So you’ve studied hard and passed some exams. You’ve been sending out resumes, but you aren’t getting responses. Or maybe you’re even getting rejection letters. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
But before you get concerned about whether becoming an actuary was a bad idea, let’s take a few minutes to figure out what’s really going on. It could be that you just need to make update your resume to make it stand out better to employers. Or maybe you need to increase your skills/experience a bit so that you’re more competitive in the job market.
Now, for full disclosure, I don’t have a ton of experience looking for actuarial jobs. It was just about 4 years ago now that I was looking for my first one. I sent out some resumes. Got one interview and was hired. And that’s in Canada (it’s pretty competitive in here).
But, I have been able to help many others fix up their resume and get a job. I’ve even got a whole course about how to create an actuarial resume and make it stand out.
So now that I’ve prefaced this with my actual experience looking for a job, here are the two problems I’ve found that most people run into when they’re trying to get interviews for actuarial positions.
1. They don’t have the qualifications needed to “make the cut”.
2. They’re not marketing themselves well on their resume.
Below, I’ll go into more detail about both of them. If you want even more tips, you can sign up for my regular job search tips emails at the top of this post.
Making the Cut
Let’s go through some of the different things that employers will look at when they’re deciding whether or not to interview you.
One of the first things employers look for when they get your resume is the number of exams you’ve passed. Most of the time, having at least 2 exams is passed is good enough to get an actuarial job. But, if you’re in Canada, you’ll probably want to have 4-5 exams.
In Canada, many students graduate out of school with 4-5 exams already passed so that’s what employers usually expect.
However, this isn’t to say that having more than 2 exams wouldn’t help you. Passing 3 or 4 would put you above the “average” candidate in terms of exams. But there is more to being employable than just your exams.
If you have 3 or more exams and you’ve still had difficulty getting an interview, it’s pretty safe to say that this isn’t the reason why. So at this point you probably don’t want to focus on passing more exams in order to make yourself more employable.
Your past experience can have a big influence on whether or not actuarial employers will be interested in hiring you. Experience in the positions like underwriting, data analytics, or anything involving finance would be great.
There’s definitely a possibility of getting an actuarial position without this experience but you’d have a big advantage even if you just dedicated 6-12 months of your time in one of these related positions.
This doesn’t mean that you should stop applying for actuarial positions. You can still make the experience that you have really stand out to employers. My bet is that there are at least 2-3 skills that you’ve learned in other positions that actuarial employers would be interested in. I talk about this a lot in the Resume Building Course.
Another area that you can develop are your technical skills.
Employers value candidates that have in-depth knowledge of Excel, Access, and programming languages like VBA and Python. If you don’t, this is definitely something you can do within the next couple of weeks that will instantly improve your employability.
One of the best places I’ve found to learn these skills is a website called Skill Share. By using this link to Skill Share you can get 2 months of their Premium membership for free. It has tons of really great tutorials everything from Excel (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), Access, R, Python, VBA , and SQL.
Some of the courses include:
• Excel: Top 50 Formulas in 50 Minutes
• Introduction to Pivot Tables in Excel
• Learn Python in 3 Hours
• Build a Complete Bond Pricer in VBA
Some of the courses even have assignments that you can go through and complete to help you fine-tune your new skills.
If you’ve already got everything that I mentioned above (or maybe you don’t have it all, but most of it), then it could be that you just need to make your resume stand out! Luckily, this doesn’t take long but it can have a huge impact in how many actuarial interviews you get.
Some of the common problems that I see on resumes are:
• It’s too crowded.
• It’s not ordered correctly.
• Job descriptions just state the tasks that the candidate completed.
• It doesn’t show employers why they should interview that candidate rather than anyone else.
• There are grammar or spelling mistakes.
You want your resume to be easy to skim through and pick out the important parts. Remember, employers usually have hundreds of applications to go through so if yours is difficult to read then they may just move onto the next.
Generally, your resume should be about 50% text. There should be lots of white space. And for an entry level position you’ll want to keep it to just one page.
This means that you need to figure out what the most important parts of your resume are and only include those in the limited space. This will ensure that employers see only the things that make you really stand out. Your resume won’t be “diluted” with other information that isn’t as important or impressive.
There is a typical order that you’ll want your resume to follow.
Your actuarial exams should be at the top. You can read this post for information on how to add actuarial exams to your resume.
Then you’ll follow that with your education, followed by experience, and then technical skills.
There are some exceptions to this which I talk about, or will help you with, in the Actuarial Resume Building Course.
How you present yourself through your past experience (whether it be jobs, internships or volunteer experience) can make a huge difference in whether or not an employer is interested in you. Because if this, the Job Descriptions part of the Resume Course is by far the biggest section. It’s so important.
Rather than just stating all the tasks that you completed in your previous jobs, a better thing to do is talk about the results and impact that you had. You want to show how those past experiences enabled you with skills that are relevant in an actuarial position. Even if your past experience isn’t super relevant to actuarial work, I’m sure that you can find some skills that you developed that actuarial employers would value.
If you’d like help doing this, the course goes into detail about those skills and how to create job descriptions that display your true value to the company.
Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
It’s really easy to accidentally make spelling and/or grammar mistakes on your resume, especially if English isn’t your first language.
Before submitting your resume and cover letter to an employer, you should always have one or two friends review it for these types of mistakes. You could also post it on an actuarial forum and ask for feedback.
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