Higher education has a single purpose–to prepare us for our professional career. Sure enough, most students do not see it that way. They enjoy the simple life of a college (high school) student, the last period of a relative freedom, before they enter the rat race of work, bills, kids, mortgage, a race which isn’t easy to win at, or escape from until retirement… Hiring managers from corporations aren’t interested in your precious memories of student parties, endless summer nights, your first love, or your first joint, however. They care only about the outcome–whether your education prepared you for the career with them.
Before we look at 7 sample answers to this question, let me tell you something. In nine out of ten cases, the question is ridiculous. First of all, each big corporation or public organization has an excellent training program in place. You will learn how to handle the job from more experienced colleagues. And secondly, especially when we talk about typical clerical, analytical, and managerial jobs in the corporate sphere, you won’t really benefit much from the things you’ve learned at school.
Sensible or not, you may get this question in your interview, or the alternative, with exactly the same meaning: “How has school prepared you for working at our company?”, and it is important to prepare for it in advance. Let’s have a look at the sample answers. You will find on my list also some unconventional answers, for the case of saying something else that your competitors will say, and perhaps displaying a unique attitude to work and life. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers for additional explanations and common mistakes you should avoid.
7 sample answers to “How has your education prepared you for this career?” interview question
- I believe it has prepared me for the basics. We’ve had some courses on human resources and accounting, definitely something I can benefit from as an HR Generalist. What is more, I think that I have improved my communication and presentation skills heavily at the college, which will definitely help in the meetings with employees, in the interviews, and so on. Having said that, I am aware that I am not ready for everything in the job. But you have an excellent training program for new hires, and I am sure that the two together–my education and your training program, will suffice for a smooth transition from lecture halls to real workplace.
- In my opinion, I’ve learned a lot about dietetics at the college. Earning a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, I definitely feel ready to educate people on a healthy diet, to write dietary plans for your clients, and basically to help them meet their goals–be it getting fitter, losing weight, or anything else. Having said that, one thing you cannot get ready for at school–real meetings with the clients. Their expectations, emotions, objections, and so on. It is something one has to learn to deal with directly on the job, and I am looking forward to do so.
- Speaking honestly, it has not prepared me for this career. But I did not rely on my formal education only. Reading books from successful marketers and business people, listening to podcasts from famous managers almost daily, trying to learn from other leaders, I did what I could to actually have an edge over fellow graduates, being better prepared for my career in marketing management. Formal education hasn’t prepared me for the challenges this career presents. Nevertheless, I feel ready, after everything I’ve done and learned over the last few years in my free time.
- As you can see on my resume, I studied software engineering, and now I apply for an entry level PR role with you. One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that my education could not prepare me for the job I try to get with you. However, I’ve worked as a programmer for 10 years, and experienced a complete burnout. I cannot stand staring at the computer screen for ten-twelve hours a day anymore, not having any real interactions with other human beings. That’s why I decided to change my career. Sure enough, I have a lot to learn. But I believe that you need a certain level of intelligence to be able to earn a degree in software engineering. With my intelligence, and your training program, I do not see it as a problem to get into my new role quickly. It is an entry level job after all…
- I am not sure if any school can prepare you for the job in sales. Sure enough, you need to understand your product, the customer, basic marketing and sales techniques. And I’ve learned these things at the college. At the same time, however, success in sales isn’t about what you know. It is about who you know. It is about how can you connect with people, uncover their desires and needs, and match it with the product or service you try to sell them. I believe to have some talent for these things. And I’ve worked in a call center while at the college–that’s a tough sales job. Everything combined, I feel ready to make something big happen in your place, and generate great sales volume month after month.
- My language education has certainly prepared me for the job of a flight attendant with you, at least partially. I realize that speaking French and Spanish isn’t the only characteristic of a great flight attendant, that I need much more than that. But I believe to have excellent customer service skills. Combining my language skills, personality, and the things I will learn in your training program, I have no doubt I will deliver an outstanding service to the passengers, and excel in my job.
- Speaking honestly, I do not have much trust into the educational system in our country. It kills creativity in young people, and that’s something I wanted to avoid at all costs. That’s why I didn’t continue my education after high school. I decided to learn on my own instead, and most importantly do the work. Please have a look at my portfolio. You can see my works of art, the designs I put together in various software programs for graphic designers. I believe they prove my qualification, and readiness to work in the field. If I went to college, I would not be able to produce such designs…
Educated or not, you should convince them of your readiness for the job
Formal education isn’t the only way of getting ready for this or that job. You can study on your own, you can work from a young age (experience is the best teacher), or you may have a natural talent for some activity, and excel in it without any education or training.
All of that is fine for the hiring managers, as long as you explain it properly in the interviews, and show your confidence to handle the job. All companies like to hire people with proactive approach to work. Tell them that you did not rely on formal education only. Trying to gain a competitive advantage, you’ve read books, listened to podcasts, practiced with various software programs, and so on. You did what you could to get ready.
* Special Tip: This isn’t by far the most difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent corporate job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, solving problems, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Praise them for their training program
Every HR person likes to hear some words of praise. Most companies (especially big companies) have training program in place for new hires. Regardless of your education, and how prepared (or unprepared) for the job you feel, you can praise their program, and say that it will certainly help you get ready for the job.
What is more, you can always say that you are willing to learn some skill or subject needed for the job in your free time–if they hire you, of course. Show them that you are willing to sacrifice something for your professional success, for your career with their organization.
You can always downplay the role of formal education and school
If you lack formal education in the field, your best bet it to downplay the importance it has in a life of an employee. Most corporate managers aren’t naive. They are aware that they didn’t use much from school in their own jobs, and that it won’t be different in your job.
Having said that, you should not dismiss the education altogether. Just the formal part. Maybe you didn’t go to college, or you earned bad grades, or even dropped out after a year. But you studied on your own, learned some important skill (working with some software, programming language, foreign language, etc), and feel ready to the challenges in the workplace…
Ready to answer this on? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- Does your academic record accurately reflect your capabilities?
- Tell us about a time when you worked on a team.