In today’s competitive job market, you want to make sure you have the best possible chance at securing your dream insurance role. In this article we look at the key things you can do when preparing for applications and interviews within the insurance profession.
Prioritise prospective employers
Don’t make your primary objective to gain experience with just any insurance employer. Focusing on companies that are the best possible match for you early on will save you a lot of headaches in years to come. Do your research before you start applying, and make a list of employers you think are most compatible with what you are looking for. For example, do you want to work in a big or small company? Which sector of insurance interests you the most? These questions are also likely to be asked in an interview situation, so figuring out these factors early on will not go to waste.
Sector knowledge and commercial awareness
You need to be able to show an understanding of your chosen sector, as well as a degree of wider commercial awareness.
Research the specific sector – what its main business areas are and any current issues affecting these areas. You can find out everything you need to know about the insurance sector in our careers advice section here, so you feel comfortable discussing the fundamentals of the insurance industry at an interview stage. For the latest insurance sector news, you can go to the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Discover Risk website to arm yourself with plenty of current insurance knowledge to discuss at your interview.
This knowledge can be portrayed in your applications and cover letters by explaining your career aspirations and how you envisage these being affect by current industry concerns and developments. Companies can reject otherwise perfect CVs if it appears the applicant has not completed basic research into their chosen sector.
Your CV is your key tool for promoting yourself prior to your interview. Invest time in creating a strong and comprehensive document, completely free of spelling, grammar and layout errors, as this demonstrates attention to detail without you having to list it alongside your other attributes.
If you have made sure that all the information included on your CV is relevant to an insurance employer, it shouldn’t vary too much from one application to another. In fact, the biggest change you should need to make is simply re-ordering the information so that if you are applying for diverse roles, the most crucial information for that role takes priority.
Your cover letter
The key to a successful cover letter is striking a delicate balance between brevity and substance, as well as ensuring each cover letter you write is tailored for each application you submit. Make sure to also include details specific to the company and role you are applying for (for instance, highlighting important sections of the job specification will make it easier to ensure that you address each point).
For example, if you are applying for a smaller company, explain that you are interested in being able to take on a high level of responsibility early on. Alternatively, if you are applying to work at a larger company you could mention that you are interested in their international opportunities. Be honest; tell the company why you want to work with them and why, in return, they will want to work with you!
Research, research, research!
If you’ve been called back for an interview, you have your foot in the door so don’t close it! You will now need to double down on the research you did for your application. By now, you should have looked into the company enough that you know the necessary information such as their areas of business, size, structure etc. If there was information that you couldn’t find that you are interested in then note this down as a question to ask at the end of the interview, as it is positive to show the recruiter that you are genuinely interested in their company.
However, now it is time to think more broadly about the challenges the company is facing and issues surrounding the sector you are interviewing for. Refresh your knowledge of present insurance sector news. For instance, have there been any developments and new situations since your application? Who are their main competitors? What are the sorts of clients they primarily target? Don’t forget to see if you can find any employee profiles on their website or on Insurance Careers, as they could provide a great source of extra information or ideas for potential questions.
Breathe, then answer
Recruiters advise that short, concise answers are often best. Do not simply regurgitate every piece of information you know about the subject of the question you’ve been asked. Try your best to keep your answers focused on the specific question asked so that you arrive at a definite end – if the interviewer wants more information, they will ask for it.
Try not to over-prepare. It is helpful to note down some key points on likely questions but do not prepare complete answers – the exact question will never come up. Employers also want to see first-hand our ability to think on your feet when put on the spot. If you’ve done the leg work, researched the company and sector thoroughly, you should be able to speak with confidence and keep it as natural as possible. This approach will be much more attractive to a company than proving you’re capable of simply parroting information verbatim.
Finally, be yourself! Don’t forget to engage with your interviews – show them that you have a personality as well as copious amount of sector knowledge and suitable skills. Try to relax and remember that your interviewers are also looking for someone they would like to work alongside. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you are unclear on after the interview – this shows that you were paying attention and portrays that you will deal with clients in a similar, straightforward and efficient manner.
After your interview, follow up with an email thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration. Briefly reiterate why you think you are suitable for the role, focusing on specific areas that came up in the interview and state that you look forward to hearing from them again in due course. This is a clever way of ensuring you stand-out post-interview and shows good professional courtesy which goes a long way in every sector!