Think you can just wing it during your next job interview? Think again.
If you really want to impress an insurance employer in a job interview, it all comes down to one thing: always be prepared.
One of the biggest mistakes students and recent graduates make is coming in unprepared, says Trevor Buttrum, Career Connections Program Manager at the Insurance Institute of Canada.
Being unfamiliar with the company, being unable to make connections or draw parallels between your experience and the role, or showing up late are the three biggest insurance industry job interview don’ts, he adds.
Keep reading to find out what to expect during, how to prepare for and how to follow up after your next job interview with an insurance employer:
What to expect
Most interviews for insurance jobs involve a two-step process:
The telephone screen
The process may start with a telephone screen conducted by a recruiter in the company’s human resources department. “The telephone screen is designed to confirm that you meet the criteria for the position, establish your understanding of the role, and get a sense of your style or approach,” Trevor explains.
The in-person interview
If you meet the requirements of the telephone screen, it will usually be followed by one or two in-person interviews that may now include the hiring manager and other colleagues involved in the process. “Don’t let it throw you if it is a panel interviewing you – these are now common place!”
The in-person interviews will most likely be behavioural or competency-based, says Trevor. “Think, ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or scenarios that get at how you might handle various aspects of the job. The employer is looking for you to make connections between what you have done and how it will help you to be successful in your potential new role.”
Kick it up a notch: One way you can seriously stand out from other candidates is by sending thank you notes to the people you met with after each stage of the process, timed so they arrive during the day after your interview. “The thank you note provides a chance for you to summarize your conversation, maybe touch on something you wish you had and reiterate your interest in the position,” Trevor explains.
How to prepare
Find out what you’ll need
When you’re invited for the interview, whether it’s by phone or email, always ask if there’s anything that you should bring. Here’s why:
“I once had an employer say, ‘Good thing you asked, I almost forgot to mention that we would like to see an example of a presentation you have developed. Could you supply us with a version on a USB key?'” Trevor recalls. “I would have never just ‘had one on hand’ in an interview.”
- Printed copies of your resume, both for your reference and in case they don’t have one
- A notebook and pen so you can take notes
- Your references, printed on a single sheet, in case the employer would like to review or contact them following your interview
In a job interview situation, knowing exactly how your education and experience will benefit the employer and the role you’ve applied for is half the battle.
Ideally, you’ve already determined this in order to tailor your resume and apply for the job in the first place, but if not, learn as much as you can about the role and map out how you fit the bill, Trevor says.
“Check out the ‘Your Experience’ page in the post-secondary section of the Career Connections website,” he advises. “Identifying these specific examples will help you weave them into your answers to the interviewer’s questions.”
Kick it up a notch: Practice your answers to typical job interview questions with a trusted friend or career counsellor and introduce examples from your experience into the conversation. Trevor recommends using the STAR method to help you answer the interviewer’s questions:
- Situation – Setting the stage: Who, when, where, why? (5% of your answer)
- Task – What did you do? What was your role? (5% of your answer)
- Action – How did you do it? What steps did you take? (70% of your answer)
- Result – What happened? What was the outcome (20% of your answer)
Do your research
How much do you know about the company, its business, core values (and how they align to your own) and any other unique aspects to it?
“Web research, reading trade publications, checking out examples of their consumer marketing, and talking to industry professionals are great ways to gain these types of insights,” he explains.
“This information enables you to further tailor your answers to the employer’s questions and might help you develop some of your own.”
Kick it up a notch: Trevor recommends paying close attention to employers’ charity and community service activities, specialty in the insurance sector, and whether or not the company was ranked on any top employer lists.
Dress for success
“Insurance is a traditional industry and, although business casual is becoming the norm for day-to-day in the workplace, it is suggested that you go business formal for the interview,” Trevor advises.
What does that mean? “Suit jackets, blazers, pressed pants, blouses, collared shirts, ties, nicely-shined shoes and knee-length skirts are what come to mind,” he adds.
How to follow up
Should you or shouldn’t you? When and how often? These are all questions that tend to plague students and recent graduates following their job interviews.
“Before you leave the interview, ask what the next steps are in the process and when the employer anticipates moving forward in their decision making,” Trevor recommends. “Keep this date in mind and use it as a temperature gauge for when to follow-up next.”
From there, don’t push too hard. “Like any relationship, high frequency or intensity follow-up can send the wrong message,” he says, adding that the process may be taking slightly longer than expected, hiring may not be the person’s primary responsibility and other priorities may have arisen since your interview. “Be sure to give the employer a little leeway.”
For example, if they said they would make a decision by Friday, consider following up on the Tuesday if you haven’t heard from them.
Kick it up a notch: Frame your follow-up as checking in to see where they are in the process rather than asking whether or not they have reached a decision, and let the employer know you are happy to answer any questions or provide additional information which might support the process, Trevor advises.