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What is actuarial

what is actuarial

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.

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 09:02 PM.

Category: Insurance

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