Interview Questions About Your Educational Background

Applicant being interviewed by HR managers
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It's important to be prepared to discuss your education with hiring managers during job interviews. A certain level of education may be a job requirement for the position, so the interview will validate whether you have the credentials listed in your resume or application.

For some jobs, education will relate specifically to the qualifications required for the job for which you're applying. For others, especially entry-level positions, it will be an indication of your ability to handle the role.

What Employers Want to Know

During a job interview, you will likely get one or two questions about your educational background. You might get a general question such as, “Tell me about your educational background,” or a more specific question like, “What coursework have you taken that relates to your career?”

The hiring manager will ask questions about your education to learn how it has prepared you for the job. If you are a recent graduate, you can highlight how your education has prepared you for a career.

If your academic background is not very extensive or does not meet the requirements of the position, you can use your answer to explain how the education you do have connects to the job.

Types of Interview Questions About Education

There are a number of types of interview questions an employer might ask about your education. First, he or she might ask a question about how your major or minor, or your coursework, relates to the job you are applying for.

You also might get questions about why you selected particular courses or majors, or even why you chose the college you went to. Some employers might ask you to describe a particular class project or assignment that relates to the job. These kinds of questions are most common if you are a recent graduate, because your memory of your coursework is still fresh.

You might also be asked a question about your grades or your GPA. For example, an employer might ask whether you think that your GPA or grades could reflect your ability to do the job.

Finally, a hiring manager may ask a question about why your educational background does not fit the requirements of the job. For example, if a master’s degree is recommended for the job and you do not have one, an employer might ask you to explain why you have not pursued a master’s degree, or how your lack of a master’s might impact your ability to do the job.

Below is a list of interview questions hiring managers may ask about your educational background:

  • Tell me about your educational background.
  • How has your education prepared you for this job?
  • How has your education prepared you for your career?
  • What influenced your choice of college?
  • What other schools did you consider attending?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Who helped you decide which college to attend?
  • What extracurricular activities did you participate in?
  • Do you have any long-term education goals?
  • What skills have you learned in college that apply to your career?
  • Tell me about how a particular course or course project helped you succeed in a project with an employer.
  • Do your grades reflect your potential?
  • Why have you not opted to pursue a master’s degree?
  • Do you have any regrets about the way you spent your time during college?
  • Your major doesn’t relate at all to this job. Do you still think your coursework has helped prepare you for this job?
  • Why did you not complete your college degree?

Tips for Answering Questions About Your Education

Connect your education to the job. Whatever the specific question, be sure to connect your educational background and other job qualifications to the position. Before your interview, make a list of the skills and experiences required for the position, and then think about courses you took and projects you completed that helped you develop those skills.

Consider extracurricular activities. You don’t only have to include examples from coursework. Think about extracurricular activities at school that helped you develop specific skills or abilities necessary for the job.

Consider transferable skills. If you majored in a topic that is unrelated to the job, try to think of transferable skills you developed in your courses that apply to the job. For example, perhaps you majored in English but are applying for a job in consulting. Talk about how all of your essay assignments helped you develop communication skills, which are required for working with clients.

Go beyond the resume. The hiring manager likely knows what school you went to and what degree you received, since this information will be in the education section of your resume. When answering questions about your education, don’t just repeat what is stated on your resume. Mention a unique course or experience that shows how your educational background has prepared you for the job.

Don’t be modest. Now is not the time to downplay your academic achievements. Don’t be afraid to mention an award you won, or an “A” you received for a project.

Don’t lie. If your grades were not good, or you did not complete your degree, don’t lie to the employer. He or she will easily be able to find out whether you are lying. However, you can answer a question about your education honestly while still demonstrating why you are a good fit for the job. For example, if you did not complete your degree, you might emphasize the skills you developed through your coursework, and then highlight the work experience you gained when you left school.

Sample Answers to Questions About Your Education

Below are sample answers to the question, “Tell me about your educational background.”

  • My degree in American history helped me develop the research skills necessary for a job in library science. For example, for my senior project, I conducted research on historical newspapers at three different libraries, and also conducted extensive online research. My ability to find and read a variety of sources will allow me to help students that approach me with similar questions.
  • While my major in English helped me develop strong communication skills, it was really my extracurricular activities that have prepared me for a job in project management. I was president of our school’s volunteer organization, which required me to coordinate and run over a dozen volunteer events each year. For our annual gala fundraiser, I managed a team of twenty-five volunteers. Because of these experiences, I am now able to effectively manage people and oversee long-term projects.
  • I did not pursue a master’s degree because I had developed extensive programming skills while pursuing my undergraduate degree, and for this reason I was ready to begin my career in coding as soon as I graduated. For example, by my senior year, I had become fluent in Java, Python, C#, and PHP. Because of my coding knowledge and professionalism, I successfully moved up in the ranks at the first company I worked for after college. However, I continue to seek educational opportunities; for example, I am currently learning Ruby and Objective-C through an online program.