A student’s interview experience- the benefits of planning and preparing for the big day!

Internship Interview Experience at a Financial Security Company

(Disclosure- this is a true interview story. This student received an offer and is currently working at this company. Her interview experience and interview format is typical but may not reflect all interview experiences. For privacy reason, the interviewee and company are made anonymous.)

I had an interview with the risk management model group of a financial security company. The main financial products of the company are mortgage loans insurance and long term care insurance.

The interview lasted two rounds, and each round covered two parts with two interviewers from the risk management model group. In the first round interview, the interviewer mainly asked about some questions ranging from mortgage loans, basic statistical knowledge of data mining to regression techniques and models. (Tip- Researching the employer was an important part of this round.)

Questions about mortgages loans referred to concept of premium, prepayment and interest rate. The interviewer introduced their mortgage product to me and I expressed some of my points of view about the product combined with financial terms that I learned in some related classes. (Tip- show employers your educational knowledge through related courses.)

In the basic statistical question part, I was asked about questions of distribution of certain scatter plots that were prepared by the interviewer. Besides, the interviewer asked me to come up with some fast data mining methods that can help a modeler quickly deal with data in an efficient way. (Tip- be prepared to show examples of your quantitative skills)

Most technical questions were focus on regression. The interviewer discussed with me two econometrics models that I had implemented before. Based on the discussion of certain regression models, the interviewer thoroughly asked questions about data cleaning, explanatory variables choosing and model modification. It was a nice progression since the interviewer guided me to take more practical problems into consideration in the process of model construction. (Tip- actively listen to the interviewer and be aware of the direction their conversation is heading, including tips they may give you.)

The second round of interview was an on-site visit to the company. During the second part of first round interview, the interviewer was interested in my interpretation of Logistic model application. I was also asked about basic SAS programming skills. Three interviewers interviewed me and gave me have a tour of the office. The SVP (Senior Vice President) of Risk Management introduced the team corporation of different groups in the division.

During the first part of the second round of interview, I had the opportunity to gather more details about the company’s business and culture, and had a nice communication with the interviewer about team contribution. All the questions were focused on the type of role that I could participate in the risk modeling team, and why I chose this company.

The Director and Modeler from the Risk Modeling team asked me to talk about some opinions on default probability model construction. Furthermore, they gave me concrete examples to show what kind of data that is usually dealt with and gave me chances to discuss practical techniques of data processing implemented by SAS programming. (Tip- be prepared to give  examples of your programming skills.)

The whole interview process was nice. The interviewers were willing to guide candidates to answer questions through practical problems solving techniques, come up with different solutions and opportunities for further discussion. The interview was a great way to communicate with professional people in the finance industry.


Have you had an interview yet? If so, was your experience similar or different? Share your thoughts and comments.

Meet Xun Ma- Career Ambassador of the Week


"My name is  Xun Ma (May 2015 Graduate), and come from a small city in the southeast of China, Guiyang. As a first year student in Financial Mathematics program at North Carolina State University, I got an awesome opportunity to be an Ambassador of the program.

Before I came to the Financial Mathematics program, I was majored in Econometrics. As a Chinese student, I found that I learned a lot through the work experience as an Ambassador. The Ambassador is a role not only about leadership, but also a role about professionalism. This is a good way to experience professional environment in the United States. Within few months in the role, I had the opportunity to have close communication with professionals in financial industry and help advisors to prepare board meetings and career fairs. All of these professional events fulfill the rest of my time out of academic study.

My personal interest is to apply mathematical skills in model construction in order to solve practical problems. In the short run, I plan to be a risk modeler. So far, I enjoy learning related numerical skills and programming skills based on solid theoretical knowledge in quantitative finance. I have implemented my quantitative skills in several projects that are mainly focus on explaining the relationship between interest rate spread and sovereign debt crisis.

More importantly, my Ambassador role provides extra resources to help me improve my communication skills and opportunities to introduce myself to a large range of working professionals from different companies. All of these experiences give me passion and confidence to pursue my career goal."- Xun Ma

How I landed my dream job two months before graduation

by Samuel Busch, Financial Mathematics student- December 2013 graduate

As a soon-to-be graduate from the Masters in Financial Mathematics (MFM) program at North Carolina State University (NCSU), I thought it might be beneficial to prospective students to write a little bit about my experience in the program, specifically the opportunities the program has given me and what I have gained. Just in the past few weeks, I have landed my dream job working as an Actuarial Assistant for Allianz Life Insurance company.

So, how did I get here?

My undergraduate studies were in Actuarial Science and Statistics. I’ve always loved finding meaning in data and applying my mathematical skills in the “real world” in new and challenging ways. Risk management, insurance, and financial markets are subjects that continue to intrigue me. After earning my bachelors degree, I knew that there was a lot more that I wanted to learn about the mathematics behind risk and financial markets. What are the different kinds of exotic derivatives and how do they work? How do firms manage their exposures to various financial risks? What are the algorithms behind hedge funds? As an undergraduate, I wanted to know more about these questions; thus, I sought to increase my knowledge of quantitative finance through earning my MFM degree at NCSU.

I am so glad I decided to come to NC State and the MFM program for my graduate studies, as I give the program much of the credit for the success I have experienced in the past year and a half. The guidance and mentorship I have received from the MFM program director and the career services director have been extremely helpful and led to my amazing internship experience working as a programmer/modeler for an auto insurance company last summer.

Through volunteering for the program and attending program events, I have been able to meet industry professionals from banking, energy, insurance, risk management, and other technical fields.

As a student in the MFM program, I have received hands-on modeling experience in SAS and Matlab completing projects such as pricing exotic financial derivatives, and I have learned the fundamentals of asset pricing, stochastic processes (such as the stock market), and enterprise risk management.This education, along with my technical internship, has ultimately allowed me to secure my dream job where I will be able to merge my passions for risk management, insurance, and quantitative finance.

How did I “bridge the gap” between my education and finding the right job?

In short- networking through MFM program events and LinkedIn. As I gained experience, I updated my LinkedIn profile and joined groups relating to quantitative finance, actuarial science, insurance, and modeling.

Joining groups on LinkedIn turned out to be highly valuable for me. In fact, the day after I joined an actuarial / predictive modeling group, an actuary/director from Allianz Life posted a job advertisement to the group page and indicated that Allianz was looking to expand some of their actuarial positions. I jumped at the opportunity and applied on LinkedIn and through the Allianz web site. I also contacted the individual advertising the position through LinkedIn directly. This personal contact led to more personal contacts, which led to several phone interviews.

Eventually the phone interviews led to an in-person interview at the Allianz Life campus. During the interview, I highlighted my problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills as well as my quantitative background, and my biggest selling point was the experience I had gained completing detailed and valuable programming projects for both the MFM program and my summer internship.

As a result of the successful interviews, I was offered and accepted a position as an Actuarial Assistant. In this role, I will work as a modeler and will have exposure to multiple business lines. I will be able to further improve my coding skills and knowledge of various financial and insurance products.

I hope my story helps to demonstrate the opportunities and skills the MFM program at NCSU provides and perhaps provides some encouragement to other students considering enrolling in the program. To new MFM students I would give the following pieces of advice:

1) Get involved with and volunteer for the MFM program

2) Utilize your program advisors and the Director of Career Services

3) Be very proactive with networking (LinkedIn)

4) Although you may not already have much quantitative experience, as you progress in your career, be aware of projects that highlight your analytical ability, communication skills, and teamwork, and use these as examples to leverage your skills to potential employers.