With the insurance industry still reeling from the financial crisis, hiring managers have expanded their requirements and are demanding additional business development and financial modeling experience. So whether you'd like to be a mid-level underwriter or a business analyst, a resume that highlights these skills can be a difference-maker.
Start by editing your resume to make sure every bullet point somehow promotes your skills or accomplishments. Don't fall into the trap of describing your job responsibilities, warns Steve Waterman, managing director at Nexus Recruiting Group, a search firm that works with Wells Fargo Insurance Services and Zurich. "Every insurance recruiter -- and all of our clients -- know what a typical [underwriter] does," he says, adding that that listing points that show how you've excelled at your job is a better way to get attention.
Here are other ways to build an impressive insurance resume:
"The biggest problem we see with insurance resumes specifically is lack of enough numbers," says Waterman. "Since insurance is so much about numbers, candidates have a tailor-made chance to include as many pertinent numbers as possible on their resumes: numbers of premiums, revenues, loss ratios, number of clients, growth of book of business, etc." For example, including a bullet point that says "built a book of business consisting of 72 middle market clients bringing in $674K in revenue" is an impressive detail on your resume, he says.
Skip an 'Accomplishments' Section
While presenting a bullet point list of accomplishments can get the hiring manager's attention – it's often followed by confusion. Weaving each accomplishment into a chronological history gives hiring managers a clearer picture of how you'd fit in to the firm, says Todd Mitchell, founder of executive search firm Todd Mitchell Associates. "If you look at a resume that is very broad-brushed in the beginning, it doesn't let us target the individual roles that they've had experience in," says Mitchell who works with insurers like Liberty Mutual. For example, providing a detail about how you assessed risk during your previous underwriter position is more valuable then simply saying you have risk management skills.
Clear up Confusing Job Titles
Though companies may create their own job title for your role, it's important that you include the most commonly accepted title on your resume. "At some companies, account executives need to be total sales-hunter types, while some [account executives] manage blocks of business and do some occasional selling, while others exclusively manage important accounts and wouldn't attempt selling anything to anybody," Waterman says. While it's helpful to list official titles, make sure it's not just company jargon.
Be Honest About Employment History
With so many changes in the industry during the last few years, recruiters are seeing resumes that camouflage recent employment gaps or fudge hiring dates. Be honest about dates -- they are verifiable and can quickly take you out of the running or damage valuable recruiter relationships. "Everyone is aware of the market conditions over the last 18 months and that, as a result, talented people lost their jobs," says Michele Briggs, vice president of human resources at AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company. If you've been out of work for more than a year, Briggs recommends including teaching experience or additional certifications to showcase "continuous work experience."
Show Off Quantitative Skills
"As the industry continues to develop new products while also hedging against risk, we require candidates with experience and skills in financial modeling and analysis," says AXA's Briggs. Use the experience portion of your resume to cite specific achievements or point out projects where you've been able to gain financial modeling insight. If you've recently taken a related certification course, make sure you write out the name on the resume – sometimes even commonly-used acronyms can be confusing.
Highlight Business Development Experience
"Our clients over the last year and a half have been much more interested than ever before in hiring people who have good ideas about bringing in new business revenue," says Waterman. "Therefore, we've advised some candidates to include as much info as possible about their past and current business development efforts, even if they're not a salesperson, per se." Even if it's not completely insurance related, use the experience area of your resume to provide information about how you influenced growth at your previous employer.
Demonstrate Long-Term Thinking
While it may be tough to convey in a resume, employers want to know that you're always thinking strategically and "have the ability to see beyond the here and now," says Scott White, a State Farm human resources recruiter. Describe achievements or projects that started with an uncertain outcome or demonstrated a long-term commitment. Even one example can peak a recruiter's interest. White adds that "skills related to navigating through and interpreting all the regulatory practices and changes are a plus."
As you re-evaluate your resume, make sure your experience can be clearly understood by potential employers and prepare the information in a standard chronological format. There are many different types insurance industry jobs, and hiring managers are looking to quickly consider where your skills can fit in. If your experience isn't entirely in insurance, don't get discouraged. State Farm's White recommends identifying crossover skills like leadership experience or risk management and highlighting them on the resume. "Even though a candidate may not have specific experience, there may be peripheral experiences where the same skills sets were put into play that are needed by the inquiring employer," he says.
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