Opportunities in the insurance profession for apprentices

CV and preparation

CV and preparation

When you are starting your job search, your CV and covering letter are the best marketing tools you have. These documents are the first impression an employer will get of you, so they need to be well thought-out and presented.

A CV is a living document that you need to customise with each job application, pulling out the relevant information to appeal to a future employer and playing up key strengths.

Here are some tips and hints of CV writing, giving you some ideas which you can use.

A CV should be an illustration of who you are, so make sure you do yourself justice with a good style and layout.

Personal information  Name, address, phone number, email address. Make sure this information is correct; a recruiter will put you straight on the ‘reject’ pile if there are incorrect contact details. Make sure your email address is something simple and professional. No one will want to hire ihatetheworld@hotmail.com over jane.roberts@hotmail.com.

Work history  For your first role in risk, soft skills like communication and problem-solving are important. Tailor your work experience to show relevance to a job. This section can include part-time work, volunteering or outreach as part of a school or college programme. Make it relevant and describe what you have gained from the experience.

Skills/Qualifications  This section could include a short personal statement, or a list of further development and training courses you have taken part in, such as a first aid course, an IT course or a language school programme. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award or other such programmes could fit in here. This is a good place to really sell yourself. Don’t forget that being captain of a sports team shows leadership.

References  Ideally this should be your most recent line manager plus another referee. It could be a teacher or mentor who will provide a character reference. Make sure you ask permission before you add someone’s name to your CV as a reference.

Length  Your CV should not exceed two pages. Keep it snappy, use fewer words for more impact.

Formatting  Use bullet points and tables to keep information clear and concise. Titles can be bold and underlined, to make sure your key facts stand out.

Key ideas  Most people will look at a CV for 25-45 seconds. The ‘hot spot’ is the upper section of the first page, so the most important and impressive information needs to go here.

Layout  Make sure the layout is logical and professional. Don’t make your text too small to try and fit everything on the page.

There should be plenty of white space on the page so the text is digestible.

Font style  Font size should be no bigger than 12. Fonts such as Calibri and Cambria are favoured by many for their ease of reading both on screen and on paper.

Sending your CV  If you are going to post your CV then put your name and email address in the footer or header in case the pages get separated.

Check out other jobs boards to see if the same job is advertised in a different way. This will ensure you have all the information you need about what the company are looking for, and then research the company. Why do you want to work for them? Why should they want to offer you the job? This is vital to tailoring your CV to the company.

Use powerful, active language, with examples. This will create impact without using too many words.

You also need to make sure you are sending out a positive message without regurgitating information from the advert. Let’s say you are applying for the role of assistant underwriter at a small company. The advert calls for someone who is proactive and able to effectively manage their own schedule and workload. Instead of just saying that you have these qualities, you could talk about how, as captain of your school football team, you managed to organise training sessions and social events without impacting on your studies. Alternatively, you may have had a job before, and you can demonstrate how you had to drive forward a new project, and achieve the desired outcome by a specific deadline as well as continuing with your daily duties.

These real examples demonstrate the skills that an employer is looking for, instead of passively describing what you can or could do.

It is best to avoid using jargon unless it is absolutely necessary. Unless you are asked you do not need to include a photo.

The golden rule of CV writing is telling the truth. If you tell lies in order to get the job, you will find yourself doing a job that you either find way beyond your reach, or that you don’t enjoy, and it’s best to remember that employers have ways of verifying facts.

You have done your research, decided on a structure and format, written your content and are ready to go. Have you proofread your document? Proofread your CV, and then proofread it again. Once you have done that, hand it to someone else to read. 


Interview tips

If you want a career in insurance you'll soon find out it's all about risk. Good preparation will help you reduce that risk.

By researching the company and understanding the role, and focusing on making sure you are making the right impression, you can influence the outcome. So don’t forget to wear the right outfit, arrive in the right place at the right time, practise your high-quality and compelling responses to possible interview questions, and think up some questions of your own by researching the company online.

Find out all you can about your prospective employer. The 'About Us' section of the company website will provide a lot of information as will a wider internet search. If they've just taken over a competitor or had a recent advertising campaign, make sure you know about it. If you know anyone who works at the company, ask them about it and their experiences.

Understand the skills, attributes and knowledge the employers are likely to want for the particular job. Think about how this job fits into your career plan and ask yourself why you want it. Do you have the right skills and personality to match the job? Focus on how you can bring that out in the interview.

Dress code in risk is a conservative business style.

This is a well-respected and professional career, where you’ll be interacting with lots of people and representing your company, and you need to look the part. For men and women this means a classic dark suit with a tie, smart shirt or top and polished shoes. 

Noisy jewellery will distract the interviewer, and put away the iPod earphones before you enter the building. Don’t wear open-toed shoes or sandals.

Never arrive late  it's a golden rule.

It’s a good idea to add spare time onto your journey, leaving you some contingency time in case of travel delays.

Before your interview plan your route and make sure there are no travel restrictions. You may want to do a trial run at the same time of day as your interview to see how long the journey actually takes - rush hour traffic can make a journey much longer.

A briefcase or handbag with pen and paper in it so you can make a few notes during your interview. Remember to turn your mobile phone off before you go in. No chewing gum or eating during the interview. 

Listen when your interviewer is talking and make notes if they give you any gems of information. If you are prepared it will show through, however attitude plays a key role in an interview situation. You don’t want to appear over-confident, even if you think you are well-matched to the job.

Make sure you have some questions prepared to ask at the end of the interview. The interviewer will expect you to want to know as much as possible if you're really interested in the job. The best questions come from listening to what you're asked during the interview and asking for additional information.


Classic interview questions

The interviewer wants to know about your goals and ambitions. Perhaps you want to be running a claims department or have progressed to be a Head of Risk. It's equally as valid to say you want to be working through your qualifications and you want to have found an area of specialism where your skills are best utilised.

This is an opportunity to show off your strengths and demonstrate how you approach challenges. Picking an example where you took responsibility for a project is a good start. Perhaps you turned around a failing club at school or successfully organised a Christmas concert despite many obstacles. Give lots of detail and focus on the positive outcome rather than the negative challenges you faced.

The interviewer wants to see how creative you can be. You may not think of yourself as particularly creative but coming up with unusual solutions to challenges you've faced will show you can be inventive, can act under pressure and are good at problem solving. 

Don't say you work too hard or that you're a perfectionist. These answers are obvious and most interviewers will see through them. Find an example of something in a school report or a comment from tutors that you've worked hard to improve on. Perhaps you weren't great at meeting deadlines? You could give examples of how you turned this round just by getting more organised.

This is your opportunity to sum up your main selling points, relating them back to the qualities and skills you'll need for your job in risk.

The risk industry needs people with very high ethical standards. Brokers must only sell products that are right for customers and all product details must be clear and transparent. Perhaps you found out that a friend wasn't being honest over some concert tickets? The interviewer will want to know how you handled the situation sensibly and sensitively.

At the end of the interview when you are starting to relax, the interviewer can throw you a curve ball. 'How would your friends / teacher describe you?' Prepare for this question well in advance. 

If you're successful and are offered the role, it’s great news.  If not then try to find out why. Don't be afraid to ask for some feedback from your interviewer. By finding out where your interview strengths and weaknesses lay you can help ensure you are better prepared for your next interview, and that it has a better outcome.