Insurance broking is a relatively small world and, in the more boutique operations, recruitment is done by word of mouth. While HR practices have tightened in recent years, any interviewee should learn to expect the unexpected. Here are recruiters’ tips on making it through the interview process.
1. Big up who you know, but be careful about giving away client information
Any interviewer will always ask about your clients, and – because of the relatively small size of the industry – senior managers conducting the interview will expect a decent amount of knowledge. Name drop, particularly clients and colleagues with whom you have a good relationship, but obviously be careful not to give away any potential leads.
“You know that as soon as the interview is over, any potential employer will ring around the people you’ve spoken about to see what they think of you,” says Mark Dainty, director of insurance-focused recruiters High Finance Group. “They want to know that you’re well-connected and could potentially bring business with you, but you need to ensure you don’t give too much information away.”
2. Remember, they may already like your credentials, but want to find out whether you’ll fit in
In some interviews, particularly among the smaller firms, your CV could have been enough to get a potential employer salivating. Instead of competency-based questions, or in-depth probing about your career history, they may simply want to find out what sort of person you are.
“I’ve known interviews where the employer just asked about the current football season,” says Robin Stafford, operations director at insurance recruiters MW Group. “On another occasion, someone asked whether their glass was half empty or half full.”
3. Be prepared for competency-based and aspirational questions
For all the talk of a comparatively casual interview process, larger firms like Willis, Marsh & McLennan and Jardine Lloyd Thomson will put you through your paces. It’s increasingly common for psychometric testing to be employed during later interview stages, but at the very least competency-based questions will be used. Examples include, ‘Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative?’ or ‘When was the last time you put off a decision?’.
It’s also important that you’re clear what your aspirations are. Junior staff, in particular, will have to serve a few years before moving up to a broking position, so you need to be open and knowledgeable about how you’re going to achieve this. The role may involve moving to a different location or product line, so make sure you know the reasons why you would want to make such a move.
Stafford recommends even showing a desire for undertaking Chartered Insurance Institute qualifications, which are not mandatory but are increasingly common, can make a difference.