Attitude – The Necessary but Not Sufficient condition

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” – Winston Churchill

Why talk about Attitude?

In my career spanning a little over 8 years, I have interviewed at least 50 candidates of varying experience and skills – fresher, experienced, technical, data analytics, reserving, pricing etc. No matter what the requirements for any of these are, there is always one crucial requirement that is not mentioned in any job description – a positive attitude. It is the most basic yet essential ingredient all employers look for in a candidate but ironically, one of the least thought about factors by candidates while preparing for an interview. It can be, and is often the deciding factor between two otherwise similarly competent candidates.

The Necessary condition

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes (or for the entrepreneurial ones, imagine your own company) for a moment and think about this. Who would you rather hire if your options were:

  1. A person with the right skills for the job but having a ‘I-know-it-all’ attitude and a preference for working alone OR
  2. A person lacking some skills but eager to learn and work along other team members

Of course, in an ideal world, you would want to hire someone who has the right skills and the perfect attitude. But compromises have to be made because none of us are perfect*. In this situation, most employers would go with the second option. As an employer, it is easier to impart new skills or upgrade an employee’s skillset with training than to deal with an employee who has a negative attitude.

It is especially important as a fresher when applying for a job that you have the right attitude because even with just that, you may have a high chance of getting in but without it, there is no skill that can compensate enough for the lack of it.

*Does not apply to those who think they are perfect. However, I do recommend them to read this blog and think again. J

The Not Sufficient condition

It may come as no surprise that a positive attitude alone would not get you the job, hence it being the ‘not sufficient’ condition. It is as important to work on your skills to match them and your experience to the job requirements.

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of communication, both written and spoken, in any job or role. The CA3 exam is specifically designed to test the very specific communications skills of explaining technical concepts to a non-technical audience. This skill is especially handy as you grow in your career in order to present your work to management and clients.
How interviewers determine your Attitude?

Now, we all prepare for the daunting technical questions asked in an interview. However, the real test of attitude lies in the seemingly not-so-difficult questions which we may fail to prepare for at times. These questions usually take the following form:

  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • What is your biggest achievement?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What would you bring to the team?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What inspired you to pursue actuarial?
  • ……….And numerous other questions…….

There are no prescriptive answers for the above but these can very well be the make or break questions in your next interview.

Recipe to a positive attitude

There is no magic wand or medicine that will give you the right attitude. It’s a long-term commitment but as a start, it is important to introspect to know where you need to change.

Your attitude is a result of the habits you have formed over the years and the kind of people you choose to surround yourself with. Changing these in the right direction can have a positive impact on your life and your attitude towards it. Simple habits like showing up on or before time shows you respect other people’s time, not making excuses for failures shows taking responsibility for your actions, listening carefully and not interrupting when the other person is speaking shows you value other’s opinions.

Small changes can go a long way. It is about the cliché ‘glass half empty or half full’ outlook towards life. So, try to see the glass half full in every situation. Mistakes and failures are unavoidable but with a ‘glass half full’ attitude, you can turn these into stepping-stones for success. Same applies when giving actuarial exams as well – each unsuccessful attempt teaches us something that will help us get over the finishing line.

For everything you know or you can do, there is someone out there who knows more or can do better – so always look to learn from everyone whether they are your seniors, juniors, people in different departments etc.

Last but not the least, be humble and be curious!

For those who have results coming out tomorrow, wish you luck for it!

 Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my own and in no manner reflect the views of my current or any previous employer.


About ‘The Curious Actuary’

Ten thousand and one hundred forty!

That’s the number of student actuaries as on 31st Dec 2016 registered with the Institute of Actuaries of India (source:  And there are numerous more giving exams from the UK institute and the US institute. A huge proportion of these student actuaries are looking for jobs, giving interviews, looking for direction and some advice.

For all those curious actuaries (students, associates, fellows) out there who have more questions than answers, this blog post is my attempt to answer some of those questions and give some helpful advice from my own experiences.

Oh, and I almost forgot about the introduction! I am an Actuary with over 8 years of experience majorly in the Property & Casualty (Non-Life/General insurance) space doing pricing for personal & commercial lines and reserving for commercial lines. Also, I am a big movie buff!

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