How do you know you’re hiring a professional?

This article originally appeared in the CIA (e)Bulletin.

By Alicia Rollo, CHRL

In my nine-and-a-half years with the CIA, I’ve enjoyed many formal and informal conversations about professionalism. Several years ago, it was even part of the CIA’s strategic plan to better define what it means to be a professional. To that aim, we gathered several senior members of the CIA for a collective brainstorming discussion at an event in Toronto in early 2016. From that discussion, a list of norms and attributes was generated which we have since incorporated into our professionalism education at the Associate (ACIA) level. They include:

  • Sense of a higher calling and an implicit notion of a social bargain;
  • Pride of competence and mastery of skill through substantial education and professional training, and the ability to exercise sound judgment;
  • Acting ethically and with integrity, honesty, professional independence, and objectivity;
  • Adherence to established standards of practice, rules of professional conduct, and continuing professional development (CPD) requirements, and being subject to consequences (discipline); and
  • The ability to balance the pressures encountered in professional practice from multiple stakeholders – economic, business, employer, client/customer – who have diverse perspectives and desired outcomes, while generating appropriate business solutions.

Earlier professionalism orientation

But what if you are hiring someone who is not yet an Associate, who perhaps has a few exams but no formal orientation to what it means to be a professional? In particular, the ability to exercise sound judgment and awareness of the consequences of not doing so. While Canada is known for having some of the best actuarial science university programs, producing brilliant technical actuarial candidates, there is little or no discussion with students at that stage in their development, to the best of my knowledge, about the gravitas of entering the profession.

We recently encountered a situation where a candidate from a very highly regarded university misrepresented their academic and professional achievement to an employer. Fortunately, the employer uses several methods for background checking – a systematic process for verification of candidate credentials, and a keen eye for bogus information.

Sadly, the lack of judgment and apparent lack of awareness of the potential consequences of the candidate’s action at this early stage in their career has likely impacted their chances of future success in a profession that at its core is based upon judgment, integrity, honesty, objectivity, and independence. 

From the CIA’s perspective, this has underlined the importance of starting the professionalism conversation earlier, perhaps even requiring some component of professionalism orientation within our university accreditation system, or even implementing a prerequisite before engaging in any educational activities that could eventually provide credit towards membership in the CIA. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in the United Kingdom has such a requirement, and it’s perhaps time for the CIA to consider it.

Assess professionalism during the hiring process

As a human resources professional, I encourage all members who are involved in the hiring process for their organization to include at least one question in the interview process regarding professionalism. Here are some suggestions:

  1. What does becoming a professional actuary mean to you?
  2. Are you familiar with the CIA’s Rules of Professional Conduct?
  3. Please provide some examples of key documents governing the profession of which all actuarial candidates and fully qualified actuaries must be aware.

These questions will give you a very clear picture of the candidate’s professionalism orientation.

Finally, please remember that the CIA can help during your candidate screening process. If your HR department uses an external service for pre-employment checks, recommend that verification of actuarial credentials and credits by the CIA be added to the list. A quick call to the CIA Head Office can save time, money, and future employment-related headaches.

Alicia Rollo, CHRL, is Director, Education and International Affairs.

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