When an interviewer asks a home run question, you have a choice of where to hit it. “Walk me through your resume” is an interview classic.
The interviewer will expect a detailed answer that may last 2-3 minutes, with multiple signposts to future conversations. If you are too brief, it may seem that you don’t have too much to say about yourself. If you go into excessive detail, you bombard the hiring manager with so much good stuff that they don’t have the opportunity to take it in.
In this blog, we explore how to make the most of this common question. We look at
- What do hiring managers want to know?
- How to answer “walk me through your resume”
- Mistakes to avoid when responding
While you may feel like you need to walk the hiring manager through your resume with a monologue, the reality is that you may be interrupted a few times before you get to the end of your answer. Don’t be in a rush and address any questions as they come, but always gently take the interviewer back to your answer. You are in control of the interview as much as they are.
Don’t make it all about you. This is one of the interview questions where you can bring in the relevance to the role where appropriate. Only mention the fit with the role where it sets you apart from the competition in a unique and memorable way. No interviewer is impressed when candidates state the obvious – be thoughtful about how you make the connections between your past and your potential.
What do hiring managers want to know?
The best interviews include open questions that allow a candidate to dictate the direction of their career story. Some questions, however, are a little too open. “Walk me through your resume” causes many an applicant to pause and wonder where to start.
Hiring managers will often ask this at an early point in the interview because they wish to gain an insight into the candidate’s view of their greatest career hits – before the path of the interview has been influenced by their subsequent questioning.
Bear in mind that they do not expect a thorough answer. You have an hour to explore the nuances of your career, so stick to the highlights.
How to answer “Walk me through your resume”
When you are aching to share a long list of career accomplishments, it is easy to answer this question a little too enthusiastically. Avoid gushing. Be strategic in how you answer.
Don’t start with the obvious
You might think that your education or your last position are logical places to start your resume walk-through, but as most candidates will start there, it is worth making an initial statement with a little more impact. You need to get the hiring manager to engage with you.
Lead with a two-sentence summary of your career. Take care to leave the current role out of it (they aren’t asking about that yet, after all) but make it clear just why you are sitting in the room. Be confident about what you say but take care not to stray into the arrogant territory – either with your words or facial expressions. Explain your astounding achievements in a matter-of-fact and humble way.
Include these five resume moments
While you should shape your walkthrough to suit your circumstances, try your best to include these five resume moments:
- Education – and why it is important for the role.
- Top two roles and how you made your mark in each of them.
- Track record of developing the skills that you need for each position.
- Only include accomplishments with context and quantifiable impact.
- Insights into your personality and hints about your cultural fit.
While you will doubtless be proud of everything that you list in this potted history, resist the temptation to go into too much detail.
Share and observe
No hiring manager will be interested in every part of your career story. Walk them through your resume, covering as many of the highlights as possible, whilst at the same time observing their reactions to see what resonates.
Any interview is a tennis match of hit-and-miss questions and answers. You will be more likely to smash your answers right back over the net if you can hone in on what hiring managers are looking for. Use your answers to general questions such as “walk me through your resume” to probe for what makes their eyes light up.
You don’t have to start at the beginning
While some stories adopt a chronological sequence, the most important consideration for a hiring manager is to understand your relevance and depth of experience. As long as you signpost when the various experiences took place, it is entirely acceptable to jump back and forth as you see fit.
Make the story flow from a point of view of your experiences and achievements. If your most relevant career achievement was two employers and four years ago, start there.
Mistakes to avoid when responding to “Walk me through your resume”
This is one of the questions that every candidate should expect (or something along these lines), so a weak answer may indicate a lack of preparation. Think carefully about what you would like to say and how to say it. Avoid these mistakes if possible.
Don’t forget the resume detail
Some of the achievements on your resume may have faded into the mists of time, so take a moment to refresh your memory before you walk into the interview room. Everything on that document is fair game for a conversation and you should know your career story intimately. The best stories flow when you know them by heart.
Choose to walk the hiring manager through the parts of your resume that you know will be relevant for the role (and that you, therefore, feel most passionate about). Hint at unique details, but resist the temptation to explore too thoroughly at this point.
Don’t go too deep too early
Walk me through your resume is often one of the early questions in any interview, so try to share as many top-line “hooks” to your career story as possible. Imagine yourself as the conductor of your interview – a question like this offers the chance to guide the hiring manager in the desired direction. They can then follow your lead.
If you go into too much detail on a certain aspect of your experience early in the interview, you can’t be sure whether this is what the hiring manager is looking for. In the worst-case scenario, you drone on about something irrelevant and their mind starts to wander. You need to probe for subtle cues about what they want from their next hire.
Don’t just focus on yourself
An interview is one of those times when you should delight in stating the obvious. You might think that an attentive interviewer will understand your value, but you never know what sort of day they are having. Their state of mind might be less than clear-thinking for all sorts of reasons. When you tell your career stories it is often useful to do their thinking for them.
Therefore, when they ask you to walk them through your resume, don’t just talk about yourself. Throw in a couple of “and here is why it matters for this role” comments. Hiring managers always appreciate candidates who can connect the dots in such a way. Don’t do it too much, though, or it may come across as patronizing.
No two candidates will answer “walk me through your resume” in the same way. If approached thoughtfully, you will be able to demonstrate the following:
- Understanding which parts of your resume are relevant for the role.
- Condensing your value into a concise and memorable message.
- Continuous development is central to your career progression.
- Self-awareness – what lies at the core of your career success?
While this question should come up early in the interview, don’t hesitate to adapt it to anything that the hiring manager has mentioned in the lead-up to it. Don’t be so rigid that you are not ready to tailor your approach on the day.