Taking your first steps into the actuarial industry

Who wouldn’t want to be an actuary? According to research published in 2013, it’s the best job you can have, finally making official what those of us on the inside have always suspected. According to the survey, perks of the job include lack of stress, pleasant working environment, relatively short working hours, high wages and good future prospects. So naturally, you want a piece of that for yourself, right? Problem is so do a lot of others, and just like you they’re academically strong, diligent, motivated and have a killer suit just waiting to be cracked out for those crucial interview situations.

So what can give you the edge?

Prioritise prospective employers

I recognise that your primary objective may be to gain an offer from any actuarial employer, but you’d be wise to go down the list of actuarial employers, check the companies out, and figure out which ones you’d most like to work for. Do you want to work for a big or small company? Which sector of actuarial work interests you? This will almost certainly come up in an interview, so candidates that appear to have given some genuine thought to this will be better placed to sell themselves to the companies they’re most keen on.

Knowledge of the profession

It costs a lot of money for an employer to sponsor a student through the actuarial exams. You don’t need to be able to reel off the name, syllabus and pass rate of all 15 modules, but it’s important to show you have some understanding of what you’re letting yourself in for. We’ve rejected candidates with great CVs for not appearing to have done the most cursory research around the actuarial profession.

CV typos

Your CV is your key pre-interview marketing tool and is unlikely to vary greatly between employers. As such, there is no excuse for typos and errors in it. If you appear to lack the ability to exercise care in such a crucial document, it’s not unreasonable for an employer to conclude you lack the attention to detail that is a key attribute of most good actuarial students. Find more actuarial CV tips.

Tailored cover letter

It’s good to strike a balance between conciseness and substance. Most importantly, it should be tailored each time towards the application in question. Sending out the same cover letter for all applications, changing only the name of the company, can usually be spotted a mile off. For example, as a provider of actuarial services predominantly within the UK, some candidates seem to think we will be flattered by being told ’we enjoy a global reputation’ – we don’t currently, and inclusion of such a line only harms a candidate’s chances.

Be truthful

Here are just two examples:

  1. Don’t suggest you’re full of initiative if, for example, you graduated a year ago and don’t appear to have taken steps to increase your attractiveness to actuarial employers in that time (e.g. by sitting the CT1 exam or developing relevant IT skills).
  2. Don’t overstate your competency in key areas (e.g. Excel or programming languages) because this can be easily shot down at interviews.

About the Author

  • About Gary Heslop: Gary works as a partner for APR, an actuarial company that places more than usual emphasis on the quality of graduate recruits: in a 2012 actuarial exams session, APR’s staff achieved over a 95% exam pass rate.

Gary Heslop

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