Interview Question: 'Tell Me About Your Educational Background'
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 29 September 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When you're preparing for an interview, it's important to prepare answers to questions you think the interviewer might ask. One area of your CV an interviewer may ask you to elaborate on is the education section. There are several questions an interviewer may ask to determine how your education has prepared you for the position you're applying for and how it makes you an asset to their company. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about answering, 'Tell me about your educational background' with tips and examples.
Why do employers ask about your educational background?
Any interviewer can look at your CV and see your formal education. Employers ask about your educational background during an interview to determine how your education has prepared you for the specific responsibilities you might have in the position you're applying for or how your educational experience can help you fit into the company's culture and work environment. Your educational background can include both your formal education and any informal or continuing education you've received throughout your lifetime.
During an interview, it's common to focus on both your most recent and relevant educational experiences when answering questions about your education. For example, if you're applying to be a secondary school science teacher, you can discuss how your university education prepared you to teach secondary school science specifically, but you may also discuss educational experiences, such as continuing education courses related to science that you've completed outside of your formal education.
How to answer the interview question 'Tell me about your educational background'
Follow these steps to answer this common interview question:
1. Start with your most recent formal education experience
Your CV most likely includes your most recent formal education level. For many people, this is a college qualification or a university degree in a field relevant to the position for which they're applying. Elaborate on the information already provided in your CV by discussing specific coursework that has helped you prepare for this position.
2. Describe any additional experience relevant to the position
If you have any additional educational experience relevant to the position you're applying for, such as a certification programme you've completed or an endorsement in a specific skill or area, discuss how this additional experience is going to help you add value to the role and company you want to work in.
3. Finish with what you do to continue to learn
Employers value candidates who have an open mind and who appreciate continuous learning. Discuss what you do to continue your education. This may include continuing education courses, certification programmes, attending conferences or working towards a higher degree.
Related: How To Prepare for an Interview
Example answers for questions about your educational background
Here are a few sample answers you can use as a guide to craft your own response:
'I got my doctorate in philosophy last May, and I'm hoping to become a professor at your university. Before achieving this degree, I spent my undergrad studying communications, with a strong focus on rhetoric. I really became interested in philosophy when I pursued my master's in communications. I joined several student organisations, the philosophy club being one of them. During my master's, I decided I wanted to pursue a certificate in philosophy.
By my final year in my master's degree, I knew I wanted to further my education. When I found my doctorate programme, I was happy to learn I could get a stipend as an assistant lecturer. This gave me the opportunity to develop my lecturing skills while also exploring my true passion, which is philosophy. Though I have peaked in my education, I continue to learn through reading and research.'
'I recently graduated from university with a BA in Italian. I've always wanted to work as an interpreter abroad, and Italian was a language that I quickly learned to love. I was first inspired to take a degree in Italian when visiting relatives in Sicily. Though I knew a little Italian growing up, I wanted to become fluent enough to communicate with them.
While studying Italian, I had the opportunity to work as an au pair for an Italian family looking for someone who could help their children learn English. This work experience, paired with my education, helped me develop my translation skills and become immersed in the Italian culture. I continue to exercise my language learning skills today. In fact, I'm currently enrolled in a Japanese course.'
'Though I'm a self-taught programmer, I studied computer science at university to further enhance my skills. University also gave me the opportunity to develop valuable relationships with my lecturers and peers. During school, I also took some modules in mathematics. I wanted to better understand the theory behind formulas and equations, giving me a more abstract understanding of the fundamentals of coding.'
'As an international business student, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the United States for a semester. During this time, I studied at a university in Maine. Along with enjoying the beauty of Maine, I also learned a lot about businesses in the US. I had several opportunities to travel to New York City to observe the stock exchange.
When I came back to England in my third year of undergrad, I had a new outlook on what I wanted to do as a career. I used the remainder of my time as a student to gain additional experience through advanced coursework, student organisations and internships. My time with Bank UK showed me that international finance was the right career choice for me. In the future, I hope to earn my MBA.'
Tips for answering questions about your educational background
Here are a few general tips to remember when answering questions related to your academic experience:
Every answer you give during an interview needs to be honest. Employers have ways of checking whether you're being honest about your educational experience. Focus on the relevant experience you have, only including details that you're sure are true. If you've received academic honours or awards, now is the time to discuss them.
Focus on skills
Talk about how your education gave you the chance to develop your skills. When choosing which skills to discuss, refer to the job description. Choose two or three relevant skills that may pique the interviewer's interest. You might share specific courses or projects that helped you develop these skills.
Prepare for the interview
When preparing for an interview, you need to understand the responsibilities for the specific position you're applying for and the needs of the company. Knowing this information can help you craft your answer in a way that aligns your educational background with what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate. Take note of the educational requirements of the role, ensuring you discuss how your education prepared you to work for this company.
Address everyone in the interview
Sometimes interviews are done by multiple interviewers at the same time. For example, the interview may be conducted by both the supervisor of the team you'd be on and the manager of the entire department in which you'd be working. Make eye contact and engage with each person sitting in on the interview, regardless of who asks the question.
Read more: What Is an Interview Panel?
Consider extracurricular activities
Along with discussing your programme, you can talk about how extracurricular activities during university have prepared you for the role you want. For instance, someone applying for a nonprofit role might discuss the volunteer work they did through university. Likewise, someone who wants a marketing position may discuss that they were a part of an advertising club in school. Other activities you can discuss include internships, job shadowing experiences, studying abroad or anything else that enriched your academic experience.
Support your answer with an example, if you have one
If you have relevant experience, support your answers with a specific example of how your educational background helped you navigate and overcome a challenge or situation in the workplace. While discussing professional experience is useful, candidates with limited work experience can use their educational background to show they have the right experience and are suitable for the position.
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