How to make a great first impression

posted by on 11 Dec 2017

Making a first impression takes seconds, so when you’re invited to an interview, you need to make sure it’s the right one. AXA Resourcing Partner, David Atkin gives us his top tips for success.

You’ve applied and got through to interview stage – hooray! Now, it’s time to start thinking about making the best possible impression of yourself. Remember – everyone gets nervous before an interview, but follow these steps and it will be a much smoother ride!

1. Turn up on time

First things first, turn up with some time to spare – there’s nothing worse than running late and arriving in a fluster. Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there – and allow yourself extra time, just in case.

2. Be polite

It’s important to be polite to everyone you meet while at your interview or assessment centre – you never know who’ll be asked to give feedback on you. 

3. Think about what you’re wearing

Be smart and presentable obviously, but think about the nature of the role, and bear in mind the culture of the organisation – you’re more likely to wear something less formal for an IT Developer interview, compared to financial sales, for example. See if you can do any research on what dress code the company has, or better yet, ask the Recruiter what the company’s dress code is. 

4. Look your interviewer/s in the eye

A good, firm handshake, a smile and making eye contact are all very important. You’ll act – and feel – more confident, focused and personable.

5. Don’t be afraid of silence

In the interview itself, take a few moments to compose your answer, take a breath or ask for a minute to think – it’s much better than rushing straight into a nervous, incomprehensible answer.

6. Take notes

Yes, believe it or not, you’re allowed to bring in notes with you. Brief notes show you’re well prepared and want to do well. It’ll also make sure you can find the right example when you need it. I interviewed five people for a role recently, the first three brought notes in, the last two didn’t – it was the first three who made a better impression as they were less likely to go off on a tangent. And when you’re preparing those notes in advance, the STAR model really helps to structure answers: explain the Situation, the Tasks required of you, the Actions you actually took and the Results.

7. Bring it back to the question

Ever been halfway through a story and thought, I can’t remember why I was telling this? Yep, it happens in interviews too. So if you find yourself going off on a tangent or forgetting what you’re answering, check in with your interviewer. Saying, “I’m not sure I’m answering the question, here’s a better example,” is a much better way to go. And try to end your answers on a high note – an interview is not the time to be modest, so be proud of your achievements and ‘sell’ them to the interviewer. Take every opportunity to make them feel positive about you.

8. Talk about you

Make sure you say “I” instead of “we”. You need to talk about your personal contribution to a task, not what everyone else did, and using “we” makes it sound like a joint effort rather than an individual success.

9. Prepare questions of your own

Have any questions? Now’s the time to show how enthusiastic you are about the role and the company by asking some well thought-out questions.  This will show that you’ve thought seriously about the job and are keen to know more.

10. Say thank you

End the interview with a “nice to meet you” and, if you have the interviewer’s email address, follow up with a message of thanks and express your continuing interest in the position.

Good luck! And most of all, remember to be yourself and let your personality shine. 

categories: Careers advice 

How to tell if a role is right for you

posted by on 27 Nov 2017

AXA Resourcing Co-ordinator, Judith Mylon, reveals the important considerations you need to bear in mind when you’re hunting for your next job.

There are many things that you can look out for to tell whether a role is right for you. Starting right from the beginning with the job ad. Does the role sound exciting and challenging? Are there opportunities to develop within the role? Does the job pop out at you as something exciting and different from other opportunities? Ask yourself some key questions:

  • Can you visualise yourself doing the role?
  • Could you see yourself working for the company?
  • Have you researched the company?
  • Are you looking to focus on developing yourself and your skill set?

Follow your instinct

I personally feel that gut instinct is a huge part of knowing whether a role is right for you. In addition to the above questions, are there employee testimonials that you can watch/read to give you an idea of what the company is like to work for. Research the role and the company as much as you can – find out if they support the local community or if they can offer you something different that other companies can’t? Company culture is one of the key topics that candidates often ask about during telephone and face to face interviews. They want to know that they are coming into a company that is supportive and encouraging, as well as offering a variety of development opportunities.

Be clear in what you want

You need to think about what you’re looking for in a job – things like location and flexible working can be key factors into whether you want to apply for a role, it doesn’t always just fall down to salary. In that case, look out for hours of work and whether any shift work is required, as if you’re looking for more of a work life balance then these type of roles may not be suitable for you.

A positive experience

For me, the application process also plays a huge part in deciding whether a role is suitable for you. Have the company kept in touch with you? Have they updated you with your application? Are you being treated with a more personal touch rather than just another application or a number? This will tell you lots of about the company you’re thinking of joining.

Here at AXA, we pride ourselves in providing a positive experience for our candidates, right from submitting an application through to starting your first day with us. We have our candidates’ interests and needs at heart and are always there to provide advice and guidance along the way. If there’s anything you are unsure of when it comes to one of our roles, just ask us, we love to talk through any concerns and queries – and then we’ll hopefully get you started with a career at AXA! You can get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter.

categories: Careers advice 

Innovation in digital technology at AXA

posted by on 16 Nov 2017

Our International Customer-OnLine team was thrilled to be nominated for Digital Team of the Year earlier this year. Development Manager Vikki Bowman tells us all about the innovative work the team is currently producing and how Agile has transformed their offering.

Being a manager in IT, an important part of my role is to oversee communications within the engineering and delivery team, building motivation and ensuring there’s good engagement across the wider IT team. That really is the key to creating an environment where innovative ideas can be brought to life, and one of the reasons we’ve switched to an Agile way of working.

In the past, we followed a method that saw system changes implemented twice a year, so it could take up to six months for people outside of IT to see the improvements. But since 2014, following our move to Agile delivery, changes are now made fortnightly. And it’s making a big difference. The International Customer-OnLine team has been able to introduce lots of new and innovative features for customers recently, and that’s why they were finalists for Digital Team of the Year at Computing’s Digital Technology Leaders Awards 2017.

Customer First

Putting the Customer First is one of AXA’s core global values, and is something that’s at the heart of everything we do.

The switch to Agile has allowed us to launch new features and improvements for our customers in a short space of time, each designed to make things easier for them. We’ve redesigned our AXA PPP International customer portal to make it mobile responsive, so our customers can find the information they need, when they need it. There’s a new display and way of managing claims payment preferences, the navigation structure and homepage now focuses on user experience so it’s much more intuitive, and we can now highlight renewal information and documents for customers six weeks before their renewal date.

Thanks to our Agile way of working and ability to collaborate across teams, we’ve built a much more informative portal, ensuring that the customer is in control and has everything they need at their fingertips. Our ultimate aim is to be able to implement changes on-demand, based on our customers’ needs.

Developer of the Year finalist: Lee Motley

Developer Lee Motley

As well as receiving a nomination as part of the Digital Team of the Year at Computing Digital Technology Leaders Awards 2017, Lee Motley, Principal Developer in the team, was nominated as Developer of the Year. Lee returned to AXA PPP healthcare in 2005 as a graduate after completing a placement year with us in 2003.

“He’s a fantastic member of the team,” says Vikki. “The nomination was well deserved as he frequently mentors junior members of the team, drives through new technology and remains calm under pressure. He helps drive innovative work – he’s always thinking about the bigger picture.”

Lee said: “Being nominated as Developer of the Year is a great honour and really demonstrates the supportive environment we have here at AXA. Being given the opportunity to grow technically and be recognised for that work is a great motivating factor. The ability to work in an Agile environment which encourages innovation is something that not every developer gets to experience, so it’s fantastic to be working in such an organisation.”

Recently Lee has been looking into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how digital assistants such as Cortana and Alexa can make a difference. In April, he led a team from AXA PPP at a Global AXA Hackathon collaborating with peers from across the globe to deliver a prototype ChatBot.


The bigger (IT) picture

But being part of the IT crowd at AXA isn’t just about Agile principles and customer portals, we also organise and get involved in a whole host of activities and events designed to give everyone at AXA a voice and the chance to contribute to innovative ideas and projects. 

Over the past few years, we have been involved in arranging and participating in three AXA hackathons – multi-day events where people from across the business collaborate to solve problems and challenges designed to improve the way we do things. It’s great to see everyone working together, and for the ideas that come out of the event to be turned into reality.

As well as organising the AXA hackathons, we are very active in companywide events. In 2017, two teams from AXA PPP IT were top ten finalists at AXA UK and Ireland’s Collaboratory innovation programme. Over 400 ideas from across the UK and Ireland were submitted to the challenge asking for ideas to help change the future of AXA. We’re very proud that one of our two finalists reached and won the final stage. After three months of hard work, it all came down to a two-day hackathon and one final pitch in London. The winning team will work to deliver their idea in 2018, and get to visit the European Innovation Hub to help bring their vision to life. I can’t wait to see what they produce!

Thanks to Vikki for sharing her insight into life in IT at AXA PPP healthcare. Our IT department have a lot more innovation activities planned for the future, so if you’d like to be part of it, take a look at our current vacancies and apply today.

categories: AXA people  Innovation at AXA  IT 

Reverse Mentoring: an intrepid new direction

posted by on 27 Oct 2017

Mentoring Up is a reverse-mentorship initiative shaking up the way we learn at AXA. It’s a brave, radical new approach. Vania Arianoutsou, part of the Mentoring Up team and Learning Business Partner at AXA, is here to talk us through it.

There’s no disputing the facts: according to a 2016 Deloitte survey, 61% of millennials benefit from having a mentor, with over 80% being pleased with their work-mentor balance. While this is an undeniably positive result, it views the idea of mentorship under a pretty narrow scope – that is, a junior team member being aided in their development by a more senior player in the team.

At AXA we like to think differently. Broader. Wider. More far reaching. We’re always looking for ways to improve and – if we think something can be done better – we’re not afraid to turn the status quo on its head. That’s why we developed Mentoring Up, a unique mentorship initiative.

Mentoring Up

Meeting the training needs of our business: that’s the role of the Learning Development team at AXA. We work with HR business partners to make sure teams at AXA have the opportunities for development they need to grow professionally and advance our business. Since being introduced, Mentoring Up has become a key part of the team’s role.

But what is it? Well, in a way it’s the opposite of mentoring: it recognises there are knowledge gaps all around, realises everyone has something unique to share, and leverages skills and experience across the business to empower everyone to develop together. We’ve found that it really helps to encourage learning our senior leadership call out for it!

By doing away with traditional top-down mentorship, you open up the opportunity for all-inclusive growth. Mentees learn about topics they are unfamiliar with, while mentors have the chance to share their expertise and – in doing so – build confidence and presentation and coaching skills. It brings the whole business closer together, widening exposure and setting a foundation for relationships between senior management and more junior team members.

After first introducing reverse mentorship via a 2015 pilot scheme, we decided to relaunch the initiative for this year. From cyber security to social media, mental health to changing social climates, we asked senior managers to suggest areas they wanted to develop understanding in, before inviting everyone at AXA to apply to become a reverse mentor in one of the topics. We received over 50 applications in a couple of months and are set to go live in November – it’s really exciting!

Our Pledge

At AXA, we believe every individual should have a voice, and every person should be given the tools they need to develop. Mentorship shouldn’t be a one-way street – the traditional approach reinforces hierarchy and overlooks the fact that we all have something to learn, and something to share. That’s the driving force behind Mentoring Up: it’s a way to enable continuous learning, encourage participation from every employee, and forge closer relationships across the business.

One of AXA’s core values is courage, and we believe Mentoring Up embodies and empowers this value. The initiative was born because we were bold enough to be different – and, by creating it, we’ve opened up an avenue for people to speak up and make a difference. Our hope is that Mentoring Up will allow people from across the group to learn from one another, to appreciate the wealth of knowledge available to them and to continue our common development as a company.

We can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

categories: AXA people  Development at AXA  Life at AXA 

My Dyslexia: Thinking around problems

posted by on 16 Oct 2017

Annabel Smith, one of our Actuarial Analysts, joined AXA a month ago and loves putting her maths skills to the test every day.

When did you find out you had Dyslexia?

It wasn’t until I went to university to study Maths that I decided to get tested for Dyslexia. My Psychology teacher suggested it while I was doing my A Levels as I kept muddling words up. The diagnosis was confirmed, which meant that while I was at university I had extra time to read the exam papers, and it was really useful. My A levels were all humanities subjects, except for Maths, so I would have benefitted earlier had I known, but I just thought everyone had the same difficulties as me.

What appealed to you about becoming an Actuarial Analyst at AXA?

After university, I became a teacher for two years, but it wasn’t for me. In this time I also did an MA at King’s College, London. I enjoyed it but found the amount of essays quite tricky. Eventually, I decided that I should be utilising my maths skills and joined AXA as an Actuary, which I did a month ago. I really enjoyed the assessment centre, I was nervous but the whole ethos was great and the team came across really well, it made me want to join the company immediately!

How does your Dyslexia benefit your work?

My Dyslexia forces me to think around a problem. For example, when I was in school, I wouldn’t learn spellings, I would just memorise them, which worked for the purposes of the test, but didn’t actually teach me how to spell. My ability to think differently is really good when it comes to problem solving.

What’s your advice to other people with Dyslexia who are job hunting?

My advice when it comes to Dyslexia is to be open about it. When I was invited to the assessment centre, I mentioned it and everyone at AXA was really good about allowing me extra time to complete the tests, which I needed. When you’re searching for jobs, I would whole-heartedly recommend letting the company you’re applying to know you’re Dyslexic beforehand so they can take any sort of adjustments into account. It’s good to explore your opportunities – ultimately you need to find somewhere that works for you.

Interested to learn more about dyslexia at AXA? Charlie talks about how AXA’s flexible working has supported him to play to his strengths in the blog, Ideas, strategy and connected thinking – Charlie’s dyslexia story. And Sophia has some great tips for dealing with dyslexia in the workplace in her blog, Dyslexia won’t hold you back at AXA.

categories: Actuaries  AXA people  Dyslexia  Employee story