View Full Version : Interview questions

Monty Python
03-29-2002, 05:36 AM
OK. You have an interview coming up. You don't know a lot about the company or the job.

1. what kind of research can you do? what kind of information are you looking for?? where can you find it?

2. on the interview, what kinds of questions do you ask? the kind of questions that do two things; one - get the information you need, and two - get you the job :wink:

Keep in mind when you reply that I'm not very bright; the more concrete your response, the better. (i.e. 'search the internet' doesn't help)

Thanks in advance

Ron Weasley
03-29-2002, 07:38 AM
1. what kind of research can you do? what kind of information are you looking for?? where can you find it?

For financial information, the EDGAR (http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm) database kept by the SEC. Otherwise, its a bit more challenging. Starting with the company's home page can give you some leads. Often shareholder's reports will be available from the home page.

In addition to the state of the finances, I also review past press releases (available from most home pages) and search for stories on some of the news services. This can give dig up information on recent and past acquisitions, mergers, solvency issues, scandels, etc. Using this information I try to imagine how these things would impact workers and affect the work environment.

2. on the interview, what kinds of questions do you ask? the kind of questions that do two things; one - get the information you need, and two - get you the job

It's now in vogue for companies to ask you questions of the form "Describe a time that you had a conflict with a difficult person and how you handled it." This technique can be turned around. For example, if you want to know if students are able to get their study time, instead of asking the question straight out, ask the interviewer to "describe a time when the production needs of the company were in conflict with the study program and how that conflict was managed."

I hope that helps.


03-29-2002, 08:12 AM
I always start by looking up the company in Best's Insurance Reports (the P&C edition in my case). You might have access to that at your current job. If not, try your public library. If the local one doesn't have it, they'll direct you to one that does. That will tell you basic stuff like what business they write, which states they're in, whether they're growing, & whether they're profitable. Then I find the company's web page & look for announcements of news

03-29-2002, 08:28 AM

03-29-2002, 08:34 AM
Make a list of the things you really care about. Not the things you want them to _think_ you really care about, this isn't a list you'll share with them. Money, benefits, number and type of coworkers (by type I mean other students, accountants, fellows, you're all alone, etc). How profitable is the company and how quickly are they growing. What is their distribution like (i.e. do they sell through captive agents, brokers, banks, internet, etc). Are they planning to merge with another company soon? What sort of things are there to do around town. How are the schools. How much do houses cost. Do most of your potential co-workers own or rent. How are the taxes. Any pro or semi-pro sports teams in the area. Any good skiing / hiking / fishing / golfing / etc spots nearby. How much overtime is involved in the job. Will I get my study time. If I don't pass, do I still have a job. If I pass quickly, will I get promoted quickly. Is there a rotation program. Will I be stuck doing data entry for the first year and a half of my job. Looking down the road, are there management opportunities for me. How is the mass transit in the city.

When you get done with your list, you'll realize that there aren't a whole lot of things you want to know that you should be worried about asking. Phrasing them the right way is something you might want to spend a little time on. "Will I be stuck doing data entry for the first year and a half of my job" is a very good concern to have. "What will my typical work week look like" might be a more diplomatic way of putting it, with some follow-ups of "I know that as the new guy, I'll get stuck with a lot of the schlep-work (chuckle, chuckle), but about how long does it take a new person to actually get assigned their own clients [work independently on their own projects, etc. fill in as appropriately for the position]" If you're an avid skiier interviewing in Texas, you might want to avoid comments like "Is there any good skiing nearby. I can't imagine living too far from a ski resort" might not get you the job, but it might be a very appropriate comment in New England or Denver.

If this is entry-level they won't expect you to know enough about the industry to ask too many relevant business-related questions. The biggest things we look for in entry-level candidates are: intelligence, ability to pass exams, good communication (e.g. not sitting there silent in the interview), and an interest in the area. The last is at least as important as the earlier ones - if somebody's going to hate the area and move in 6 months that's not a very good investment for us.

Good luck!

03-29-2002, 09:37 AM
It is good to know something about the company, their goals and their finances. It's good at any level, but the more advanced the position you are applying for, the more it's important to show that you have some genuine interest in them.

The annual report is a good starting place. If you can't get one direct from them, the local library in their town will usually have one. The Best's book, as mentioned, is a good source, and is in most libraries.
Also, don't overlook the company's own website. Usually lots of good info there.

I REALLY wanted to work for my current employer, so before the interview I ordered the company report on them from A.M. Best off the website. It cost about $60 IIRC, but it had a lot of info, and since I knew I wanted to work there, it was worth it. The Best's Insurance Report book is probably enough detail if you are just generally looking for a first job.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Maine-iac on 2002-03-29 09:38 ]</font>

04-01-2002, 02:44 PM
One item I like to check is the tenure of the actuarial staff. Get a list of the current ASAs/FSAs from the SoA Membership Directory on the SoA website. Compare this to the same list from the Directory from several years ago (when the directories were sent to members in hard copy). This comparison will tell you how many people have recently left the company, how many new people have joined, etc. You may want to ask questions based on the results of this comparison. (Of course, it's much more difficult to do this sort of comparison if the company has been involved in some sort of merger in the meantime!)

04-01-2002, 05:58 PM
What Branwell, Maine-iac and 42 said on the research. Also call up friends you may have in consulting. Consultants hear all kinds of rumours and true stories and may be willing to share some of them off the record.