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  3. How can you answer: "tell me something that is not on your resume?”
How can you answer: "Tell me something that is not on your resume”

How can you answer: "tell me something that is not on your resume?”

Artwork by: Irina Troitskaya

  • Why are they asking this question, anyway?
  • So how do you  answer the question “Tell me something that is not on your resume”?
  • Practice your answer
  • Keep it short
  • What not to say to the question “Tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume”
  • Key takeaways

Don’t get caught off guard during an interview. If you’re asked “So, tell me something that’s not on your resume,” be prepared with these tips, advice, and example answers.

When you’re preparing for an interview, you will take into account your skills, background, education, and experience. You’ll prepare answers to common interview questions, have relevant stories at hand, and come ready with extra copies of your resume, portfolio, or relevant documents. You’re set, you’re ready, and are confident you can answer any resume-related question that comes your way.

And then the interviewer hits you with, “So, tell me something that’s not on your resume.”

Instead of your mind going blank or panicking take a deep breath. This question is common, and easily answered with a little bit of preparation. Just like talking about your experiences at your last job, “Tell me something that’s not on your resume” is a great opportunity to showcase — in another way — how you’re the best candidate for the position.

Instead of looking at, “Tell me about yourself” as a “gotcha” question, look at it as a chance to “sell yourself.” Answered correctly, it can only help your chances of landing the job.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to answer this question, including

  • Why are they asking you this?

  • How do you answer this question?

  • Examples of great answers

  • Examples of what not to say

Why are they asking this question, anyway?

You may think that everything the interviewer needs to know is on your resume. It has your experience, your education, hard skills, and even your professional affiliations. What else could they possibly want to know?

Put simply: They want to know about you, the person behind the resume.

It’s clear you have the appropriate background to suit the position, or they wouldn’t have called you in. Anyone can read a resume. Often asked after the question, “Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer wants to know a little bit about who you are as a person, and whether you have the temperament to fit in with the company and/or team as well as the overall company culture.  

Sure, it’s a little subjective, but these open-ended questions can give the hiring manager a hint as to how you overcome challenges, how you interact with others, and how you learn and develop your skills. Brushing off this question dismissively or giving an irrelevant answer shows the interviewer that you don't care as much about the job as you say you do. Take this question as seriously as any of the others.

This question also is utilized to ease you into the interview and gives you a chance to get your bearings. Depending on your answer, it might organically lead to other questions, giving a better flow to the conversation, and assisting the interviewer in reaching their ultimate interview goal: getting to know you. It’s a chance for you to establish that you can communicate professionally and effectively, and interact positively with potential co-workers.

Some variations of this question might include:

  • “Tell me a bit more about your background.”

  • “Walk me through your resume.”

  • “I’ve read your resume, but tell me more about yourself.”

  • “I’d be interested in hearing more about your career journey.”

When the interviewer asks, “tell me something that’s not on your resume,” they want to know how your background and experience are relevant to the position you're interviewing for.

Expert Tip

You don’t have to give the hiring manager a laundry list of every single qualification that makes you the best candidate. A few important details will spark the conversation, and get the interview off to a strong start.

So how do you  answer the question “Tell me something that is not on your resume”?

Now that you understand why the interviewer is asking this question, you can figure out how to answer it. While crafting your answer, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Keep it brief. Provide only the relevant experience or skills in your answer, and expand it only if the interviewer asks.

  • Be confident and sincere. Give the interviewer an honest answer that shows a little bit of your personality, and who you are as a person and potential employee.

  • Highlight your strengths. Incorporate the skills, characteristics, and values that you bring to the table. The best way to do that is to share a “soft skill” or intangible strength that isn’t on your resume.

When putting together your answer, share personal characteristics that would help you to be a productive employee, should you get the job. There are a couple of different aspects you can focus on, depending on your background and personal life experience.

Talk about a core strength

Incorporating a strength that isn’t explicitly stated into your answer can help you emphasize qualities that the interviewer might not automatically glean from your resume.

Examples of core strengths include:

  • Analytical skills

  • Communication skills

  • Dependability

  • Teamwork

For example, "problem-solving" might be an important skill for the job you’re interviewing for. Putting together an answer where you utilized these skills might include how you determined what problem was occurring, and the steps you took to address it.


“When I was hired at my last position as an administrative assistant, I was faced with a backlog of files that needed to be organized and stored. At the same time, I had to stay on top of my everyday duties such as data entry, calendar management, and transcription. After I explained the problem to the office manager, she authorized overtime so I could come in on the weekend to focus on the filing. I was able to eliminate that backlog within three weeks.”

Talk about an intangible skill

The reason interviewers ask the question, "tell me something that isn't on your resume" is to get a little "peek behind the curtain" and learn how you'd fit into the company culture. A way to accomplish this is to talk about an intangible skill (also known as a “soft skill”), or something that highlights how you relate to others and its benefits to the company.

Statistical Insight

In an analysis of 82 million job postings, America Succeeds determined that seven of the top ten most requested skills in job postings are soft skills and that employers seek these skills nearly four times more frequently than the top five technical or hard skills.

Some examples of intangible skills are

  • Empathy

  • Self-awareness

  • Intellectual curiosity

  • Adaptability


“I feel that I have great interpersonal skills. I know my resume lists my accomplishments, but all of those things were possible because of how I work with other people. I’m proud to say that I get along well with peers, supervisors, and clients because I truly care about them, and they sense it. When we were in danger of losing an important client a few months ago, I went the extra step to find out what the issue was. Working with our accounting and marketing teams, I was able to find a solution that satisfied all parties. The client stayed with us, and increased their next order by twelve percent.”

Discuss your life outside work

This area is up for discussion, within reason. Any answer that includes an aspect of your personal life needs to relate to the position and how it makes you a strong candidate. This approach will shine a positive light on your character and make you stand out as a candidate.

For example, maybe you do volunteer work in your free time. Not only does it show that you care about helping others, but it also demonstrates your commitment to the community and the world at large.


“I am a very results-oriented person. In my free time, for example, I volunteered with a homeless shelter and offered to build a donation page on their website. This resulted in a 70% increase in online donations. I enjoy achieving goals, and keeping in mind important corporate metrics helps me understand how to align my work and outcomes to achieve those goals and help the company succeed in the marketplace."

Adjust your answer to align with the key skills and responsibilities listed in the job description. If you will be supervising a small team, you could talk about a charity or non-profit organization where you’ve stepped into a managerial position and organized a fundraising campaign. Or, if the job requires the candidate to have a competitive nature, you can share how you've started competing in Ironman Triathlons over the last few years, and you challenge yourself to beat your times and move up in your category.

Statistical Insight

According to a survey by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Research Institute, 47% of U.S. companies offered community outreach/volunteer programs in 2022, a seven percent increase since 2014.

Tell them why you want the job

Employers often like to know what drew you to apply for this particular position, and this can be as important as your background and experience. The question, “tell me something that is not on your resume” is a perfect opportunity to tell them why you want to work there and “sell” yourself to the company.

After you've researched the company and identified its strengths, such as employee training and development, why their employees like working there, or what unique qualities they offer the industry or community, put together an answer that encompasses what you can do for them to meet their needs.


“I have been consistently impressed with your company’s overarching mission statement and community engagement. The importance you place on relationship building and employee volunteering has made this company a top industry performer across the country. These are qualities I hold in high esteem, and would like the opportunity to contribute my skills and support your continued success.”

Practice your answer

Like the rest of your interview, "tell me something that's not on your resume" should have its prep time. It may seem simple — you're talking about yourself, after all — but it's easy to stray from the topic at hand. Once you've put together a relevant, professional answer, take the time to streamline it and practice it until it becomes second nature.

Keep it short

Once you have a rough draft of your answer written down, it's time to start trimming, focusing, and refining it. Ideally, your answer should be about thirty seconds from start to finish. Any longer than that, and it might sound like you’re rambling. Remember, it’s just an introduction. Don’t try to fit everything you’ve ever done into one answer.

The whole point of preparing your answer ahead of time is to have a clear understanding of what you want to say. This will help you to…

  • Build your confidence so that you’re not caught off guard.

  • Bolster your sense of who you are and what you have to offer the company.

  • Streamline your answer to avoid going off on a tangent or rambling.

  • Demonstrate how you believe your career path has prepared you for this particular position.

What not to say to the question “Tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume”

Just as important as what you include in your answer to “tell me something that’s not on your resume” is what you leave out. This may be an open-ended question, but that doesn’t mean you can say anything that pops into your mind. As you’re crafting your response to this question during your interview prep, make sure you leave out a few things.

Don’t recite your resume

Your interviewer, presumably, has already read your resume. Now, they're looking for something different. Talk about why this position interests you. And don't mention your day-to-day duties at every single position. Giving a brief overview of your career is fine, but go beyond the facts and focus on the highlights. Remember, keep it focused and no longer than thirty seconds.

Don’t get too personal

It’s perfectly okay to mention hobbies or personal interests, but remember that the interviewer is more interested in your job performance. Any personal stories should directly relate to your career or how they've helped you develop your skills as an employee.

Expert Tip

Avoid mentioning private information, such as your marital or parental status, religious affiliation, or political views. It's illegal for the interviewer to ask about these things, but they're also not pertinent to the position you're interviewing for and could be a potential cause for discrimination.

Stay positive

Don’t say anything negative about your previous positions, supervisors, or co-workers. Stay focused on the challenges you faced and how you overcame them. If you're "bad-talking" former employers, interviewers will assume you’ll do the same to them down the road.

In addition to speaking positively, stay professional in your answers. This question offers you a chance to connect with the interviewer on a slightly more personal level, but it’s not an opportunity to let your guard down too much. Keep your stories, references, and language work-appropriate.

Frame your answers

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when constructing your answer to “tell me something that’s not on your resume.” Use this scaffold to help build a relevant, appropriate, and professional response:

  1. I would like you to know that [core strength or personal fact].

  2. This is important/relevant because [explain what positive attribute it demonstrates]

  3. I believe this will be an asset for [job aspect] because [connect this statement to your story].


“Something that isn’t on my resume is my first aid and CPR certification. At my previous job, a delivery person collapsed in the lobby. I was able to utilize my training to provide CPR until the paramedics arrived. I realize that this is not an everyday occurrence, but I have always been able to stay focused, calm, and level-headed in challenging situations. This, I believe, would make me an asset to your company. As your sales director, I would use this ability to promptly and efficiently resolve both critical and day-to-day issues with clients, stakeholders, and direct reports.”

Remember, the interviewer isn’t asking, “Tell me something that isn't on your resume" to make you uncomfortable or deliberately throw you for a loop. What he or she wants is a small insight into you as a person as well as you as a candidate. Think of it as an opportunity to shine, and demonstrate how your personality, interests, and experience can coalesce into one fully dimensional, qualified, and well-rounded candidate.

Key takeaways

  1. An interviewer may ask, “tell me something that isn’t on your resume” as a chance to get to know you as a person, not just a resume.

  2. While preparing your answer to this question, be ready to share personal characteristics that would help you to be a productive employee, should you get the job.

  3. Keep your answer concise, not overly personal, and relevant to the position. Rehearse it beforehand, and try to keep it no longer than thirty seconds.

  4. Fine-tune your answer so that it aligns with the key skills and responsibilities listed in the job description.

  5. Don’t just recite your resume, stay positive, and don’t get too personal.

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