Recently, we talked about why college students should study Risk Management & Insurance, and today, we want to follow up with a quick guide for students interviewing for insurance positions, whether or not they are RMI majors.
So, you met an insurance company recruiter at career fair, or you read some of our articles and decided to apply for an entry level role in the company. You’re about to finish your college degree, probably not in RMI, and want to maximize your chances of getting an offer. Here’s what you do:
1. Understand the basics of the industry and why it’s important to the economy:
Insurance is a deeply misunderstood business, and your interviewer will be impressed if you can show at least a base level of understanding. Insurance companies allow people and businesses to exchange the unknown risk of large losses for a fixed premium; they essentially sell a promise. Insurance is important to the economy because it allows people to engage in activities like driving a car, buying a home, and operating a business which put them at risk of severe loss; people couldn’t engage in those things if they had to bear all the risk without protection. Insurance is basically the grease that helps the economy’s gears turn.
2. Take advantage of the fact that your competition probably doesn’t understand the industry:
RMI majors only feed 15% of the industry needs, meaning that 85% of all new insurance hires know pretty much nothing about insurance. Hiring managers interviewing for entry level roles on a good day get to interview business majors who know nothing about insurance, and on a bad day history majors who know nothing about business. Use this to your own advantage by becoming as familiar with the industry and the company as you can; most candidates won’t do this, and it will set you apart.
3. Make sure you understand the difference between the Property/Casualty, Life and Health insurance industries; and between Personal Lines and Commercial Lines:
From the outsider perspective, insurance is insurance, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are three distinct insurance industries: Property/Casualty carriers sell coverage for people’s cars, homes and businesses, as well as protection from the possibility of getting sued. Life carriers sell you insurance which pays out if you die, helping replace your income and support your dependents. Health insurance sells you some protection for all your health, medical and hospital expenses. Both Carly and Tony come from the Property Casualty side and spend almost all of their time blogging and talking about this side of the industry. If you’re applying for a life or health job, you need to go back to Google to look for specialized advice. On the P&C side, there are two major sides: Personal Lines carriers sell insurance for individual people’s homes, autos, and the possibility that they will get personally sued. Commercial Lines carriers sell insurance for people’s businesses and the possibility that their business will get sued.
4. Research the interviewer(s) on LinkedIn:
If you are lucky enough that they tell you exactly who you will be interviewing with, make sure you look them up on LinkedIn and become familiar with their backgrounds. Do they happen to come from the same school as you? Do they have any special education or designations you might be able to research and bring up in the interview? The more you can learn about the interviewer ahead of time the better chance you’ll have to connect with them at a more personal level.
5. If at all possible take the first CPCU test, and make it clear on your resume:
If you have a little more time and are willing to devote a couple of months before interview season to give yourself a MASSIVE leg up, consider taking CPCU 500 or at least reading the textbook. This will give you a great basic understanding of the overall industry and will really help you impress the hiring manager. Most people who leave their entry level insurance job don’t just leave their company, they leave the industry. Given that most students they interview with have no idea what insurance is or how it works before the interview, showing the commitment of passing a CPCU test before your first day of work will show the hiring manager that you are deeply interested in the industry and willing to work hard to keep growing after they hire you. This is a major way to differentiate yourself.
6. Network at your local CPCU Society:
Do some Googling and find out whether there’s a local CPCU society in your area. If there is, make contact with them and tell them you’re a student and want to go to one of their meetings. They’ll probably invite you in for free or the cost of a lunch, and you’ll get a great chance to network with some of the most committed local insurance professionals who will be very impressed you’re getting involved so early. At the meeting try, to connect, especially with anyone who works at the company you’re aiming for.
7. Come up with a good case as to why you think you’ll be a great fit for the industry and company:
Research the role you’re applying for as deeply as you can and chat with some people who work, or have worked that role in the past. Then, look back at your college and internship history and come up with good examples that illustrate why you’d be a great match for this role.
8. Dress professionally:
The insurance industry is a conservative place. Dress as conservatively and professionally as possible. Whether you’re male or female, a full suit is your best option for the interview. We even recommend a full suit for any networking event you attend before being hired. Some companies have moved towards business casual in the office, but making a good impression from the beginning means looking as professional as possible.
9. Follow up with a handwritten thank you note:
Thank you notes are a dying art, and they are very impressive and get remembered. This is one of the best ways to keep the hiring manager thinking positively about you after you leave the interview. Remember, the average insurance professional is 59 and grew up at a time when thank you notes were much more common, he or she will be very impressed by a young kid who is thoughtful enough to send one.
An extra bonus one:
Watch this awesome video from Liberty Mutual