Interview Question: Why did you not pursue your course?

I am a frequent visitor and forum member of’s The Call Center Forum. One of the topics I am subscribed to is “Hardest questions/Tricky questions during Interview”, a thread started by Dhawnah (IRL, Donna Elarmo). Here is a question posted by JuilJuil.

“You graduated with a degree in a nursing. Why did you not pursue that course?”

When I was the recruitment manager for a call center in Libis, my boss asked me to hire 150 reps in a span of four weeks. In recruitment terms, this is close to impossible; however, because the requirement of the account was not stringent, my team and I successfully completed the headcount, with a spare 30 candidates as buffer in case of attrition.

When the training started, my boss knocked on my office door and casually asked “Why do we have 30% nursing graduates in our trainee population?” Because when the requirement was given, there were no specific orders NOT to hire nursing graduates or students, was my reply. His question hails from the bias that nurses/nursing students are unreliable when it comes to tenure. Knowing my boss, I had the idea that his premise was a hearsay, albeit in some major centers, hiring nurses and nursing students are an automatic NO, their data proved that the bias is true. I advised him that when the request was approved (by him), there was no specific request not to hire nursing graduates or student. He turned around defeated. We both learned from that conversation.

Truth is, this bias is universal and does not only apply to nursing graduates. However, the bias is fed by experience, and the experience is backed by data. Moreover, anyone who is having an industry shift deserves to be asked the question “Why did you not pursue that course/profession?”

Here is a sample response that really impressed me:

“It was my parent’s decision for me to take the said course, but if you were to ask me then, I would have taken either psychology or management. I knew at the back of my mind that by the time I graduated, the field will be saturated with nurses and finding a job will be a real challenge. I was right. I am happy that I finished a course but I am also afraid that reality has caught up with me and pursuing my course is not only a far-fetched option, it is no longer practical. My career shift is a result of two things: that the call center industry is the most viable, and two, that my belief in life is akin to customer service. I believe that this is the industry where I will best thrive, that is why I am applying as a call center agent and no longer as a nurse.”

When an interviewer asks this kind of question, he is not poised to automatically fail you simply because you graduated with a degree in nursing (or any course for that matter); he is probing your motivation for finding work. He is looking for any indication that you plan to leave when you see the next opportunity. Therefore, the focus of your response should be to surmount this bias.

Also, remember that a recruiter has a quota, if he sees that you are qualified for the job and that you won’t jump ship at the next port, he may be able to defend your case and offer you a job. Finally, an applicant MUST always do research, especially about the company’s background and the requirement for the job vacancies. Some accounts are very specific about their requirements, one obvious example is an IT company looking for a Level II or Level III TSR will, of course, not hire a nursing graduate.

Hope this helps.