Interview Question: Why did you not pursue your course?

I am a frequent visitor and forum participant at’s The Call Center Forum. I am a member of the thread “Hardest questions/Tricky questions during interview,” which was established by Dhawnah (IRL, Donna Elarmo). Here’s a question from JuilJuil.

“You graduated with a nursing degree. Why didn’t you pursue that path?”

My supervisor instructed me to hire 150 reps in four weeks when I was the recruitment manager for a call center in Libis. In terms of recruitment, this is nearly impossible. However, because the account requirement was not rigorous, my team and I completed the headcount with a buffer of 30 candidates in case of attrition.

When the training began, my manager casually knocked on my office door and remarked, “Why do we have 30% nursing grads in our trainee population?” When the request came in, there were no specific directions NOT to hire nursing grads or students, was my response. His question stems from the prejudice that nurses/nursing students are untrustworthy when it comes to tenure. Knowing my employer, I assumed his assumption was hearsay, despite the fact that in some call centers, recruiting nurses and nursing students is a no-no; their data demonstrated that the bias is validated. When the proposal was authorized (by him), I informed him that there was no particular request not to hire nursing graduates or students. He bowed his head, defeated. That conversation taught us both a lot.

The truth is that this bias is widespread and does not simply affect nursing grads. This perception, however, is supported by evidence. Furthermore, everyone who changes industries will have to answer the question, “Why did you not continue that course/profession?”

Here’s an example of a reaction that wowed me:

My parents chose the course for me, but if you had asked me at the time, I would have chosen either psychology or management. I knew in the back of my mind that there would be a lot of nurses by the time I graduated, and finding a job would be a tremendous issue. I was correct. I’m glad I finished a course, but I’m also scared that reality has caught up with me, and continuing my studies is not only a pipe dream, but it’s also no longer a viable alternative. My professional change stems from two factors: first, that the call center industry is the most sustainable, and second, since my life philosophy is similar to customer service. I believe that this is the industry in which I would succeed, which is why I am applying as a call center agent rather than a nurse.”

When an interviewer asks this type of question, he is not looking to instantly dismiss you because you have a degree in nursing (or any other school); he is examining your motive for obtaining work. He is looking for any hint that you intend to resign when the next opportunity presents itself. As a result, the focus of your response should be on overcoming this bias.

Also, keep in mind that a recruiter has a quota to fill; if he sees that you are qualified for the work and that you will not abandon ship at the next port, he may fight your case and provide you a job. Finally, an applicant MUST always conduct research, particularly regarding the company’s history and the requirements for the job openings. Some customers are very specific about their requirements; for example, an IT business seeking for a Level II or Level III TSR will not recruit a nursing graduate.

I hope this was helpful.