Schools. Do we really go there to learn something? Or do we attend them to prolong our youth, enjoy the college life, and to delay the dreadful day when we will start in our first 9 to 5, and will have to forget forever the long evenings in the clubs and dorms, with our friends and acquaintances?
That’s hard to say. Everyone has their own reasons, and many people go to school just because everyone else does the same thing. Or because they do not know what else to do with their life. Anyway, once the hiring managers inquire about the things you learned at school, or teachers about the most important things you learned in this or that lesson, you should be able to say something.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular skill or subject. Maybe you learned something about people, or about yourself while studying at the college–something that shook your ideals and dreams. Or you finally found your true calling in life, or you had to study a subject for 5 years just to understand it wasn’t a good choice–and that’s the reason why you apply for a job in a completely different field now.
This interview question offers a lot of room for creativeness. As long as you do not remain silent and say something sensible, interviewers should be happy about your answer. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers, and a short guide that will help you make a great impression on your interviewers.
7 sample answers to “What is the most important thing you learned at school?” interview question
- The most important thing I learned is that I really want to work as a nurse. We had a lot of direct practice in nursing homes and later in a state hospital, so I tried the job first hand. I experienced both highs and lows, and saw the difference I can make in someone’s life as a good nurse. For me this is more important than anything else I learned, because I wasn’t entirely sure about my career choice. Now I am certain about the direction I want to take in life, and everything looks much easier.
- It’s really hard to pick one thing only. Studies in Economics consists mostly in theory, in a variety of fields. Financial analysis, microeconomics, statistics, basics of law, MS Excel, you name it… I am sure that I will use some things in my work, though I am also aware that no school can prepare you for the challenges of a real job. That’s why great corporations like your company have excellent training programs for new hires and advertise entry level jobs. I am eager to learn from more experienced colleagues, and hope that I will benefit also from something I learned at school.
- What really stands out in my eyes is responsibility. The vocational school where I studied wasn’t easy, at least not for me. I had to study regularly, and also to pay attention in the classes, if I wanted to pass and to earn good grades. Before my studies I struggled with discipline in life, and I sometimes didn’t give things in my life the attention they deserved. But everything changed with my vocational school, and I believe I will benefit from this new attitude also in my job.
- The most important thing I learned was that I did not want to be a lawyer. I know, six years is a long time to learn the lesson. But I’ve been always following the dream of my parents, instead of trying o figure out what would make me happy in life, what sort of impact I’d like to have in the world. Here I am today, applying for a job in your NGO. I prefer to work in an organization that tries to make a positive difference in the world, and has values that resonate with my values, than to work in some law office earning 100K a year but not really make any important difference.
* Another tough question you may face: Does your academic record accurately reflect your capabilities?
- I learned that if I want to stand out, I cannot rely on traditional education. Because what we learned at the college were just the basics of marketing. Stuff everyone else knows, basic things. I understood this quickly and started to read a lot of books. I also followed world famous marketers and tried to analyze their successful campaigns. Speaking honestly, I did whatever I could to be one step ahead of my schoolmates. Let’s see if I can benefit from it in the job.
- I’d say that market research, financial analysis, and forecasting are the three most important subjects I learned at school. I have followed a clear goal with my studies–to get a job of a financial analyst. That’s why I paid special attention to these three subjects, though I understand that the other subjects also had their place in the curriculum. I can’t wait to test my theoretical knowledge of financial analysis in a real job.
- The most important thing I learned at school is that our abilities matter more than our knowledge. Let me explain. When you know how to work with information, when you are responsible and excel in communication, you will learn whatever you want to learn. At school or not, it doesn’t matter. On the contrary, when you struggle to express yourself, or to read between the lines, to distinguish a quality information from a poor one, and so on, it doesn’t really matter how much you know. You will struggle in both job and life. That’s why I tried to work mostly on my abilities.
Pick a subject that matters for the job you are trying to get
If you decide to pick a particular subject or skill, it should be one that matters (or even is essential) for the job you try to get.
This is an easy pick when you apply for some specialty or craft work, such a carpenter, roofer, painter, gardener, etc. But you can find some connection also when you apply for a corporate position. See sample answer no. 6 as a great example.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the most difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent 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 50 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Finding your true calling is more important than anything else you can learn at school
We spend a lot of time in work, and it is terrible to see when someone hates their job… This often happens because they didn’t find their true calling early enough in life, or perhaps didn’t even think about it. They simply followed the crowds, or opted for the same school their peers chose. Or they followed the dreams of their parents.
A school can help you understand what you want to do in life, but also what you for sure don’t want to do for a living. Both of these discoveries are important enough to serve as your interview answer. And the second one is a great choice when you apply for a job outside of your field of studies. See sample answer no. 4 as a great example.
Attitudes and abilities often beat our knowledge
Let’s face the reality: most entry level jobs won’t demand a lot of creativity from you. The employer will provide you with an excellent training, and the job itself won’t be particularly difficult. You’ll respond for a limited number of tasks, and after one month you will find them relatively easy to handle.
Still, you may end up struggling in the job. But not because of your duties, but because you won’t be used to some situation in the workplace–conflicts, deadlines, and so on.
If your school taught you responsibility, empathy, attention to detail, resilience, and other abilities, they may represent the most important thing you actually learned. Check sample answers no. 3 and no. 7 to see how to demonstrate this attitude in an interview.
Alternative question: What is the most important thing you learned in this lesson, class, or program?
You may face this question while actually leaving a school, or when you have just completed some class, course, or program. It can also be a part of an admission process to the next level of your education. If you aren’t sure what to say–or perhaps you feel you didn’t really learn anything important, and just wasted your time, I suggest you to look up the goals of the class or course or training. Each class and course advertises some goals–and that’s exactly what you are supposed to learn.
Once you know the goals, you can say you’ve learned exactly what was advertised. In an ideal case you should connect the knowledge with real life, saying how learning this or that thing will help you in your employment, education, or in your everyday life. To give you an example, learning to better manage your time (in a time management training) will help you meet deadlines at work, avoid sleepless nights during the exam period at school, and stop being late for meetings with your friends…
Ready to answer this tricky interview question? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions:
- What would you do if you won $10 million in a lottery?
- What makes you unique?
- Why should we hire you?