Just Another Blog
Friday, April 25, 2003
Interviews with American Income Life
(alt title = American Income Life Sucks)

I was supposed to go to my third interview in three days today with American Income Life, a subsidiary of Torchmark. I had sent them a resume at the beginning of April in response to a posting on Monster. On Wednesday morning I received a call from them asking if I could come in for an interview. I obliged and scrambled to look up what I had applied for that I was about to go interview for.

The ad stated that it was a management track program starting in sales with no cold calling ever. I Googled the company and did a bit more research to find out that they focus on selling life and supplemental health insurance to labor union and credit union members. During the interview I learned that a separate PR division forms relationships with unions and then sends out direct mailers on union letterhead to members advising them of a new available service. Interested parties are encouraged to fill out and return the postage-paid postcard. The sales team then focuses solely on these leads. I was told that management possibilities were available within 60 days of start for those with high potential and a willingness to work hard. Tom Young, the interviewer, explained that this was step one of a three interview process and asked that I return Thursday for step two - a group interview.

Thursday I returned to join aproximately 18 other job seekers for what was more of a presentation than an interview. Mr. Young explained to us how easy their system was and encouraged us to think in terms of salaries of $100,000. Of course, if we wanted to think of $200,000, half a million, or even seven-figure salaries, that would be all right too because it was well within the realm of possibility if you had the potential and were willing to work hard. The group interview provided three different chances for anyone who wasn't interested in making that kind of money to get up and leave the room. Nobody left. After the group session we were each reunited with the person with whom we had originally interviewed. We were told that we would have five to seven minutes to ask any questions that we might have or that we could use the time to really sell the manager on our qualifications, potential, and willingness to work hard to achieve financial success.

Instead of selling myself, I asked about turnover and talked a little bit about the compensation structure. Never having worked on commission before or completely understanding the concept of annuitized life premiums, a lot of the comp talk went above my head. I left, however, with the distinct impression that because of my potential and willingness to work hard I could easily expect to make $80-100,000 my first year and probably into the $200's by my third year as long as I maintained my willingness to work hard. I was told that the managers would meet later in the afternoon, and they would decide which applicants would then come back for the crucial third interview. Perhaps not surprisingly, I received a phone call last evening inviting me back for the third interview where some more questions would be asked of me and I would have the chance to get clarification on any outstanding concerns that I still had.

I went to bed last night pretty excited about the possibility of soon having a job. But I couldn't sleep. I am enamored with thoughts of making six figures a year, but I never really thought insurance sales would be the career for me. Still, this wasn't really sales like being a broker is sales. There is no need to ask everyone that you know if you can manage their money. There is no active networking trying to get your business card into as many hands as possible. There is no screwing the customer while pretending to have their best interests in mind.

Wait a second...

That's it. That's the problem. The customer. What about the customer? In two interviews and a phone call and in casual conversations with some of the other employees, the customer was never mentioned. There was no talk of superior service or even of service standards. There were no surveys mentioned showing why they were better than any other similar company. There was no talk of educating the customer. There was no talk of always doing the right thing. There was no talk of philanthropy. There was no talk of community relations or good will toward men or anything. There was only money.

Customers were merely the source of the money. Customers were a captive audience due to their membership in a union. Customers were something to be exploited.

I fell asleep hoping that I would recall my concerns in the morning. This morning I awoke and started to prepare for my final interview and an almost certain job offer. I got on the internet and researched the financials of American Income Life Insurance's parent company, Torchmark. I was surprised to find a stable company with impeccable financials. Financially, there is little doubt that TMK is an industry leader with a lot of growth potential. Next I went to the commentary portion of the annual report which focused praise on the strong reputation of AIL within its niche market.

Now I was torn again. I still suspected that I could quickly make six figures with the company and on top of that the company is robust and growing which leads me to believe that the monetary upside may have been even greater than I first imagined. But I was still more than a little concerned.

I started to imagine working as a salesman. Where is the day-to-day challenge outside of simply setting appointments? Where is the opportunity for intellectual growth? What could I hope to learn on an ongoing basis once I had already earned my life and health licenses (which would cost me three days and $300 of my own time and money to get, by the way)? What benefit am I really selling to this niche market?

I expanded my Google search for information on Torchmark and AIL by throwing in the keywords lawsuit, fraud, and scam. I found that adding these terms returned a lot of hits. I reviewed dozens of the hits to find all of the following issues. Consumer groups note that the primary product offered by AIL, commonly known as burial insurance, is itself largely a scam. Customers pay monthly premiums over the years that soon outweigh the benefit of the policy. They would be better served by some simple financial planning or a good home economics class. The company founder has ties to Hillary Clinton with regards to the Hubbles and Whitewater. The company is under investigation in Florida for racially biased policy pricing. The largest agency in California is being investigated for systemic fraud and corruption. Veteran and retired agents get screwed out of their vested renewals because the company forces new agents to sell new, replacement policies to existing customers (a sales source never mentioned in any of my meetings thus far). The final straw for me was the list off complaints on the Rip-off Report. Everything that these strangers from other parts of the country said were right in line with my experiences so far.

So screw it. I am not going to take a chance and work for this company. I called and asked to speak with Tom Young. He was not available. This did not surprise me as each time I was in the office and waiting to speak to someone, I had the opportunity to observe the receptionist. There was not a single call that was put through to the requested party. There was no voice mail available, only her to take a message. She was obviously running interference for the entire office (and as big as she was, whoa, she created plenty of interference). I left a message that I needed to cancel my appointment and that no, I did not wish to reschedule at this time. I left my number for Mr. Young to call me at home. I hope that he does so that I can explain my concerns and hear his rebuttals.

I am deeply disappointed not to be getting a job any time soon. I will now have to redouble my search efforts and try not to let this bother me too much. To wrap up and to summarize and to hopefully improve this post's position on the search engines I leave you with the following impressions I have been left with.

American Income Life sucks. This is a scam. American Income Life is a bad company to work for. Tom Young at American Insurance Life in Denver is a liar. AIL will cheat you out of your money. AIL sucks. The American Income Life interview process is a scripted scam. The agents at American Income Life are corrupt. The managers at AIL are even worse.