Actuarial Science Interviews

Interview parts:

-Bio <– most important
-Behavioral <– almost all interviewers will ask this
-Technical <– sometimes asked, decreasing marginal returns of prepping for this

Those are the 3 parts to an interview. In an on site, different interviewers may be responsible for different parts but you need the bio for every interview. Each interviewer will ask bio 100% of the time, behavioral most of the time, and technical some of the time (for actuarial).

Bio: Who are you?

The interviewer wants to know who you are, and why you’re there. Questions include “walk me through your interview”, “why are you interested in Willis”, “why did you choose actuarial”, etc. Even if they don’t directly ask, the interviewer is thinking about this.
Now you can answer those questions, but the best way is to answer without being asked.
When you first walk in, your interviewer will introduce themselves.

I’m Tim Wang, and I lead the corporate reinsurance brokerage team here at Willis. I’ve been at Willis for X years, and my background before this was Y.

That’s your chance to introduce yourself as well. Touch on all the bio questions in your intro.

I’m Tiffany, and I’m a second year student studying Actuarial Science at NYU. Prior to this, I was studying chemistry at Wuhan University. I switched to actuarial science because while I was good at sciences as shown by my GPA, I wanted something more mathematical. I spoke with a friend of mine who works in the insurance industry in China and realized that actuarial science, especially in P&C, is still developing. For example, the switch from traditional reserving methods to more stochastic based forecasting. I know I’m fairly junior, but eventually I want to help develop the industry with real world experience. That’s part of why I chose Willis. With an insurer, you get exposure to one set of data, but as a reinsurance brokerage, you get a bird’s eye view of the industry and get a pulse on the market.

What does this say? First you’re introducing yourself and giving your immediate situation. Then you’re telling why you chose actuarial science (so they don’t need to ask why actuarial). Then you’re telling what you want to do in the future (so they don’t need to ask what are your long term goals for actuarial). Then you’re saying why Willis (so they don’t need to ask why Willis).

Behavioral – What would you do if?

This section happens at almost all interviews, from phone screen all the way to final round on site.
The interviewer is interested in knowing your behavioral, and they ask this by asking you what would you do when faced with situations. They want to know how you responded to this type of situation in the past, not just what you think you would do if given an imaginary situation.
Therefore the question format is “tell me about a time when you X”.
Examples of behavioral questions:
-tell me about a time when you had a conflict in your team
-tell me about a time when you were faced with failure
-tell me about a time when you had to deal with a team member who wasn’t pulling their weight
Your response should be using the STAR method; situation, task, action, and result.

Situation:

What was the situation? Provide background context so the interviewer knows the context of the situation.
Example: “At one of my prior internships, I was working on a project with 2 other interns.”

Task

What was your task or goal? What were you trying to accomplish?
Example: “We were tasked with creating a dashboard for showing auto claims to underwriters. However, one of the team members felt that we should do the dashboard with Python and I believed we should do the dashboard with Javascript”

Action:

What was your action? In other words, what did you do?
Example: “I explained to my team member that while Python is very popular, the company currently used Javascript and that we want something that the company can still support if we’re not here. Also, Javascript runs faster for web frameworks so it’ll be lower budget and scalable”.
This shows that you’re not just being stubborn, you understand corporate environments, and you think about the downstream impacts of your decisions on the rest of the company.

Result:

What was the result? Ideally you chose a situation where the result was to your favor. Result of getting fired isn’t what your interviewer wants to know.
Example: “While my team member was very excited about Python, he understood that upper management would be less happy if we used a framework that the company didn’t support. We ended up going with Javascript, but brought up during a team meeting that maybe we should include Python Django/Flask as a supported framework in the future”

Technical: What do you know already?

To be written later, I’m going for lunch 🙂 Good luck on your interviews in the meantime.

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