Starting early 2020, countries around the world began shutting down their businesses and economies in order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. While our efforts to slow the virus have been largely successful here in Canada, the economic impact has been devastating for a lot of people.
Businesses that relied heavily on foot traffic or high-touch interactions like restaurants, retail stores, salons, gyms, etc. and the businesses that serve them (ie. food suppliers, etc.) have had their revenues reduced to near zero overnight. As a result, even the strongest businesses in these industries have had to cut costs and lay off staff. According to Canadian unemployment numbers, over 3 million jobs were lost with many others seeing their hours reduced in April and March alone! Most experts estimate that this number will continue to grow as the shutdowns drag on.
Worst yet, nobody knows whether these jobs that were lost will ever come back as businesses affected by the pandemic shut down for good.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY
While many industries has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, others have thrived or remained resilient throughout. Insurance is a bit of an anomaly in that it is so tied in to the rest of the world. Things like natural disasters on the other side of the planet can affect insurers in the form of lower profits due to a high amount of claims being paid out. Stock market crashes can affect the investment returns of insurance companies potentially impacting their profitability. Economic turmoil such as the one caused by the lockdowns also have a negative effect on insurance companies as clients reduce coverage or businesses close forever cancelling their policies.
Insurance companies earn a profit in two major ways: underwriting profits from careful actuarial work to ensure more money is brought in than paid out and investment profits from investing collected premiums. This pandemic has dealt a double blow to the industry.
With the economic and stock market decline, investment returns have been dampened causing profitability issues for the insurers. Secondly, as businesses continue to remain closed, clients are either reducing coverage or shutting down for good meaning less premiums for the insurers to collect.
The priority for any business during the pandemic is to protect employees and partners while continuing to operate their business. While most insurance professionals can easily do their work from home, one particularly challenging task is to figure out how to enable staff to work offsite, access files, and conduct business while maintaining information security.
In response, industry has widely adopted the use of VPN’s, bringing on new collaboration tools, ramping up training, and introducing new cyber security protocols to ensure confidential information is protected.
INSURANCE JOBS DURING A PANDEMIC
Despite this, the insurance industry has stood strong. Deemed an essential business in the early days of the shutdown, insurance companies and brokerages quickly transitioned to work from home and continued to run their business. While businesses large and small were busy shutting down and laying people off, most insurance businesses remained in operation and retained all of their staff. In fact, most insurance professionals I know were busier than ever over these past few months.
This difficult time has been a great acid test of the resilience and stability that this industry is known for. So far, it has held up remarkably well.
HIRING FOR INSURANCE JOBS DURING A PANDEMIC
Even though more than 3 million jobs were lost over the last few months, industries like health care, financial services (including insurance) and technology have continued to hire new employees to keep up with demand.
Without handshakes, in-person lunches, or office tours, hiring during the pandemic has changed for a lot of companies. Without the traditional ways of checking to see if a candidate will be a good fit, hiring managers need to adapt.
It is difficult to remotely determine whether someone will be a good culture fit once everyone goes back to the office. Interviewers are starting to ask more open-ended questions like “tell me about your day” or “how do you like to organize a typical work day?” These types of questions identify certain key characteristics that hiring managers are looking for such as flexibility or how self-motivated you are.
Many companies are also beefing up their pre-screening questions with more questions that might have turned an applicant off before such as “how do you feel about dealing with irate customers on a regular basis?” to assess their ability to deal with emotional or stressed out clients. These enhanced screening questions are designed to get the wrong people to self-select out of the hiring process. Another strategy companies are employing is to do more due diligence such as checking references more closely.
FINDING AN INSURANCE JOB DURING A PANDEMIC
With unemployment numbers high, finding a job during a pandemic can look difficult at first – but it all depends on which industries you are applying to. Companies in health care, technology and financial services have been adding headcount while others have been laying people off to cut costs. Here are a few tips to help make your job search more successful:
BOOST YOUR SKILLS
One way to make yourself more desirable to employers is to get more skills and certifications related to the field you want to apply to. One example is getting or upgrading your insurance license through our online insurance courses but for other skills, you can go to Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, UDemy, etc.
This shows that you are keeping active and are motivated to grow no matter what the situation is. This in turn will put you ahead of the curve when applying for new roles or moving into different directions in the future.
EXPAND YOUR NETWORK
Some studies show that over 80% of jobs are filled through some kind of personal network or referral. One way to build your network is to build up your LinkedIn profile and challenge yourself to reach out to at least one new person each day through LinkedIn or your personal networks. One key benefit of networking online is that it lets you reach so many more people – all without having to leave the comfort and safety of your own home.
If you need help building up your network in the insurance industry, don’t hesitate to reach out. We help all of our graduates with networking and meeting other professionals in the industry through our alumni and employer partner networks.
Like we explained above, without in-person interviews, it is hard for employers to determine whether you would be a good fit for the role and company culture. That means they often need more time to decide. It is definitely good practice to follow up after an interview but be patient and give them space and time to reflect.
If you have submitted your application and did your best job but haven’t received a reply – be patient. This is a challenging time and insurance companies and brokerages are busier than ever (which is why they’re hiring in the first place!) But be patient if you do not hear a response and continue applying to other insurance jobs in the meantime. If you are patient and persistent, things will happen for you.
If you recently had a promising job application/interview or an offer that seemed to be on the horizon, but then the role went on hold and you haven’t heard from the Recruiter/Manager since? What should you do? Best thing to do is keep connected and check in with the recruitment agency/ hiring manager by email. It’s important to understand that companies need time to help their employees get familiar with new procedures and working arrangements. Be compassionate and don’t take it personally if companies/recruitment agencies take longer to get back in touch. These are extraordinary circumstances and it’s important to be patient. Be aware of the time of year also, for example summer is a prime time for vacations or staycations I should say! It can take someone time to catch up with the mountain of emails.
In this tricky global situation we are all going through, it’s paramount to be a guru with online networking. Utilizing the use of platforms such as Linked In is key to finding that new opportunity. As a Recruitment Consultant, when I notice that someone has gone to the effort of applying for the job, searching for the HR/Recruiter overseeing the roleon Linked In and then sending a connection note to highlight their application, I am honestly always impressed! It shows both initiative and interest in the role and helps your application stand out! Also, it’s important when applying for a job to make sure your qualifications and experience match the job requirements, this shows that you have studied the description and that you know you are a feasible candidate.
It’s good to use online networking to stay current with any developments in the Insurance Industry, sign up for online discussions and seminars. These seminars often have virtual rooms which give you the opportunity to speak with people in the industry.
ASK FOR HELP/ADVICE
Connect with people who have a lot of connections in the insurance industry, chat with them and gather information. Personally, for me as an Insurance Recruiter, people reach out to me daily and ask for advice and guidance to find a new opportunity. As a recruitment agency who just specialize in Insurance, we partner with multiple insurance companies/brokers to find talent for their teams thus are connected directly with the HR/Hiring managers. This in turn gets your resume directly in front of a decision maker and not into a portal with a sea of other resumes.
This piece was written with input from Paul Mulcahy – a Talent Acquisition Partner at DGA Careers.