Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERVIEWS / JUN. 23, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Answer “What Is the Most Important Thing You Learnt at School?”

An interview can be stressful. You do not know what approach will be taken and what questions will be asked. However, there are certain areas in which you can prepare for. An interviewer will commonly ask about your previous experience, your education, your goals, and anything that relates to your prospective position.

The education we receive plays a large role in the opportunities we're given. It is recommended that you focus on a few possible questions regarding your educational background. Your answers should be delivered in a confident manner. Besides the obvious questions such as 'which school did you attend,' you may be asked what you learnt during your time there. How do you answer the question, “what is the most important thing you learnt at school?”

Why Your Experience at School is of Importance to an Interviewer

Once you're being interviewed, the prospective company will be looking for key bits of information. They want to learn more about you based on the answers given. The following are a couple reasons why your educational experience is of interest to them:

  • They're looking for ways in which your education relates to your career goals. What aspects of your education taught you valuable skills and knowledge to develop your career?
  • What experience you gained while at school. Did you volunteer in any related programs? Were you a leader amongst your class? They want to see what experiences would be beneficial to your prospective position.
  • How you speak about your experience. Was it a positive experience? Did you feel as though it was beneficial?

Top Skills That Transfer to Your Potential Career

The following are the top skills that are learnt in school, which transfer to the career world:

  1. Communication Skills: Communication is key in the business world. If you are planning to deal with clients or potentially manage a team, communication is key. This is a skill that we begin learning throughout our time at school. 
  2. Teamwork Skills: School is full of group projects, allowing students to build their teamwork skills. Many employers will want to see that you can mesh within a team environment. Retail is a great example of where teamwork is essential. 
  3. Time-Management Skills: If you can't manage your time, how will anything get done? Deadlines begin within school. Our ability to complete tasks on time is crucial. There are barely any positions that do not include time management as an important skill. 
  4. Problem-Solving: Careers that involve strategy will require strong problem-solving skills. A design engineer is a great example where problem-solving is key.   
  5. Computer Skills: We live in a digital world, so computer skills are a key component of many careers. This is important for all kinds of career choices; software developer, graphic designer, and computer engineer to name a few. 
  6. Creativity Skills: Creativity is a great skill in terms of self expression. Many careers require their employers to be creative; chefs, artists, music producers, writers, etc. 
  7. Leadership Skills: Being a leader is important throughout various careers. If you are in charge of any team, you will need to possess leadership skills. This is also true for positions in the medical field, management, and teaching.

Studies Regarding Education and Skills

  • A study was conducted in 2013 focusing on skill development, job success, and education. There were 1,014 individuals studied (ages: 18-35). These individuals were either employed or students.  The main focus was on '21st century skills'. These skills include: critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication skills, and future job success. It was found that 50% of college graduates had experienced working on problem-solving projects, compared to 28% of high school graduates. 
  • Another study found that communication, integration, and presentation skills are required for 40% of positions. The five top skills are: oral and written communication, Microsoft Office skills, being detail oriented, problem-solving, and being self-motivated. 

How to Answer, “What Is the Most Important Thing You Learnt at School?”

Preparing for an interview is vital in terms of the answers you give. Although you may be more than qualified, you may hinder your chances if your answers are weak. Eliminate your chance of being put on the spot; prepare in advance.

Example One:

Your answer should focus on the current job interview and the hiring process. You want your school experience to reflect your abilities. Your answer should show the interviewer that you have past experience related to your prospective position. Explain what you learnt in terms of the position you want. There's no point in mentioning something off topic, it simply does not make sense. If you are applying for a management position for example, you could say something like:

Being at school taught me a number of important qualities. I took part in various research labs outside of my regularly scheduled classes. Through my professor, I began my own personal research group. I effectively managed a team, building a positive work environment. Through my supervision, various members of my team have gone on to pursue careers related to our research. That was some time ago, but was the foundation of my strong management skills. I believe that I could maintain a productive, positive team at your company. I am a highly thorough, helpful, knowledgeable manager. I feel as though I have a lot to contribute.”

Example Two:

Focus your attention on specific skills and knowledge obtained from your school experience. These skills and abilities should transfer to your prospective work environment. Mention areas that would enrich the work environment that you're planning to work in. If you're applying to a graphic design company, mention the skills you learned at school that would place you ahead of the pack.

I was always drawn to graphic design, I'm a very creative person. Before I began school, I was already creating my own websites. Before I began my program, I fully understood the basics as well as the more advanced topics. Due to my prior knowledge, my professor recommended me for a paid internship while I was in school. Although I learnt a lot within my program, my internship was the most crucial aspect of my journey thus far. If it weren't for my program, I would never have had the opportunity that I received. I am very grateful for my internship, as I am more than prepared in terms of developing my career. I not only offer the required skills, I have a lot of experience for someone my age. I can bring fresh, new ideas.”

These answers are very specific, but they will translate to any school program and any career. Find the key aspects of your school experience that set you apart. Remember, you want to relate your answers to the prospective position. The interviewer is looking for skills, knowledge, and experience. You may be great at cooking but if you're applying to a law firm, this skill is irrelevant. Stay on topic, focus on the skills and experiences that transfer to your career goals.

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