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Old 01-22-2005, 02:43 PM
jackj109 jackj109 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 326
Default Here is some entry-level advice

I spent some time doing this, so I thought I'd post it for people who are in the same situation as me: trying to get that first phone interview. I sincerely apologize if I'm quoting you without reference to your name.

I did this basically because after many searches, I found that by browsing I came across a lot of relevant stuff I'd missed.

These are generally grouped by subject but a lot of it is randomly place good advice. I have searched through all 39 employment pages, looking at every thread that might be of use to me. I'm hoping now that if I ask a question I get to hear less "check past threads"....

Last edited by jackj109; 01-22-2005 at 02:53 PM..
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Old 01-22-2005, 02:44 PM
jackj109 jackj109 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 326

The following are very general, and there are some (not many) who think differently.

These get you an entry-level interview:

1. Exams passed.
2. Reputation of college attended, according to "best schools" list or its actuarial department.
3. Grades.
4. Well-organized resume.
5. Successful internships.
6. Close distance from the job.
7. Right place at right time.

These get you the job offer:

8. Oral communication skills.
9. Your knowledge of the company as perceived by interviewers.
10. Answering pat questions correctly.
11. Answering the unusual questions correctly.
12. Putting up with HR.
13. Appearance.
14. Right place at right time.


More than three might be a stretch.... but three exactly, I'd say 95% of companies would be all over that. If you're curious, I pulled that 95% figure out of my butt.

I have two exams and lots of business experience but no actuarial experience, and I'm experiencing a 100% rejection rate in attempting to get interviews. I find it hard to believe that a third exam would convert 100% failure into 95% success.

Agreed that one more exam will not turn it around. There's something else wrong. Likely suspects would be:

Poor cover letter

Approaching the wrong companies

Going through HR when you need to go through the actuarial dept (not always the case, but often it is)

Poor undergrad grades

Poor resume

Restricting yourself geographically or in some other way

Not sending out enough letters

There are many others.


Not directed specifically at you, but I am tired of hearing from students who "can't find a job anywhere" and have sent out 5-10 resumes (this comment originates from a student I talked to who is not, to my knowledge, on this board). I graduated into one of the worst economies possible, sent out 200 resumes, had 15-20 interviews (including phone screenings), bought plane tickets to three cities I was willing to move to, just to try to convince employers to talk to me, and got one offer, which I took. This current economy is similar. I had great exams, but poor interviewing skills, and it took a while to overcome that. But, I did it through persevereance, not through waiting and whining after sending out 5 resumes.


How effective is sending resume to chief actuary? I know one member mentioned earlier to stay out of HR dept. Is this because the actuary (chief or manager) knows better on whom to pick or the need of the dept quicker and better?

It's probably a lot better than going through HR, but your best bet is to ask a hiring manager for advice on whom to talk to. Ideally he's say: "Talk to me." Sometimes he'll direct you to someone else (Sometimes that someone else is the right person); sometimes he won't be connected to anyone (some actuaries are solitary folk.)

The form is simple: Be low key and ALWAYS just ask for advice. Then listen and learn. Everyone loves giving advice. Everyone who has time. Doesn't cost them anything; Doesn't force them to commit. At some point you will find yourself doing what you want for someone who wants you.

So who's a hiring manager?

An exercise for the effective student.

Let's say I find a job opening on a job search site and it gives a contact for sending the resume, but it's obviously an HR contact. Here's my question. If I can easily find who the Chief Actuary is at that location, should I send the resume to that actuary or to the HR contact?

Definitely to the Chief Actuary. HR is normally populated almost entirely by people who don't know that there's a difference between the actuarial exams and the LOMA exams, by people who had to be hired but needed to be in a place where they'd not do too much damage, and by idiots. Generally, the Chief Actuary will know who in HR isn't an idiot--if he likes your credentials and wants you to talk to HR, he'll ensure that it isn't a total waste of time.

However, you could send your resume to both HR and to the Chief Actuary.

Here's another agrument for sending the resume to the chief actuary: The chief actuary specifies a position with requirements A, B and C. You have A and B, but rather than C you have Q. The HR person would discard your resume. The chief actuary might say, "We weren't looking for Q, but that might be a good thing to have."

The only people who recommend sending the resume to HR, is the HR people themselves.

Chief Actuary. And avoid HR as if it were The Plague. Do HR interview only after you nearly have the job, as a courtesy.

I recommend avoiding companies that require HR involvement and pre-screening. (Except perhaps actuarial consulting companies.) It shows, to me, that the actuarial profession is not taken as seriously companywide than it should be. And for insurance companies, I think it should be taken very seriously.

Some companies have in-house actuarial recruiting specialists in the HR. This person is "on our side," but I'd still go to the Chief first.

I'm not as down on HR as the rest, but agreed it's the Chief Actuary. Nothing wrong with also sending it to HR - and telling the CA that you did. I have had good HR people to work with at a few companies I interviewed with, but it is not that common. Your story isn't really a great argument for sending the resume to the CA, unless Trev also happend to have a connection to the CA at his target company. Also, if the HR person has actuarial in his/her title (HR liaison for Actuarial Services or Actuarial Recruiter or somesuch thing), then I would be more likely to send it to the HR person (in addition to the CA)

So, send it to the Chief. After taking a cursory glance, he or she will know where to forward it to, be it HR, HR's Actuarial contact, or the rest of the department supervisors.

There is a much lower probability that the HR person will know where to forward it, if at all.

Default A dissenting opinion

I don't know. If the company has its act together, the chief actuary meets with HR on a regular basis to review staffing requirements. HR should know when actuaries are to be hired, and have criteria for which resumes should be passed to the Actuarial department.

If the company is not all that organized, I would establish a contact first, then send the resume with prior permission . It is not the Chief Actuary's function to screen resumes.

I have had positive interactions with HR at all the places I have worked and they all had a clue about how to hire actuaries and that our exams were different from LOMA exams.

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, I would send my resume to HR. I think it is a bit rude to just mail your resume to the Chief unannounced.

But rules change, and I have been accused of being too persnickety and formal about things.

What if you don't know who the CA is but you do have a couple names in actuary department? Should you just pick a name and send it to that person?

If the posting specifically says to send it to a given HR contact, send it both places.

You should be able to find out who the chief actuary is. Call and ask. Say you need to address mail to the chief actuary and you wish to get his or her name and title correct. It's public information.

You can send it to another actuary if you know that the opening is in their area. This is particularly effective if it is a large organization. The chief may have little time or inclination to worry about hires that won't report to him.

If the posting specifically says to send it to a given HR contact, send it both places.

I'm only batting about .400 doing this, most of the time they just tell me to send it without a contact name. I'm calling the main number for the companies, doing what you suggested, but a lot of times they just say to send it and they will direct it in the right direction. For the larger companies, I don't think they know who the chief actuary is.

Any other suggestions about getting around HR?? .

1. Choose the city, then search. (Note that some companies are in suburbs. Choose state to expand search, if necessary.)

2. Find a company name, and add it to the search. Use the exact wording of the company (copy&paste) or the first word of the company name, if unique enough.

3. Find the Chief Actuary of that company.

4. If you can't find the Chief Actuary, (sometimes the company has actuaries in one city, but the chief actuary in another city) find the highest-ranking-sounding title there is.

5. If that fails, just call anyone there from the directory, and ask who the head of the department is. I suggest FSAs first.

Main number is no good. Sometimes actuaries are buried in other departments.

calling after you have sent in your resume

I sent my resume to several companies last week. I am still waiting for someone to respond to me. Should I call the HR to find our what's going on? And what should I said to the person when I call?

Hi, I'm """. I was wondering if you got a chance to view my resume. I'm very interested in working for your company and am wondering if there are any opportunities available that match my skillset.

Something along those lines.

Did you send it to HR? If so, that was mistake Number 1.

1. Find an actuary at the company;

2. Call to see to whom your resume should be sent;

3. Send;

4. Wait five working days;

5. Then call.

It could be that they're swamped. I have about a dozen resumes on my desk, and have not followed up with any of them. I've made notes and I know who I think is worth following up with, but there's another FSA in my office who wants to review them and weigh in on them. He hasn't done that yet. Then there's getting my boss's approval...except that my boss quit a month ago (part of why I'm swamped) so we have to get his boss to approve before we call someone in for an interview. But uber-boss is even more swamped (he's now running two departments), so...

Bottom line: can't hurt to follow up. But don't be discouraged if it takes some time. One week isn't much, anyway.

Call to follow up.

Next time you write a cover letter, why not include a sentence such as, "I'll follow up with you in two weeks to discuss opportunities available at ABC Insurance Company."

-- In that way, your follow-up phone call, although unsolicited, is very appropriate, because you said you would. Also, if ABC Insurance Company wanted to talk with you sooner, they'll call you before you call them.

If you have applied online you must follow up with a phone call. I usually wait a couple of days and then call the person in charge and say "i'm just calling to make sure you got my resume and if you have any questions etc..".

Everytime I've followed up, I got the impression that it was the first time the person was really looking at my application.

At one place I was told my resume was in the "hold" pile because I neglected to fill out a piece of information on their online application. I explained why I left the space blank and my resume was then forwarded along.

Also in the meanwhile take the opportunity of having spare time to study for further exams.

You may want to contact a recruiter. Now let me think of a recruiter in Chicago You can write to D.W. Simpson right on these message boards. He's always very helpful and he can direct you to the proper people to contact at his company.

I too followed the route of sending emails to people off the SoA directory.In my experience the people who are serious about helping you will either reply to say that there are no positions available/open positions are there/give the contact details of the person in charge of recruiting. Some are even kind enough to forward the resume to HR.

I have had a success rate of around 25-30% with the above approach and I think it works better than cold calling....the emails atleast reach the person whereas if you're calling them, you may have to try a number of times before you get to talk to them.

If it's a mass mailing it goes directly into the resume file. If it includes a cover letter that shows they know something about the company or me, I'll usually take the time to respond.

I sent out 20 emails with my resume about two weeks ago. I got only 3 replies back (all no positions open at the moment). The people I sent to are the FSAs from the SOA directory. Is it common that most FSAs don’t reply to job emails (they are too busy, or they are too high up there)? Should I just be more patient? Is it ok to call them even they did not reply? Or should I send regular mails instead of emails?

You won't get a lot of response to your regular mails either. Assume that your resume has been printed off and included with whatever other resumes they've gotten. If they have openings, it will be reviewed. If not, it will be held in file in case they do.

Any reply is just a courtesy. Three out of twenty seems a bit low, but not too surprisingly low.

if we emailed contacts on the ATP, would it be a faux pas to contact by phone those who have not sent a response back? I was planning on doing exactly that just to make sure that the contact information is still up-to-date

It depends on what your e-mail said. If you included, "I'll call you next week to discuss actuarial positions with you...", then it's not a faux pas.

If you call without having that clause included, it's a coin flip.

I found it beneficial to call up a few days later and say " I sent you my resume, just wanted to make sure you received it and if you had any questions"

The few times I did that, I got the impression that had I not called my resume would have never been considered further, which it was after I called. In my cases they were HR people.

This is kind of what I anticipated, or something along the lines of "Oh, Joe Schmoe is no longer in this department, your resume should really go to Jill Schmill"

Well, we should probably discuss it, then.

First, you might not know this, but sometimes e-mail with attachments from outside the company are routinely deleted by the mail server. Yeah, too many viruses.

Call in advance of sending.

"Hi, my name is """", and I'm calling about available actuarial positions at ABC Co. To whom should I send my resume?"

You will either be forwarded or directed to someone else about, oh, 95% of the time.

The other 5% of the time, you will be asked about exams and experience. and computer skills. If there is a fit between you and an opening, then more is in store.


OK, I checked their website.

Go to

Click on Employment Opportunities
Click on "Why should I work for Allstate?", "What's it like to work at Allstate?", and then go to the employment areas and read all the carp about actuaries, particularly the "Actuarial Testimonials" bs that's there. Then spew as much of that as you can without laughing at how ridiculous you sound.

This is great advice, even if it sounds like sarcasm.
I have to say this is the best advice on this subject. Yes, I am saying this with a straight face. Often I wonder why HR asks these kind of questions. Don't they know the candidates are expecting these sort of questions and prepare accordingly? What can they get out of these questions when they know they answers are just BS? But then I realized, knowing how to BS is a communication skill.

Often I wonder why HR asks these kind of questions. Don't they know the candidates are expecting these sort of questions and prepare accordingly?

You're kidding, right? Sadly for them, not all candidates prepare for those types of questions. It makes interviewing easier when we can weed those ones out.

Here is a little bit of detail on how i have been conducting this little direct marketing campaign :

I sent out a letter to about 8 people so far. I wanted to see what the reaction is on a small sample and i also did not want to start emailing hundreds of local actuaries who all know each other.

each letter was approximately worded this way (this is a condensed version. The grammar, punctuation is obviously better in the real letter :

" mr. so and so,

i am writing you after finding your coordinates on the soa web site.

i am a graduate in math (year) who has recently become very interested in the actuarial field and is registered for exam 1 and 2 this fall.

i have a strong interest in the interaction between computers and mathematics. I have good experience in using excel, programming languages and Maple , a leading mathematics program.

i am especially interested in your branch , P&C (or reinsurance) because i have read that it is on the more technical end of actuarial work.

If you are aware of some opportuinities in your organisation about actuarial work or other work involving technical interaction with data, i would be grateful to be informed.

i have chosen not to send out an unsolicited resume but i can furnish one on request.

myself "

What is globally right or wrong about this letter ?

The only things wrong are that you haven't passed any exams yet or provided them with any work history so they don't feel incented to contact you. Pass a couple of exams, provide the resume, and I'm sure you'll have better luck.

Should i *always* include my resume in exploratory letters like that ?
By the way i haven't received any feedback at all

I prefer to receive the resume in the body of the e-mail rather than as an attachment. Just a general letter that doesn't include a resume doesn't give a hiring manager a lot to go on, and honestly sometimes we just quickly scan the resumes and ask HR to send a thank you letter. Without the resume I can't tell if I want to spend time with you and I'm wondering why I need to go out of my way to find information out about someone who may not be suitable. Time is money and we're all busy (and possible lazy) people - make it easier for us and we're more likely to respond. JMO.

Hi, this is """", I sent a resume a week or so, and was just following up. Did you receive my resume?


Can you fill me in on the process? I'm very interested in working for your company. Do you have a hiring season, or are you in the hiring process right now?

No, we aren't hiring right now.

Well, I would definitely be very interested in a position with your company, can you tell me what I should do in order to keep my name in consideration when there is an opening?

I'm not sure what the process is.

Is there somebody there in XXX department (where XXX may be actuarial, try to AVOID HR) that handles that that I could check with. I think your company is great because of ______, and I'm very interested in working there, so I just want to make sure that my resume is, at a minimum, on file should there be any openings. Or, if there's a group/department that has an opening, I would really love to chat with them about what they are looking for.....

I'll get the name of the appropriate contact person and let you know.

Maybe I can just send you an email as a reminder, and then when you have the contact info, all you have to do is reply? Or, I could call back in a few days, whatever is easiest for you?

Since I assumed the worst case scenario on most of the answers, you should be able to build a pretty good script from that.

############ ############ ############

1.) Try using a recruiter.

2.) Ask on this board about particular locations/practice areas.

3.) Use the SOA membership directory and cold-mail resumes and cover letters to the muckety-mucks. Not pretty, and labor-intensive, but it might help.

It's a list of firms that hire actuarial students. Send a cold resume and cover letter to them saying your looking for an entry-level job in that area, blah blah blah. I've received two jobs doing this...the first job I didn't even have an exam passed. If you don't hear anything back from that mailing, then go to the soa membership directory like enough said.


As far as the first paragraph goes, you can say anything you please. I would make the main idea of the paragraph to be the reason for contacting the Company. Are you responding to an advertisement? Say so. Are you contacting them because you live in the same town? Say so. Are you contacting them because they have 23 credentialed actuaries and you figure you need to bring humor to the department? Say so.

Sometimes you can get their phone number through the SOA directory or from the Actuarial Training Program list on the SOA website (which I am a huge advocate of this list, I got 2 jobs through its listings)

It does take a long time to get a good cover letter and resume together...that's why they say looking for a job is like a full-time job and you should treat it like that. Try to set up goals for the week/day on how many you want to send out and to where. I like to alter my cover letters for the company, it takes longer but I think it's worth it. In the first paragraph, I will put something flattering about the company or why I'm interested in working there or some crap like that. Hey, they've gotta have a reason to keep reading so you might as well brown-nose a little, it doesn't hurt.

Good luck to ya!

############ ############

Is this common in the industry or is it something with me

Must be something wrong with you.

Seriously, don't expect everybody to be nice to you. Some people are busy, some just have unfriendly voice, and some are downright mean. That's what you expect when you make cold calls. Try networking. Do you know someone who knows someone?

If you call my company, you would have no luck at this time of the year. We are thinking about the coming holidays and getting ready for the year-end blue. Nobody cares about hiring. That doesn't mean you should give up trying, though.

If it's a mass mailing it goes directly into the resume file. If it includes a cover letter that shows they know something about the company or me, I'll usually take the time to respond.

Of course I customize the letter to include the recipient's name and employer as appropriate.

How much company knowledge do I need to demonstrate?

I generally mention the field I want to work in (which happens to be their field -- or the field of people they supervise), especially relevant experience (such as I did hospital IT and I want to work in health), how I generally fit the requirements they state in a job listing, and how I've enjoyed living in that part of the country and/or doing business with their company (if I have).

Consulting co's are more upfront with actuary bios, so it will be easier to find common interests there.

This is on top of what I say about my general experience and goals to everybody.

Should I dig more just to show that I can?

Nope. This sounds good.

Since I'm applying for my first internship to find out about the actuarial career, it's hard to apply any knowledge to the cover letter, and I don't want to be that know-it-all punk. I think of myself more as you-have-much-to-learn grasshoppa. I could have lied and said, "I'm really interested in focusing on XYZ specialty" but I don't have any clue whatsoever what path I'm going to take, and I figure if I make a mistake this round (which I can handle, if I don't get an internship this year, I *know* I'll get one next year) I should make it with honesty.

However, I did address my cover letter to whomever the contact was and mentioned the company name, to reduce that "I'm applying to ninety places" feel. I can handle 89 rejections, I just need 1 yes. And even if I get 90 rejections, it just means that I have to wait till next year

Sounds like you're doing the right thing.

Sammie's pet peeve: when people apply to P&C jobs and mention the SOA in their cover letter. Yes, the exams are joint at the entry level, but if you mentioned CAS it would show me that you understand that you are applying for a P&C job. Showing CAS makes it look less like an unfocussed mass mailing, I'll take any job I can get, letter. JMO.

You don't have to dig up that much. I just want to know that you did enough research to know what kind of a firm we are, (e.g. we are a P&C carrier specializing in personal lines and small commercial, operating in northern New England) and if applying for a particular position, that you read the job description and pointed out your particular strengths.

Any attempt to show in-depth knowledge of our personnel and operations would probably be BS unless you had some special connection with us.

Also, we are in the boonies. I want to know that you know where we are and that you are OK with that. I don't want you freaking out and wasting my time when you find out that it's cold up here, we have moose, and it's a LONG way to the nearest Target. Probably good to show a general knowledge of the area for any company not in a major metropolitan center.

My understanding from other threads is that it's better to call the head actuary first, to ask where to direct resumes, and by hardcopy or email. I'm currently compiling a list to blitz this way.

In cases where I find an actual advertised position I'm qualified for, I follow the instructions in the listing as well.

Is this reasonable? fwiw I'm entry level.

how about calling people in the SOA directory????

That's how I landed my job, but I emailed them all instead. I sent like 200 emails to 3 or 4 different cities, got about 10 interviews, and 3 positions that I could have taken.

Like it was said earlier, do not send attachments with your email. First, send a an email detailing what you are wanting (a job or internship), and then send one with attachment if they respond back and are interested.

If they really want someone, they will respond, no doubt.

I have been sending out my resume by email for the past 2 months, and no response whatsoever so far. Is that the norm? A couple of recruiters, I talked to sounded pessismistic about entry level hiring in the current market conditions.

I take it that you don't want to actually expend any effort to find a job?

Start with a small radius. Increase as necessary.

If I don't hear dialing soon, ...

I did not try this before. I was not sure abot the cold calling etiquette. I will give it a try.

Just so you know: actuaries like giving out general information, but are usually a bit more guarded about anything else.

This board is probably a good place to start. I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that a couple Canadians on the board read your note and are willing to talk to you some.

I would talk to some career-counselor-types at your University. Most Universities, even if they have no formal actuarial program, have at least a few alum who are doing actuarial work. That might be a good lead for you - somebody that you have some common background with that can help you get started.

Also, I would not start with the chief actuary, but look a little lower. If they are that high up, they are not very likely to respond, I think: if you are asking for a job, somebody else handles that, and if you are just looking for career advice, somebody newer would have more in common with you that is worth sharing.

I would look for ACAS's (since you say you want to go P&C route - look for ASA's if you are also interested in the Dark Side). Especially in Canada, since you need Fellowship to sign, ACAS is a good sign that the person is still pursuing exams and not likely to be too senior.

I would drop a couple emails, saying you would appreciate an opportunity to meet with them for lunch or for a short informational interview, to discuss the career, and gain some insights. Also, mention that you are looking for a job, and would appreciate any information they had about open positions, either at their company or elsewhere, but that you are looking to meet with them for information only, not to interview for a position. If you don't hear back, I wouldn't follow up, but I would be surprised if you sent out five such emails, and didn't get at least a couple of affirmative responses. I would definitely be willing to meet with a Chicagoan who made such a request, and all the Canadian actuaries I know are much nicer than I am. Cuter, too, but that has nothing to do with your request :P

One of the key things that you can gain is some general, basic knowledge about what is going on in the industry, which will allow you to discuss the career intelligently when you do get to the job interview stage. Candidates that come into an interview with a basic understanding of concepts like what the exams are about, what are the hot issues in current practice, and the general business climate definitely are impressive, because what we do is so specialized that very few people outside of the field have any idea. Questions like "What is the difference between ratemaking and reserving?" in a job interview do not score points. A much better question would be "It seems like a reserving position would fit me much better than ratemaking because of ____ - would you agree?" or somethign similar sounds a lot better.

And your comment that oyu should do more than mail resumes to HR and wait is right on. Too many people do that. Put some effort in on your behalf and you are likely to find something. HR is not how jobs get filled. If you met with me about my company, and we had an opening, HR might not even know about it. Or, the job posting might go to HR, but I would tell my boss, "By the way, there's this PhD in physics that I know..." and you might be offered the job before HR has finished filling out the required paperwork to post the position.

I don't care about scores and grades. Convince me that you will (not can, but will) be my actuary slave.


Last edited by Traci; 01-23-2005 at 10:02 PM..
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Old 01-22-2005, 02:45 PM
jackj109 jackj109 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 326

Point to ponder (from an old actuary):

Inexperienced college students look very similar to one another on paper (i.e., resume). How do you plan to differentiate yourself from your competition?

agree with you that the things that most employers seem to look for when finding interns and entry level employees are:

1. Exams passed
2. Ability to use Excel and maybe Access/Visual Basic
3. Good communication skills

Everything else probably doesn't matter all that much. I don't think learning any other technical programs or taking different finance type courses really helps that much. If a company uses a propriety program or language they won't expect you to learn it until you are on the job. I know Watson Wyatt uses a modified version of Fortran and I have been told that everyone learns it as they go.

I think your best bet is to pursue any internship opening you see. Internships are usually easier to obtain and require zero experience. Companies really don't mind giving out internships. They see it as an economical way to see if a candidate is a good fit for their company before giving out a full time offer. It also helps increase their utilization since interns billable rates are lower (if you work in consulting that is).

I would also recommend looking for a position in the US if possible. It seems that the Canadian market for actuaries is a bit saturated. Here in Boston at our job fair the majority of students receive an internship or entry level job every year. Most of the people I know who received internships had zero or 1 exam passed.

At many firms websites, on their career link, there is usually a link specifically for university recruiting. I would look into that area because that is usually where the internship openings will be listed.

Also, I am not sure about this, but I think that Universities open up their job fairs to anyone, not just their students. You might want to see if you can go to the job fairs of the big actuarial schools (Temple, Georgia State University, University of Iowa, etc). The more well known programs will have bigger job fairs, more companies, and of course, more open positions.

One particular company you might want to look into is ISO in New York. They supposedly hire a ton of entry level people every year. They seem to be a stepping stone for many actuaries early on in their career. Work a few years at ISO then move on to greener pastures.

You could try some of the following problems.

1. Creating amortization schedule of a mortgage (standard example)
2. Creating the Life table, A_x, \ddot{a}_x table from just q_x
(reproducing the appendinx in Bowers)
3. Get a copy of Life Insurance by Black and Skipper and try to reproduce
some of the tables (asset share calculation)
4. Workout examples in Rob Brown's Introduction to casualty actuarial practice using Excel.
5. Program Newton's method to find roots of a function in VBA
and compare that with IRR function in Excel for a series of cashflow.
6. Learn how to edit a few selected elements of a data set using DATA module in SAS.

I know some of these exercies are too much (specially 3&4).

Experts could add some more examples.

Judging by what I've seen from a few friends, if you're an actuarial science major at a school with a good program, you'll have internships offered to you almost without even trying. Despite not having any exams and not even having a resume, companies were calling them up to offer internships. So there's a definite advantage to being in an actuarial program.

Otherwise, I'll assume you're like me, a math major at a non-actuarial school. First thing (which you've already done, yay!) is you *must* pass an exam! There are lots of people applying for these internships, and if you don't have an exam you'll be swept amongst the masses unless you absolutely sparkle (i.e. near 4.0 GPA, good extracurricular activities). The fact that you'll be sitting for the second exam in November is also a tremendous help... not many interns have passed two exams.

Then, the hard part, even harder than passing Course 1: finding a company. The actuarial training program is a great place to start. Here's one thing I learned: just sending out a resume is, in ~80% of the cases, useless. Call the company up. You might have to call human resources first. Ask to speak to someone in the actuarial department... your goal is to get to the *actuary* who is in charge of actuarial internships. You may have to ask HR for the chief actuary. That can be a little nerve-wracking, but every chief actuary will be happy to spend 30 seconds to tell you the name you need and help you out. Once you get to the person you need, ask them about their program. Ask how many people they need, how many they hire, when the best time to send a resume is, who/where you should send it to. Be interested! Be friendly! Be enthusiastic! It's easy, because they're friendly and enthusiastic people too... every person I talked to on the phone was incredibly easy to talk with.

Hope this helps! You might be able to get better advice from someone on this forum who hires interns... any volunteers?

This is excellent advice Drzy. When looking for interns (co-ops), I typically look at only one school (University of Waterloo) because of time constraints, and because I know that they have an excellent candidate pool. If someone has the guts to call around shows initiative, and might cause me to consider someone with no work experience even. Not having work experience would need to be compensated for by decent grades, extracurricular and exam progress as well as a very good interview. Focus on strong communication and organizational skills (and give examples!) if you have no work experience.

Topic: How NOT to Get an Actuarial Job
1 Send me your resume in a form-letter e-mail that you're also sending to dozens of other potential employers. That will be sure to get my attention.

2 Omit your actual GPA and maximum possible GPA from your resume. What do grades matter?

3 When you are in college, avoid actuarial internships like the plague.

4 Don't bother taking any actuarial exams while you're in college. There will be plenty of time for that later, and potential employers like to gamble on those who have not proven themselves.

5 As an alternative, you can take four or five exams in college so that you are extremely well qualified for an entry-level job. As an added bonus, you will get your FSA after only a year or two of work experience.

6 If you have passed one or more exams, be sure not to state when you've passed them. It shouldn't make any difference.

7 Don't state your plans for taking exams. It's probably none of my business.

8 Get your master's degree or PhD first (preferably in an unrelated field) and then apply for an entry-level actuarial job.

9 Unexplained time periods with no work or school on your resume are no problem. It shouldn't matter to me whether you were in the Peace Corps, working in a different field, or just doing nothing.

10 If we interview you, don't waste time preparing. Don't bother to check out our web site or do any research on our business. Refrain from reading the newspaper and keeping up on current events, especially in the industry. And whatever you do, do not think of any questions that you can ask me during the interview.

11 Speak softly and avoid eye contact. You don't want to come across as too self-confident.

12 Restrict your answers to the exact question asked. The fewer syllables, the better.

13 Be careful not to appear too enthusiastic.

14 Ask not what you can do for us, ask what we can do for you. It will be especially impressive if you focus exclusively on the benefits of our actuarial student program.

15 It is probably not worthwhile for you to speak with other actuaries to get their advice and find out if they are satisfied with their careers. Their experience means nothing to you.

16 It is especially dangerous for you to know the differences between working for a consulting firm and working for an insurance company.

17 Similarly, there is no point in knowing the difference between life/health/pension and property/casualty. All insurance and all actuaries are basically the same.

18 If you're not from the city or area where my company is located, it is a poor use of your time to research the city, its attractions, the cost of living, etc. You may also find it helpful to make disparaging remarks about the city during your interview.

19 Last but not least, don't have any kind of plan for your career and where you want to go. We're willing to hire you and support you in the exams for a few years just to see if you'll like being an actuary.

* Edited to add numbers per DTNF's request. I'm sure Mr. Birnstihl was only trying to be humorous so I don't see too much value in picking these apart. Extreme examples are meant to be funny, feel free to add your own observations.

, and there are some (not many) who think differently.

These get you an entry-level interview:
1. Exams passed.
2. Reputation of college attended, according to "best schools" list or its actuarial department.
3. Grades.
4. Well-organized resumay.
5. Successful internships.
6. Close distance from the job.
7. Right place at right time.

These get you the job offer:
8. Oral communication skills.
9. Your knowledge of the company as perceived by interviewers.
10. Answering pat questions correctly.
11. Answering the unusual questions correctly.
12. Putting up with HR.
13. Appearance.
14. Right place at right time.

...And even if you do, the fact that you're so very confident that you will pass may come across as cocky to some employers, like LVB 6.2 in particular...

The most important thing you wish to convey in your resume is:


The trouble with this is dozens of other candidates are communicating the same thing.

So, the things that are relevant to an employer are exams, experience, education and skills.

Stress your strengths in any or all of these areas. If you have little or no experience, then emphasize your education by highlighting relevant math, finance, economics, accounting and insurance courses you've studied.

BTW, I am not cocky. I am just right.

I prefer email, so I can easily pass it around. A .rtf file is my favorite (it's much less virus-prone than Word). I'd put the high points in the body of the email, so if the attachment is stripped off I have some idea what you are looking for.

Always follow up by snail-mail, and mention in your email that you plan do do so, unless it's a "hot" resume (you've spoken to me and I've asked you to send a resume) and I requested that you email it.

Do not ever send your resume to an HR person first, or at the same time as you send it to me. HR people were designed to fill the slots that were too idiotic for the homeless to take.

One thing that is missing is research. If you're going to bomb me with resumes, and want me to invest time talking to you, for the love of god don't send me a generic resume/cover letter that shows you know nothing about the company you have applied to. Honestly, if you took the time to find out what kind of company it is, what kind of business we write, and show that research in your resumes/cover letters I can guarantee better results. As it is, I get a little fed up hearing about relevant experiences/courses in pensions or some other similar nonsense. It's not relevant, it does show an actuarial background, however.

In my day...when I wanted a job I researched it and demonstrated that through a tailored cover letter and tailored resume specific to each job.

*vent over*

Sorry, but I think this is still a good idea. And at the entry level, I don't really expect candidates to pretend they know a ton about my company or the difference between life/PC or whatever. I want to know they know something about being an actuary and that they have some skills to succeed. If you're sending out 80 resumes, personalizing them and researching the companies is not a good option.

But you should definitely be aware that different employers see this differently. You're in good with me, but Sammie will be laughing at your lack of personalization. Volume vs. the personal touch. I vote volume
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TYC, you're not expected to know how to read financial statements in the cover letter for an entry level job. But taking 1/2 hour to read the co's website and do a Google search probably puts you in the top 10% of applicants. Taking another 1/2 hour to customize what you do know and understand about what you've read, and being able to casually drop it into a cover letter is quite likely to make your phone ring.

Here's how it goes:
300 resumes, a box full.

first 10 minutes, a quick skim of the cover letter and Very brief look at the resume. At this point, 200+ of them go in the garbage. A cover letter like the one above gets you thrown in the keep pile right away. And remembered for the next cut.

Next, the remaining 50-100 get a bit closer look. Anything bizarre, or too light, in the garbage. But odd things at this point can keep you out of the garbage - like a cover letter unique to the company even if you're experience and qualifications aren't quite up to snuff. 10 resumes left.

Last 10 or so resumes get the full twice over. Fully qualified candidates' resumes stay, as do any who are borderline (or just don't have anything to be eliminated on) but have something that strikes the interviewer as someone interesting - like someone who's got this cover letter that speaks directly to the company.

5 get the call. At that point, you've got the interview, which is all the resume is for.

The first time I hired, I did exactly the above. There was one resume (not really qualifed, hardly made it through the first cut) that I put in the garbage pile at least 5 times then kept pulling it out and rereading it. They eventually got the job.

The way I got my favourite job of all time (when I was still green) was to include one sentence in my cover letter that I knew would grab the interviewer's attention.

Sammie - What was your one sentence?

I made reference to the importance of upcoming auto legislation (and named the legislation) and its impact on our business. The FCAS to whom the cover letter was addressed had been very involved publicly with work on that auto legislation on behalf of a client.

I get different opinions about objective line on resumes. Some recruiters are in favor of it, some are strongly against it. I personally don't like it. If you want to work in a less stressful environment, look for that kind of companies. The objective line doesn't change the environment of the company you're applying for.

I get different opinions about objective line on resumes. Some recruiters are in favor of it, some are strongly against it. I personally don't like it. If you want to work in a less stressful environment, look for that kind of companies. The objective line doesn't change the environment of the company you're applying for.

Cover letter:

3 paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: Statement of what position you're seeking and why you believe the position exists (e.g., response to an ad, posting at a website or just a shot in the dark)

Paragraph 2: Statement of your qualifications referring to your resume and specific relevant skills, experience or compromising material you have on the addressee.

Paragraph 3: Request for a meeting/interview to discuss the position and how you would fit in.


Default Resume writing for beginners
OK, I am buried in resumes and it sucks. If you want to work for me (and I realize most sane people probably don't), take note:

First, I have 100+ resumes. I want any reason to toss one and not look at it ever again. The bonus of pitching one is that I can leave one of my campus interview slots open, so I get an extra 45 minutes free to make phone calls while I am on campus. Don't give me a reason.

So: Don't let there be any chance that I will look at your resume and not notice your exams. I mean totally impossible. Because after looking for 5 seconds, I may toss it in the trash (it's like I just created 45 minutes out of thin air!). If I see an exam in the first 5 seconds, I give you my personal guarantee I will read the rest of the resume, no matter how bad it is. Now, the rest may be bad, but honestly, do you want me to read your bad resume or throw it away?

It's a good idea to have a separate section for exams, but not always necessary. Because if I miss it, your resume probably got tossed in favor of somebody who put exams in bold.

This guy has a section called "Related Coursework", and under it, has "Actuarial Models", "Survival Models", "Actuarial Pricing", "Theory of Interest", "Passed SOA Course 1", "and Life Contingencies". Did you read all of those? Because I just skimmed, lucky for him I read the one that mattered (none of the rest did - he has a degree from an actuarial school, so I don't care which actuarial classes he took, I am sure they are good). So, now, I am reading his resume, but I am ticked off at him for making me hunt. He probably didn't want me to be mad at him while reading his resume. If I find a typo, it's all over (that should be generally true regardless, but for this guy it's a certainty; I may have more patience if I liked him).

Next, if you have an internship, that's a BIG DEAL. Your job at the mall is ok to mention, but I don't care very much. If the internship is four lines on your resume, while the mall is three lines, that is a big mistake. HUGE.

I'll be back with more later. These resumes suck.

OK, this guy actually took the time to find out the name of the person responsible for recruiting, and addressed a letter to him. Thanks for the effort. If you take that attitude with your job search, I will assume that you might take some initiative to treat clients well. Looking forward to meeting up with you on campus. Wish you didn't have that typo in your cover letter, but I can get over it.

Another issue where you can keep me from getting stressed - make it clear what you are looking for - intern or permanent. If there is an "Objective" line, and you leave that out....

If you have no "Objective" line, then I hope I can quickly find your graduation date and determine what you want. Please don't make me spend extra time figuring it out. Please. Pretty please with sugar on top.

Oh, oh! And bonus points for cover letters which show some understanding of the company! :P

All sage advice, and I'm glad to see that I'm not the only SOB out there when it comes to reviewing resumes. You have 30 seconds to get my attention before you land on the discard pile. If you send a well written cover letter, you get two minutes.

Here's my scan order:

Where did you go to school?
What was your major?
What was your GPA?
Previous work experience?

Contrary to previous posts, I like to see a lot of non-actuarial work experience, especially during the school year. Students who work to pay for school seem to be particularly successful in this field; they know how to balance work and study.

Westley's right. A stack of 100+ resumes is a lot of work. The last time I went through hiring, I had 350 resumes to go through. You're looking at a couple boxes of resumes. The first thing *EVERYONE* does is start sorting.

First, if it's physically odd, like handwritted, dot matrix, crayon, pink paper, etc. it's garbage. Then it's some other arbitrary criteria to sort into good/bad piles. Then take the good pile and sort again into good/not so good. Then sort again based upon a quick read. Then the last 20 or so get a detailed read and sorted again. Then it's back to rereading and resorting to get it down to about 5 candidates.

Remember, the resume is to get the interview, the interview gets the job. Wesley's looking for reasons to cut - so as long as you don't give him reasons to cut, you should stay in the 'good' pile til closer to the end. At that point as long as you meet the base criteria for the job you stand a reasonable chance of getting called in for an interview.

In short, it's a tough thing to do but don't give the interviewer any reason to turf you in the first 5 second perusal of your resume. And 90% of resumes easily allow for this kind of sort.

The last time I went job hunting I also used a professional resume service. Don't discount a few dollars on outside advice.

I get stacks of intern resumes. When you are fortunate enough to have many great candidates, you will be demanding. I quickly sort resumes into three piles: the ones worth a second glance, the maybes, and the do not interview.

Worth a second glance:
1. Relevant Internships (actuarial or with insurance company)
2. Actuarial Science or Mathematics Program
3. Exams passed
4. Grades (I'll excuse one bad term, but I will ask about why it happened if I interview you. I'll also give you points if I see you had a rough start and then you showed consistent improvement.)

Do not interview pile:
A. An internship with a very low grade
B. No Exams passed AND average scores on internships
C. A record of bad grades (unless you can find a compelling way to explain it in your cover letter, OR you have passed actuarial exams).
D. Horrendous grammar and spelling. I consider communication a necessary skill for any staff I will invest in. I do not want someone who wants to do their work in a corner and won't/can't talk to people.

Then I see how many are in the interview pile. Then I go through the maybe pile to make sure I didn't miss any diamonds in the rough. Points for extracurricular. A cover letter that shows some research could move someone from the maybe to the interview pile.

Then I double check one last time the do not interview pile to make sure I wasn't too hasty.

Westley, how many people do you wish to interview? You should narrow down the number of resumes to equal the number of interviewees plus a couple more (in case the potential interviewees have already received job offers).

An entry-level candidate is just that. What fascinating experience or skills do you anticipate the person to have that will differentiate him from the rest of the pack?

Rest of the Entry-Level Candidates in the World,

Show your most marketable characteristics first!

If you have C1, C2, C3 and are sitting for C4, then say so -- BOLDLY

If you have internship experience, highlight it

If you have references, then include 'em. Don't give me that BS "available on request", 'cause I'm gonna request 'em. And they better be in my hand the very next day. Send them to me via Courier Service

I wouldn't even include "References available upon request." That's assumed, if the company wants them they will ask for them. I would leave Exam 2 on your resume, but instead say "Sitting for Exam 2 - May 2003". Many times people see the resume who never see the cover letter and you want them to know you are continuing to take exams.

I don't like your objective. I think it is too generic. What kinds of skills do you want to apply? You also might consider customizing your resume based on whether you are applying to insurance or consulting. Also, don't capitalize actuarial.

I screen, interview (along with HR, usually) and manage the interns in our office. I typically get 15-50 resumes each time I post a position.

This is my (anal retentive) advice to interns/entry level candidates:
1. Keep it clear
2. Watch your grammar and spelling
3. Do not use 10 pt font (sorry Elmo)! I don't like squinting. I adore white space on a resume!
4. Include a cover letter and you will impress me that you've taken the time to do research on the company. I read every cover letter I get since I get so few.
5. Have someone proofread your resume and cover letter. Better yet, have two people do it. I'm looking for a numbers nerd that is able to communicate.

Two pages are okay for an entry level person that has interned at a few companies, and has a good list of extracurricular. Otherwise, keep it to one page.

My favourite experience was actually taking about 20 minutes of my precious time to anonymously help out someone on this board with their resume, then receiving a copy in the mail - with none of the suggested changes made.

1. If I'm not sure a position is currently available, but I'd like to send you my resume any way, what is the best possible way to find out who to send it to? Or if a position does exist, how do I find out who to address my cover letter to? (Assume that all I know is the company name and a general phone number).

SOA directory. Search for FSAs at the company, make sure they're in the location you want if it's a big co with lots of offices. Some on this board say always to send your resume to the Chief Actuary, but I personally disagree. I'd think the Chief Actuary has enough to do and won't spend any time on an unsolicited, uncredentialed resume. If you're an ASA or an FSA who's looking, however, sending to the Chief Actuary may be a good way to go. If a job opening does exist, there should be contact information. If there's a phone number, call and ask for the name, title, and address for the appropriate contact person.

2. Does it matter what e-mail provider I'm using? Is a Yahoo or Hotmail account less professional than other accounts? If I am currently employed, I definitely shouldn't use my e-mail address with my current employer, correct?

Definitely don't use your current work address. I second everything that DTNF said about e-mail addresses. Something innocuous like (in my case) is your best bet.

3. I have three documents: A cover letter, a resume, and references. Should I be sending all 3 or just the first 2?

Just the first 2. As DTNF said (have I ever agreed with DTNF twice in one post before?), use the e-mail itself as the cover letter. Check out all the fun resume-writing tips on this board. One page max. If you have space, "References available upon request" is a fine thing to add, but it's also the first thing to cut if you're running out of room. Alternatively, "Upon your request, I would be happy to provide you with references from my internship at XYZ Life and the professor who oversaw my research on risk analysis in the life insurance industry, described in my attached resume" is a fine sentence to include in a cover letter.

So, carrying over from your other thread -- have you decided for sure that you're looking to jump ship? Have you talked to your manager yet? One more bit of advice: don't wait til you have an offer from somewhere else and then go to her expecting a counter-offer or a miracle. Give her a chance to improve your situation before you start interviewing.


It was noted here earlier and other places often: EXAMS AT THE TOP, as Z does. Above skills, kitt.

Heck, you could go so far as to place them above your name. Your name will likely not get your resume kept or tossed, but the exams will.

My preference:
1. Exams. Bold, highlighted, whatever. Do not trim it! Only trimming I would suggest is: "Passed exams X, Y, Z, ... between May 1999 and Nov 2004." Anyone can check with the SOA's pass lists to find out exactly which exam was passed when, but it's not all that important. The time span between first and most recent might be, to some.
2. Work.
3. Skills. Yes, Z, most skills can be worked into work experience section -- "Used SAS to extract and analyze claim data by redlined ZIP codes..."
4. Education. Include classes taken only if work experience is less than two years.
5. Hobbies (including volunteer work). Top three should be enough.

Perhaps pink paper with perfume sprayed on. Worked for Elle Woods.

1. Place actuarial exams passed above all else. It's the first item looked for, so make it easy to find.
2. Chuck the high school stuff. Unless it's really interesting and you haven't done anything like it yet in university (because it is done by upper-class students, such a President of Student Council, or some such non-nonsense).
3. Add work or hobbies only if it's interesting to someone who might hire you. Yes, it's difficult to figure that out. But since you're in Canada, anything related to hockey would be favorable. In US, anything involving making betting pools for NFL is favorable. "Making change accurately in head" might not be very interesting for anyone, as a counter-example.

Last edited by Traci; 01-23-2005 at 08:41 PM..
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Old 01-22-2005, 10:00 PM
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MNBridge MNBridge is offline
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Very impressive post. Required reading for job hunters.

I think you put more work into this post than many of the job hunters do in looking for a job. Should be a sticky.

If I was looking for a candidate I'd interview you based on this post. I'll seriously PM if anything opens.
Looks like the parastie is going to have to find another life to go after.

He sucked all the enjoyment of visting this place out of me.

Last edited by MNBridge; 01-22-2005 at 10:03 PM..
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Old 01-22-2005, 10:12 PM
jackj109 jackj109 is offline
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Posts: 326

Hey thanks, I'd appreciate that.
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Old 01-22-2005, 11:18 PM
Dread Pirate Roberts
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You have single handedly created an actuary job hunting FAQ! Nice work!
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Old 01-23-2005, 10:35 AM
Doctor Doctor is offline
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Your persistence and attention to detail bode well for your career as an actuary.
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Old 01-23-2005, 12:51 PM
Westley Westley is offline
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Posts: 24,477

Great post, thanks for the hard work. glenn: Sticky?
America is ready for a new kind of corruption. ---Dr T Non-Fan
it's easier to get away with murder than it is to pass an actuarial exam ---Colonel Smoothie

Westley's career tools:
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Old 01-23-2005, 03:10 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is online now
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Originally Posted by jackj109
I sincerely apologize if I'm quoting you without reference to your name.
The bill is in the mail.

I have not been this impressed in a long time. Thank you for making my morning.

Improvements: Could you bold the questions, so we can follow the dialogue a bit better?
I second Westley's motion for a sticky.
DTNF's Basic Philosophy Regarding Posting: There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling! -- Jeff Albertson (CBG)
DTNF's Trademarked Standard Career Advice: "pass some exams and get back to us."
DTNF's Major advice: "Doesn't matter. Choose major that helps you with goal of Career Advice."
DTNF's Résumé Advice: Have a good and interesting answer to every item on it for the interviews.
DTNF's Law of Job Offers: You not only have to qualify for the position, but you also have to be the best candidate available for the offer.
DTNF's Work Philosophy: I am actuary. Please insert data. -- Actuary Actuarying Rodriguez.
Twitches' Advice to Crazy Women: Please just go buy your 30 cats already.
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Old 01-23-2005, 05:44 PM
Posts: n/a

Agree on the sticky! Nice work.
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