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19 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Underwriting Candidates (And What to Look for in Their Answers)

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 19:02:33 +0000 / by Seema Samad


As a hiring manager, interviews should help you accomplish two things. One, get a better sense of the candidate's knowledge, skills and ability to handle situations specific to their role. Two, get a sense of the candidate's personality. Asking questions to understand both the professional and personal side of a candidate will give you a true sense of who you are. Plus it will help you identify well-rounded, dynamic talent - which is key to developing an all-star team.

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To help you prepare for you're next round of underwriting interviews, here are some of the best job interview questions to ask and what to look for in answers. P.S. You can download the PDF and print it out for easy access.

reinsurance administration

#1. How do you maintain previous work relationships once you've moved on from a company, (previous colleagues, manager, team leader).  

This question will give you insight on how they manage and maintain relationships in the underwriting industry. Since the underwriting network is small, it's always best not to burn bridges. You are looking for candidates that actively maintain their relationships.

#2. Explain a specific conflict that you had to deal with in your previous underwriting role.  

You are looking to get perspective on what they view as major underwriting issues/concerns. Try to probe them to discuss cases where there were differences in opinions (whether it was with colleagues, their manager or an agent). 

#3. If you had a different opinion on a case from your cosigner that you felt very strongly about, how would you handle it?

The relationship with a cosigner and underwriter is very important! Their answer will indicate how tactful they are. In underwriting you need to adapt your style according to the cosigner or consultant you are working with in order to get "Agree" on your cosigns.

Look for an underwriter that will make their point, but is also mindful about maintaining a strong workable relation with their cosigner or consultant.

#4. "Year - end" is often the busiest time for underwriting departments.  What are some things you like to do to de-stress professionally and at home?

Year end = stress + holidays. This can be a more conversational question. There isn't a right or wrong answer. It allows the candidate to let their personality shine through. This gives you a sense of who they are outside of work plus touches on the subject of stress management.


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#5. If you had to enter into a role of a cosigner, what approach would you take with a fairly inexperienced underwriter?

Underwriters are often great mentors for other underwriters.  Ask this question to see if they have thought about this kind of opportunity and if they would be a strong asset for helping other underwriters on your team.

You are looking for responses that include, positive encouragement, use of manuals and guidelines, continuous communication.  A well seasoned underwriter often develops habits through experiences on cases but it is important for new underwriters to follow guidelines and properly use and access the manuals.

#6. When dealing with many different career and MGA advisors you often are viewing cases from opposite ends of the spectrum.  Tell me about one of the funniest conversations you've had with an advisor.

This is another personality question that will help you find a well-rounded candidate. The answer should give you a glimpse of whether they can laugh at the little things that come up. 

You can follow it up with a more serious question about a conflict that has come up and how they managed it. This will once again indicate their ability to manage relationships with key stakeholders in the industry.

#7. What is one of your favourite topics or conditions to underwriter (or that you are interested in underwriting) and why?  (What is your least favourite?) 

This question will give you insight as to their strengths and weaknesses, areas of interest and areas they may excel in.

#8. If an advisor is desperately trying to rush a case and calls you directly to discuss, would you hear them out or depending on your workflow, would you get back to them later? 

Underwriters and advisors will always need to communicate. Here you are looking to understand if they are willing to take time to build relationships with advisors while also understanding their time management skills.

#9. How and why did you start your career in underwriting?

Everybody has a unique story, there's no real set path to take.  Medical backgrounds are often the most common but what makes underwriting so diverse is that we all do come from varying backgrounds with various levels of experience.  

#10.  Underwriters are often known for their "morbid" sense of humour.  Sometimes we find ourselves laughing at things that most people would find a little odd.  What is a situation or a case that you found yourself chuckling at and then thought "oh jeez other people might not think that's funny".

This is a mood lightening question that is relevant to the underwriting industry. As underwriters, we get a little desensitized to things from reading medical reports and hearing all kinds of stories on applications. This question can help break the ice and get the interview panel laughing. 

#11. What kind of team do you thrive in? If you were building your perfect team, what kind of people would you have on it?

You are looking to get an idea of what personalities the candidate mixes well with, and if they are self aware of what they bring to the table. "I am this type of person, so I work well with x, y and z."

#12. What are three things your previous boss would say about you?

Another question that sheds light on self awareness and what type of relationship they had with their previous boss.

 #13. What is something fun, boring and weird about you? (all separate) 

In addition to getting to know the person, these random, light-hearted questions, will help you get authentic answers from the candidate. Often times, answers to typical interview questions can be rehearsed in advance. These questions definitely can't be rehearsed - so it will give you a true sense of the candidate. 

#14. When you first started in underwriting, what was one of your biggest struggles, and how did you overcome it?

The list can be endless. You might hear things like learning the coding on MIB, underwriting specific conditions, understanding rating tables, dealing with high maintenance advisors etc. The point here is to understand if the candidate is self-aware and if they take initiative to educate themselves on unknown topics.

#15. What is your least favourite thing you've encountered as an insurance professional?

Once again, there is no right answer, but you are listening to see if they take a positive spin or a negative one. 

#16. What's your zodiac sign?  

This is one I personally like to ask. So if you aren't into learning about zodiac signs, swap it with something specific to your personality or things your are interested in. For example:

  • What is your favorite show on Netflix right now?
  • What is your favorite roller coaster?
  • What books do you like to read?

#17. Is there any type of management style that you do not work well with?

This question gives the candidate the opportunity to advise us as to what environment they thrive in and their likes and dislikes when reporting to people.

You can follow up with what qualities do you look for in a manager?

 #18. On an underwriting team, what do you feel is the most important aspect of the team as a whole 

There are a lot of elements that make a successful underwriting team, so answers here can vary. A 'good answer' should is one that aligns with things you and your team feel are important. For example:

  • positive leadership
  • the comradery among colleagues
  • personal growth opportunities 
  • variety of work

#19. What is one thing you would like to change about the insurance industry?

This will give you insight as to whether the candidate is thinking about the bigger picture and future state of the industry. Considering insurance as a whole is experiencing changes, it is beneficial to have team members that are inclined to thinking about and adapting to changes.

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Topics: Underwriting

Seema Samad

Written by Seema Samad

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