10 Common Actuarial Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

10 Common Actuarial Interview Questions and How to Answer Them was originally published on Forage.

A picture of a woman answering common actuarial interview questions

Whether it’s an internship or an entry-level role, a key step in securing an actuary job is the interview. And while you should prepare for common interview questions, you also need to ready yourself for common actuarial interview questions.

Though this means brushing up on your hard skills, you might be surprised to learn that an actuarial interview asks about your soft skills, too. 

How to Answer 10 Common Actuarial Interview Questions

While every interview is different, here are 10 actuarial interview questions to prepare for.

1. Why are you pursuing a career in actuarial sciences?

This is very similar to “Why are you applying for this position?” or “Why do you want to work for our company?” which makes it a pretty standard interview question.

However, in this case, the interviewer is drilling down and asking why you want to pursue this career path over others (say, accounting or data science).

This is the time to talk about why you’re interested in actuarial science. Is it because you like predicting things? Advising others about their risk and steering them in a different direction? There are no real “wrong” answers to this, outside of “I don’t know” and “Money.”

>>MORE: Actuary vs Accountant: What’s the Difference?

2. Have you taken or passed the actuarial exams yet? Why or why not?

Becoming a full-fledged actuary requires passing multiple exams, and it may take you as many as 10 years to finish it all! Fortunately, you don’t need to take and pass every exam to work as an entry-level actuary. And if you’re interviewing for an internship, you may not need to take any exams.

However, the hiring manager wants to know how far along you are with your exams and gauge your commitment to the overall process.

The best way to answer this actuarial interview question is as honestly as possible. Explain where you are and why you’re there. You don’t have to get too detailed, but a little context is helpful.

I’ve taken two of the exams so far, but I don’t have the results yet. I’m feeling confident in my performance and will find out next month how I did.

I’ve taken four exams but only passed three. I think it was a mistake for me to rush into the fourth one. But I did so well on the first three, I figured I was on a roll! I’m taking more time to prepare to retake the exam and will definitely spend more time prepping for future ones.

3. Describe a current or recent project you’ve worked on.

Though it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, this is actually a behavioral interview question!

When an interviewer asks you to describe a project, they want to know what you worked on. But they also want to know what the outcome was. This is an excellent opportunity to use the STAR method. In addition to describing the project, talk about the outcome and how that solved a problem for your employer.

And if you haven’t worked as an actuary, that’s OK. You can still use the STAR method to frame your answer. Talk about a question you were trying to answer for yourself or what the purpose of a school project was (like solving a hypothetical problem).

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4. What is the role of an actuary in X industry?

All actuaries evaluate risk and translate that risk into financial impact. However, calculating risk in one industry over another is often very different.

For example, in the insurance industry, an actuary determines the risk of writing a policy for a specific individual or a home. The risk is calculated based on the individual’s age and health or if the house is located someplace impacted by fire or flood risk. But actuaries in the investment industry calculate the risk of an investment based on the volatility of the market and suggest ways for the company to minimize its risk.

The key to answering this actuarial interview question is focusing your answer on the specific industry the role is in. Rely on your research into the company and what it does to help frame your answer.

>>MORE: Underwriter vs. Actuary: What’s the Difference?

5. If you were to evaluate X, what would be most important in evaluating the risk?

In many ways, this is a technical interview question. The interviewer is wondering how you approach the primary function of the job. And, in most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The interviewer wants to understand how you approach things and what you do if you get stuck.

Approach this logically and talk through your answer. Where would you start, and how would you gather the necessary information? Would you follow up with a coworker or your boss for additional information?

6. Let’s talk about your case study.

In a case study interview, you’re presented with a problem, given some data, and asked to provide a solution. While the data may be fake, the challenge is real — as in something you might face on the job. In some respects, it’s the same as a technical interview question. However, a case study is usually much larger than a single technical question.

In most cases, you won’t be given the case study in the interview (though there are exceptions). You’ll usually receive the information as a take-home assignment to prepare your solutions, then send them back to the hiring team. 

During this part of the interview, you may be asked follow-up questions (Why did you do X instead of Y?) or even asked to present your solution.

>>MORE: What Is an Insurance Underwriter?

7. Reviewing what you’ve already sent to a client, you notice a mistake in one of your calculations. What do you do?

This is another behavioral interview question. In this case, though, the interviewer isn’t asking you about the specific mistake and how you’d fix it. They’re asking what you do when you’ve made an error that you need to take responsibility for.

To answer this actuarial interview question, talk about the steps you’d take to correct the situation. Would you tell your supervisor first or go directly to the client? Would you try and create a solution before reaching out, or would you immediately contact the client, apologize, then offer to fix it?

8. Are you interested in a specific actuarial track? Why?

Most actuaries work in the insurance or insurance-adjacent industries. However, being an actuary at an insurance company doesn’t mean you do the same kind of work across roles.

For example, if you work in life insurance, much of your time will be spent looking at mortality tables and determining the risks of insuring people. But if you work in property insurance, you’ll figure out the risks of insuring properties. While both of these focus on risk, how you calculate that risk and the decisions you make based on those results are very different.

Explain why one type of track interests you over the other. What are the challenges you look forward to facing and the questions you hope to answer? Conversely, if you aren’t interested in a specific track, you can explain why you’re open to exploring different types of actuary roles.

>>MORE: Is Life Insurance a Good Career Path?

9. What is your experience in X type of actuarial science?

Because actuaries approach their work differently based on the role, the recruiter or hiring manager may wonder what your specific experience with this type of work is.

Unlike other actuarial interview questions, this isn’t a behavioral question, per se. The interviewer isn’t necessarily expecting you to discuss the outcome of your work. This question is more like, “Tell me about yourself.” But, in this case, you’re talking about a narrow portion of professional experience.

Talk about the types of actuarial sciences you’ve worked in so far. This doesn’t have to be paid work. You can discuss internships or even what you’ve done in class to illustrate your experience.

10. What are some challenges facing X industry?

Every industry faces unique challenges, and, of course, actuaries evaluate that risk as part of their job. However, unlike consulting an actuary table to make a prediction, this question is asking about larger challenges the industry faces.

For example, if the job is at a financial company, your answer may include the macroeconomic challenges the industry faces due to the current economic situation — or ones that you see happening in the near future.

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The post 10 Common Actuarial Interview Questions and How to Answer Them appeared first on Forage.