You’ve submitted your resume, and it was enough to land you an interview (yay!). You spend hours preparing for the interview: researching the company and role, practicing your answers, even setting up your space to be the perfect “hire me” Zoom background. But there’s one question we all tend to overlook because it seems so simple: “Walk me through your resume.”
This tiny, seemingly basic question actually has the power to completely shape the impression you make. When we’re put on the spot, most of us tend to answer this question by just regurgitating what’s on our resume verbatim.
Want to seriously wow your interviewer the next time you hear this question? Consider this your ultimate guide.
“Walk me through your resume” honestly feels frustrating at times when you’re trying to land a new role. I mean, the interviewer read your resume, right? Of course they did!
Recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers actually ask this question for a few good reasons. This question offers you the chance to bring your resume to life, expand on any gaps and demonstrate your communication skills.
That’s right—this question is only minimally about your actual resume. Really, your interviewer wants to know why they should hire you instead of the other candidates…and they want to find out whether you have any chemistry with the company. Some of the things they're looking at include:
As you answer this question, you have the opportunity to connect specific skills, qualities, and accomplishments from your previous experience to this new potential role. And that’s a good thing, because it means you can prepare the story you’re going to tell ahead of time.
It's important to pay attention to what questions you are asked during your job interview. If the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they are not looking for you to reread your resume to them. They want to learn more about your personality and if you would be a good cultural fit at the company.
This is the biggest distinction between these two questions. If the interviewer simply asks you to walk them through your resume, they're focused on hearing more about your professional experience and skills.
I have good news for you: if you’ve built a tailored resume that stood out enough to land an interview (Teal’s free Resume Builder Tool helps with this!), you’re halfway there on prepping for this interview question.
Next, you’ll want to structure your answer to this question in a way that demonstrates how all of the experiences you’ve had so far have helped shape you into the perfect candidate for this role. You want to have a kind of elevator pitch about your experience and sum up your resume so that you are telling a story about your background.
To do that, focus on:
The best way to wow with the “walk me through your resume” question? Storytelling.
Before you freak out, you don’t have to be the next up-and-coming novelist to succeed here. You just have to weave a compelling story about yourself—and tie it back to the company and role.
What links your various experiences? How did your different decisions and career moves lead you down this unique path? Is there a reason you’re so passionate about what’s driving you forward?
This is the best starting place for walking someone through your resume. It’ll keep you focused on the larger point, instead of getting bogged down in the minute, bulleted details of each experience.
You know that big preview that plays as soon as you open Netflix? In a few seconds, you understand the story and the vibe and you’re able to make an almost instantaneous decision about whether you’re adding that show or movie to your “To Watch” list. Maybe you’ve already heard about a show or know the basic plot, but that trailer has to be compelling for you to actually click “play.”
Your answer to this question acts kind of like that preview. The person interviewing you has a basic understanding of your experience, sure. But what makes you you?
Work to synthesize the experience that’s most relevant to this new role and this company. Don’t share everything just to fill time. Your goal here is to get that instant ‘hook’ by plucking out the most significant, stand-out details of your experiences.
Which roles align directly with this role? What did you achieve in each one? (Notice the “achieve” instead of “do” here).
Your unique value proposition (or UVP) is what makes you stand out from the crowd. You know there are (potentially) tons of qualified people applying for this role. Why should a hiring manager pick you?
This unique value proposition should align with the main story you’ve identified above. It should also feel like a natural follow-up (or conclusion) to your resume’s main points.
Within your unique value proposition, you’re going to want to dive into some of the skills and qualities you bring to the table.
What are your most powerful skills? Sit down and look through your resume. Think about what you learned in each role, and how it’s going to translate to your new role. Don’t just list off the skills that you have, though; make sure that you convey how they’re going to benefit your prospective new employer.
Perhaps the most important thing you can highlight here is a growth mindset! Show that you’re always striving to learn and grow. To show this, you can briefly touch on the skills or responsibilities you’re hoping to learn (or grow in) in your next role. Your interviewer is going to love to see that you’re oriented toward growth!
The best, most compelling resume examples are ones that highlight the strongest aspects of a candidate's career.
Finally, this early-interview question offers you another chance to ‘sweet-talk’ the employer by reiterating why you want this role. What excites you about this company, team, or role? Do you already have ideas for things you want to bring to the company to help them grow?
This is a great opportunity to show that you know your stuff, too. Touch on the company’s values and mission to seriously impress.
Your entire answer and story has built up to this main point. Going back to our Netflix analogy, it’s like that ending clip that really makes you say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to watch this.” Seal the deal here before moving into the ‘meatier’ questions of the interview!
Every candidate wants to stand out and land the job, so try to be unique and avoid common or generic sounding answers. You want to provide details to your experience and show that you are the right person for the job. There are many people that could have similar resumes to yours, so you need to discuss aspects of your experience that make you the company's first choice.
Search the company's website for ways you can connect your background to the job you are interviewing for. If you haven't been in the workforce for very long, think back to when you were in school or university. There may be a part of your past that is relatable to the job you are interviewing for.
If you ever worked in a family business or in sales, you probably know more than you think. Your service industry background could be great experience to help get you to the next level in your career.
Depending on how recently you graduated school, it could be worth discussing the education section of your resume. Definitely bring it up if you and the interviewer went to the same school.
Now that you have a good idea of what you should prepare for that “walk me through your resume” portion of an interview, let’s quickly run through some red flags to avoid in your answer.
Remember, in any conversation or story, we remember the beginning and end the best. Most likely, this is one of the first questions your interviewer will ask you—you want to hone your answer ahead of time as much as possible, since it’ll be memorable and leave an impression!
Once you prepare a sample answer to this question, here’s a checklist to help you refine it so you can make the best impression possible:
Now, practice what you want to say and say it a few times out loud; or even write it down. You can always send your planned answer to a friend or mentor through email to get their feedback. Time yourself, too! You want to keep this answer detailed, but concise—under five minutes is ideal.
Every interview question is asked to help determine if you are the right candidate for the job. If you take the time to prepare for questions like this, you could be in your new career in no time. Be sure to also practice answering some other commonly asked interview questions.
Now the next time an interviewer says “Walk me through your resume,” you’re going to feel so much more prepared to give an answer that wows. But to land that interview, you need to make sure your resume is up to par! Teal’s free Resume Builder Tool is the easiest way to make your resume stand out by quickly customizing it to each application.