Q&A with Marianne Westphal, Partner and Lead Recruiter at DW Simpson.

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Marianne is a Partner and a Lead Recruiter with DW Simpson, having been with the company since 2003 in various recruiting roles. Marianne works with candidates in P&C, health, life and pensions, from students early in their career all the way to executives. She also recruits catastrophe modelers, product managers, and data scientists. She has served on the SOA Marketing Executive and Cultivating Opportunities Committees, and has contributed to various industry publications including Contingencies, The Actuary, and Carrier Management, as well as industry and client newsletters.

Marianne earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and has completed numerous courses toward an MBA at University of Chicago. While at Madison, she played cello with the UW Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, and in 2006 she founded a cello ensemble which performed for over a decade in and around Chicago. Marianne enjoys traveling and speaks fluent German.


Q: What are the top reasons that candidates give for seeking a new role?

There are so many different reasons: career growth, location, better fit with a company/manager, stability. As well as compensation of course, but a lot of times it’s the other reasons and compensation is a consideration but not the only factor.


Q: How can a candidate ensure that they stand out from the competition?

Prepare for each interview. Even if a candidate has been interviewing a lot, company and position specific preparation is important. In terms of how to build your resume to stand out over the long term, it’s always good to show upward progression (even in the same role, did you take on more responsibilities, take initiative, start mentoring or managing). Learning new software if possible is important; anything to keep up with trends in your field. Internal collaboration and presentations are valuable not just for resumes but for personal growth.


Q: What are the common mistakes that candidates make during the job search process, and how can they avoid them?

Not being prepared is the top mistake – making sure you really understand the role and thinking about how your experience and interest relate to the position is key. Too much focus on compensation or benefits in the interview process can give the impression that is what is most important to you. Not having questions prepared can be interpreted as a lack of interest.


Q: What is your biggest challenge as a recruiter?

It’s important that candidates really find the right fit, not only in terms of a role, but internal structure/opportunities/company culture. This comes down to understanding the candidate’s interests, background, and strengths as well as having knowledge of the employers and how well they can fit together. Our goal is to be a “career consultant” over the span of a candidate’s career, and to the best of our abilities, making sure each move is a good fit.


Q: How has the current market for actuaries changed over the last year?

The market remains strong. There have been some shifts in terms of locations companies will consider but the market has moved significantly over the past few years to allow for more remote work. The interest in candidates with strong technical skills and knowledge of new software continues to grow.


Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for companies looking to hire top actuarial talent?

There has been quite a bit written about how to draw/keep employees and the key is to listen and to be adaptable to change. The ability to work from home has been a big change we have seen but helping employees make their overall lives more manageable, whether it is flexible schedules or remote work, is important. Other essential considerations are the ability to grow with an employee’s strengths/interests, and internal communication/transparency.


Q: What are the perks or benefits that can make an offer stand out?

Aside from base salary and annual bonus, other factors can include building a schedule that can work for both employee and employer, remote work, long term compensation, vacation days/company-wide days off, opportunity for growth and visibility, and demonstrable valuing of actuarial talent within the organization.


Q: How important are remote/work opportunities in finding top talent?

As I have noted in many of my answers, it is very important. Understandably, some roles or companies have more ability to offer this than others but being open to working over video or allowing even some work from home/hybrid schedules is prevalent. It really comes down to flexibility and listening to what the employees need in order to make things work best for all sides.


Marianne and the team at DW Simpson are here to help you with any questions or concerns you might have about your career journey. Job seekers can take the stress out of the job search process and help to highlight your value to future employers by working with a DWS recruiter. If you are looking to hire actuarial candidates, we can assist in bringing top actuarial talent to you in a challenging market. Find us at www.dwsimpson.com.