If you want a career in insurance you'll soon find out it's all about risk.
Lower the risks of an unsuccessful interview by doing your homework, wearing the right outfit, arriving in the right place at the right time, armed with rock solid interview responses.
Do your homework
Find out all you can about your prospective employer. If they've just taken over a competitor or had a recent ad campaign on TV make sure you know about it. The 'About Us' section of the website should give you lots of information. As will a quick Google search. If you have friends or family members who work there find out as much as you can from them.
Know what skills, attributes and knowledge the employers are likely to want for the particular job. This website will should help! Find out how this job fits into your career plan and ask yourself why you want it. Make sure you have the right skills and personality to match the job. There's no point applying for something based in Dubai if you can't bear to be apart from your family in Derby.
What to (or not to!) wear
Dress codes in insurance are conservative. You won't go far wrong with a classic dark suit, smart shirt or blouse and polished leather shoes. Lloyd's of London has a dress code for all visitors - suits or smart jackets, trousers and ties for men; smart business style for women - you won't even get through the door if you don't comply!
Forget wild nail polish, over the top make-up or a funky hair do. Save all that for the party when you've got the job in the bag!
Jewellery that jangles will distract the interviewer, and if you've calmed yourself down on the journey with classic music remember to put away the iPod earphones before you enter the building. Even if it's 80 degrees in the shade never wear open-toed shoes or sandals.
Never arrive late - it's a golden rule and one you mustn't break. Before your interview plan your route. Make sure you do a trial run at the same time of day as your interview to see how long it actually takes - rush hour traffic can make a journey much longer than it looks on paper. And then add half an hour onto your journey, leaving you some contingency time. If you're early you can always freshen up in the washrooms or grab a coffee.
What to take
It's always a good idea to take 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. Your Black Eyed Peas ring tone blasting out mid interview won't go down well.
During the interview
Make sure you are attentive and listen well when your interviewer is talking. Make some notes if they give you any gems of information. You may want to refer back to these later in the interview. Attitude plays a key role in your interview success. There is a fine balance between being confidence and being cocky! 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.
Here are some sample questions which pop up time and time again on the interviewer's clipboard.
Where do you want your career to take you in five years time?
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 CII qualifications and have found an area of specialism where your skills are most utilised.
Tell me about your proudest achievement.
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 University or successfully organised a Christmas Concert despite many obstacles. Make sure you give lots of detail and focus on the positive outcome rather than the negative challenges you faced!
When have you had to think out of the box?
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.
What negative comments have you received from teachers or tutors in the past?
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.
Why are you right for the job?
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 insurance.
Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma.
The insurance 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.
The trick question
Just at the end of the interview when you've relaxed a bit the interviewing can through you a curve ball. 'How would your friends / lecturer / last boss describe you?' Prepare for this question well in advance. There's nothing worse than hearing the words 'they all think I'm crazy!' tumble out of your mouth and regretting it for ever more!
If you want to be ready for absolutely any question take a look at this list of 100 questions from Monster.
Did you get the job?
If you're successful and are offered the role well done! 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 your next interview lands you that all-important job offer.