When applying for a new job, your resume acts as your first impression. It needs to stand out from the dozens of other resumes and grab the reader’s attention in seconds. That’s no easy task. More importantly, if your resume doesn’t impress, you won’t get an interview — even if you’re qualified for the job.
What makes a great resume are always changing, as is recruiting technology. Many employers are now using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) as a first pass, weeding out unqualified candidates. So as a candidate, you now have to craft a resume that appeals to a human and an algorithm.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and best practices for putting together an insurance resume that stands out.
Your resume is a marketing piece that should sell your skills, experience and work ethic to a recruiter. Treat it as such. Don’t let it become a simple timeline of your career. Show recruiters what you can offer to their company and how you can better their business. Your resume should speak directly to the company’s needs rather than list positions you’ve previously held.
If you’re applying for a sales position, such as an insurance broker or agent, showcasing your selling skills through your resume becomes even more important. Convince the recruiter their business couldn’t survive without you. Sell yourself like you’d sell their insurance.
Tailor Your Resume for the Job You Want
Many job applicants make the mistake of creating and distributing one resume to every potential employer. It’s vital to tailor your resume to the company and job you’re applying for.
Before you start writing, read through the job description carefully. Then build a resume that shows off the experience and skills you have that are specific to the job. If you’re applying for a job as a commercial insurance underwriter, but you’ve also dealt personal insurance, focus on your commercial experience.
You should also pull keywords from the job description and include them in your content. If an employer is looking for a candidate with an entrepreneurial spirit and a knowledge of Xactimate, those words should appear throughout your resume. Specifically, include them in the professional summary or objective and core qualifications.
Keywords become especially important when dealing with ATS. These systems scan resumes for select keywords related to the job description. If your resume is missing these keywords, it won’t be passed on to the recruiter or hiring manager.
Structure Your Resume According to Industry Standards
While it might be tempting to dust off and revamp the resume you used six years ago, insurance industry resume trends are constantly changing. So it might be best to start from scratch on a new one or at least restructure your old content so it fits with current standards. These days, people aren’t willing to read through dozens of three-page resumes. An insurance recruiter should be able to get all the information they need from the top half of page one.
Your name, address and contact information should be at the top of the page.
Many firms no longer want a formal “professional summary.” Instead, focus your efforts on creating a list of core qualifications. The exception to this rule, according to Forbes, is for experienced applicants who want to bring extensive, but related skills and experience together in a single, concise statement.
If you decide to include a summary, keep it short and make it meaningful for the recruiter. Like the rest of your resume, the professional summary should include relevant keywords. According to Roger Lear, President of Lear & Associates, an insurance recruiting firm, a good professional summary skips terms like “hard worker and team player.” Instead, it includes more substantial information. In a recent article, he lists the following example as a great professional summary: “Workers’ Compensation professional with track record of working with accounts over $1,000,000 and managing a 30-million-dollar annual book of business. Large broker relationship in the state of New York.”
Arguably the most important element of your resume, the core qualifications lists your best skills, experiences and accomplishments, related to the job you’re applying for. It should immediately tell the reader what the value you would bring to their organization. It optimizes your resume for ATS, while showing a recruiter you’re qualified for the job without taking up more than ten seconds of their time.
Lear provides the following as a shining example of core qualifications on a property claims adjuster’s resume.
- Mitchell Ultra Mate
- Homeowner claims
- CAT Claims Team
- Florida/Texas Adjuster License
- Claims Subrogation
- 98% claims resolution
- Inside homeowners’ adjuster
- Field claims adjuster
- CAT duty for Katrina, Harvey
- Outstanding customer service
- $500,000 claims authority
- Depreciation expert
The experience section of your resume (the more traditional component) should be less about tasks, titles and responsibilities and more about what you’ve accomplished. A good rule of thumb established by State Farm recruiters is to think in terms of numbers, whether that’s dollars you’ve saved or brought in, new accounts signed, sales rankings or percentage of accounts closed. Recruiters want to see what you’ve accomplished rather than tasks you were assigned. Show the impact you’ve had on previous employers.
While numbers should be the focus, you’ll want to toss in soft skills that are hyper-relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for an insurance agent position, be sure to highlight your strong negotiation skills. If you’re applying to be an underwriter, highlight your strong analytical and decision-making skills. And if you’re advancing your career as a claims adjuster, showcase your ability to make hard decisions.
Finally, include a short section that includes your education, including any insurance education and training, certifications and community work. And unless otherwise noted, there’s no need to include references on your resume.
Don’t Forget Formatting
Though the content is what’s most important, formatting isn’t something to be overlooked. Focus on readability rather than flash. Keep paragraphs short, use bullet points wherever possible and make sure your headers are clear. You’ll also want to skip fancy borders and images, and use the same font, text size and color throughout.
ATS can’t read documents with a lot of imagery and formatting, so your resume should be as simple as possible in order to be read by the system. In addition, ATS sometimes has trouble reading PDFs, so unless otherwise noted, send your resume in as a Microsoft Word document to avoid getting thrown out by an ATS.
One Last Tip
Once your resume is in good shape, give it a final read before submitting. This should go without saying, but make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Nothing negates “detail-oriented” like a resume with typos.
Looking for More Help to Land a Job in the Insurance Industry?
Check out the Spot On Insurance, Episode 65: Hottest Insurance Jobs. Ted and Arleen Taveras and Louis Cohn, President of the Cohn Search Group, a “Top Ten” property & casualty recruiting agency, discuss what factors employers put the most weight on when it comes to applicants and what questions they ask during job interviews. Louis also shares what’s trending in the industry as well as positions in dire need of filling.