Overcoming the Cyberspace Challenge

The impact of social media on the actuarial profession

Debbie Fine and Hillary Steele

Technological advances have dramatically affected the actuarial profession. When the internet and social media forums did not exist, professional networking was key. In the 1970s, candidates submitted resumes to companies via snail mail and/or by fax, or companies and potential actuarial candidates contacted actuarial recruiting firms for help filling and finding jobs.

Today, resumes are submitted electronically by emailing the human resources (HR) manager directly or via an online portal system. This current process has eliminated much of the direct communication between applicant and prospective employer. As a result, candidates may get no response from the company and find that their resume has ended up in “cyberspace.”

A survey conducted by HR provider firm Drake Beam Morin found that 61 percent of their clients who received outplacement services after being laid off found a job through networking, compared to only 6 percent who used the internet.1 Without someone to advocate and communicate personally a candidate’s strengths and why he or she is a good fit for a position, strong candidates are often ignored. Having an advocate, an internal touchpoint at the company or a recruiter who can aid in personally communicating a candidate’s strengths often proves to be invaluable to overcome this “cyberspace” challenge.

While there has always been a strong demand for the actuarial skill set, the actuarial profession has grown significantly over the last decade. In 2016, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) had 27,770 credentialed members across the world—up from 18,186 in 2005.2 As a result, communication, networking and having a social media presence have become even more important for both employees and employers.

Connect on LinkedIn

The ability to communicate why you stand out from other applicants or why your company stands out from other companies is instrumental. LinkedIn is a valuable means of online communication for the actuarial community in the 21st century. It can be used to communicate with fellow actuaries, stay up-to-date on industry trends and position how you want to be perceived by those within and outside of your network. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of financial services recruiters use social media to find and vet potential candidates.3 Another CareerBuilder survey from 2015 found that 35 percent of the more than 2,000 employers surveyed said they are less likely to interview candidates if they are not able to find information about them online.4

Your LinkedIn presence is often the first impression a potential employer or recruiter has about you—especially since the site has more than 467 million users, with 71.5 percent of them located outside of the United States.5 Also keep in mind that your social media presence can result in conference speaking engagements, mentoring opportunities and other industry opportunities aside from getting a job. Be sure to keep your profile up-to-date and complete, include a profile picture, ensure there are no grammatical/spelling errors or inappropriate content, and make sure your profile complies with your current employer’s social media policy. For instance, if there is inappropriate content posted, you likely will not get a response for an interview, and you also could put your current employment at risk. In one instance, a woman who worked at National Suisse in Switzerland told her employer she needed to work in a darkened room at home one day due to having a migraine. However, her employer noticed her social media activity that day while at home, and she was promptly fired.6

Employers Utilizing Social Media

Due to the various social media channels, there is also more competition for companies seeking qualified candidates. It’s become more difficult for companies to find the right candidates, and they can no longer expect that the right candidates will find them. Employers must learn to communicate and market their best “sales pitch” to a prospective applicant and have an online and social media presence. Twitter was cited as having more job listings than any other platform, and 174 of the companies on the Fortune 500 have a dedicated Twitter account for recruitment.7

Review your corporate career site, as well as your organization’s social media profile to confirm that it aligns with your branding and the types of employees you desire. Communicating brand to prospective applicants is an integral part of the search process and enables top candidates to see why the company is the right match for them. According to a Corporate Responsibility Magazine survey, 69 percent of job seekers won’t take a job with a company that has a bad reputation—even if they’re unemployed. In addition, according to Betterteam, organizations with a positive employment brand receive twice the number of applicants than companies with a negative employment brand.8

Conclusion

Historically, actuaries were expected to have strong technical abilities, but not much attention was paid to the “soft” skills—including communication! Having strong communication skills has had a dramatic rise in importance in the actuarial world, as most employers now seek “well-rounded actuaries” who have the expertise to do the technical piece as well as the ability to communicate with various levels of senior management and with clients. Illustrating your communication skills in an interview setting, as well as highlighting these softer skills on your social media profiles, are critical in complementing your technical background. For example, one of our insurance company clients is currently seeking an FSA to help implement principle-based reserves (PBR), where strong communication is a key attribute of the role and specifically requested by the employer, as the candidate will need to work with all areas of the company to discuss implementation.

An actuary’s ability to expand his or her professional network has changed dramatically since the 1970s. Today’s actuary relies on integrating social media and communication, in its various forms, to further advance his or her career. It’s important in today’s society that employee and employer alike have an internet presence and an advocate on their side!

Debbie Fine is SVP at Andover Research Ltd., headquartered in New York.
Hillary Steele is SVP and managing director at Andover Research Ltd., headquartered in New York.

References:

  1. 1. Taylor, T. Shawn. 2002. “Job Hunt 101: Many Internet Resumes End up Cyber-trashed.” The Billings Gazette. March 24. http://billingsgazette.com/news/features/workweek/job-hunt-many-internet-resumes-end-up-cyber-trashed/article_692d4ac8-47f8-5705-a51a-2ca5a8aed3e0.html.
  2. 2. “SOA Membership by Country.” 2016. Society of Actuaries. https://www.soa.org/about/members-by-country/.
  3. 3. Salm, Lauren. 2017. “70% of Employers Are Snooping Candidates’ Social Media Profiles.” CareerBuilder. June 15. https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/social-media-survey-2017.
  4. 4. “35 Percent of Employers Less Likely to Interview Applicants They Can’t Find Online, According to Annual CareerBuilder Social Media Recruitment Survey.” 2015. CareerBuilder. May 14. https://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=5%2F14%2F2015&id=pr893&ed=12%2F31%2F2015.
  5. 5. Fontein, Dara. 2016. “The Ultimate List of LinkedIn Statistics That Matter to Your Business.” Hootsuite. November 22. https://blog.hootsuite.com/linkedin-statistics-business/.
  6. 6. Love, Dylan. 2011. “17 People Who Were Fired for Using Facebook.” Business Insider. May 11. http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-fired-2011-5?op=1.
  7. 7. Westfall, Brian. 2017. “How Fortune 500 Companies Engage Talent on Twitter.” Software Advice. August 25. https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/how-fortune-500-companies-engage-talent-on-twitter-update/.
  8. 8. Masterson, Molly. 2017. “5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Find Quality Job Candidates.” Masterson Staffing Solutions. July 10. https://www.mastersonstaffing.com/blog/5-reasons-your-company-is-struggling-to-find-quality-candidates/.