Answering educational background questions
One of the most common job interview topics is your educational background. You may wonder why hiring managers ask about something that is probably featured prominently on your resume. This article discusses what interviewers are looking for when they ask about your educational background.
Why employers ask about your educational background
Questions about your educational background are among the most common interview topics. Employers ask about your academic experience for two reasons. The first is to confirm what’s on your resume or application. For example, the interviewer may be unfamiliar with your degree or certification and want to know more about it. Be prepared to share and explain how it’s relevant to the job. The second reason for questions about your educational background is to see how you feel your education has prepared you for the job you’re applying to.
Your educational background is the set of all the formal and informal education that you have achieved, plus any new learning opportunities you are pursuing or plan to pursue soon. Your resume or application probably includes a section dedicated to your educational background. When you sit down for the interview, most hiring managers don’t want you to tell them only what is already right in front of them. Interview questions are designed so that the manager can get to know you. They usually want to hear about how that education prepared you for the job you are applying for and how it can benefit the company. When you understand what the interviewer is looking for, you can give an answer that leaves a great impression and makes you stand out from the other applicants.
How to answer when the interviewer says, 'Tell me about your educational background'
Here are some steps to follow for connecting your educational background to the job you’re seeking:
Start with the required minimum job qualifications
For example, if the listing states that a bachelor’s degree is required, confirm that you have one and share your major. Take it a step further and discuss why that particular degree is a good match for the advertised position.
Address any preferred qualifications your education covers
If the job posting lists education in some specific area as ‘preferred but not required’ and you have that education, be sure to point that out to give yourself an advantage. The job requirements may say that you must have a bachelor’s degree in information technology, but a certification in networking is preferred. If you have a networking credential, you should let the interviewer know that your educational background goes beyond the minimum required for the position.
Find creative ways to make connections
Look for less obvious connections between your educational background and job duties. For example, a degree in psychology alone might not qualify you to work as a nanny. Still, if your degree included classes in child development, you should share that with the interviewer.
Don’t limit yourself to formal classroom education
Informal education includes volunteer work, internships, and the practical learning that comes from working at a job every day over time. For many people, skills gained through informal learning are more easily retained than those learned in formal education. For example, if the position requires a bilingual candidate in Spanish and English and you were raised in a bilingual home and speak fluent Spanish, be sure to let the interviewer know that you meet the requirement through informal education.
Ensure you answer to the best of your ability
Take some time to think through these questions in advance and rehearse your answers. Though the connections between your education and the job you’re applying for may seem obvious, they may be hard to articulate on the spot if you’re nervous.
Example answers for questions about your educational background
To appear polished and professional with your answers, you may want to practice with a friend using your own education and the specific job to which you are applying. Here are a few examples of how you might connect your educational background to the requirements of a job posting:
Example 1: Entry-level office clerk
I graduated from high school two months ago and am ready to enter the workforce. My high school had a technology focus, so I am familiar with all of the software programs listed in the job posting and some others that could be beneficial to the company in the future. My education prepared me to use technology in new and innovative ways.
Example 2: Probation officer
I understand that you are looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field. I completed my undergraduate degree in criminal justice five years ago. I’m also excited to share that I just completed an additional online course to gain certification in juvenile probation work. My plans include pursuing a master’s degree in a related field as well.
Example 3: Accountant
The posting indicates that the successful applicant should have a master’s degree in accounting, and you prefer a candidate who has passed the CPA exam. I have both the degree and my CPA license. In each of the three years since I passed the exam, I have accumulated more than twice the annual continuing education credits required.
I have a degree in psychology, which helps me understand human behavior. I believe that will be helpful in working with people to find the home of their dreams. An understanding of human behavior will also be useful when dealing with the varied personalities of clients, and other realtors or lenders I work with routinely.
Example: Executive director of a nonprofit agency
I see on the posting that you are looking for someone with a master’s degree. Mine is in accounting, which I believe will be useful in managing the organization’s budget, grants, and fundraising.