Given the small number of degrees directly related to insurance, many employers are looking for strong transferable skills and commercial awareness over the specific subject studied. Insurance professionals come from a wide range of backgrounds, from ancient history to zoology, via business and finance.
What are insurance employers looking for?
Employers are looking for candidates who are committed and extremely professional in their attitude. Soft skills are exceptionally important and employers will look for new entrants with good communication, negotiation, problem-solving and lateral thinking skills. When evaluating a client’s claim or calculating the cost of a policy, insurance professionals must exercise comprehensive analytical skills too.
Customer service and client relationship skills are equally important, as are good numerate abilities. The insurance sector is always looking for bright individuals, with a logical, methodical approach and the potential to understand the vital elements of risk.
A good understanding of the insurance sector is an advantage – this demonstrates a commitment to working in the industry, as well as a wider commercial awareness. The Chartered Insurance Institute’s Discover membership scheme is a good place to start. There will be some roles that require an applicant to have an understanding of the technical knowledge required, but don’t worry if you feel this is not something that you can offer – most employers are willing to support entrants through training and gaining professional qualifications.
Communication & negotiation skills
In the insurance profession, you will work with a wide range of people; from finance professionals to those with limited or no finance knowledge. Therefore, one of the most valuable skills you can possess and develop is the ability to adapt your communication style accordingly so that you can successfully explain complex, sometimes technical information to a variety of audiences. Recruiters will assess your communication style through your application and will be looking for evidence that you can correspond accurately and effectively with clear structure.
Problem-solving & analytical abilities
Most employers will measure your problem-solving skills by analysing how you approach a case study or activities organised at assessment centres. Have examples prepared for any interviews which demonstrate your understanding of a challenge you’ve faced, how you prioritised and worked through the solution, if you sought help or approval and what the outcome of the situation was. It is helpful to explain your thought processes and show logical analysis when answering questions like this to give interviewers insight into how you think and what you might be like to work with.
Customer service & client relationships
Working in insurance you will need to understand the company’s clients, their needs and how to make sure the company delivers on these needs as best they can. Having the ability to build and maintain professional relationships is essential for retaining business and will make you a valuable asset to any company. Recruiters will take into account how you interact with your assessors, and other candidates at the assessment centre and the rapport you are able to build with your interviewers. If you have had experience that required you to understand and deal with the needs of others, use these as examples during interviews. You can draw on volunteering experience, part-time jobs, involvement in a university society or student union – anything that shows your ability to interact with others in a formal capacity.
Although it is not necessary to have studied a numerical degree to work in the insurance sector, some numerical ability is essential for most roles. Numeracy skills mean being able to understand and work with numerical and graphical information, draw conclusions and effectively explain your findings.
Your ability to work as part of a team will be tested and evaluated during group exercises at the assessment centre. To make a positive, lasting impression, constructively contribute to discussions and activities while listening to your peers and encouraging them to do the same. Teamwork is all about being able to operate smoothly and efficiently within a group. Ask yourself – are you able to compromise? Do you have the ability to communicate clearly? Can you negotiate with, influence and advise your team?
It is important to remember that different employers are looking for different things; insurance is an extremely diverse sector and one size does not fit all. Before you apply, research the different companies, read their websites and speak to their representatives at careers fairs. Get a feel for the companies that are out there so that you can apply to the employer that’s right for you. View the Employee Profiles section here for first-hand accounts about working in the industry.