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What is Your Educational Background?

Being asked about your educational background is par for the course in any job interview. But a hiring manager is looking for more than just what’s on your resume. We’ll break down what they’re looking to discover and explain how to use this question to show how you’re uniquely qualified for the role. 

Why do interviewers ask about your educational background?

For many jobs, your education is a core component of your preparedness for the position. An interviewer is likely to ask about it to understand what formal training you have that would help you succeed if they hire you. 

But it’s about more than just the degree you earned; an interviewer wants context on your background. For example, what courses were you most interested in? What unique experiences did you have while enrolled in a school that would help you in this particular position? How did you continue your education after graduation?

These details can set you apart from another candidate with the same degree.

What interviewers are looking for about your educational history

When asking about your educational background, an interviewer wants to learn whether your curriculum has prepared you for the job requirements. This obviously includes technical skills you learned through your coursework and extracurricular experiences relevant to the job. Things like internships, apprenticeships, volunteer work, study abroad programs, and participation in student organizations can all be worth mentioning.   

An interviewer also needs you to help them connect the dots, especially if your degree isn’t directly tied to the job you’re seeking. Use your answer to help them understand how you got from point A to point B, highlighting the useful qualifications you’ve picked up along the way.

How to answer the interview question ‘What is your educational background?’

Give a strategic summary

Whether you graduated magna cum laude or got your diploma by the skin of your teeth, this is your time to make your education shine. Play up the academic activities that are most relevant to the job, like taking a class specifically dedicated to one of the technical skills you’d be using. Leave out any unimpressive details, like a less-than-stellar GPA.

Highlight experiences that mirror the job duties

Before your interview, carefully peruse the duties listed in the job description. Do any of them sound like something you’ve done before in your educational background? These are experiences you want to be sure to mention in your answer to help the interviewer see that you’ve already gotten your feet wet in tasks like the ones you’d be doing day to day.

Emphasize continued learning

Your educational background isn’t limited to formal collegiate programs. Employers value people who are lifelong learners, always seeking to acquire new knowledge. Mention what you’ve done on your own to expand your skills, like taking online classes, attending workshops, or reading books. 

How not to answer

Merely state what is on your resume

The hiring manager can read. A statement like “I have a bachelor’s in marketing,” doesn’t do you any favors as a candidate, and certainly doesn’t help you stand out among similarly qualified competitors. Use this opportunity to convey what distinguishes your background from the rest of the talent pool.

Sample answers to ‘What is your educational background?’

Example #1

“I got my bachelor’s in early education, which might not be the degree you’d expect for someone who works in HR. However, the courses I took in curriculum design sparked my passion for creating unique, engaging onboarding programs. I parlayed the same skills you might use to help children learn to read or write into helping professionals learn the ropes of a new company. It’s amazing how well the same techniques apply, and I continue to read books written for teachers to pick up new skills I can use in my onboarding programs.”

Example #2

“I majored in software development because I had a million ideas for apps and wanted to learn how actually to build them. One of my best experiences was a final project that required us to create an app and get feedback from 10 real-world testers. Not only did this hone my skills in Java and JavaScript, which I’d use heavily in this role, but it was also an eye-opening dive into UX as I learned that the features I thought were the coolest were not necessarily the same ones most important to users. I think this knowledge sets good developers apart from great ones.”

In addition to communicating your educational credentials, this question serves a great secondary purpose of letting you demonstrate your excitement and enthusiasm for the position. Let your personality show–it’s one more aspect that will help differentiate you as a candidate.