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How to Make the Most of Your Education in a Job Interview

Interviewers glean more from your answers about education and training than just the facts. What you say reveals your decision-making processes, your values, your ability to keep up with the times, and your willingness to adapt to a technology-driven global economy.

What can you do when all the jobs you want seem to require a degree and you don’t have one? Or you have an undergraduate degree, and the job requires a graduate degree? Or you have the ‘wrong’ degree?

If you must address your lack of required education, discuss your experience and skills as education. Speak of experience-based knowledge and skills, for instance, and redirect the conversation to your self-teaching efforts.

Assure the interviewer that the formal education you lack doesn’t affect your ability to do the job well. Use specific examples from your experience to prove this point.

Admittedly, selling experience as education won’t change anyone’s mind when the education requirement is rigid — as it is in health fields, for example. But the strategy may keep your candidacy afloat when an educational requirement is simply a convenient screening device, as it often is.

You also have the choice of three more strategies that don’t require returning to school:

  • Persevere. Continue interviewing at companies too small to operate a human resources department. HR staffers are paid to exclude applicants who miss job criteria, including education.

  • Work short term. Seek staffing firms that will send you on temporary or contract assignments so that employers can see how good you are and offer you a regular-status job.

  • Network. Try social networks, such as LinkedIn.com, to find a contact within your target company who will see that you’re interviewed by a hiring manager. Hopefully your contact will advise the hiring manager that you’re so talented that your experience is more than equivalent to a degree.

Whatever you do, don’t lie about your education to get in the door. The digital explosion of online research channels makes it almost a certainty that false claims — especially false educational claims — will surface.

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