1975) “Barbiere” in Paris and Angers (1975) Mme.

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