The CAS University Engagement Committee contacted Pauline Reimer, director at Pryor Associates, and invited her to write a blog post to provide interview tips for CAS Student Central members, that you can utilize as you embark on your early career.
As a seasoned, designated actuary as well as an experienced actuarial recruiter, I advise trainees to be prepared for the following most common questions asked on an actuarial first job interview in the property and casualty industry:
1. Tell me about yourself.
The purpose of this question is for the interviewer to get an initial view of your communication and interpersonal skills. First, summarize the highlights of your resume, then outline several skill sets that would demonstrate your ability to perform well. Refrain from speaking about family, friends, pets, etc.
2. Why do you want to be an actuary?
Most actuaries enter the field because of their passion for mathematics combined with their interest in business, data analytics, modeling and finance.
3. Why are you interested in the property and casualty industry?
Focus on the fact that the property and casualty industry involves hundreds of varied and interesting lines of business as well as emerging issues that are ever-changing and can affect the public on a daily basis (e.g., self-driving cars, catastrophic events, terrorism, identity theft, etc.).
4. What is your ideal job?
Stay on target with the position you are applying for. Make sure your input matches the job description, company size, and location. Include that you’re seeking a company supportive of the actuarial examination process.
5. What is your best/worst attribute?
For best quality, without sounding boastful, emphasize attributes (yes, it can be multiple!) that speak to your ability to get a job done under almost any circumstances, e.g., dedication, persistence, attention both to detail as well as the big picture, ability to work independently or part of a team, etc.
For worst quality, either select an example that won’t adversely impact your job performance [e.g., bad penmanship or poor spelling (adding “that’s why I always use spellcheck”)] or talk about a skillset that you are competent in but would like to enhance. Always inject a positive spin if you are mentioning a negative quality.
6. What is your biggest accomplishment?
Try to select an achievement from your personal or business life that is not obviously listed on your resume and reflects something that an employer might value (e.g., I maintained a 3.9 GPA while working 30 hours per week, attending classes full-time, and graduating in 2.5 years).
7. What is your biggest disappointment?
This could also be personal or professional, but should be one that does not impact your current ability to be successful on the job. Avoid citing failed actuarial exams as your example.
8. What do you know about our company?
Conduct research on the organization’s financials, products, history, and marketing. A good source is the company 10K which would also include a management discussion of the short and long term goals of the organization. Investigate interviewers’ backgrounds by using LinkedIn, but don’t initiate connecting with them.
9. Why should we hire you?
This is your opportunity to sell yourself (without sounding pompous)! Reiterate your strengths and cite examples of how the company could benefit by hiring you.
10. Why do you want to work here?
Remark on why you are interested in this particular company, job description, and location. Sound enthusiastic about the company’s culture, reputation, and opportunities available to you.
Prepare at least 5-10 questions about the organization. Ask predominantly business-related questions that reflect on your intellectual curiosity and business acumen. Don’t ask questions whose answers can be found by reading the company’s website; instead ask questions that embellish on some facts you researched. If interviewing at an insurance company, inquire which of their lines of business are the fastest growing, which new products or regions they plan to expand into, how their financial results for the current year compare to projected, etc. Forgo asking questions that will not impress an interviewer (e.g., work life balance or benefits questions).
Pauline Reimer, ASA, MAAA, has directed the Actuarial, Modeling & Risk Division of Pryor Associates since 1986, after working as an actuary herself. Named a top recruiting firm by Dun & Bradstreet, Pryor has 45 years of insurance (P&C, Life, Health, Pensions, Investments, Catastrophe Modeling, Predictive Modeling, and Risk Management) placement experience.
Pauline is a CAS Centennial Partner, on the SOA Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section Council, Executive Board of ASNY, and advisory boards of Columbia University’s and New York University’s Actuarial Science programs. Quoted in periodicals and television, Pauline handles each step of every actuarial and risk assignment personally.
Her impressive placement record of 99% retention rate and retained search success ratio confirm her status as one of the most successful recruiters of actuaries and related professionals worldwide. Her motto “It Takes One To Know One … An Actuary Placing Actuaries (and Related Professionals)” seems to describe this best.
Pauline can be reached at email@example.com or 516.935.0100×307.