Authors: Ashley Thyes, Giancarlo Cimaglia, Matt Ringler
Matt Ringler: As we all know, 2020 has impacted everyone. And, no matter how you slice it: this year has provided numerous opportunities for all of us to face adversity and foster strength.
For those in the actuarial science community, the recruiting process presented several novel hurdles. Our connectivity, or lack thereof, offers a good example, inasmuch as we are now newly dependent upon the virtual world for interviewing. In this new world, if our WIFI connections, webcams, Zoom, Webex or other platforms malfunctioned, a coveted job opportunity could be lost. I can, as a result, confidently say that this new “normal” has made an already difficult process even harder.
I will, however, offer several “silver linings.” While virtual recruiting can be difficult, it does allow applicants to seek positions outside their geographic comfort zone. This, in turn, helps employers increase their potential pool of applicants. Additionally, recruits can now interview from the comfort of their own homes and use this homefield advantage to assuage interviewing anxiety. This similarly might afford employers a truer view of their candidates. Likewise, applicants can maintain a template of talking points and questions for the interview on their computer screens, which likely improves the overall tempo of the meeting.
This new “normal” has also advanced our resilience. Specifically, 2020 has consistently demonstrated that, when life gets in the way, we will adjust and keep moving forward. COVID-19 has abundantly reinforced the life lesson that circumstances are what we make of them and that our greatest successes are often found, when we’re forced to fail fantastically, react to the unexpected, and find a way to keep progressing.
My fellow CAS Student Ambassadors and I wanted to share our thoughts and experiences with you. Ashley Thyes and Giancarlo Cimaglia are first-year student ambassadors, who experienced their first recruiting cycles in 2020.
Ashley Thyes: When COVID-19 hit, everyone was impacted. We had to adapt to new circumstances and change our way of completing tasks. One task that had to be modified was the way interviews were completed. Personally, I had a great experience with virtual interviews. Pre-screening interviews could be completed at my convenience, which reduced scheduling conflicts. I often completed my HireVue videos after finishing my daily schoolwork, which prevented my academic day from being interrupted and allowed me to stay on top of my coursework. I was also able to save time traveling to and from interviews, while completing most interviews in a study room in my dorm. I completed both first and second round interviews virtually, which reduced transportation costs and promoted efficiency.
Another positive outcome of virtual interviews is that meetings are often less stressful. While I still dressed in business professional attire and prepared the same way for each interview, I often felt a greater sense of ease in an already familiar study room. I was also able to utilize a split-screen and review my notes while interviewing, which was extremely useful. I know that I often had a list of questions that I wanted to ask and bullet points that I wanted to highlight. The virtual process helped me to avoid somehow overlooking these points and questions.
Giancarlo Cimaglia: My first interview was quite memorable, “one for the books,” some would say. Having never participated in an actuarial interview before, I was unsure what the main differences between an in-person and virtual interview would be. Five minutes into my first interview earlier this month, the camera on my computer malfunctioned, and my face began showing blurry purple lines. In the moment, I panicked. I immediately thought that no matter how the rest of the interview went, that there was no way I would be considered. Rest assured, that was not the case. I learned that, just as we are struggling with this new normal, interviewers are facing similar challenges and facing novel problems. At the end of the day, however, companies are looking to hire you based on your personality and your skillset, thus, allowing some grace with the technical difficulties.
As I continued to progress through my interviews, I was interviewing with companies based in cities and states that I have yet to visit. While the lack of travel certainly helps save time, it doesn’t allow potential interns the opportunity to visit a new office and get a feel for their surroundings. That is a very large component of the selection process; finding a company and a city, where one feels comfortable. I consider myself to be quite personable and outgoing, which is certainly much harder to do via an online interview. Building connections was something that I found to be harder to make virtually. However, it is not impossible. With the help of three strategies, I was able to make these connections: smile, look at the camera, and be yourself! Virtual interviews are different, there’s no doubt, but, understanding how one can leverage themselves in these situations is vital.
Matt Ringler: As you can see, everyone is still adapting to our new normal. And that’s okay! One positive for students is the convenience aspect, which Ashley highlighted. As we all know, the actuarial science major at any school is jam-packed with difficult classes, and not having to initially travel allows for greater academic flexibility and efficiency.
But, as Giancarlo highlighted, it remains harder to build connections virtually. Our ability to evaluate whether a workplace and city are a good fit has also been compromised by a Zoom interviewing process.
Overall, our new “normal” has its share of pros and cons. Once everything returns to normal, I will be curious to see how this recruiting season will shape the future. I will close with a line from Pat Solatano (i.e., Bradley Cooper’s character) from Silver Linings Playbook, who does a good job at summing up virtual recruiting and a lot of other stuff:
You have to do everything you can. You have to work your hardest and if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.
Please share your experiences with virtual recruiting or thoughts regarding how the recruiting process might evolve in a post-pandemic hiring world; thanks!