How to Answer: "What Should We Know about You That’s Not on Your Resume?"

Interviews can be stressful. You must simultaneously show you’re the best person for a job, evaluate a potential employer, and open yourself up to criticism. That’s a tricky mental course, but luckily your resume always provides a trusty map by which to navigate.

not on resume

Until the hiring manager asks, “What should we know about you that’s not on your resume?” That’s when many a mind goes blank.

You’ve spent so much energy constructing a succinct, yet informative resume, but now you have to cast it aside and hope an improvised answer makes you shine. Tricky? Yes. Impossible? Not if you’re prepared.

Oh, the thinks you can think

What should we know about you that’s not on your resume? is an open-ended question—that’s the challenge and the point. Hiring managers use this question to determine how your personality will fit within the company. Because you have freedom in your response, your answer offers a unique window into what you value and how you view yourself.

But such freedom can be paralyzing, so we recommend preparing a template for open-ended questions. Here’s one possibility:

  • Assert a qualification or work experience.
  • Tell a short story that illustrates it or informs how you acquired it.
  • Conclude with an explanation of how it fits the position.

The advantage to such templates is they can be used to answer many kinds of challenging interview questions.

Ordering off resume

Since your resume is one-page long, many of the qualities that make you you didn’t make the cut. This means you’ll have plenty of material to draw on. Some options to consider:

  • A hard or soft skill. During the interview, you may learn about a company need that wasn’t on the job post. If you have a hard skill that matches, now’s a good time to say so. Soft skills like creativity, teamwork, and grace under pressure can be the basis for compelling answers, too.
  • School activities or clubs. As your career advances, you should drop college activities off your resume and replace with work experience. This provides an opportunity to reference your accomplishments again.
  • A motivation or goal. Discussing your motivations or career goals shows the passion you bring to your work, an important element to any hire.
  • Volunteering. Volunteer work demonstrates positive characteristics and will likely connect to company needs in some fashion. Applying for a position with a teaching element? Mentioning that you mentor students in math would be perfect.

Things better left unsaid

Despite all your leeway, there are a couple of places you don’t want to go. They include:

  • Don’t go negative. Negativity is emotionally contagious and can alter the tenor of the whole interview. Instead, focus your answer on positive outcomes and times you were an active participant, not a passive bystander.
  • Don’t ramble. Keep your answer focused and ensure every point leads to the next one. Having a template can help here.
  • Don’t repeat something on your resume. If you get overly flustered, you may revert to your resume like a comfort blanket. Better than dead air, right? Not necessarily. Repeating your resume looks like you can’t follow instructions. It’s ok to pause and gather your thoughts.
  • Don’t be unprofessional. Your latest break up may have strengthened your resolve, but such anecdotes aren’t appropriate in professional interviews. If you want to go more personal, tell about how your passion for work lead to a professional success.

On and off resume, preparation is key

What should we know about you that’s not on your resume? is one of those questions. Think “Tell me about yourself” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They’re difficult because they’re open ended, feel oddly invasive, and require you to boil down complex emotions and thoughts into concise responses.

Each one has its nuances, but the key to answering them successfully is to be prepared. Have a template. Write down a good response or two. Practice them before the interview. Even if hiring managers don’t ask you this exact question, chances are they’ll ask something similar. And you’ll be ready!

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