Hiring managers will commonly ask a candidate to discuss his or her educational background. It usually comes near the beginning of the interview and is generally a low-pressure probe into your qualifications.
Many candidates consider discussing their educational background to be one of the easiest parts of the interview. However, no one should underestimate the importance of scoring points during this topic. This is particularly important for applicants who have fewer than five years on actual job experience. Although experienced candidates may not be asked many details about their education, they should be prepared as many interviewers consider educational background to be important even after the candidate has had decades of on-the-job training.
Points to Emphasize
When you discuss your educational experience, be sure to tie general topics you mastered at the University with the specific requirements of the job you are seeking.
- If you have work experience, tell a story of how a particular course helped you succeed in a project with a previous employer.
- Choose a particular skill that you believe will be important in the job you seek, and speak about specific coursework that trained you with this skill.
- Be positive and express how you look forward to finding out how your academic skills can help solve real-world problems in the company.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Just because this may be the easiest part of the interview, don't underestimate the opportunity to sell yourself. More importantly, don't let this part of the discussion be boring to the hiring manager.
- Don't repeat what is in the resume that is likely sitting in front of the hiring manager.
- Don't be modest.
- Be sure not to assume that the interviewer can tell from your resume or a brief summary of your education that he or she is now ready to make an informed decision. The interviewer is not the salesperson, you are.
- If you yourself don't feel your education is a good match for the job, be sure to prepare until you do.
Remember that hiring managers already have a general idea of your education from your resume. That is one of the reasons why they setup the interview in the first place. Consider this a chance to add a few zingers to spice up the message in your resume.
Here is an example of how to nail this part of the interview:
As a college student learning software, I read that cutting edge companies had begun to use object-oriented programming (OOP). I added an OOP class, and it really improved the reliability of my code. I saw that OOP was an optional requirement for this position, and I think it will give me the opportunity to offer something extra in this job.
Remember to capitalize on this and every opportunity to sell yourself during your interview.