How hard is it to successfully undertake a job interview for an actuary position?
The answer is quite simple. It all depends on your preparation.
In saying that, I don’t mean just how well you can apply all the technical knowledge that you acquired through your education. Knowing how to get ready for the interview is equally important! As you prepare for the big moment, there are a few steps to take, one of which is predicting the most common Actuary Interview Questions.
That’s why I decided to list some examples of those questions as well as explain exactly what the interview will be about. By the end of this article, you’ll know which topics you will be tested on so that you know what to focus on when getting ready for the interview.
Let’s start with the basics…
- What Does an Actuary Do?
- Career Requirements
- How to Get Ready for The Interview?
- The Most Common Actuary Interview Questions
- What’s the main difference between working in the insurance industry or an investment firm?
- Learn on the j0b
- What programming languages are you familiar with?
- Describe the first step you take when you’re requested to create a report for a new life insurance
- How would you describe your job to somebody who doesn’t know what an actuary does?
- Have you ever made a mistake in a project you’ve worked on in the past? How did you fix it?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Additional Information to Help You Prepare
- Final Thoughts
What Does an Actuary Do?
This is one of the first questions that might come up, especially if you’re just graduated, and you still have to take the necessary exams to get certified. People without work experience might find it hard to describe in a few words such a complex job. Having an effective answer ready for this question is a must for any applicant.
Actuaries use data, statistics, and mathematics to assess risk. They use their expertise to help their clients predict the financial impact of uncertain events. The more common fields in which an actuary works are insurance, investment, wealth management, and banking.
The daily responsibilities of an actuary are:
- Collecting and analyzing data
- Developing risk analysis models
- Estimating the possibility of an adverse event to happen
- Preparing reports based on his findings
- Presenting the report to the client
Becoming an associate actuary is not an easy task. It takes lots of time and dedication to acquire all the necessary skills, and during the interview, you will be tested on any of the following:
A bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, business, or statistics is the best way to start your career. However, you can major in any subject as long as you take some additional courses in mathematics and computer programming.
Once you graduate, you can start working as an actuary analyst while you’re studying for the exams to become a certified actuary. The whole process takes at least four years, but the good news is that it’s a standard practice for employers to compensate for your study time while you’re working with them.
During your years of studying and on-the-job experience, you will acquire all the hard skills that you need to be a good actuary. Hard skills are the qualities that are strictly relevant to your profession. They are easily measurable, and it’s guaranteed that at least a few questions of the interview will revolve around them.
Here are the most important hard skills that you will have to show to the recruiters.
- Extensive knowledge of statistical analysis
- Mathematics and numeracy skills
- High proficiency in MS Excel and Access
- Working knowledge of some commonly used programming languages, such as SQL, VBA, and C++
- Familiarity with business and financial topics
On the other hand, soft skills are inherent to your personality. They define your ability to interact with other people, your attitude towards the different aspects of the job, and the way you approach tasks, problems, and opportunities.
However, the fact that they are not related to any specific job doesn’t make them less important than hard skills. If anything, some recruiters consider them even more crucial because they can not be learned.
What are the soft skills that an employer looks for when hiring an actuary?
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking
How to Get Ready for The Interview?
It’s now time to put everything together and do some preparation.
Where should you start?
Compile a list of all the requirements, skills, and responsibilities that I have listed. Carefully read the job posting and add to your list any additional prerequisites that you can find on it. This will give you a comprehensive overview of all the topics that you might have to talk about during the interview.
Research the company…
Also, do some research on the company you’re applying for. There are two main reasons for doing that. First of all, you want to be ready if the recruiters ask you why you want to work there. Secondly, understanding what market that company is primarily targeting will make it easier for you to narrow down the questions that are more likely to be asked.
Lastly, practice your answers to the most frequent questions that you will find in the next few paragraphs, and try to come up with similar questions for any topic on your list.
The Most Common Actuary Interview Questions
Let’s now take a look at the most popular interview questions, and most importantly, how can you effectively answer them?
What’s the main difference between working in the insurance industry or an investment firm?
While it’s estimated that almost 70% of actuaries work in the insurance business, the percentage of those working in investment has been growing in the last few years.
If you’re applying for a job in an investment firm, you should expect this or some similar question, especially if you’re not specialized in the field. The recruiter will have to verify that you’re aware of the different challenges that an actuary has to face when he works in a market he might not be familiar with.
Learn on the j0b
If the job advertisement didn’t demand any previous experience in investment, you will learn on the job how to apply your knowledge to this new field. However, you’ll be required to have at least a basic understanding of what your responsibilities will be.
What programming languages are you familiar with?
This question is meant to test your technical knowledge. It’s not really important that you’re already familiar with the language they are using in the company unless it was specified in the requirements list.
However, the more programming languages you know, the more versatile you are. Your answer should highlight not only what tools you use but also why and when you choose one over another.
Describe the first step you take when you’re requested to create a report for a new life insurance
Having an effective and replicable method that you can use with confidence anytime, you approach a new project is a crucial part of your job. This will save time and money for your future company and will minimize the risk of mistakes.
Of course, you still have to show that your strategy can be adapted to different situations, and this could be a possible topic for a follow-up question.
How would you describe your job to somebody who doesn’t know what an actuary does?
Everything that an actuary does is quite obscure and complex to the untrained eye. During your career, you’ll often be in the position of explaining with simple words the project you’re working on to somebody who is not familiar with the technical terminology.
By describing to the recruiters your job in a simple way, you will show them that you have the communication skills that you need to excel in this task.
Have you ever made a mistake in a project you’ve worked on in the past? How did you fix it?
We all make mistakes in the workplace, and the purpose of this question is to assess how you react when it happens. The ability to fix that mistake and to turn it into something positive is an invaluable skill that any actuary should possess.
Don’t fall into the temptation of saying that it has never happened to you. You wouldn’t be credible, and this would sabotage the rest of your interview. If you don’t have any working experience, pick a situation from your educational background.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
You will almost certainly get this question if you still need to take your exams to become a certified actuary. Show your determination to complete your journey as quickly as possible without compromising your commitments with the company.
Ambition is always appreciated by any employer!
Additional Information to Help You Prepare
I’ve found some great resources online for you; check out some great reads with Achieving Your Pinnacle: A Career Guide for Actuaries, the Financial Mathematics For Actuaries (Second Edition), an Actuaries’ Survival Guide: How to Succeed in One of the Most Desirable Professions or even Practical VBA For Practically Anyone: For When You Know What You Want To Do But Don’t Know How To Do It to help you prepare for your interview.
Or maybe you’re searching for gifts for a work colleague; we’ve even got that covered for you. Just check out this Actuary Definition Cool Actuary T-Shirt, or the Spreadsheet Whisperer Novelty Mug, Nacho Average Actuary Gift Mexican Funny T-Shirt, maybe an Actuary Beer Mug – Funny Gift, or Retro Funny Spreadsheet Gift For Actuary Statistician T-Shirt and for a giggle the Actuary Gift – I Love The Smell of Risk all available online in 2023.
Being successful at the job interview will be the starting point of your career as an actuary. While it’s completely normal to see it as a stressful moment, a bit of preparation can go a long way towards making the process a lot easier.
If you apply the things you’ve learned you’ve learned in this article and you practice your answers to the interview questions, you’ll maximize your chances to get the job you’ve been dreaming of.
All the very best with your Interview!