Resume Writing: Tips Throughout your Career

by Laura Hemmer, FCAS

As a Future Fellow, you’re likely either in your first entry-level actuarial role or you’ll shortly be in search of one. While we focus a lot on passing actuarial exams and developing technical skills in preparation for your career, don’t forget to put some real time and effort into developing your resume. Your resume is generally your entire opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective employers. Hiring managers often only take a minute or two to scan candidates before deciding whether to move them along or reject them. My main point – don’t take a Microsoft Word template, throw your information in there and call it a day. There is a lot of great advice out there on resume building, but as someone who has hired both entry-level and experienced actuaries over the past several years, I thought I would share some suggestions for actuarial resumes.

Entry-Level Candidates

Attempting to get your first actuarial role? You might be tempted to go a creative route, but I urge caution. You want to stand out, but make sure it’s in an effective way – by highlighting your skills, exam successes and prior experience, not by using a gimmick.

  • Keep to a single page, unless you are a career-changer and really need two pages. As mentioned above, hiring managers generally spend a few minutes on each candidate, and unless you really need the additional space one concise page will look more professional.
  • Include all your prior work experience (assuming you can keep it to one page), even if you don’t think it’s directly relevant. I always liked to see that college students had some experience in an office setting or working for any sort of manager, for example. If you can relate the experience to the job you want, so much the better.
  • Don’t hide your exam results in a hobbies/other section at the bottom of the page. If you’ve passed an exam (or more!), make sure they are prominently listed, either within your education section or somewhere at least mid-page. Besides the obvious, exam results show that you understand the exam process needed to become an actuary, which can give you an advantage over others new to the field.
  • I suggest avoiding more overly designed resumes. Actuarial science is still a more technical than creative field and most hiring managers will focus only on the content. Similarly, including a photo is not common.
  • Include a hobbies/other section if you wish, but keep it concise and make sure you can include all the other important information first. If your resume is two pages but only because you have a hobbies section, that’s not great. Similarly, I don’t need three or more lines on your interests; your resume doesn’t need to share your whole life.
  • Changing careers or have a non-standard background? I know cover letters are becoming less fashionable these days, but they can help if your resume is more unusual. Remember that your cover letter should add to your application rather than just being a repeat of your resume.

Beyond Entry-Level

Congratulations! You’re looking to move positions, either to gain experience in a new area due to a personal change or just to do something different. Remember that your resume should be updated too, ideally before you get on the phone with a recruiter or start submitting applications.

  • One of the best pieces of resume advice I’ve seen comes from the AskAManager website: Orient experience bullet points around successes you have had/what you achieved, rather than just job duties. Stating something as “Filed and implemented new rates in five states over two years” is much more informative than “Completed rate analysis and filings.”
  • If it’s been a few years since you started an actuarial role, you are released from the one-page limit. However, don’t feel that you need to keep every job on your resume forever. You can remove items that aren’t relevant or perhaps only include one line for your first jobs. I can probably gather what you did when you worked at Subway, for example, without additional bullet points.
  • Similarly, don’t include information on your high school unless there’s a clear need. Your SAT scores and high school GPA have less importance once you have an undergraduate degree.
  • Remember to keep your exam progress prominent. If you’ve received your ACAS or FCAS, you can put it in the header next to your name.
  • As you gain experience with various programming languages, make sure you list them on your resume. An approximate skill level is also helpful (i.e., R – advanced, Python – basic).

Going Forward

Overall, I would say my best advice for writing resumes beyond what is written here is to get some advice! Visit your school’s career center (generally accessible even after graduation), check out AskAManager and/or check out some online articles. Putting in some effort now can really pay dividends later. A well-structured resume is much easier to update over time. Finally, make sure you have someone else read your resume. You need someone to check for typos and readability. Don’t be that person who misspells their own name or the name of their school. While mistakes happen, you want to present the best version of yourself to the world. Good luck!