Throughout my university and professional career, I’ve done 100+ interviews. I will share Actuarial Interview hacks which you wish you knew. I was either the interviewee or interviewer for internship positions, extracurriculars, and mock interviews.
Ultimately, I’ve received multiple internship and full-time offers throughout my university career for numerous cities across North America. A full-time recruiter even once commented that I was the “best interviewee” she’s ever had for a consulting role with their global consulting firm!
As so, I have compiled below a combination of common mistakes and insights I’ve seen as recurring items in Actuarial interviews. For simplicity, I’ll write in the context of me being the interviewer.
Not using your ‘CAR’
The best behavioral Actuarial interview hacks I’ve seen always used the CAR method.
If your response is just a generic answer that doesn’t tie back to your resume and that anyone else could say, then you are falling short.
Seriously. I’ve interviewed multiple candidates who did this – you honestly don’t look good.
In short, the CAR method suggests to structure your response into the following 3 parts:
CONTEXT – Context of what’s the problem (10-15 seconds).
ACTION – What did you do to resolve it (~20 seconds).
RESULTS – Describing the results and the impact you made (10-15 seconds).
I like to think of it as you walking me through your story. The more engaging it is, the easier it is for me to follow along, and more I’ll remember you!
Me: “So, what did you do in your previous role?“
Answer A: “I created excel models and used pivot tables to sum columns of data and passed on the final numbers to my manager“. This immediately gives an idea that you were just going through the technical motions and didn’t understand the big picture.
Answer B: “Calculating overall risk capital for the company at a global level to help management make business decisions“. You understood the big picture, but I’m not sure if you actually understood how to technically do it.
Answer C: “I used stochastic processes in Excel to quantify risk capital through Monte Carlo simulation and calculated the 95th percentile of required capital to help management plan for global business decisions.” – A beautiful answer that marries the high-level technicals to the big picture for a happily ever after.
I want someone who can show that they’ve mastered the technical skills and can still relate it to the big picture. This is beyond critical in future business leaders.
Body language can be killer
If you’re not smiling, I am questioning your genuine kindness and politeness. Therefore, you will bring negative energy to the team.
If you’re not actively listening (e.g. facial gestures in reaction to what I’m saying), I am questioning if you are engaged and even interested in the position.
Do you fit into our corporate culture?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a superstar candidate. If I don’t think you’re going to get along with our team and even negatively disrupt our existing chemistry, you are not coming on.
I want to ensure my team enjoys working with each other so it maximizes their work satisfaction. This will improve their productivity and lower the possibility of conflicts and attrition.
KEY: any hints of arrogance, lack of accountability, dishonesty, lack of authenticity are big red flags.
Conversation over Q&A
I believe our best Actuarial interview hacks were the ones that naturally transitioned from the traditional interview and onto a fun conversation. I even had one very successful interview where we talked about lucid dreaming for 15 of the 30 minutes!
In the end, you were chosen because you are most likely deemed as technically adequate from the resume. One goal that I want to see is this that you can hold a conversation. As we’ll be spending more time with each other at work (40+ hours) than with anyone else.
As well, I have a long day of interviews, and will definitely not remember every single detail about every candidate. But I will remember the interesting and engaging ones. This quote summarizes it perfectly:
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Common conversation topics: sports, hobbies, hometowns, music, current events (e.g. Winter Olympics). Find out what they’re passionate about, and dig there!
Please note that I’ve seen some exceptions to this point, mainly driven by the type of profession, the company’s culture, and the personality of the interviewer. After doing numerous interviews, you start getting a feeling of what will work with your interviewer and what will not!
Know why I’m asking
Two common questions and their red flags.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A. Not communicating effectively. I need someone who can effectively communicate their project progress at a high-level as it minimizes miscommunication which can lead to redundant efforts.
B. You “wing” this and it falls short relative to the other interviewees who have actually spent significant time refining their response. They beat you because you didn’t put in the time to practice.
Q: What is your biggest weakness?
A. Avoiding the question or saying something that clearly isn’t your biggest weakness. We all have weaknesses. Dishonesty starts popping up into my head.
B. Not saying what you’re doing to address your weakness. I want to see you proactively address your own weaknesses as it shows you want to improve and become a better professional.
Have you ever taken a Mock Actuarial Interview before?
If you didn’t take time to practice before with a friend, I guarantee you that I’m seeing at least one of the following:
1. Rambling on with your answers.
2. Speaking too fast.
3. Answers don’t effectively address the questions.
Mock interviewing is the best method to improve interviewing skills. For full-time interviews, I have done 15 mock interviews which led to one of my interviewers to say “It is the best interview they’ve ever done”. What are YOU waiting for?
As always, it is important to note that there is no hard-and-fast rule for all your interviews. Every person is different, and your interviewers are no exception. Therefore, what may work well with one interviewer, will not with another – it is all about reading your interviewer as a person and tailoring your responses accordingly!
This article was written and shared with us by Carlo Lahura, FCAS. We would like to thank him for the same and we hope these practices help you with your future interviews.
For more such Interview hacks and Resume tips do visit The Actuarial Club.
This article was published by Kautilya Sharma.