How to Respond to: "Walk Me Through Your Resume"
"Walk me through your resume" is a common interview question, yet it also trips up many job candidates. It's not an invitation to tell your life story in chronological order. Instead, it's an opportunity to showcase your presentation styles, ability to synthesize information, and trajectory of professional growth. Follow these tips to wow your interviewer with your answer.
Understand why the question is being asked
A hiring manager already has a copy of your resume and (presumably) has read it. That's why you're having an in-person interview. So, this question is asked for one of two reasons:
- The interviewer needs a few minutes to transition into your interview from her previous meetings or tasks, and allowing you to talk about yourself will provide both a breather and refresh her memory about your application.
- The interviewer wants to test your verbal communication and presentation skills.
The good news is, your prep work for each scenario is the same. You want to answer this question in a conversational, interesting, professional manner that sparks follow-up questions.
Practice, practice, practice
Just as you would prep for any other interview question, be ready for this one. You want to strike the right note between not fumbling for your words and not sounding too rehearsed. You want to tell a brief story of your resume, hitting the high points and reaching a conclusion that ends right where you are—this job opportunity.
Construct a narrative for your resume
The hiring manager doesn't need an exhaustive listing of every job you've had since high school. You want to start at the beginning—with your education—and then hit the high points. Why were you drawn to this industry? Or, if you've had a career pivot, what led you here?
One benefit to this question is that it allows you to address less-than-stellar portions of your resume. You can't explain on paper why you had a four-month gap between jobs, but you can say you had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour Europe or needed to tend to a family matter. This is your opportunity to connect the dots. If you left the industry for a while but returned, use that experience to explain why this detour helped you define your true professional passion.
Focus on the "so what?"
Hiring managers have a problem to solve. They have work that must to be done, and they need someone to do it. Keep your answer focused on the why. How does each entry on your resume translate into a solution?
Marketers often talk about the difference between "features" and "benefits." The feature is the "what" and the benefit is the "so what?" Say you spent a summer working a medical mission in Guatemala. That's a great feature, but how will it benefit the hiring manager? Perhaps the benefit is you are now fluent in Spanish or you learned to adapt to shifting conditions with limited resources. Focus on each of your career experiences from this lens: What skill or resilience did you pick up during that period that makes you the ideal candidate?
Focus on what's relative
You want to wrap up this entire exercise in no more than three minutes, unless the hiring manager interjects some questions. This means you might have to make some edits to your professional story. Focus on the three or four experiences most recent and most relevant to this position.
Know your resume backward and forward
Even if you've omitted a position from your answer, you might still be asked about it. Be prepared to address any experience in your professional or educational history. You don't want to fumble for answers. At best you'll look unprepared; at worst, the hiring manager will wonder why you don't know your own story.
"Walk me through your resume" isn't a softball question—but it is an opportunity to knock it out of the park from the very start of an interview. Prepare for it accordingly.