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How AI Changes Hiring For Insurance

Adrian Dixon

November 28, 2018

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Is there a best practice when using AI to hire for insurance roles?

What is the current situation?

In general, hiring in the insurance industry across North America has stabilized in recent years, with 58 percent of employers saying they plan to expand jobs into 2019. As with other white-collar industries, though, there’s still a perception of a “skills gap,” i.e. key roles are hard to fill. This can often be solved by increasing wages, but not every insurance company has the ability to do this.

As has noted, however, insurance is often the “Rodney Dangerfield” industry, i.e. “can’t get no respect.” One of the issues is candidates not fully understanding the scope of roles. To wit:

“Many students feel the only opportunity in an insurance company is working as an agent,” says Teresa Poppe, talent management manager at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Illinois. “There are so many more opportunities within an insurance company, such as claims, marketing, human resources, underwriting, etc. We need to continue educating students and market all of the opportunities insurance companies have to offer.”

Insurance is also largely recession-proof, because, well, you typically need insurance regardless of the overall condition of the economy.

If you’re a recruiter in this space and you have available jobs, you have a wide variety of jobs, hiring is stable, and you can hire in a downturn … that seems like a slam dunk. So how do you make sure you’re getting the best people?

The 35,000-foot view

As with searches in any white-collar industry, you want to make sure you’re sourcing and interviewing people who are:

  • Vetted: But this also needs to be contextual. You do not need 32 bullet points of experience for entry-level roles.
  • Curious: This drives true growth.
  • Good culture fit: Some debate exists on this in recent years, but in general you want someone who fits into the ecosystem of the office they’ll be staffed from.
  • Ability to grasp technical complexity: Insurance regulations can vary widely by area, and there’s often a degree of technical complexity. Regardless of role within a company, people need to be able to grasp technical concepts relatively quickly, or know where to look. This is where a pre-assessment may come in handy for insurance hires.

The retiring elephant in the room

A good portion of the current insurance workforce is older, and close to 30 percent will be retiring soon.

As a result, there are two trend lines in the industry for hiring:

  • Hire quicker and more effectively
  • Make these jobs sexy

Let’s flip the script and start with (2).

Most companies are making these jobs “sexy” by moving them away from titles such as “claims agent” and “underwriter” and turning them into jobs that seem to face Big Data and business analysis more. It’s a semantic move, yes, but it can help you attract higher-quality candidates than standard job titles a candidate might envision their grandfather doing.

As for hiring quicker and more effectively, that usually comes down to asking six basic questions about your process:

  1. Do people dislike us or not really know what we do?
    2. Are the requirements credible?
    3. Do we offer competitive salary?
    4. Where is the job posted?
    5. What does the candidate experience look like?
  2. Is the job description/posting far too generic?

As noted above, many of the issues occur at (3), but all these questions can inform getting better hires. And then there’s tech, which we’ll discuss in a second. First: one other interlude.

The call center issue

Many insurance industry jobs are call center-driven, to be fair. Hiring for call centers is very specific. It doesn’t require as much background or context, but more resilience — which is admittedly hard to test for — and strong phone manner/ability to resolve problems. These can be pre-assessed. Previous call center experience helps, but isn’t vital. If you’re looking to potentially move call center employees into managerial roles within 24 months, then hiring more for previous call center experience can be a solid play.

The role of tech

The main thing about the current state of the insurance industry is the need for quick, competent hires. The industry is aged. It’s more “graying” then “greening.” That “Baby Boomer exodus” we’ve been hearing a lot about in recent years? It’s very true in insurance.

Here’s the issue: many recruiters spend 70 percent of their time on tasks that could be more easily given to tech, such as scheduling, top-of-funnel logistical work, resume screening, sourcing, etc. Give that to tech — literally in the form of an AI suite, and now you potentially get 6 to 7 of every 10 minutes back. Here’s what you can do with that time:

  • Build proactive relationships with candidates
  • Communicate more about where they’re at in the process — or use chatbots for that!
  • Dedicate more time to referrals and internal recos
  • Work on your employer brand
  • Respond to negative Glassdoor comments
  • Surf the Internet

OK, don’t do the last one. But do the others! And take breaks to recharge and think about the work you’re doing and how to do it better. In an industry where you need effective hires now, make sure you’re letting tech help instead of hurt.