So you’re on track to get a good degree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be guaranteed a good job once you graduate. Competition for top actuarial firms is fierce, so you’ll need to go the extra mile to give yourself a chance of obtaining that dream job. Mark Stansfield from Hymans Robertson explains how.
Outside of your degree, what else gives you the edge?
Most applicants will be able to meet the technical skills required for the job. In order to separate yourself from the rest of the applicants, you will need to be able to show your character and intangible skills that are hard to grasp in the application process.
Know what you are looking for
There are various actuarial firms out there, each with differing values, objectives and cultures that differentiate them from each other. Regardless of your approach in applying for roles, you should aim to spend more time in applying for the companies that best resonate with your values. Employers are looking for applicants that meet their values, so being able to align your values with that of the company will help you stand out.
Research the profession
The early years of your actuarial career will see you having to sit numerous exams to become a qualified actuary. Companies are looking to invest both time and money into graduates who can demonstrate a willingness and resilience to pass the exams. It’s important to have a good understanding of the exams you will have to sit as this will help you showcase your eagerness to employers in an interview situation.
Research the role
A career as an actuary can take place in a variety of industries and sectors from pensions, investment, healthcare, life insurance and general insurance just to name a few. Although the core principles are the same across all, the types of work you do on a day to day basis may vastly differ. You want to make sure you’ve chosen the right sector and role for you, so do your research – asking relevant questions at interview and demonstrating your knowledge and interest in the sector you have applied to will impress the interviewers.
Interviewers are not just looking for a person to fit the role but also a person who will fit into the team. Being able to enthusiastically talk about your passions outside of work and study can be a great way to showcase both your skills and personality and help you to stand out. Whether you are part of the baking society at university, play for your local hockey team or volunteer at the local dog shelter on weekends, there are a variety of skills that are developed here that employers are looking for.
It is easy to overlook the skills you have developed from these activities, so whilst applying for any jobs, it may be worth thinking:
- Did I work in a group or team? If so, what are some examples of good communication, leadership or team working skills?
- Did I take on any responsibility? If so, can this demonstrate dedication, organisation or time management skills?
- Were there any challenges or difficulties I had to face? If so, how did I approach the situation and find a solution to the issue?
- Did I make any mistakes or errors? If so, how did I learn from these?
- Make your application form stands out by highlighting your interests and achievements – showing who you are outside of work and study may just give you the edge you need to land your dream job.
Practice your interview technique
With a well thought out and detailed application, you are sure to get an opportunity to interview or attend an assessment day. First impressions matter, and being prepared will help you give a better first impression. Before the interview or assessment day, it is worth considering the following to help you prepare:
- Doing a mock interview/telephone call. Even if this just with family, friends or support from university, a mock will allow you to experience what the interview setting is like and identify any challenging questions early on.
- Consider your approach. In an interview setting, you are likely to be nervous and this can cause some bad habits to appear, such as mumbling words or talking too fast. In an assessment day, nerves can either cause you to remain silent or timid throughout. An awareness of how you react under these conditions can help you control them.
- Practice questions. Whilst interviews and assessment centres can be varied depending on employer, there are some forms of questions which can regularly appear. Try to think of answers to questions beforehand, such as why you are interested in the role you are applying for, what your motivation is and any past challenges or failures you have overcome.
Use examples. Interviewers are of a ‘show don’t tell’ mind-set, and being able to demonstrate the skills you have through examples is more effective than simply saying the skill.
Lastly and most importantly, being confident in your ability will go a long way to determine your interview success. Once you get to an interview, regardless of whether this is over the phone, assessment day or in person, the only opinion that matters is that of the interviewer. You have got this far based on your ability and character, so being confident and showing who you are and what you have to offer will go a long way to you getting the job.
Mark Stansfield graduated from the University of Southampton in 2017 with a degree in Mathematics with Finance. After completing an internship at Aon, he joined Hymans Robertson LLP as a graduate actuarial trainee in September 2017.