There are some key things you can do when preparing for applications and interviews in the insurance profession. Give yourself the best possible chance to secure the role that’s right for you by reading the tips below.
Prioritise prospective employers
Don’t make your primary objective be to simply gain experience with 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. Go through the companies listed in the Employer Directory in this guide and decide who you would most like to work for. Do you want to work for 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 & commercial awareness
You need to be able to show that 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 The Profession chapter of this guide as well as online at www.insurancecareers.co.uk, so you feel comfortable discussing the fundamentals of the insurance industry at interview stage. For the latest insurance sector news, head to the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Discover Risk website as well as www.postonline.co.uk 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 affected by current industry concerns and developments. Companies will often 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 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 it is relevant to an insurance employer, your CV 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 successful cover letters is striking a delicate balance between brevity and substance, as well as ensuring each cover letter you write is tailored for each application you make. Include details specific to the company and role you are applying for (for instance, highlighting important sections of the job spec 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 or for a larger company you could mention that you are interested in their international opportunities. Be honest: tell the company why you want them and why they in return should want you!
Research, research, research!
You have your foot in the door. Remember all that research you did for your application – it’s time to double down! You should have looked into the company where you are interviewing enough by now to know the necessary information such as their areas of business, size, structure etc. If there was information you couldn’t find that you are interested in, 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 Inside 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 just been asked. Try your best to keep your answers concise and 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 your 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 interviewers – show them that you have a personality as well as copious amounts of sector knowledge and suitable skills. Try to relax and remember that your interviewers are also looking for someone they’d 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 or HR contact 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 are stand out post-interview and shows good professional courtesy, which goes a long way in every sector!