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Interview Questions: A Guide for Aspiring Actuaries Stepping into the Profession

Rupa Pithiya11 months ago by Rupa Pithiya
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​Entering the actuarial profession can be both exciting and challenging. As a new entrant, one crucial step towards landing your dream job is acing the actuarial interview. Interviews provide an opportunity for employers to assess your skills, knowledge, and fit within their organisation.

To help you navigate this crucial phase of your future, this blog will guide you through effective actuarial interview techniques that can maximise your chances of success.

There are four common types of questions that can be asked in interviews including:

  • General questions about you

  • Questions about the organisation you are applying to

  • Technical questions

  • Situation handling

General questions about you

General questions are commonly asked during the introduction of an interview; whilst it may seem like an ice breaker, it’s an important part in setting the scene for the rest of the interview. These questions can instantly explore a person’s personality, team fit and motivations for the Hiring Manager to form a first impression.

Some common questions are:

1.       Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

It is common to stumble on this type of question with it being very general. Prepare your “elevator pitch” in advance, so that you can succinctly sell yourself, providing a top-level view of your background. Talk about your hobbies, interests and why you chose your degree (if a grad). Talk about your motivations and what you feel has been your biggest achievement.

2.       Why do you want to become an actuary (or ‘Why are you suitable for this position?’)

The Hiring Manager may ask ‘why do you want to become an actuary’.

The standard answer usually is, ‘because I have always been good at Maths and enjoy working with numbers. However, the objective of this question is to sell yourself as the best candidate for the role compared to other interviewees. Most candidates, if not all would have attained a 1st or 2.1 in a numerical degree of some sort, but the objective is to reflect, what sets you aside from the competition.

It is chance for a Hiring Manager to see how good a fit you are, giving your own understanding of the position, and how this compares to your own experience. Therefore, prepare by looking at the job description and comparing it to your own skillset.

  • Personal traits: Think about the personal traits that you have that can be of value to the role. For example, if you describe yourself as passionate, it can present you as a hard working. To bring the answer together, have a think about an achievement from your previous work experience or life that can accentuate your value add such as any certifications you earned

  • Soft skills: Actuaries often work in multidisciplinary teams and interact with clients, making effective communication and interpersonal skills essential. During the interview, provide examples of how you have collaborated, communicated complex concepts, and demonstrated problem-solving abilities. Showcase your adaptability, analytical thinking, and attention to detail, which are highly valued in the profession.

Questions about the organisation or company

Questions regarding the organisation you are applying to is a good test of how much research you have done in your preparation. Those who are really interested in the job role will do the most research and look at how the role will benefit them in their career.

Some common questions include:

3.       What do you know about our organisation?

Look at the organisation’s website and social media to gain an understanding of the organisation’s history, growth, purpose, and culture. This knowledge will demonstrate your genuine interest and enable you to ask insightful questions during the interview. As well as this, look at how they differentiate from other competitor organisations and how they stand in the market. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the industry's trends, challenges, and regulatory frameworks.

4.       What attracted you to the organisation?

Hiring Managers will want interviewees to benefit from the organisation just as much as the organisation will benefit having someone fill the vacancy. Therefore, using your research, create a few points as to why the organisation is a good fit for you. What does the organisation offer for your career and how do the values compare with your own personal values?

5.       What do you know about the current industry market trends, regulations, and standards?

Other than research into the organisation understanding the current industry trends is also an important factor. Learning how they operate in the current market conditions can help you anticipate any challenges if you were to successfully earn the role. Visibility around economic and social factors can ultimately look at the organisations trajectory and challenges down the road – an example of this could be impact on rising interest’s rates,

Regulatory frameworks, such as IFRS17 or Solvency II, significantly impact the actuarial profession. InsureTech is an area which is fast growing with technological advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Demonstrate your understanding of how these frameworks influence actuarial practices, financial reporting, risk management and underwriting decisions. This knowledge will impress interviewers and showcase your ability to navigate the complex regulatory landscape.

Technical interview questions

Hiring Managers may ask technical questions to explore how much research you have done in wanting to join the profession. There is a range of technical type questions that can be used in an actuarial interview including:

  • Statistical Questions

  • Coding

  • Actuarial Software

  • Data Analysis

  • What does an Actuary do

6.       What is the cumulative distribution function and when do we use it in statistics?

This type of question would require a simple textbook definition.

7.       What is the role of an actuarial analyst at an insurance company?

Actuaries have a flexible and ever-evolving role as the world changes around them. An actuarial role involves analysing this ever-changing landscape, through a full range of PESTLE factors, which comes with its own unique risks and responsibilities, differentiating from company to company. Therefore, make sure you understand the differences between organisations with these roles.

Situation handling questions

Situation handling or questions that refer to an example of your previous experience can show a Hiring Manager multiple things about an individual: attitude in handling challenging situations, problem solving skills, an ability to reflect on actions and determining if someone is a good fit.

Examples of common situational questions are:

8.       Give an example of a challenging situation and did you do to overcome it?

9.       Describe a time where you went above and beyond with your service.

These questions normally require a longer answer to other question types, as the answer will use a walkthrough structure when reminiscing the example. A common technique for these questions is the STAR technique which structures an answer through:

  • Situation: What were you doing and what was the situation?

  • Task: What did you have to do in response to the situation?

  • Action: Describe what you did to find a solution.

  • Result: What was the result?

Note down what examples can work well in demonstrating situation handling, or if there are examples that could happen in the role that you are going forward to.

Hiring Managers will also give you an opportunity to ask questions, take this opportunity to have a few prepared.

  • Ask the interviewers why they joined the company?

  • What they enjoy about their role?

  • What challenges they face?

  • What, if anything, they would change if they were in the position too?

These are great questions to ask, because remember it’s a two-way conversation. Organisations will want to sell to you as much as you need to sell yourself to them.

Key takeaways

It pays to plan well for an actuarial interview, building your confidence and helping you to perform at your best, while showcasing your skills clearly. In summary:

  • If you have friends in the actuarial profession, reach out to them and ask them what it’s like.

  • Research across the organisation and learn about the job role.

  • Look at the current industry trends that are applicable to the organisation.

  • Refresh your knowledge of actuarial terminology and their definitions.

  • Create a timeline of your own career and any key achievements.

  • Prepare a few situation-handling examples.

And remember, once you’ve completed your interview, it can be a good idea to follow up with a thank you email to express your appreciation for the opportunity. This gesture demonstrates professionalism and reinforces your interest in the role.

Are you thinking of becoming an actuary?

Visit our Insurance page to explore the exciting current job opportunities we have or submit your CV and one of our specialist consultants will be in touch.

Find out more about the author Rupa Pithiya, Head of Insurance and Actuarial.

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