The right risk and insurance degree from a top national university can help a green professional land his or her first big job at an insurance company. But it is not enough, employers say.
Insurers are looking for a variety of qualities in prospective hires, and education and academic success are just one piece of the overall puzzle.
Insurers want students who are smart and have good analytical skills. But the students also have to have strong communication skills, be able meet with clients and the company's own senior leadership and make a good, strong, professional impression.
Over and over again, employers emphasized that theirs is a people business where employees have to be able to form good business relationships with clients.
Companies also say they need people who can work well within a team, but are also able to be leaders and make decisions.
"We want them to be confident in being able to make a decision and stick to it because that's what a good underwriter does," says Charles Silla, senior vice president for human resources at ACE USA. "They've got to be communicative. You could be the smartest person in the world, but if you can't tell anybody what you know, it doesn't help you," he says.
The ability to communicate well is critical because insurance is a business that is built on relationships and customer service, he says.
Grade-point averages are important, but employers are also looking for other signs that students are not only smart but have leadership potential and initiative.
At the end of the day, you are looking for the best and brightest," says Valerie Aguirre, senior vice president of talent acquisition for Chubb. "You're looking, obviously, at their GPAs, and then you are looking at what they have done," she says. "Most resumes are very light, but you can see the shining stars in that," she says.
Employers want students who have leadership potential but also know how to work with within a team.
They need to have "the ability to work in a team, the ability to collaborate, because when you're an underwriter, or you're a claims person, or you're in loss control, you're working with somebody else in the organization and then, of course, with somebody outside the organization," she says.
"So you've got to be able to do that."
PATRICIA VOWINKEL lives in New Jersey.
May 1, 2008
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