How to become an underwriter with no experience in 4 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in becoming an underwriter, it's essential that you can demonstrate the skills and knowledge you require to excel in this career. During your interview, it's particularly crucial to demonstrate your proficiency in communication and analysis, particularly if you have no experience in this field. Learning the steps involved in becoming an underwriter can be highly beneficial for new entrants to this line of work. In this article, we explain what an underwriter is, outline how to become an underwriter with no experience and look at a list of 33 underwriter interview questions, alongside some sample answers.

What is an underwriter?

An underwriter is a financial professional who assesses insurance cover applications and determines whether to accept these, alongside the terms and conditions of each agreement. They analyse the risk of insuring an individual or organisation by determining how likely it is for the person or company to make a claim.

Underwriters work alongside brokers and actuaries, in addition to risk and claim managers, and seek to attract and maintain clients by offering competitive premiums while also ensuring that their employer avoids making substantial losses. Typically, an underwriter specialises in a specific type of insurance, such as general, life or commercial insurance.

Read more: What is underwriting? (Plus how it's helpful to businesses)

How to become an underwriter with no experience

To find out how to become an underwriter with no experience, consider the following steps:

1. Earn a degree

Most candidates for underwriter roles have an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, such as business, finance or economics. To pursue these degrees, you'd often need two or three A-levels between grades A* and C. As the exact requirements for these courses can vary, depending on the institution, ensure that you check with the university before applying.

2. Undertake an apprenticeship

Instead of going to university, you can also become an underwriter by pursuing an underwriter apprenticeship. This can allow you to earn a wage while completing on-the-job learning. Pursuing this route can be a great way of gaining an insight into what it's like to work as an underwriter while also developing your skills and learning from an experienced underwriting professional. Moreover, completing an apprenticeship can often lead to a permanent position at the same organisation.

3. Apply for entry-level roles

It's also possible to become a junior underwriter without formal qualifications and experience. To do this, apply directly for these roles with the hiring organisation. Typically, it's necessary to submit a CV and cover letter for these roles, although some prospective employers may ask you to complete an online application form instead. In your CV, ensure that you include your contact details, a professional summary and sections that outline your key skills, educational background and experience. As you're applying without experience, focus on highlighting the transferable skills you've gained from your studies, extra-curricular activities and experiences in other fields.

In your cover letter, include your reasons for applying and outline why you're a suitable candidate for an underwriting role. Additionally, avoid including the same information in your cover letter that you've listed in your CV. Moreover, try to tailor both documents by reviewing the job description beforehand and including the keywords and phrases in this document in your CV and cover letter.

4. Succeed in the interview

After applying for underwriter roles, the final step is to succeed in the interview. To successfully pass the interview stage and secure an underwriter role, determine the skills that the hiring manager is looking for by reviewing the job description. Next, consider the interview questions a hiring manager is likely to ask, based on what's listed in the job description and through researching common interview questions for underwriter roles, and then prepare responses by using examples from your personal life, studies or work experience in other industries.

When structuring your answers, consider using the STAR method as much as possible, which involves outlining the situation, task, action and result for each example you mention in your response. Moreover, ensure that you conduct thorough company research beforehand, including thinking of questions to ask the interviewer, which are specific to the role and hiring organisation, as this can be a great way of demonstrating your interest in the role.

Read more: How to become an underwriter in the UK

10 general underwriter interview questions

Below are 10 general underwriter interview questions:

  1. Why do you want to work at this company?

  2. Why do you want to be an underwriter?

  3. What are your biggest strengths?

  4. What are your biggest weaknesses?

  5. What qualities do you have that might help you in this role?

  6. What is your salary expectation for this role?

  7. What sector of insurance are you most interested in?

  8. How do you stay motivated at work?

  9. What do you find most challenging about this career?

  10. Do you prefer to work by yourself or in a team?

Related: Interview question: 'What do you know about our company?'

10 underwriter interview questions about experience and background

Below are 10 underwriter interview questions that assess a candidate's experience and background:

  1. What previous positions have you held?

  2. What relevant qualifications do you have?

  3. How do you handle difficult customers?

  4. Tell me about a time when you worked successfully with others.

  5. How do you think high-level risk assessments differ from low-level risk assessments?

  6. How would you present your data to customers?

  7. What is your biggest achievement at work?

  8. How would you handle an interaction with a challenging broker?

  9. How would you describe your work style?

  10. What research skills have you developed during your studies?

Related: What are competency-based interview questions?

10 in-depth underwriter interview questions

Below are 10 examples of in-depth underwriter interview questions:

  1. What underwriting software applications are you familiar with?

  2. What factors might make you reject an insurance application immediately?

  3. When did you overcome a difficult challenge at work?

  4. How would you act if you suspect a fraudulent application or claim?

  5. How do you find out more about a client with limited available personal data?

  6. Why might you approve a high-risk customer?

  7. What process do you use when reviewing an application?

  8. What resources do you use to assess claims?

  9. How would use your judgment to prevent this company from making a loss?

  10. How do you stay up-to-date on insurance news and trends?

Related: 71 good interview questions to ask candidates (with types)

Underwriter interview questions with sample answers

Below are explanations of how to answer some of the common underwriter interview questions, alongside some sample answers:

How would you use your judgment to prevent this company from making a loss?

Interviewers ask this question to test your technical knowledge and judgment. It's crucial to demonstrate in your answer that you understand what information underwriters use to make decisions and that you recognise the importance of the decisions that underwriters make daily. You can even reference previous occasions when you've used good judgment to prevent problems at work.

Example: 'I believe that I have good judgment and I'm confident about making decisions independently without always requiring input from my colleagues. In my previous role as a retail supervisor, I regularly had to make decisions relating to damaged items, which included reducing sales prices and negotiating with customers to maximise profits from damaged stock. Due to this, I managed to bring losses from damaged inventory down to a six-month low. I'm confident I can use the same sound judgment as an underwriter'.

Related: How to prepare for an interview

What's the biggest challenge you've faced at work?

This question allows interviewers to determine the aspects of your previous roles that you found challenging and how you approached these challenges. Interviewers are looking to see resilience and initiative so that they can trust you to effectively handle difficult situations at work. When answering, ideally try to include details of a challenge you've faced in a paid role but, if you have no work experience at all, you can discuss challenges you encountered in voluntary positions or during your studies.

Example: 'While volunteering in a charity bookshop during the summer, we suspected that a regular customer was sometimes stealing books. I saw him doing it while I was pricing books and I knew it was my responsibility to confront him, even though I found it very awkward. I spoke to him calmly and, eventually, I managed to persuade him to return the books to the shelves. Afterwards, I told the manager about the incident and he was very happy with the action I took and later banned the customer from the shop'.

Related: 13 last-minute interview tips to impress an employer

How do you keep up-to-date with new developments in insurance?

Insurance is a fast-moving industry that changes constantly. Due to this, insurance professionals frequently read industry news and press releases so that they're aware of industry developments. Interviewers ask this question to see that you understand how vital it is to stay up-to-date with new developments in insurance and that you're proactive about discovering this information.

Example: 'Since the last year of my degree, when I realised that I wanted to work in insurance, I regularly read a lot about insurance news and developments online. I also read broadsheet newspapers daily to ensure that I have up-to-date knowledge of market trends and global economics. I'm particularly interested in the current advances in algorithmic underwriting because it sounds like it's going to have a huge impact on the industry in the next few years'.

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