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?’
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.