Information on Actuarial Recruiters
Many students entering the workforce today are unfamiliar with the role of executive recruiters. We have surveyed a number of actuarial recruiting firms and asked them to answer some typical questions that entry-level candidates ask about recruiters and the role they play in filling open positions in the actuarial profession.
Actuarial recruiters are paid by their clients (employers of actuaries) to find qualified candidates for specific actuarial positions. Recruiters stay in regular touch with candidates to make them aware of any open actuarial positions that exist that match their skills and interests. Recruiters make the client aware of the appropriate candidates for their position, assuming that the candidate has granted permission to do so.
Recruiters provide candidates with assistance with the job search at all stages of the process. For example, should an interview situation arise, recruiters can provide the candidate with helpful interview tips and perhaps company information. In addition, recruiters can provide career-counseling advice and address any concerns candidates have, such as concerns about relocation and salary.
The recruiters we surveyed place candidates in entry-level jobs for employers nationwide. Below are their answers to our survey questions, which provide useful information to those considering a career as an actuary.
1. From a recruiter's perspective, what is the current job market like for entry-level candidates?
Chicago, IL-based Recruiter 1: The current job market is extremely strong, enough so that we have established a separate entry-level practice and also a company that handles college recruiting for clients.
Portsmouth, NH-based Recruiter: There are plenty of opportunities available for strong, entry-level candidates. We see more and more companies establishing internal training programs for new students. As "graduates" of these programs are promoted, there are fundamental actuarial roles that have to be staffed. Our on-going relationships with these companies affirm that we will have the chance to help candidates be considered for a spot in that program.
Chicago, IL-based Recruiter: The current job market for entry-level actuarial candidates is stronger than ever before. In a basic sense, it is simple supply and demand. There are fewer candidates sitting for actuarial exams and pursuing the profession. At the same time, there are more companies with entry-level actuarial openings. The decrease in supply can be at least partially explained by the following reasons:
- The economy has provided more options and choices for quantitative/analytical candidates. These include systems, IT, dot coms, financial institutions, and software/programming. These jobs may potentially pay higher salaries and have fewer barriers to entry (i.e., a rigorous exam process).
- Demand has increased from the following companies: insurance, Big 5 audit, investment banks, brokerages, management consulting firms, bureaus, and associations. Plus, many more nontraditional, cutting-edge financial engineering opportunities have opened up that would not directly affect entry-level candidates, but would still have an impact on the overall demand for actuaries.
- In response to these economic factors, hiring companies are being forced to offer higher salaries, better perks, and quicker advancement to entry-level candidates. In addition, they are more willing to consider candidates whose background does not fit the traditional profile, which includes: one or more exams passed while still in school, actuarial internships, high GPA from a well-known actuarial science program, and U.S. citizenship.
2. What are the minimum qualifications (e.g., education, exams passed) necessary to land an entry-level actuarial job? Is it feasible to get an entry-level actuarial job without having passed any exams?
Chicago, IL-based Recruiter: Yes, with a 3.3 or above, depending on the school and major, it is very possible to get a position in an actuarial student program given the current demand. Having passed one exam is ideal.
Portsmouth, NH-based recruiter: At minimum, students should have an undergraduate degree in actuarial science, mathematics, statistics, or economics. Other degrees such as computer science and programming may also be considered. It is important that entry level candidates have passed at least one exam, preferably two. Employers are more willing to take the chance to train someone for these highly technical positions if they have "proof" (in the form of exams) that they are capable and interested in pursuing a career in this field. Candidates without exams will have more difficulty getting positions, but it is possible. In many cases, the position won't provide resources or support towards the exam process until the student has passed one exam. Then the position is likely to incorporate financial assistance and/or study time towards passing future exams.
3. What is the process a candidate would go through in using a recruiter to find a job?
Portsmouth, NH-based recruiter: First, the candidate should have a discussion with the recruiter to establish the goals and strategies of the search. You will then agree with the recruiter on a final list of companies and positions to which he/she will submit your resume. The recruiter will forward your resume to these companies and follow-up on your behalf. Should the company express any interest, the recruiter will then help schedule telephone or in-person interviews as well as counsel and assist you in preparing for those interviews. Finally, your recruiter should obtain feedback on those interviews and assist in the negotiation of any potential employment offers. Entry level candidates should know that recruiters provide these services at no cost to them. Each search firm has pre-established agreements that state our compensation arrangements with each client.
Chicago, IL-based recruiter: Any candidate who is interested in making a career move with the assistance of a recruiter would first begin by discussing their interests and the types of positions that might be appealing to them. The candidate and the recruiter would discuss, location, compensation level, areas of expertise that the candidate has and also let their recruiter know if they are utilizing any other recruiters to assist them in their search. (They would want to keep an organized list of which recruiters are submitting their resume and to where).
The candidate would forward their resume to the recruiter, who then would discuss the details of their resume with the candidate and make any appropriate/necessary changes. Also, any changes to the resume should be at the approval of the candidate. Professional recruiters would not submit a candidate's resume without their prior approval. Upon the resume being approved by the candidate, the resume would be submitted to companies that they have an interest in. The recruiter will follow up for feedback on the candidate's behalf and provide it (positive or negative), and then upon interest of the company arrange any interviews that would take place.
The recruiter will follow up with the candidate and the client regarding the interviews and relay information to both parties. If an offer should come at that point, the recruiter will work with the candidate to negotiate on their behalf and to provide a buffer between the client and the candidate, where issues may arise during negotiations.
4. How would a candidate benefit from using a recruiter?
Portsmouth, NH-based ecruiter: Recruiters have spent years developing relationships with employers and can offer you advice based on that historical knowledge. We know when companies will be flexible on certain standards and where there are potential openings that haven't been publicly advertised. In addition, recruiters are committed to spending their days following-up on resumes for you as well as reviewing any new employment opportunities for you. We know that you don't have the time or the resources to commit to your job search all day, every day. Once we commit to begin this search for you, you can feel confident that someone is looking out for your interests.
Chicago, IL-based recruiter: A candidate can benefit from using a recruiter in many ways. Recruiters have an extensive knowledge base of the market and what is available, or, more importantly, what is potentially available. Since recruiters are looking at the job market everyday as well as building relationships with companies, they are very aware of the types of candidates that would be a good fit with a company, even if there is not a known position within that company. Since each time a recruiter places a candidate at a company they build a two-sided relationship, they end up having built bridge after bridge that each lead to a plethora of contacts. Having a third party who has a history with a company is a good way to present a resume to the company. If a recruiter has an exceptionally good history of presenting strong candidates to a company, that company is likely to listen to that same recruiter when presenting a candidate who falls short of what they would typically consider for a specific position or department. It would be extremely difficult for a candidate to insert themselves into a company if their background fell short of the company's desires. Recruiters, however, often can successfully do so as the free-floating entities in the market, as they are knowledge-bound to and by both sides- employee desire and client desire. To take it further - they are the brokers between employee reality and company possibility.
Typically, candidates think that a recruiter is most useful as a job search approaches the offer stage - and the idea behind that is true. As the people in the middle, they can field any questions, concerns, hesitations, or anxieties if the offer is long in coming. As the most neutral party involved, they can try to provide a healthy balance between candidate and employee expectations. (This holds true for the entire process as well.) As the people who know the histories of the companies and how they act and react at this stage, they know how to present concerns and questions. In this respect, it is a matter of having learned through the years of specific relationships how to approach a company in the offer stage or in the negotiating stage. Contrary to popular belief, not all offers can be negotiated. It is a recruiter's job, then, through experience and learned history, to be able to present information to both sides in such a manner that all reality and potential is on the table before a decision is made.
5. In what situations is a recruiter most able to help entry-level candidates?
Portsmouth, NH-based recruiter: Any entry-level candidate should consider using recruiters as a resource during their search for employment. Recruiters can add the most value, however, if a candidate has 1 or more exams and if they are not limited geographically. However, candidates who are interested in a limited geographic area can still be confident that we will focus on that location and exhaust our resources on your behalf. There is no doubt a recruiter's efforts will be far more in-depth than anything an individual can achieve on their own.
Chicago, IL-based recruiter: For obvious reasons, a recruiter is best equipped to help a candidate find an entry-level job when that candidate meets certain qualifications: exams, internships, high GPA, well-known actuarial science programs, and U.S. citizenship.
However, there are many other situations in which the recruiter can help educate candidates about the interviewing process:
- Candidates who have full-time jobs already and/or still attending school and don't have the necessary time to dedicate toward thoroughly managing their job search
- Candidates who need Sponsorship/Work permits. Recruiters not only can educate the candidates, but more importantly can educate the potential employers.
- Candidates from schools that don't have well-established actuarial science programs which attract the numerous employers though their on-campus efforts. The candidate may lack mentorship opportunities and may not be as well educated about career opportunities and the profession as a whole.
- Candidates who are evaluating multiple offers/career options and would like advice regarding the pros/cons of different companies, consulting vs. insurance, or life vs. property and casualty.
6. From the candidate's standpoint, are there any downsides to using a recruiter?
Chicago, IL-based recruiter 1: Virtually none. There is a misperception that in using a recruiter, the candidate is at a disadvantage because of the fee attached. However, once the company has decided to use a recruiter, that cost is allocated outside of the compensation and benefits of the employee. Employers want to fill their positions and do it quickly. The cost of an unfilled position exceeds the one time recruiter's fee in lost productivity, potential loss in market or inability to meet client deadlines in the case of consulting firms. It is much more deadly for the company to lose a business opportunity because, for instance, a product cannot go market or a client is lost because of a lack of staff to get the work done.
Chicago, IL-based recruiter 2: From a candidate's standpoint, a downside to using a recruiter might be that the candidate doesn't always feel he/she has "control" over the search process. This is why it is very important for a candidate and recruiter to develop a strong and trusting business relationship. Our recruiters ensure each candidate that it is in our best interest to find him/her the position he/she wants and to work in a manner that is comfortable for the candidate. Of course, the recruiting firm gets compensated for the placement of the candidate; more importantly, though, the recruiter will have succeeded for both the candidate and client (provided that both candidate and client were satisfied with the recruiter's performance). As a result, the candidate (and client) will have established a recruiter relationship he/she can count on in the future. With such a relationship in place, candidates gladly turn over "control" of their search to their recruiters, so they can concentrate on other matters.
Portsmouth, NH-based recruiter: At entry-level, there are some companies that may elect to delay their use of search firms or choose not to use recruiters because entry-level candidates have modest skill sets. After you have one or more years of experience, your skills are in much higher demand.
7. From a recruiter's perspective, how can students best prepare themselves for an entry-level actuarial position?
Chicago, IL-based recruiter:
- Pass an Exam
- Do an actuarial internship while in college.
- Keep your grade point above a 3.3 in a quantitative major.
- Learn to speak and write well.
- Take computer classes and learn industry specific software and programming languages (Excel, C++, Visual Basic).
Portsmouth, NH-based recruiter: Entry-level candidates should pass actuarial exams on a timely basis, ideally having completed at least 1 or 2 upon beginning their search. They should get hands-on experience within an actuarial department through internship or part-time employment opportunities. Continue to educate yourself, especially on the various realms of actuarial work including the multiple areas of business (life, health, property, casualty, pension, benefits). Finally, think of ways that you can ultimately demonstrate that you are committed to a career in actuarial work.