One of my go-to questions when I’m conducting mock interviews is “Walk me through your resume.” TBH, I hate asking this question because I never know what I’m going to get. In true Forrest Gump fashion, sometimes the responses are sweet, other times not so much. Sometimes people are concise and focus on what I need to know, other times I get a 10,000 word response that makes me want to zone out. My recruiter friends say the same thing about this question. Nobody likes to ask it, but we all still do. Here’s why.
The “walk me through your resume” interview question is a great starter question because it sets the tone for the rest of the interview. As alluded to above, this can be good or bad. Since this question is typically the first or second one in an interview, it gives the listener an idea about who you are and where you’re coming from. Even though it’s not as broad we a “tell me about yourself” question, it can provide similar levels of insight because the listener will be focused on what you say and how you say it.
What you should say.
With this question, interviewers are looking to see how you frame your experiences because it gives them insight on how you think your background fits with their opening. If you highlight irrelevant parts of your resume, for example, then they may get the sense that you don’t know what you’re interviewing for, then not hire you. This question does allow for you to point out especially meaningful experiences, which could serve to give the interviewer more insight into who you are and what you value. But this should be kept to a minimum because what the interviewer really wants to know is if you can do that job they are interviewing for.
So how to respond.
- Go in the order of your resume so that it’s easier for the interviewer to follow. Easy enough. Just don’t read your resume word-for-word – it’s not story time! Practice summarizing your experiences so that you only discuss the salient points with your interviewer.
- Be sure to highlight the most relevant aspects of your experiences. It’s okay to skip over things that don’t matter because, like I said before, these details are not important. This should be how your resume is constructed anyway… The flip side of this is if there are any background details or stories that you didn’t have space to share on your resume or in your cover letter, you can totally tell them. For example, if you are interviewing for a marketing job and you didn’t have space to detail a marketing plan you made for a previous experience, use this time to talk about it.
- Take this time to explain away any potential red flags such as gaps in employment or seemingly irrelevant experiences. Say things about what you learned and how you grew from these resume items that interviewers could have doubts about.
How you should say it.
- Perhaps the most important thing to remember about interviewing in general is ABP: always be positive. This rule is especially critical for this question. You don’t want to speak disparagingly about any past experiences, no matter how bad they were. If it’s that awful or that disconnected from what you’re currently pursuing, then don’t put in on your resume! Or just gloss over it with a comment about how it ‘showed you what you didn’t want to do’ and keep it moving.
- Speaking of keeping it moving: the responses to this question have the potential to be insanely long, so be sure to be as concise as possible. For a 1 page resume, 3 minutes tops. This takes practice to both stay under time and enthusiastic throughout. Remaining upbeat and excited about your past experiences will keep the interviewer engaged, which is a very good thing!
Remember, interviews are your chance to connect your experiences to the open position. Your resume does this a little. Your cover letter, a little more. But the interview is where you can really hammer home how great of fit you’ll be for the job, so be sure to do that. This is one of those questions that only gets better as you answer it, so practicing it is the key to success.